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Goodbye, Mr. Jensen

Wednesday, Aug 25, 2010

* My biggest fan (who isn’t a relative) just died. My father fills us in…

Arnold Jensen and I have been friends for forty years. He taught me more about the fuel business than anybody and on top of that we genuinely liked each other. Whether it was playing pool at his house all night long with friends, or having ten cent beers at Mathy’s Corner Tap in Clifton or sharing time together as officers of the Lion’s club, or sitting on his porch in Clifton, I always enjoyed our time together. Sometimes we would just get in the car and go for a ride around the country. He was a very positive person, positive about life, work, people, whatever.

Arnold and Kitty [his wife] moved us to Hanover in 1975. Moving is when you find out who is your best friend or family member. That effort cemented an already firm bond and cemented it forever.

We stayed in contact through mail, phone, then email and I always found time to drop in and visit them whenever I was in town.

He loved reading Rich’s column in the Clifton Advocate plus I would email the Sun-Times column and then he read Rich’s Blog every day. Rich dropped in to see him once and I took their picture. Arnold hung it above his kitchen table.

There were a lot of connections when Kitty moved into the nursing home before Mom moved out the first time. Arnold then moved into an assisted living apartment at the home to be near Kitty every day, the one Mom had been living in. Kitty passed away earlier this year and it was rough on Arnold as they had always been together. Arnold’s Dad lived to be 102, but life wasn’t the same for Arnold without Kitty. I talked to him the other day and he said he was having a hard time.

This morning he passed away. I’m going back this weekend. Last year he rode in the Herscher Labor Day Parade with me in the Cadillac and we had a GREAT TIME! I will always cherish that last great time we had together.

I’ve known Mr. Jensen since I was a child. He was a heckuva guy and I really got a kick out of sitting down with him several months ago. He was so happy to see me you’d have thought I was some international star or something. I’ll never forget that as long as I live.

Anyway, I owed him this post. Thanks for reading.

- Posted by Rich Miller   24 Comments      

Question of the day

Wednesday, Aug 25, 2010

* From a press release by Democratic House candidate Dennis Ahern…

“It is clear that people are ready for a change in leadership throughout our state. I believe that change must start at the top. If I am fortunate enough to win on November 2nd, my first vote will be for a new Speaker of the House of Representatives. This vote will not be for the current Speaker. My vote will go to a non-incumbent, a freshman.” [Emphasis added]

Ahern is running against Republican Rich Morthland for retiring Democratic Rep. Mike Boland’s seat.

* The Question: Your thoughts on this idea? Politically and governmentally, please.

…Adding… I should’ve noted that Ahern will continue to take money and staff assistance from Madigan.

* Related…

* Ahern: If elected, I’ll vote against Madigan as Illinois House speaker

* Ahern distances himself from Madigan

- Posted by Rich Miller   82 Comments      

Behind the head to heads

Wednesday, Aug 25, 2010

* Rasmussen has a new US Senate poll out that doesn’t give us a lot of new news in the head to heads. Results in brackets are from previous Ras polls…

Kirk: 40 [40%, 41%, 39%, 42% 46%, 41%, 41%, 46%]

Giannoulias: 42 [40%, 43%, 40%, 39% 38%, 37%, 44%, 40%]

Other: 6 [8%, 6%, 9%, 7% 5%, 8%, 5%, 4%]

Unsure: 12 [12%, 10%, 12%, 12% 12%. 13%, 10%, 10%]

“Leaners” tie this up at 45-45, with 3 percent for “other” and 8 unsure. We really need to get those other candidates included in these polls. I called Rasmussen yesterday, so we’ll see what they do next time.

* This topline is interesting, if not terribly surprising…

* In terms of how you will vote in the next national election, are you primarily interested in National Security issues such as the War with Iraq and the War on Terror, Economic issues such as jobs and economic growth, Domestic Issues like Social Security and Health Care, Cultural issues such as same-sex marriage and abortion, or Fiscal issues such as taxes and government spending?

10% National Security Issues
55% Economic Issues
13% Domestic Issues
3% Cultural Issues
13% Fiscal Issues
7% Not sure

Crosstabs show that 58 percent of moderates, 50 percent of independents, 67 percent of Democrats and 63 percent of Giannoulias supporters put economic issues at the top of their list. That number is less for Republicans (41), Kirk supporters (43) and conservatives (45) because “fiscal issues” rate higher than average.

