* I have worked out an arrangement with WBEZ to give my blog readers an exclusive advance listen to the station’s new weekly political program: “Best Game in Town,” hosted by Steve Edwards. From producer Justin Kaufmann…
This episode: We talk with pundits, analysts and reporters about the week in Illinois politics.
WBEZ’s Sam Hudzik gives us background on the resignation of Governor Pat Quinn’s Chief of Staff Jerry Stermer. Capitol Fax Editor Rich Miller likens the race for Illinois governor to the 1980 presidential race between Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan. And we talk with Laura Washington, Scott McPherson and Michael Bauer about this week’s political news.
“Best Game in Town” will cover Chicago politics from the Statehouse to the White House with lively analysis, insightful interviews and in-depth feature reports. The name is nod to the colorful world of Chicago politics – and comes from Cheryl Corley’s weekly political show in the early 90’s on WBEZ of the same name. (We’re resurrecting the title). The Best Game in Town is tentatively scheduled to air Fridays on WBEZ and as an extended weekly podcast via iTunes. The show is hosted by Steve Edwards and produced by Justin Kaufmann.
* The unintended consequences of the federal judicial ruling forcing a special US Senate election on election day continue to pile up…
POLITICO has learned the National Republican Senatorial Committee has dedicated $3.4 million in coordinated funds to Kirk’s campaign against Democrat Alexi Giannoulias.
The national party committees can spend up to $1.7 million in coordinated funds in Illinois, according to federal election rules. However, the NRSC, according to a source close to the committee, will take advantage of a recent court-ordered special election that effectively doubles the total allowable amount that candidates can fundraise – and committees can spend in coordination with candidates.
The funds will surely be welcome: The Illinois race is expensive and very competitive. A Kirk spokesman, Kirsten Kukowski, confirmed the campaign would get the maximum funds and said, “We are grateful for the NRSC’s strong support for Congressman Kirk.”
Kirk is already ahead of the money chase in the race. At the end of June, Kirk reported having $3.9 million in the bank; meanwhile, Giannoulias reported just over $1 million cash on hand.
* Even if the Constitution Party candidates don’t make it onto the ballot, Kirk will still have to worry some about the Libertarians eating into his base…
The nominating petitions for the Libertarian and Constitution parties both faced objections, and were both reviewed by election officials. In the end, the Libertarians were found to have collected enough signatures to get on the ballot, but candidates from the Constitution Party appear to have fallen short.
The Illinois Republican Party acknowledges it is paying the attorney who led the challenges, though its chairman, Pat Brady, denies the GOP is targeting conservative candidates out of fear they’d steal away votes from his party.
BRADY: Anybody on the ballot poses a threat to the Republican ticket. That’s why we’re running hard and we’re going to continue to run hard. So I don’t think we’ve diced it out to say that one threatens more than the other.
The Illinois Republican Party worked so hard to keep the Constitution people off the ballot for a reason. Bill Brady’s base is fine. Kirk’s isn’t as secure. If the race is close, it could make a difference. Then again, if Quinn continues to tank he’ll likely take Giannoulias down with him. Not to mention all that money that Kirk and the nationals are planning to spend.
* Yesterday, our commenter P. Symth pointed out the gigantic flaw in Gov. Pat Quinn’s announcement that he wants to use the income tax increase to force local school boards to lower property taxes…
This shows he doesn’t know anything about the State money going to the schools. The schools in the highest taxing districts do not qualify for state money; the schools in the lower income areas do. Thus, Quinn is saying “If you are a school district in a poor community, we want you to take less money and try to make it work, while the rich guys over there have no problems and don’t have to lower their taxes”.
The commenter is absolutely spot-on.
Jamey Dunn tried to get some specifics yesterday from Quinn’s office, but had no luck…
Requests to Quinn’s budget office for more specifics on his proposal were met with referral back to tape of the news conference that Quinn held in Chicago earlier today, where he took questions on the plan but did not get into the numbers.
This looks like an on-site audible by Quinn. Either that or his new media guy suggested it without running the numbers first.
