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This just in… Rostenkowski dies

Wednesday, Aug 11, 2010

* 11:25 am - Former Congressman Dan Rostenkowski has died. He’s been ill for quite a while.

Ald. Dick Mell’s office just confirmed that the viewing will be Monday at St. Stanislaus Kostka Church, which is at Noble and Evergreen in Chicago. The funeral will be at the church on Tuesday.

Try to keep the comments respectful. Yeah, he did what he did, but the man is dead now.

…Adding… From Speaker Madigan…

“Dan Rostenkowski devoted his life to his community, Chicago and the state. His accomplishments are many. His efforts on behalf of the regular people who needed a friend to wade through the tangle of government are unparalleled.

“Shirley and I offer his family our deepest sympathies and prayers.”

…Adding more… Carol Marin’s NBC5 obit

…More… With thanks to a commenter, you should read this Mike Royko column from 1996

At the federal level, they have a compliant grand jury and all the investigative tools they need: the agents of the FBI, Internal Revenue Service and every other federal agency. Plus eager assistants who will send their own grannies up the river to enhance their careers.

And the most dangerous and ruthless are those prosecutors who have political ambitions that are most easily fulfilled by hanging a well-known public figure.

That’s what did Rostenkowski in - a federal prosecutor’s personal ambitions. If I could put those federal headhunters on a lie box and ask: “Do you really believe that what he did was a terrible crime?” and they said “Yes,” the needle would clang when it went past the marking for “liar, liar, pants on fire.”

So now Rostenkowski goes to prison for a year or so. And the TV cameras go on the Chicago streets and ask people what they think.

And without having read one word of evidence, some glassy-eyed mope says, “Well, he did wrong and he gotta pay for it, right?”

Lord, please let a hard-nosed cop grab that mope the next time he runs a red.

Also, The Volokh Conspiracy published a very insightful story about the infamous incident with the angry senior citizens that’s mentioned in Marin’s piece.

…Still More… From Neil Steinberg

Many of his friends and supporters saw the conviction as a farce. Sun-Times political columnist Steve Neal called it “wrong and vengeful.”

“Dan Rostenkowski unfortunately ended his career with legal problems,” the famously-upright Sen. Paul Simon noted in his memoirs, “but his contributions as chairman of Ways and Means helped the nation immensely. He had a quality not in abundance, backbone.”

Rostenkowski was issued a full and complete pardon by President Bill Clinton in 2000.

Survivors include his wife LaVerne, daughters Dawn, Kristie and Gayle — who all shortened their names to Rosten. One daughter, Stacy Rosten-McDarrah died of kidney ailment in 2007.

The wake will be held from 1 p.m. to 9 p.m. Monday at St. Stanislaus Kostka Church, 1255 North Noble Street. Funeral services are scheduled at the church at 10 a.m. Tuesday. Interment will follow at St. Adalbert Cemetery in Niles.

Some of the old-timers believe Rostenkowski took the fall for an underling. We’ll probably never know.

…Adding still more… For the other side of Rostenkowski’s career, check the Reader, which has excerpted several harsh, anti-Rostenkowski stories, including this one

Rostenkowski and Gabinski control­led their villagers with the stick of brute force and fearmongering and the carrot of services like garbage collection and snow removal. On election day they sent out thick-necked patronage workers to lurk outside polling places, passing out palm cards and intimidating the locals so they wouldn’t stray from the fold. If intimidation didn’t work, there was always the race card. During the 1983 mayoral race, Rostenkowski and Gabinski put their support behind every white candidate who ran against Harold Washington—even a Republican, Bernie Epton. It was their way of letting the little people know they weren’t going to let the blacks take over.

…More… From Congressman Quigley, who represents Rostenkowski’s old district…

“Today, I offer my deepest condolences to the Rostenkowski family. Dan served the 5th District of Illinois for three and a half decades, and I join with his former and now my constituents in thanking him for his public service. Chicago and the nation have lost a political giant.”

…Still more… From Senate President John Cullerton, who ran against Rostenkowski in the 1994 Democratic primary…

“Dan Rostenkowski was a legendary Congressman and figure in Illinois. I had the pleasure of first working with him back in 1976 as part of the national convention delegation. He was one of the most productive
members of Congress and should be applauded for his work to bring federal investments back to Chicago for the benefit of all of Illinois.”