Kirk has only recently begun talking about the economy, and now you can clearly see why. This whole “mob banker” thing is a lot of fun, but it isn’t helping him move upwards.

* More unsurprising toplines

* Do you know anyone who is out of work and looking for a job?
87% Yes
9% No
4% Not sure

* Is the job market better than it was a year ago, worse than it was a year ago or about the same?
15% Better
43% Worse
40% About the same
3% Not sure

* TPM PollTracker

* Also, if you’re gonna quote polls, you probably should at least glance at the relevant crosstabs

Alexi Giannoulias is loath to admit it, but LeAlan Jones could become his gnarliest nightmare.

Two recent polls show Giannoulias is locked in a suffocatingly tight race with U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk. Along comes the youthful and energetic Jones, a 31-year-old journalist, high school coach and youth mentor. He’s not only fresh, he’s “Green.” Jones is running with the insurgent Green Party, which is trying to make inroads in the Nov. 2 election.

Jones has no political or governmental record, paltry cash and scarce name recognition — plus a monstrous helping of chutzpah. He owns one unmistakable asset — he is African American. Jones may be a Green, but the color of the moment is black.

From PPP’s latest xtabs…

Yes, Jones could make a slight move if he becomes known. Yes, it is a concern for Giannoulias. Yes, there’s a long time to go. But Jones is not even showing up on the radar screen yet. Rasmussen’s xtabs have 5 percent of African-American voters leaning towards “other.” There are indeed plenty of undecideds, but without cash and a strategy, it’s gonna be tough to eat into Giannoulias’ numbers, particularly with Obama on his side.

* Other campaign stories…

* Birkett eyes DuPage County judgeship

* Kirk Hopes Ride a Red Wave to Senate

* The Battle For Illinois’ Supreme Court

* 8th District rivals see different causes, solutions to budget deficit

* Robert Dold Radio Show WLS 890

* Walker to host series of community meetings in constituents’ homes

* Illinois Turnaround Tour - Schaumburg Video Blog

- Posted by Rich Miller   33 Comments      

Careful how you tread

Wednesday, Aug 25, 2010

* In politics, some things are better left unsaid, or at least said with more tact

In case you can’t watch videos, that was Republican state Sen. Kirk Dillard reacting to Gov. Pat Quinn’s appointment of Michelle Saddler as his new chief of staff. His full quote…

“While she, as an African-American, Asian woman, is a political choice, it remains to be seen if she can govern state government.”

The video comes from Quinn’s campaign, which is why we see that over the top video headline. The Quinn campaign’s response…

“When we talk about the political games the Brady Bunch plays, this is what we mean. Governor Quinn chose the most capable person to fill the position of Chief of Staff as he continues to guide our state through this difficult economic period.

“But Republicans never stop doing the political calculus and trying to divide the electorate. The Brady Bunch’s craven calculations should offend every woman and person of color in this state, as well as anyone who believes in good government over divisive wedge politics.”

There’s no getting around the fact that Pat Quinn is doing poorly with African-Americans and is likely desperate to win them back and that Ms. Saddler’s race was part of his calculus. But one sure-fire way to help Quinn out is to give his campaign an opportunity to play the race card. Quinn needs to motivate his base. This kind of stuff will do it. If Saddler was a hack, that might be one thing. But she’s not, even if some folks despise Episcopalians and whatnot.

I talked to Dillard a few minutes ago and he pointed out that Saddler started her press conference by pointing out her ethnic heritage and said he was approached by some black reporters who asked specifically about her race. But, he said, he understood the point and said he wished her well and thought she was a good choice, “governmentally as well as politically.” Kirk is a decent guy and I know he meant no harm, but you gotta think before you speak in this business.

* Mark Brown sums up our current situation quite well

It might have been helpful for Quinn to explain what specific steps his office takes to keep the political and government sides separate. Would he really have us believe there is no campaign input into the planning of what he does as governor, or is the truth more that his staff takes care not to conduct political business using state phones or computers?

To the extent an absolute separation is true in Quinn’s case, it could go a long way toward explaining why nobody can figure out his re-election message.

When Quinn took over as governor, I said I thought he would be the right guy to lead Illinois in Blagojevich’s wake, and as far as calming the waters, maybe he has been better than the alternatives. But unfortunately, despite his good intentions, he hasn’t shown he can govern effectively.