In the week since the trial’s end, Chiakulas has been branded “the holdout” for her refusal to convict the ex-governor on the Senate seat allegations. Her life has been placed under a microscope, with some questioning whether her former government job or her ex-husband’s campaign donation to Blagojevich three decades after they divorced played a role in her decision. […]
Chiakulas, for her part, said she was a public servant hired during Gov. Jim Edgar’s administration. Her ex-husband was politically active before his death, but they were divorced more than 30 years ago.
She also said she did not know Blagojevich co-defendant Chris Kelly, who lived in the same subdivision as one of her relatives before committing suicide a year ago.
The inferences — along with suggestions that she’s “crazy” — anger Chiakulas. She said it upsets her that people want to find an ulterior motive for her decision, rather than believe it’s possible that the prosecution had not proved its case.
“It was something that I took seriously and didn’t ask for,” she said. “And then to be treated the way I’ve been treated, it makes me wonder about being a juror and the system itself.”
Former federal prosecutor Patrick Collins said it was “extraordinarily rare” to drop a defendant in a high-profile case.
“I think what the government did today was both smart tactically and just,” Collins said.
Prosecutors likely recognized Robert Blagojevich was a sympathetic figure, that he would be difficult to convict in a retrial and that his testimony as a co-defendant could be helpful to his brother, Collins said.
“Tactically, dismissing him streamlines the case and partially rebuts the ‘persecution’ claims that Rod Blagojevich is making,” Collins said. “It helps the government in the court of public opinion — which does matter in this extraordinary case.”
“The strategy was, it was a disappointment I wasn’t acquitted. It was important to reach the next jury pool. We had a 9-3 vote in my favor, so we came very close. And that was with a jury pool that had been polluted by [U.S. Attorney] Patrick Fitzgerald‘s press conference. So now that we had a trial, it was a good time for me to make a case, be interviewed, explain my situation, and emote whatever I could emote.
As far as I’m concerned, the decision by the U.S. attorney is a disappointment only because Ettinger had promised to call U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-2nd) as a witness at a retrial, along with the Indian-American businessman who allegedly told Robert he could raise $6 million if Jackson was appointed senator.
“The whole story” about the sale of the Senate seat will come out, Ettinger vowed, although he implied it would prove there was no deal to sell that seat.
I still think the public is owed an explanation, some detail, whether or not it helps or damages the federal government’s case.
* Will the Wall Street Journal editorial board and national right wingers be funding part of Rod Blagojevich’s defense? Sneed…
Sneed hears inquiries have been made about privately funding additional attorneys for the retrial of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
“The federal government will only pay for two attorneys for Blagojevich, but private donations could pay for other attorneys,” said a source.
“The inquiries are in the early stages, but there is talk about help on Rod’s retrial and some of the calls are from people unhappy with U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald for the way he handled the Scooter Libby trial,” the source added.
* Adams stay on Blagojevich case - for now: Although they figure to face a more focused prosecution and with diminished resources at their disposal, Rod Blagojevich’s attorney Sam Adam says reports that he and his son will be leaving the former governor’s defense team are greatly exaggerated.
Maybe I’m just stupid, but I find it hard to get too excited about what passes for public discourse these days.
For instance, I probably have more reasons to hate Muslims than just about anyone I know. My wife’s Christian family was literally run out of Iraq by Muslim terrorists. Their house was bombed three times, and a gang of Muslim thugs threatened to take my wife’s brother hostage and make him a martyr by strapping a bomb to his chest.
But I don’t care at all about the Islamic center that some group wants to build two blocks from Ground Zero in New York, partly because I know all too well how the First Amendment was designed to protect unpopular speech and unpopular religions from the majority.
If you want to debate a zoning issue 800 miles away, go right ahead, but you also have to realize that you can’t legally stop it, so turn down the crazy knob, please. This looks more like a pogrom than a debate.
The only gun I’ve ever owned was an old, broken pistol given to me by a relative. I don’t know what happened to it, and I don’t want another one. But Gov. Quinn’s new TV ad blasting his Republican opponent, state Sen. Bill Brady for being soft on an assault weapons ban doesn’t particularly move me.