“He was a larger-than-life political figure whose legacy of accomplishments will outlive his years on this Earth.”

- Posted by Rich Miller        


46 Comments
  1. - Dan Johnson-Weinberger - Wednesday, Aug 11, 10 @ 11:30 am:

    His leadership in the 1986 tax reform package to eliminate thousands of loopholes and simplify the tax code was a great boon to the national economy.


  2. - Cubs2010 - Wednesday, Aug 11, 10 @ 11:32 am:

    A deeply misunderstood man, a very kind heart. He did what he did, but he also did a lot of good.


  3. - Commonsense in Illinois - Wednesday, Aug 11, 10 @ 11:33 am:

    Got to meet him a couple of time. First time on a plane from ORD to National…he came in sat down, introduced himself and we just chatted to two hours away on a wide range of things. Very friendly and somewhat gregarious guy, but never haughty. Glad I got the chance to know him in that environment.


  4. - KB - Wednesday, Aug 11, 10 @ 11:34 am:

    He was a very kind and generous man. Chicago was lucky to have him on its side.


  5. - Oswego Willy - Wednesday, Aug 11, 10 @ 11:37 am:

    The best compliment I could give the Chairman would be this:

    Legislation is a lot like sausage-making, you do not want to see it made, you just want it to taste good.

    Dan Rostenkowski was, by far, a master at making the legislative sausage and IL is better because of his skill at making it.

    Good Bye, Chairman!


  6. - Boone Logan Square - Wednesday, Aug 11, 10 @ 11:39 am:

    Dan Rostenkowski was one of the giants in Chicago politics over the past sixty years. However you wish to remember him, evidence of his appropriations work dots the landscape and will for years to come.


  7. - Matt - Wednesday, Aug 11, 10 @ 11:46 am:

    Dan came and spoke at one of my courses at Loyola. Very informative and interesting. He was a great guy.


  8. - downhereforyears - Wednesday, Aug 11, 10 @ 11:46 am:

    May he rest in peace. He was a powerful man who loved Chicago and showed it every day of his life.


  9. - Niles Township - Wednesday, Aug 11, 10 @ 11:52 am:

    He was the best post-political career political analyst hired by a local TV station. His conversations with Walter Jacobson on Fox 32- WFLD were memorable.


  10. - Rich Miller - Wednesday, Aug 11, 10 @ 11:55 am:

    NT, agreed. Rosti at first didn’t think anybody would want to hear what he had to say, but Thom Serafin and others (I played a small role myself) convinced him otherwise. While there is that problem in his past, he truly understood politics like almost nobody else.


  11. - Who cares - Wednesday, Aug 11, 10 @ 12:03 pm:

    We have lost a political legend. He did many great things for Chicago. When the Feds couldn’t get him with what they had, they went after his family and Rosty said enough. He was a great guy!


  12. - Give A Break - Wednesday, Aug 11, 10 @ 12:04 pm:

    Rosti had his flaws like we all do, but he could flat “bring it home” for his district and Illinois.

    RIP


  13. - VanillaMan - Wednesday, Aug 11, 10 @ 12:08 pm:

    He was an outstanding example of 1970’s Congressional excellence.


  14. - Phineas J. Whoopee - Wednesday, Aug 11, 10 @ 12:08 pm:

    I wish I would have gotten to know him better. He was a giant in politics. The real deal in every sense of the Chicago way.


  15. - Rich Miller - Wednesday, Aug 11, 10 @ 12:12 pm:

    One of the things that people may remember most about him was the incident when a group of super-angry senior citizens surrounded his car because they were furious about a new law. Rosti got out of his car and was chased a block. One elderly woman even jumped on the hood of his car.

    What Congress had done was enact catastrophic and prescription drug coverage, but made seniors pay for it.

    Here’s a pic of the protesters: http://volokh.com/files/davidh-Kozien_Rostenkowski.png Here’s some video… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qre7DzEtxyc&feature=player_embedded#!

    One of the organizers of the event was none other than Jan Schakowsky, who would go on to become a congresscritter herself. The law was repealed three months after that protest.

    More here: http://volokh.com/posts/chain_1249677415.shtml


  16. - Aldyth - Wednesday, Aug 11, 10 @ 12:14 pm:

    For better or worse, there were few more able politicians than Dan Rostenkowski. Deepest sympathies to his family. Whatever else he may have been, he has family who will miss him dearly.