Even more unfortunate is that there’s no reason to believe his Republican opponent would be any better.

Nobody can figure out Pat Quinn’s message because he doesn’t have one. Other than that, Brown’s right.

* Related…

* Governor Quinn’s Opponents React to Firing of Inspector General

* Brady: Quinn owes better explanation about firing

* Quinn names new chief of staff following e-mail resignation

* Quinn Appoints New Chief of Staff

* Illinois Gov. Quinn names new chief of staff

* Quinn replaces chief of staff

* Quinn Considered Disciplining Stermer with Suspension

* Quinn praises ex-chief of staff Jerry Stermer but let him resign

* Quinn names new chief of staff

* ‘Gotcha’ politics not getting us anywhere

* Illinois loses out on Race to the Top funds

* School chief: Ill. will improve even without grant

* Keep racing

* Group makes pitch for Illinois pension reform

* Start now to find and cut state fat

- Posted by Rich Miller   44 Comments      

Instead of a search for solutions, we get defensive yapping

Wednesday, Aug 25, 2010

* I got news for you, Mayor Daley, your city is already broke

“I’m not going to listen to state government for financial advice, we’d be bankrupt.

Sell the parking meters and spend almost all the money in a year. Good one. Put half the city into a TIF district, thereby squeezing every budget, including the city government’s, for the sake of creating a mayoral slush fund. Excellent. Refuse to hire more cops during a horrific murderous crime spree. Sparkling.


“We [should] not listen to them, your state senators or representatives. No way. Look what they’ve done with the state budget and now they’re telling us what to do with the city budget. No way.”

It seems clear that the inspiration for his caustic comments was State Rep. John Fritchey (D-Chicago). Fritchey, who is running for a seat on the Cook County board, held a news conference Sunday and called for a “major TIF overhaul” to funnel more tax dollars to the Chicago Public Schools.

But asked which Springfield critics he was referring to in his remarks Tuesday, Daley replied, “All of them, in general.”

Daley has a point about Fritchey and glass houses, but he should take his own advice. His reputation as a stellar manager is in tatters. The city is on a downward spiral, and maybe he should be looking for some solutions, rather than getting all defensive about the lousy job he’s done.

* Kass

Ald. Scott Waguespack, 32nd, has two terrifying words for Mayor Richard Daley:

Forensic Audit.

It may not sound sexy. But having former IRS agents go through two decades worth of insider political deals and revealing it all to a tax base of voters that has been bled dry is something Daley and his boys would hate.

After spending months pointing out the corruption and waste of taxpayer dollars at City Hall —including that ridiculous parking meter deal that may have sparked a revolution — Waguespack, 40, is thinking about challenging Daley for mayor.

The first thing he’d do would be to add more police on the streets. But a forensic audit might be just what the doctor ordered.

Waguespack’s run for mayor is just another Kass fantasy

Today is the first day for circulating nominating petitions to get on the February city election election, and Alderman Scott Waguespack said Monday he would seek signatures to run for four more years as 32nd Ward alderman — not for mayor. […]

The alderman, who narrowly defeated Daley-backed Ald. Ted Matlak in the 2007 election, had less than $20,000 in his campaign account at the end of June, according to documents filed with state officials.

But that doesn’t mean the audit isn’t a good idea. Daley was elected mayor 21 years ago. One can only imagine what an audit would find. Fritchey and Waguespack are feuding, but there’s no reason why Fritchey couldn’t push that idea as well. It the city won’t do it, maybe the state could help. And do one on itself, for that matter. I’ve been on the fence about this idea for a while now, but I’ve come around all the way. The state, city and county could all use one.

Maybe Sauk Village, too

Sauk Village is broke, according to the mayor. “We’re just about out of money,” said Lewis Towers, 59, the part-time mayor who works full-time as director of the Cook County assessor’s Markham office. “We can make Friday’s payroll and that’s it. We have $150,000 in our general fund and an annual budget of $9.1 million.”

Towers said the village payroll is $160,000. He plans to lay off at least 10 of the village’s 60 employees and expected the village board to approve the cuts at a meeting last night.

- Posted by Rich Miller   56 Comments      

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This just in… Saddler gets CoS job… Quinn responds to critics

Tuesday, Aug 24, 2010

* 2:28 pm - Inside sources say Gov. Pat Quinn will choose Michelle Saddler as his new chief of staff.