Maybe that’s because I live in a very safe neighborhood. Maybe it’s because I don’t easily succumb to fear tactics. Maybe it’s because I know gangsters’ weapons of choice are cheap, easily concealed and disposable pistols, which were banned in Chicago for years. Maybe it’s because the ad isn’t particularly well made.
Or maybe it’s because I noticed that two of the three Brady votes cited by Quinn’s TV ad took place in the 1990s. The Democrats have been bludgeoning the Republicans with this subject for decades. Tired, old subjects rarely strike fear into my heart.
My political newsletter is still doing well despite the Great Recession. But I am borderline enraged that unemployment is so high and nobody at any level of government seems to be talking about what to do.
Unlike some of my other positions, I think I’m with “the people” on this one. A recent Rasmussen poll showed that 87 percent of Illinoisans know someone who is unemployed or looking for work. And a solid majority of 55 percent named “economic issues” as their No. 1 priority for choosing a candidate.
Instead, the media want to spend their time yakking about that Islamic center, and Quinn is spending a half-million dollars on that assault weapons ad.
And then there’s Republican U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk, who has spent a fortune this summer railing against “mob banker” Alexi Giannoulias.
Giannoulias, on the other hand, has talked about jobs since he kicked off his campaign last year. That issue has kept him in this race, despite all of his obvious problems. You’d think other candidates and pundits would learn from Giannoulias’ survival miracle. They haven’t.
It’s as if nobody even noticed that 500,000 people applied for new unemployment benefits last week alone. People are scared to death out there, and they are completely justified. But I’m thoroughly disgusted that the powers that be are channeling legitimate anger into useless “debates” over stupid “issues” rather than addressing the real problems head-on.
Dishonesty and incompetence must be exposed. The role of government absolutely needs to be debated. I don’t expect or want a one-note campaign here.
But we are in desperate need of ideas about this economy and I’m more than willing to listen if the candidates and the media would simply engage.
* 1 in 10 Illinois mortgage holders missed payments: The Mortgage Bankers Association, in their second quarter delinquency report, also found that the percentage of home loans in Illinois that were in foreclosure rose to 6.02 percent in the second quarter, from 5.85 percent in the year’s first quarter.
* Jobless rate highest for July in McLean Co. since ‘76
* July’s unemployment rate in Boone and Winnebago counties jumped to 15.7 percent, or 27,895 people, according to data released today by the Illinois Department of Employment Security. That’s up 0.9 percentage points from June, but down 0.3 percentage points from a year ago.
* Jobless rate rises in Champaign-Urbana, Danville areas: The Champaign-Urbana metro area – which includes Champaign, Ford and Piatt counties – had a 9.8 percent unemployment rate in July, up from 9 percent a year ago. The Danville metro area – which consists of Vermilion County – had a 12.4 percent rate, up from 11.8 percent a year ago.
* Unemployment declines in some cities but not Illinois Valley: Unemployment increased to 12.7 percent in July 2010 from 11.6 percent the previous July in the Ottawa-Streator Area, according to IDES. Job declines occurred in the sectors of manufacturing (minus 650) and leisure-hospitality (-325). In Bureau County, the increase in the unemployment rate was from 10.2 percent to 11.2 percent. In La Salle County, unemployment was at 13.3 percent in July 2010, compared to 11.9 the previous July.
* Birth Rates Fall Amid Economic Uncertainty: Recent data indicate that Illinois’ birth rate is at its lowest level since the Great Depression, with similar trends appearing in California and Arizona.
Quinn, speaking to agriculture leaders, said his proposal for an income tax increase would lead to lower local property taxes. Pressed afterward on how that would happen, Quinn said he would seek legislation requiring schools to reduce property tax bills before they could get additional state support.
