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Early release and other campaign news

Monday, Jan 11, 2010

* Doug Finke doesn’t like the idea of legislators being involved in any investigation into Gov. Pat Quinn’s secret and botched early release program for violent prison inmates…

But an investigation during an election year? One that includes legislators? Oh, yeah, that will get to the bottom of things. No way that could degenerate into an endless round of political grandstanding.

He doesn’t propose an alternative, however. Just cynicism. And while I agree that there would be grandstanding (there was plenty of it during the Blagojevich impeachment, but Finke didn’t argue against that process), I also think a probe with subpoena powers would be more likely to get to the bottom of things than nothing at all.

My syndicated weekly newspaper column has more on that topic

Gov. Pat Quinn was quoted by the Associated Press last week as saying he’s answered all questions about his administration’s controversial, secret and completely botched early prison release program, so he’s done talking about it.

I beg to differ.

I called the Department of Corrections soon after I saw that quote and asked a few questions that I’ve never seen asked.

For instance, state Sen. Bill Brady, a Republican candidate for governor, claims that Corrections Director Michael Randle has said he had informed the governor about the so-called “Meritorious Good Time Push” program, which let attempted murderers and other violent types out of prison early - several of which were then re-arrested for violent crimes. Quinn, however, has said that he didn’t know about the program until he read about it in the newspapers. How does the director explain the discrepancy, I wanted to know.

I also asked whether the word from inside was true that Director Randle had made himself the department’s direct conduit to the governor. How often, on average, did the two men talk every week, I asked.

And, most importantly, if Quinn is telling the truth that he didn’t know about this disastrous and now suspended MGT Push plan, what reason can Randle provide for his failure to inform the governor?

Not one of those questions was answered. I received an e-mail pointing me to an audio file of the governor’s press conference during which he talked how things got so out of hand. But none of my answers were found in Quinn’s comments, except that the governor reiterated he did not know about MGT Push, and that it was a mistake and that he had killed the program.

Quinn did make some good points in his presentation. For instance, inmates released under the program, beginning in mid September, would’ve all been out of prison by this month anyway.

But the governor also spent much of his time laying the blame on the General Assembly for the debacle. Quinn claimed that the director’s hands were tied because state law required that some pretty nasty convicts must be eligible for early release. While partially true, this was an accelerated early release program, and the responsibility for that acceleration - and the crimes committed during the early release periods - must fall on the administration, and ultimately on Quinn himself.

We need more answers about this botched operation, regardless of what the governor says. Quinn has stonewalled tough questions while answering only those that he can spin - and he isn’t doing a very good job of that, either.

If Quinn and Director Randle won’t provide more answers, then the General Assembly must act by holding hearings with full subpoena powers.

Another Republican running for governor, state Sen. Kirk Dillard, is also pressing for an investigation. Dillard wants the entire Legislature to sit as a “Committee of the Whole” with full subpoena powers to get to the bottom of this mess.

“Governor Quinn and his administration continue to provide vastly different stories about these programs including who made the decision to authorize the early release, why violent criminals were included in the program, and why the MGT program was secretive,” Dillard was quoted as saying in a news release.

AFSCME, the union which represents prison workers, also wants a bipartisan probe in the form of a special joint task force, including legislators from both parties and both chambers, to answer urgent questions about the administration of the corrections department

Full hearings with subpoena powers are probably the last thing the Democrats who control the General Assembly want, particularly in an election year. But this botched program literally endangered the lives of Illinois citizens. At least one prisoner released early was subsequently arrested for shooting somebody - and that’s just what we know of. The whole program was concocted and conducted in secret, and details have been few and far between.

For six years, Illinois endured the Rod Blagojevich administration, which made a bad habit of keeping things secret, blaming the General Assembly for its own mistakes and wrecking almost everything it touched. This early release program and its aftermath look more than just vaguely familiar.

When Quinn took over after Blagojevich was impeached and ousted, he said he would be different, that he believed in accountability and transparency in government. Quinn’s behavior on this issue, however, is downright unacceptable.

* Meanwhile, Gov. Quinn’s campaign tried to gin up some “stone-throwing in a glass house” coverage over the weekend. The Daily Herald fell for the bait…

llinois Gov. Pat Quinn’s opponent in the Democratic primary has criticized him for the early release of felons from state prisons.

Now the tables are turned, with Quinn calling Comptroller Dan Hynes a hypocrite for handing a part-time campaign consulting job to a felon who himself was released early.

“Maybe Hynes should clean up his own house before throwing more stones,” Quinn said in a statement released Sunday.

Quinn has been criticized for secretly releasing hundreds of violent inmates early, some of whom were then rearrested for violent crimes. That’s quite different than this, but it’s still a good gotcha game point and the DH went for it hook, line and sinker.

The original story is here.

* And then there was this

Gov. Quinn late Friday abruptly canceled a planned appearance at a weekend fund-raiser organized by north suburban lawyer and lobbyist Anthony Abboud, known as “Individual Q” in convicted political insider Tony Rezko’s federal indictment.