Here is what I told subscribers this morning

Saddler is the Director of the Department of Human Services. She’s an African-American female and Quinn is desperate lately to appeal to black voters, who appear to be shunning him. She also worked for Quinn when he was state treasurer. He prefers people whom he knows.

The governor’s press conference is about to start, so we’ll see if the sources are right soon enough. Sadler’s name surfaced late.

You can click here to listen to the press conference live.

* 2:44 pm - And it is Ms. Saddler. The governor called her a “good friend” and an “excellent public servant.”

* From the Tribune

Saddler’s background includes working as Quinn’s director of investments when he served as state treasurer in the 1990s. She has a bachelor’s from Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs and a master’s from Northwestern University’s Kellogg graduate school of management.

* Grace Hou, DHS’ Assistant Secretary for Programs, has been appointed acting secretary of DHS.

* Quinn is now taking questions on the Stermer fiasco. He began by saying “someone violated” state law by giving the inspector general’s report to a reporter.

“It has not a shred of truth,” Quinn said about any connection between the inspector general’s Stermer report and Wright’s firing.

“On the 23rd of July, we e-mailed” their executive appointments person about a replacement for the inspector general. Quinn said his chief counsel went to the EIG and told him personally on the morning of the 13th that he was being replaced. “I don’t think he labored under any assumption that I was going to reappoint him,” Quinn said about James Wright.

“I did not know anything about the report until I arrived at my office” at about 5 o’clock on the afternoon of the 13th. That’s important because the report arrived at his office the day before.

“I was planning to discipline my chief of staff Jerry Stermer” and Stermer was willing to accept that discipline, Quinn said. But after the Sun-Times reporter called, Quinn said he called Stermer and his chief said he did not want to be a “distraction.”

Quinn said he planned to mete out a “strong punishment,” involving “a suspension” for Stermer.

Quinn said his brother made a “keystroke error” when he sent that campaign e-mail to Stermer.

The governor said he interviewed several people for inspector general, started the vetting process and was then told that the candidates decided to go elsewhere.

* 3:29 pm - End.

* I thought he did a pretty decent job, as far as these things go. We’ll see how Brady reacts. Stay tuned.

* In case you missed it, the audio archive of the entire presser can be downloaded here.

- Posted by Rich Miller   71 Comments      

Tweet of the day

Tuesday, Aug 24, 2010

* From Scott Lee Cohen

Enjoying my evening at the Probation Challenge’s 31st Annual dinner.

The man has no sense of irony.

More importantly, though, a considerable number of prominent African-Americans were likely at that dinner. I wonder if Gov. Pat Quinn was anywhere near there.

* First runner-up goes to Pat Quinn’s Brain

You want message discipline? Today’s message is jobs. Specifically, who will be hired as my new Chief of Staff?

* I can’t read John Corrigan’s latest



Media Ignores Kilbride Hostility Toward Illinois Police

Maybe you should do more than just Tweet about it then.

* Somehow, I don’t find the name of this restaurant all that appetizing

Please join us for a special “Meet and Greet”: Thur, 8/26/10 Steam Plant Family Restaurant, 123 Meadow St, Belvidere 11:15 - 12:15PM

* Speaking of food, HuffPo asks

It’s National Waffle Day. We are thinking of the best waffle joints in Chicago. Any suggestions?

Try Pat Quinn’s Brain.

* Illinois-Stage asks

If the state merged the Comptroller and Treasurer offices, what would the new office be called?

Easy. “Troller.”

* Crain’s

Broadway Bank seizure not political move, watchdog says

So far, no counter-Tweet from Mark Kirk about how the mob bought off the watchdog and how Kirk is gonna smash that mob like Super Man!

* SJ-R

Illinois strikes out again for federal school funding

The story’s about Race to the Top. The race has started, but we’re left at the bottom. Same as it ever was.

* Finally, news I can use

The White Sox plan to claim slugger Manny Ramirez once the Dodgers place him on waivers, reports.