“I think it should be mandatory,” the Chicago Democrat said. “I think if the state helps local schools with more money … it also means cutting local property taxes.” […]
Quinn said, his tax plan would generate $3 billion for schools and reduce property taxes. Eventually Quinn acknowledged he wants to force schools to cut local taxes. If they have to cut as much as they gain from the state, schools would be left with no increase in available money.
Cutting property taxes is a good issue to run on. The trouble is making people believe he’ll actually do it. And if schools are getting the same amount of money, that means layoffs and cutbacks will continue. The unions won’t like it. The voters might, if they believe it.
Brady said he’d want to set up a fund to give local homeowners property tax relief. Under Brady’s plan, state money would be put into a fund, sent to local officials, and used to lower property tax rates.
“That fund would build on itself each and every year,” Brady said.
The problem with that, of course, is there is no money. He wants to cut taxes on businesses, get rid of the gasoline sales tax, eliminate the inheritance tax and send money to local governments to lower property taxes? In what parallel dimension does he reside?
Gov. Pat Quinn’s office has changed the rules about how non-union state workers can take furlough days.
Quinn has ordered about 2,700 non-union state workers to take 24 unpaid days off this budget year because of Illinois’ budget crisis.
Under the new rules, those workers can to use vacation and personal days to fulfill their furlough requirement. The administration on Wednesday said that means workers won’t lose pay if they schedule furlough days to coincide with vacation and personal days off.
Last Friday, Quinn’s office issued a memo that he was imposing emergency rules that would let those workers take their vacation and personal time, which are paid days off, as furlough days. That means Quinn could still claim that he instituted a furlough program, even though it might not save a dime now.
* I have at least three remaining questions about the Jerry Stermer debacle. The first is who illegally leaked the Stermer report to the media. The second is whether former Executive Inspector General James Wright knew/heard/suspected that Gov. Pat Quinn was about to replace him before he turned in his report on Quinn’s chief of staff. There’s some suspicion among Quinn’s partisans - rightly or wrongly - that Wright could’ve kept that report about Stermer’s self-reported three campaign-related e-mails in a desk drawer as a sort of employment insurance (Quinn said he interviewed several replacement candidates this year, so the scuttlebutt around the office was probably intense), and might have leaked it to the media in retaliation for being fired…
The state watchdog who was fired after investigating one of Gov. Pat Quinn’s senior aides says he’s surprised the chief of staff resigned over the issue.
Former executive inspector general James Wright tells Chicago’s WLS Radio that he thinks Jerry Stermer is a “stand-up guy.” Wright says he didn’t seek Stermer’s resignation and he thought a verbal reprimand would have been enough.
Awww. That’s so sweet. Seven months investigating somebody who in the end deserved only a verbal reprimand?
My last unanswered question is about Quinn: What the heck was he thinking firing an executive inspector general two months before an election? Is he daft?
* The goo-goos’ reaction to the Wright investigation and Stermer’s resignation is fascinating, by the way…
“In this particular situation, you’ve got a man who’s widely thought to be an honest and honorable guy who reports his own mistakes, and then we spend resources and months sorting through 37,000 e-mails.”
Andy Shaw, director of the Better Government Association, called Stermer’s transgressions “the ethics equivalent of jaywalking.” […]
Kent Redfield, emeritus professor of political studies at the University of Illinois Springfield, said the incident shows that more transparency is needed regarding what inspectors general are doing. […]
“In Illinois we need to really put things on a scale. I don’t think we need to waste a nickel on this,” Canary said.
But Shaw said the panel should pursue the matter “if they think there is value in coming out with an explanation and a finding that can be used in the future.
Jerry Stermer is a decent guy and I hate to see him go out like this. The OEIG has done some good work in the past, but they appeared to lack perspective on this one. Stermer turned himself in for what Shaw is correct in saying is the “ethics equivalent of jaywalking.” And then Wright claims he spent more than seven months investigating the man. The goo-goos helped write this law, which has so clearly gotten out of hand. They ought to help reform the reform.
Brady’s campaign is spending about $250,000 to air the ad in the Chicago TV market through Sept 1, according to a source familiar with political television ad buys in the city who was not authorized to speak publicly.