Abboud had sent out an invitation to donors promising “an intimate gathering with Gov. Quinn” in Abboud’s Northbrook home Sunday night. […]

Quinn’s “Abboud-face” came after the Chicago Sun-Times raised questions late Friday about why the governor would consider raising campaign funds from someone tied so closely to Rezko, who was a main fund-raiser and advisor for impeached ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich. […]

But Rezko’s indictment disclosed that after being named by Blagojevich to the state Teachers’ Retirement System board, Abboud and another Blagojevich TRS appointee were told by Rezko to take direction from convicted influence peddler Stuart Levine, a fellow TRS board member and fund-raiser for Blagojevich.

Oops.

* The governor needs plenty of money to churn out his campaign ads, and, as expected, he’s getting bigtime help from SEIU

Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn’s campaign for election wasted little time after the New Year holiday in hitting the fundraising circuit, generating more than $140,000 in cash and services in three days last week, with nearly half coming from a politically powerful union, records show.

Records on file with the State Board of Elections show that of the $142,000 Quinn raised from Jan. 4 through Jan. 6, nearly half–$67,557—came from the Service Employees’ International Union.

* Related…

* Mark Brown …I guess there are two ways you can look at Quinn courting [Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr’s] endorsement this time. Either he’s a stand-up guy who sticks with his friends, or he’s so determined to carry the African-American vote in the primary that he’s willing to risk possible future embarrassment from his Jackson connection in exchange for the mileage he can gain from it now.

* Jackson endorsement of Quinn could help with black voters, draw attention to Blagojevich scandal

* Quinn gets nod from Jackson Jr., S. suburb mayors

* Democratic governor hopefuls mostly agree

* Ex-con out as aide to Hynes campaign

* Comptroller worker probed over alleged stock scheme

* Quinn tested on commitment to open govt.

* Quinn: A different kind of animal?

- Posted by Rich Miller        


20 Comments
  1. - wordslinger - Monday, Jan 11, 10 @ 9:09 am:

    I’d add:

    –Regardless of program details, did Gov. Quinn order Randle to find ways to release more prisoners to save money? Was there a dollar goal?

    –If, as Quinn said, Randle “went rogue” (which all of us who can consult a dictionary know is always a bad thing), and now needs two highly paid watchdogs, why doesn’t Quinn just fire him? By Quinn’s public words and actions, he reveals he does trust Randle.


  2. - shore - Monday, Jan 11, 10 @ 9:11 am:

    Mark Kirk also got glowing endorsements from the Sun-Times and Daily Herald which put the conservative challenge to bed.

    I think Governor Quinn’s incompetent handling of the basic fundamentals of state government with this issue once again demonstrates that Illinois is incapable of handling the terrorists the state democrats want dumped here. When you can’t handle common crooks you shouldn’t be tasked with handling dangerous international terrorists.


  3. - Montrose - Monday, Jan 11, 10 @ 9:31 am:

    ++I think Governor Quinn’s incompetent handling of the basic fundamentals of state government with this issue once again demonstrates that Illinois is incapable of handling the terrorists the state democrats want dumped here. When you can’t handle common crooks you shouldn’t be tasked with handling dangerous international terrorists.++

    Luckily, Illinois will have absolutely no say in the handling of anyone at Thomson. It would be completely under the control of the feds.


  4. - Beowulf - Monday, Jan 11, 10 @ 9:41 am:

    The fact that Michael Randle is still there in that position tells me that Pat Quinn lacks the necessary character strengths that are required by a CEO of any corporation (or governmental entity). Randle should have been gone long before now. My personal opinion is that Dan Hynds would have given Micheal Randle his “walking papers” long before now. Pat’s hesitation in making an uncomfortable but necessary decision is sending a terrible signal out to the voter’s in Illinois.


  5. - Phineas J. Whoopee - Monday, Jan 11, 10 @ 9:42 am:

    I thought it was very cool how Quinn got millions to keep Brookfield Zoo renovated and get hundreds of hurting contractors good paying jobs. Sorry it’s not negative, I just thought that might be some campaign news as well.


  6. - Responsa - Monday, Jan 11, 10 @ 10:02 am:

    Phin, the news reports about Brookfield were rather vague. Can you explain to all where Quinn “got” the state money that the deep in debt state is putting up to renovate Brookfield Zoo and say whether the contractors who do the work there will get paid? (Unlike thousands of owed bills to other contractors who have already provided services to the deep in debt state.)


  7. - A Naughty Moose - Monday, Jan 11, 10 @ 10:05 am:

    Oh yeah Phineas, great campaign news. Human services shutting down, prison doors flung open, schools can’t make payroll and doctors can’t get paid - but Quinn’s taking care of the zoo animals. Impressive.


  8. - DuPage Dan - Monday, Jan 11, 10 @ 10:25 am:

    So, Quinn is moving prisoners from the newest prison in Illinois, the nearly empty Thomson CC, to the run down worn out facilities. Not funding the human services/medical delivery properly, putting that infrastructure at risk. now cleaning house after being encouraged/supported. I propose a new campaign slogan, “PQuinn moving backwards at the speed of Rod-lite”.