- Posted by Rich Miller   28 Comments      

*** UPDATED x1 - Halvorson downgraded *** Rasmussen: Brady ahead 46-37

Tuesday, Aug 24, 2010

* Rasmussen’s latest, with previous Ras polls in brackets…

Brady: 46% [48%, 44%, 43%, 47% 45%, 45%, 47%]
Quinn: 37% [35%, 37%, 40%, 36% 38%, 38%, 37%]
Some Other Candidate 6% [6%, 11%, 9%, 8% 5%, 7%, 6%]
Not sure 11% [12%, 9%, 8%, 10% 11%, 10%, 9%]

For the first time, they also included “leaners” in the poll. In other words, those who say they are undecided are asked whom they are leaning towards. The margin narrows a wee bit…

Brady: 49%
Quinn: 41%
Some Other Candidate 3%
Not sure 7%

It really would be nice if Rasmussen started polling the other candidates in this race.

From the pollster

This race now moves from Leans GOP to a Toss-Up in the Rasmussen Reports Election 2010 Gubernatorial Scorecard.

From far away, maybe it looks that way. I still don’t see it up close, though.

Back to the pollster…

Brady receives support from 85% of Republicans, while Quinn is favored by just 68% of Democrats. Among voters not affiliated with either political party, Brady holds a commanding 61% to 17% lead.

Quinn, who took over from impeached governor Rod Blogojevich more than 18 months ago, continues to face a $13-billion state deficit, one of the country’s worst. Eighty-seven percent (87%) of voters in the state know someone who is out of work and looking for a job. Forty-three percent (43%) say the job market is worse than a year ago, while only 15% say its better.

Thirty-nine percent (39%) of Illinois voters approve of the job Quinn is doing as governor. Sixty percent (60%), however, disapprove of his job performance.

Brady is viewed Very Favorably by 19% of the state’s voters and Very Unfavorably by 17%. Quinn earns Very Favorable marks from 10% and Very Unfavorable reviews from 31%.

Both candidates are well-known in the state, but at this point in a campaign, Rasmussen Reports considers the number of people with strong opinions more significant than the total favorable/unfavorable numbers.

* A check of the crosstabs shows Quinn doing quite well with African-Americans. The Illinois Chamber, you may recall, claimed that once those black voter numbers firmed up for Quinn, this could be a 5-6 point race. But with 75 percent black support, it’s still a 9-point race. And Scott Lee Cohen hasn’t ramped up his campaign yet. Quinn’s black support rises to 80 percent with leaners, which accounts for just under half of Quinn’s one-point narrowing because Brady picks up an additional point among African-Americans and rises to 10.

* Methodology

The survey of 750 Likely Voters in Illinois was conducted on August 23, 2010 by Rasmussen Reports. The margin of sampling error is +/-4 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence. Field work for all Rasmussen Reports surveys is conducted by Pulse Opinion Research, LLC.

* TPM PollTracker

*** UPDATE *** Rothenberg has the governor’s race at “Toss-up/Tilt Republican,” but he’s also just moved Congresswoman Debbie Halvorson to “Pure toss-up” status

Illinois 11. Rep. Debbie Halvorson (D) finds herself in deeper trouble than she expected, as GOP challenger Adam Kinzinger has emerged as a serious threat to her. The state political environment is increasingly toxic for Democrats, and polling shows Halvorson, a former leader in the state legislator, in bad shape. Move from Toss-up/Tilt Democrat to Pure Toss-up as Halvorson’s prospects deteriorate.

Other pundit ratings on this race, from Halvorson’s opponent…

The Cook Political Report - Toss-Up (moved from Lean D, 8/17/10)
Real Clear Politics - Leans GOP

- Posted by Rich Miller   42 Comments      

Quinn to take questions as Brady whacks him again over Stermer/Wright debacle

Tuesday, Aug 24, 2010

* As I’ve already told subscribers, Gov. Pat Quinn will hold a press conference this afternoon at 2:30 to announce his new chief of staff and take questions from reporters. IIS will have a “watch it live” link here.

* While we’re waiting on the guv’s newser, check out this press release from Bill Brady’s campaign…


Brady Says Quinn Obsessed with Politics, Not Jobs

Chicago – Republican Gubernatorial candidate Bill Brady today said Governor Pat Quinn’s firing of the state’s Executive Inspector General on the very day he learned of an ethics probe involving his chief of staff suggests he’s focused on politics, not jobs during our fiscal crisis.

“In the middle of a recession, people need a governor focused on creating jobs and cleaning up state government,” said Brady. “Instead, Governor Quinn has gone down the same road of his predecessors - ethical lapses, investigations, and protecting political insiders at taxpayer expense.”

“Illinois lost 20 thousand jobs last month alone,” he said. “This latest revelation proves we won’t ever solve our fiscal crisis under a governor consumed by politics, not jobs,” he said.