  17. - Angry Chicagoan - Wednesday, Aug 11, 10 @ 12:16 pm:

    Rosty’s ‘86 tax reform was his capstone. What needs to also be remembered is that literally the moment he left Congress at the end of 1994, the tax reform started being unraveled; first with the 1997 loopholes and tax-breaks for “investment” (defined basically as equities and property speculation) and then with further exemptions and run-arounds. After 16 years of this, we’re back to where we were when Rosty did his work in the 1980s.


  18. - well - Wednesday, Aug 11, 10 @ 12:18 pm:

    I didn’t agree with a lot of Dan Rostenkowski’s positions, but I can’t help but feel sorry for him, and somewhat admire him, every time I read this Royko column: http://community.seattletimes.nwsource.com/archive/?date=19960412&slug=2323722


  19. - A.B. - Wednesday, Aug 11, 10 @ 12:21 pm:

    Not a fan, but still RIP.


  20. - Been There - Wednesday, Aug 11, 10 @ 12:25 pm:

    ===The law was repealed three days after that protest.====
    FYI. I think it was three months according to the story you linked.


  21. - paddyrollingstone - Wednesday, Aug 11, 10 @ 12:27 pm:

    Give me the Chairman over Jan any day.


  22. - Rich Miller - Wednesday, Aug 11, 10 @ 12:27 pm:

    Thanks, BT. Typo. Fixed.


  23. - MikeMacD - Wednesday, Aug 11, 10 @ 12:34 pm:

    well,

    Thanks for the link to Royko’s article. It was a good read.


  24. - shore - Wednesday, Aug 11, 10 @ 12:46 pm:

    In the volokh piece his press secretary sounds genius.

    “”The TV news ran footage of Rostenkowski fleeing from his constituents. Rostenkowski reportedly asked his press secretary whether the issue would go away in a few days, and was told “Let me put it this way Congressman. When you die, they will play this clip on television.” Three months later, the Medicare Catastrophic Coverage Act was repealed.”"


  25. - just sayin' - Wednesday, Aug 11, 10 @ 12:49 pm:

    Oh yes, who can forget the WB reality show that incident spawned, “When Seniors Attack.”

    RIP


  26. - 47th Ward - Wednesday, Aug 11, 10 @ 12:58 pm:

    Dan Rostenkowski was a giant in Chicago, and left a mark that will endure for generations.

    Somewhere he and Ted Stevens are plotting a strategy to send home all kinds of heavenly pork.

    May they both rest in peace.


  27. - Ghost of John Brown - Wednesday, Aug 11, 10 @ 1:05 pm:

    Thanks for the reminder to everyone to keep it respectful - too many people just don’t get that.

    Even though he was on the opposite side of the aisle, Rosty was a tremenously effective legislator. After the conviction, he appeared regularly on TV during election night coverage. He always had a prescient take on things.

    RIP.


  28. - Cincinnatus - Wednesday, Aug 11, 10 @ 1:19 pm:

    Dan Rostenkowski typified everything that is good and bad in politics. My understanding about him was that you could trust his word when he gave it. I guess we should settle for that…

    RIP


  29. - IrishPirate - Wednesday, Aug 11, 10 @ 1:32 pm:

    WBEZ had an interesting segment on Rosty recently.

    http://www.chicagopublicradio.org/Content.aspx?audioID=43263

    He was certainly a complicated man. Most great men are.


  30. - cousin ralph - Wednesday, Aug 11, 10 @ 2:06 pm:

    So who was the prosecutor who took Rosty down?


  31. - IrishPirate - Wednesday, Aug 11, 10 @ 2:14 pm:

    Eric Holder, current Attorney General, was the prosecutor who took Rosty down.


  32. - D.P. Gumby - Wednesday, Aug 11, 10 @ 2:22 pm:

    Royko couldn’t have described the Feds better. I met Rosty a couple times and saw both sides. The good was better than the bad. U.S. benefited; we all benefited. The new congresscritters don’t often compare favorably.


  33. - Jake from Elwood - Wednesday, Aug 11, 10 @ 2:44 pm:

    Rosty left his stamp on Chicago politics, that’s for sure.
    RIP


  34. - Plutocrat03 - Wednesday, Aug 11, 10 @ 3:16 pm:

    RIP

    How much better off would the State have been had he not comitted thos criminal acts and continued to serve in the congress?