  9. - VanillaMan - Monday, Jan 11, 10 @ 10:33 am:

    Quinn is running out of gas, and his team knows it. He campaign is a HUMMER with a leak, and right now they are focusing on getting him over the Primary line. To do this, they are throwing everyone into their tank, regardless of consequences. Quinn’s tactics here are very risky.

    But Quinn has done this over the past year with his administration as well. Instead of governing, he has been sipping and biding his time, hoping that nothing blows up before November 2010. This governor has had a record honeymoon with voters and Pat has taken it easy.

    Quinn might win the nomination, but he has taken on too much baggage to continue biding his time until November 2010. If the GOP nominates a candidate that isn’t drooling or frothing at the mouth, Quinn can start packing up.

    The Governor has been innoculated from political reality for a long time. His experation date will arrive this year.


  10. - Pelon - Monday, Jan 11, 10 @ 10:39 am:

    “When Quinn took over after Blagojevich was impeached and ousted, he said he would be different, that he believed in accountability and transparency in government. Quinn’s behavior on this issue, however, is downright unacceptable.”

    I thought we were supposed to vote for Quinn because he was an “open book”? Are you suggesting that the S-T editors didn’t actually do any real research before endorsing him? I’m sure that couldn’t have happened. :)


  11. - bill ryan - Monday, Jan 11, 10 @ 10:48 am:

    A recent Department of Corrections program allowed hundreds of people to be released from prison, on average, 37 days before completing their sentences. Of those released eight have been charged with new criminal offenses .Citing public safety, Governor Quinn halted the program. Blaming the early release program is a political distraction. What will make us safer is a prison system that provides rehabilitative services, including effective after-care support. Mike Randle is not the problem. The problem is a lack of political will to deal with an understaffed, overcrowded prison system with crumbling physical plants and without effective programming, as well as a culture that believes that warehousing people in cells will magically result in changed behavior.

    Bill Ryan


  12. - Phineas J. Whoopee - Monday, Jan 11, 10 @ 11:10 am:

    Bill Ryan, please don’t try to make sense or a reasonable arguement. This is an election time blog and the knives are out. Next month, you will sound like a champion of right thinking people-this month-your just in the way.


  13. - Anon - Monday, Jan 11, 10 @ 12:06 pm:

    bill ryan: “on average, 37 days before completing their sentences”

    False. It’s “on average, 37 days before their earliest possible release date under previous practices”.

    That is, IF every one of these guys ultimately earned the entire 180 days possible time off for good behavior, they would have served - on average - 37 more days, and much more in some cases.

    It is NOT that their sentences were up, as you claim.


  14. - Will County Woman - Monday, Jan 11, 10 @ 12:13 pm:

    My only advice to my southland friends would be to keep Thomson etc. in mind. Quinn has yet to deliver there and it is doubtful that he will.

    If memory serves SEIU endorsed Quinn because he promised several hundred thousand jobs and gave them a vanity license plate. Muncipalities have opted out of video gaming left and right, and SEIU knew this.

    This year (2010) the rubber is gonna have to meet the road and Quinn is simply going to have to make good on his promises—promises that no one forced him to make and promises that he should not have made. No excuses either.


  15. - Amalia - Monday, Jan 11, 10 @ 12:24 pm:

    “The Daily Herald fell for the bait…..the DH went for it hook, line and sinker.” so what do we consider the Sun Times story?


  16. - Ghost - Monday, Jan 11, 10 @ 1:21 pm:

    Rich if you need more interns perhaps you could work out something with DOC for one of their ealry release canidates…


  17. - Bill - Monday, Jan 11, 10 @ 3:46 pm:

    Is ACORN running Quinn’s GOTV?


  18. - southern illinoisan - Monday, Jan 11, 10 @ 5:03 pm:

    The article on the DOC was another outstanding piece by Miller. These are exactly the questions that lawmakers and voters should be demanding answers to. The issue is that it goes directly to Quinns ability govern the state. This was a terrible decision and he continues to be vague or right down dishonest. These things should matter to voters. Is Quinn going to spin his way out of this? Only if the media and voters allow it. There is smoke here folks, with a little fanning it will be a a raging fire nipping at PQ’s tailend.


  19. - retired DOC..tg! - Monday, Jan 11, 10 @ 6:55 pm:

    Quinn is looking now to take out the Assistant Director, afterall she is a BLAGO holdover…why not pin it on her? My dealings with her is she truely understands correctional policy!


  20. - southern illinoisan - Monday, Jan 11, 10 @ 8:59 pm:

    The Assistant Director and the rest of the upper administration at DOC SHOULD be replaced. I am not sure what interaction the retired DOC blogger has had with Deanne Benos. I am a current employee and I can verify from MY experience that she has very little knowledge of correctional issues in the IDOC. She has spearheaded PR grabbing projects such as Sheridan, Re-entry and Job Preparation. Having worked in these areas I can guarantee that the goal was to present targeted results that would make these programs appear to be working. They were poorly planned, implemented and monitored. And subordinate staff did not dare question Queen Benos for fear of losing your head.

    There are more details to this story a long with many more involving Deputy Directors, Chiefs and Wardens. It is quite the circus……


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