Questions over the firing of the state’s top ethics official are the latest in a string of published reports that call into question the Governor’s commitment to government reform, and the priorities of his Administration.

Previous examples include:

· Secret pay raises for political appointees, including his Budget Director

· Questionable use of official state time and resources for his political campaign

· Supporting the honesty and integrity of convicted Governor Rod Blagojevich months after federal officials revealed their investigation

· Quietly signing a video poker bill to allow known criminals into gambling against the recommendation of the Gaming Commission

· Failing to support the recommendations of his own reform commission

· Keeping a majority of Rod Blagojevich’s officials in top government positions

· Vetoing McPier reforms


- Posted by Rich Miller   30 Comments      

Goodbye, Jason

Tuesday, Aug 24, 2010

* Many years ago, I made a huge mistake and got into an automobile with someone who had way too much to drink. He was pulled over and arrested for DUI, and the cops told me I was on my own.

It was very late at night during the work week, it was freezing cold and I was so poor back then that I didn’t have enough cash for a taxi. But I knew right away that there was one person I could call for help: Jason Hammond.

Jason answered the phone on the first ring, then high-tailed it all the way across town to get me. He had coffee and cigarettes waiting for me as I stepped into his car, freezing, tired and feeling stupid. What a guy.

Jason was one of the most unusual people I knew. He served in Vietnam. He was wounded in action, but reenlisted as a medic. That second tour really screwed up his head, but he said his life was saved because he was discharged in San Francisco at the tail end of the summer of 1967.

He spent the next several years hanging out with hippies and honing his skills as a master carpenter. The guy could build anything. He and his wife raised their children in a modified Bluebird bus and a tipi in southern New Mexico. Not exactly your typical middle class family, but it worked well for all.

Jason eventually ended up working on the National Park Service’s massive Lincoln home restoration in Springfield. The master carpenter was matched up with one of the more difficult and painstaking restoration jobs ever done in the Midwest. He was in Heaven.

After that job ended, Jason decided to move back to New Mexico. His friends were universally bummed out. Jason’s house was the center of most of our gatherings. He had a great fire pit and even an outside bar area. I decided to rent the place to help preserve our little communal spot, but I knew it wouldn’t be the same without Jason and it wasn’t.

We kept in touch, and some friends and I occasionally visited him. I hadn’t heard from him in a while, but sometimes we’d go months without talking then gab like we’d just seen each other the day before.

Anyway, a mutual friend saw a disturbing post on Facebook yesterday and went to Jason’s page and to her great sadness saw that people were leaving condolence messages. Jason had died.

We eventually discovered that Jason had a recurrence of cancer, but didn’t really tell anybody about it. That was his way. He wouldn’t want us fussing over him when we could be laughing with him instead.

I guess my only real regret is that I didn’t visit him more often, particularly after he set up an awesome recording studio in his house and was bringing musicians in almost every Friday night for extended jam sessions. He had quite the scene going on. I often called on Friday nights just to catch the vibe.

On my way to visit him in the late 1990s, I stopped at a friend’s house in northern New Mexico and we wound up at a beautiful American Indian-owned mineral springs spa out in the country. I was chatting with the masseuse about my trip, and discovered that she was from Springfield. I told her that my next stop was to visit Jason and she said she had met him once in Springfield and recalled her entire conversation with him. Jason made a lasting impression on just about everyone he ever met. He was a different sort of human, and I loved the man like a brother.

- Posted by Rich Miller   50 Comments      

Brady chairman funding tea party groups

Tuesday, Aug 24, 2010

* Bill Brady’s campaign chairman Ron Gidwitz is raising money for tea party groups

The former CEO of Helene Curtis Industries Inc., who ran for governor in 2006 and now chairs Republican Bill Brady’s gubernatorial campaign, is donating his own money and raising more from other Chicago executives to help Tea Party groups in various parts of the state. The money helps the activists get organized, a largely behind-the-scenes effort that could benefit candidates up and down the Republican ticket this fall.

“I see energized people,” Mr. Gidwitz says. “A lot of people are angry. We want to identify people who are dissatisfied with the status quo in Illinois and give them the opportunity to make a change.”

Mr. Gidwitz chairs and helps fund the Illinois arm of Americans for Prosperity, a Washington, D.C.-based conservative, anti-tax group that has a political organizer—longtime Illinois GOP operative Joe Calomino—working with Tea Party groups here.