    There is no place for self enrichment of abuse of power on the public’s dime.


  35. - PPHS - Wednesday, Aug 11, 10 @ 3:39 pm:

    He will be missed. He was the real deal, unlike so many candidates that are running, today.


  36. - Anonymous - Wednesday, Aug 11, 10 @ 3:51 pm:

    Interesting article in the new Chicago Magazine about Rosty mentoring a troubled tenant.

    http://www.chicagomag.com/Chicago-Magazine/August-2010/An-Unlikely-Friendship-with-Dan-Rostenkowski/


  37. - Peggy SO-IL - Wednesday, Aug 11, 10 @ 4:18 pm:

    RIP, Rosty.

    The late Mike Royko, a legend as well. Good blast from the past.


  38. - Segatari - Wednesday, Aug 11, 10 @ 4:43 pm:

    Ponder this, because of Rosty getting convicted and Michael Flanagan getting elected…this started the rise of Blago; one corrupt official goes to prison, another corrupt official takes their place –

    http://www.nbcchicago.com/blogs/ward-room/Dan-Rostenkowski-dies-at-82-100452219.html


  39. - Rich Miller - Wednesday, Aug 11, 10 @ 4:47 pm:

    Segatari, not exactly an original thought.


  40. - Bill - Wednesday, Aug 11, 10 @ 4:48 pm:

    RIP, Buddy. You were one of the all time greats.


  41. - Park - Wednesday, Aug 11, 10 @ 5:06 pm:

    A tremendously interesting man. I hope that all the obits don’t put the criminal conviction up front. Royko’s article was pretty dead on.

    I wish more of the State’s Dems had his political know how. Compare his abilities to MJM’s utter failure to come up with a workable budget for the last two years. First, I can’t see him totally excluding the R’s from any serious negotiations like MJM has. Second, I can’t see him trying to blame the minority party for the majority’s failure to come up with new revenue.


  42. - Phineas J. Whoopee - Wednesday, Aug 11, 10 @ 5:35 pm:

    I just read the Chicago Mag story of the friendship that developed between him and Marty Cook. That should be made into a movie. I strongly recommend people interested in Rosty to read it.


  43. - Robert - Wednesday, Aug 11, 10 @ 7:02 pm:

    incredible even-handed job by you, Rich, in linking to so many different takes, and in encouraging us to be respectful. guiding your flock sorta how rosty did in his better moments.


  44. - Zora - Wednesday, Aug 11, 10 @ 7:50 pm:

    He got the Kennedy Xway redirected in order to save St. Stan, in the Ukrainian Village. Whenever I hit that curve, I think, wow, that’s getting it done.


  45. - cousin ralph - Wednesday, Aug 11, 10 @ 8:30 pm:

    Eric Holder! Wow, I honestly did not remember that. Mike Royko’s astute insights are particularly relevant to us today. The present congress would not be so despised if it was headed by Tip ONeal at Speaker, instead of Pelosi, and the Country better served with Rosty heading up Ways and Means instead of the present Chairman. The DEMs have slid a long way down.


  46. - wordslinger - Wednesday, Aug 11, 10 @ 9:47 pm:

    Rosty was a giant, for Chicago, Illinois and the United States. God, I miss the old timers. Serious, hard-working, real men and women, not blow-dried, purple-belt-wearing mid-market weathermen.

    Remember “Write Rosty?” Reagan loved him. So did Tip, Bush I and Clinton. He got things done.

    There’s a great story of Bobby Kennedy taking Rosty around after Dallas to cheer up Jackie. They were at Hickory Hill, drinking and joking. Rosty was telling stories about Milwaukee Avenue, and Jackie and Bobby were laughing their asses off.

    He made some mistakes (stamps and chairs, the occasional old lady on the Caddy hood)like all human beings, but he stood up and took his punishment — and did his time — like a man. No crying. No reality TV. No excuses.

    I remember standing in Daley Plaza, twenty below, when my hero, Lech, first came to Chicago after the wall came down. Big Jim gave Rosty the most stirring, heartfelt introduction I ever heard. Me and my baby were freezing to death, but we were so proud to be there.

    Here’s to you, Congressman Danny. Let Rokyo buy you a boilermaker, and I’ll have one for you both on the Polish Broadway real soon.


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