“They’re very good at putting the plan on the ground,” Mr. McQueen says. “They’re instrumental at showing us what we need to do to be effective.

That move by Gidwitz seems logical, but there’s always the danger of tying his candidate too closely to the more “out there” tea party types.

Americans for Prosperity has not yet spent big money in Illinois. They did do a huge, $4.1 million ad buy in other states. But Illinois may be targeted soon

After seeing the list of the targeted districts, I thought it odd that AFP would neglect Illinois—given all the competitive races in Obama’s adopted state. So I called Joe Calomino who, with just one other staffer, runs the Illinois chapter of the 1.2 million member national group. Calomino told me that a new AFP project, November is Coming is, in fact, dispatching by bus grassroots activists armed with anti-spending petitions to “educate” voters in the 11th, 14th, and 10th districts on September 15th, 16th, and 17th, respectively.

One can safely bet that although the AFP bills itself as nonpartisan, its brigades will not be promoting Democrats Debbie Halvorson (11th), Bill Foster (14th), or Dan Seals (10th), the Democrat who is seeking the seat now held by Mark Kirk. The culmination of the Illinois events is an appearance in Hoffman Estates on September 18th by Glenn Beck who bashed Obama on air for his criticism of AFP.

* In other campaign news, Rich Whitney has come up with some pretty good spin

Green Party candidate for governor Rich Whitney went on the attack Monday, saying Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn has “peaked” and can’t beat Republican state Sen. Bill Brady.

At a Springfield news conference, Whitney referenced recent independent polls that have shown Brady leading the race for Illinois governor. Whitney urged voters who don’t want to vote for Brady to vote for him instead of Quinn.

“He’s peaked,” Whitney said of Quinn. “He can only go down.”

If Whitney knew how to take advantage of this situation then he might have a legit shot. So far, at least, there’s no indication that he does.

* Emphasizing Whitney’s point, Quinn’s running mate Sheila Simon just admitted that her boss’ budget is a disaster

“It boils down to jobs and education and they are thrown in together,” [Simon] said. “The concern now about jobs is much more personal. It’s not a generic concern. The folks I am running into say they are concerned about their own jobs or the jobs of family members. The state budget and the disaster it is really has an impact on anyone at the school level.”

* Campaign 2010 roundup…

* Illinois Review: Despite the base of the Republican Party and the Party’s platform itself being staunchly prolife, Congressman Mark Kirk, also the IL GOP’s nominee for U.S. Senate, continues to hold firm on his commitment to despicable and up-until-now non-productive human embryo experimentation. This response sent out by Kirk campaign to the U.S. district judge’s decision to strike down President Obama’s stem cell executive order is disappointing and disturbing, because it assures us where a U.S. Senator Kirk would be if presented with a decision on the ever-important issue of the sanctity of life.

* Covert Operations: The billionaire brothers who are waging a war against Obama.

* One-sided debate

* Move to merge treasurer and comptroller offices gains steam

* Candidates Gear Up for City Elections

* Cook County Board of Review staff takes day off to raise money for Da Boss

- Posted by Rich Miller   32 Comments      

Question of the day

Tuesday, Aug 24, 2010

* This happened last week, and even though I posted it in a roundup, we never really discussed it

It’s not unusual or illegal for police officers to flip on a camera as they get out of their squad car to talk to a driver they’ve pulled over.

But in Illinois, a civilian trying to make an audio recording of police in action is breaking the law. […]

“It’s a stretch to apply surveillance laws to a situation on the street with an encounter between the police and the public,” said Maryland defense attorney Steven Silverman. “An officer has no expectation of privacy when he makes a traffic stop or arrest in the course of his workday.” […]

Mark Donahue, president of the Fraternal Order of Police in Chicago, said he believes the state’s eavesdropping law is a good one. Allowing people to make audio recordings of arrests “could potentially inhibit an officer from proactively doing his job,” Donahue said.

According to the ACLU, six people have been arrested in Illinois and faced felony charges for making audio recordings of police officers (usually in conjunction with video).

* The Question: Should the state law which makes it a felony to make audio recordings of police be repealed? Explain.

- Posted by Rich Miller   39 Comments      

No retrial until next year?

Tuesday, Aug 24, 2010

* Rod Blagojevich may be yapping through Christmas about his “persecution” by federal prosecutors, according to the Sun-Times

Rod Blagojevich’s retrial may not start until next year, and if he wants the public to pay for his defense, he will get only two lawyers — down from seven.

In a private conference last week, Judge James Zagel told lawyers a quick retrial on the corruption charges wasn’t likely because of the logistics of getting a new jury pool.

Zagel said he didn’t want to put a “Christmas burden” on jurors, pushing a retrial possibly to January at the earliest, according to sources with knowledge of the meeting.

The two lawyers are not likely to be Sam Adam Jr. and Sam Adam Sr., who sources say intend on filing a request to leave the case.

Bad news for the Democrats. Very bad.

* Meanwhile, Jon Stewart busted Rod Blagojevich but good last night

Stewart played back a tape of Blagojevich from a year ago when he then tried to explain his words on tape: “I’ve got this thing and it’s f—ing golden.”

In 2009, Blagojevich explains that in the next few words that prosecutors didn’t reveal at the time, he talks about health care for Illinois. But the now-released tape shows Blagojevich actually discussed parachuting himself into the Senate seat spot and calling President Obama a “demigod.”

“The reality of what you said is very different,” Stewart says.

Blagojevich hems and haws as he tries to explain: “Listen to the whole tape.”

Stewart cuts him off: “Is this why you didn’t take the stand?” the audience laughs.

And we know the answer to this one

“You’re a guy that’s the most adamant about his innocence of anyone I ever met, so you’re either the victim of a terrible persecution or you’re a sociopath,” Stewart said.

And the answer to this one is pretty obvious as well

Stewart: You don’t feel (that) in any way that it was a fragile victory? Eleven to one to convict? You don’t think that’s fragile?

Full interview, with swear words, so be careful if you’re at work. Part One

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Exclusive - Rod Blagojevich Extended Interview Pt. 1
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor Tea Party

Part Two

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Exclusive - Rod Blagojevich Extended Interview Pt. 2
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor Tea Party

* Meanwhile, I agree with every word in Phil Kadner’s latest column

There’s nothing quite like listening to imbeciles rant about Illinois politics. The Wall Street Journal writes that, “If (U.S. Attorney Patrick) Fitzgerald doesn’t resign of his own accord, the Justice Department should remove him …”

The Washington Post, in commenting on the likely retrial of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, says that “(Fitzgerald) should stand down before crossing another fine line - the one that separates prosecution from persecution.”

You want to talk about persecution, try living in a state where a “For Sale” sign seems permanently posted on the governor’s mansion.

Go read the whole thing.

* Roundup…

* Blago’s a Liar: Lisa Madigan

* Lisa Madigan calls Blagojevich a liar

* Lynn Sweet on CNN’s “Reliable Sources” on Blagojevich media blitz

* Jon Stewart to Blagojevich on Daily Show: “I’d like to see you as a victim — but you make it so hard.”

* Blago trial - ‘one of the Al Capone tax evasion cases of today’

* Byrne: Hey, Eastern pundits: Stay out of our mess

* Goudie: Fitzgerald shouldn’t be browbeaten for doing his job

* Blago stammers through ‘Daily Show’

* Journal Star: Enough of ex-gov’s antics, move ahead with retrial

- Posted by Rich Miller   43 Comments      

The timing’s the thing

Tuesday, Aug 24, 2010

* The most important paragraphs in this story about the Jerry Stermer resignation are at the bottom of today’s Sun-Times story

Quinn’s office added new clarity Monday to the timeline of Wright’s ouster. His removal occurred on the morning of Aug. 13 while the governor did not get formally briefed about Wright’s report against Stermer until that evening, a Quinn spokeswoman said. […]

Many in state government’s political circles were stunned Monday by Stermer’s decision to quit Quinn’s staff over three “inadvertently” sent political e-mails, particularly given that Wright reported scouring 38,700 of Stermer’s e-mails looking for a political angle.

Stermer brought those three e-mails to Wright’s attention in January, the same time Stermer briefed Quinn about the possible violations of a state ethics law. In his Aug. 11 report to Quinn, Wright recommended that Attorney General Lisa Madigan file a complaint against Stermer, 67, before the state Executive Ethics Commission for the political e-mails.

The penalty for such transgressions generally has been light. Earlier this year, the commission imposed a $250 fine against a high-ranking Department of Human Services administrator for a 2008 correspondence to four state workers from his government e-mail address encouraging them to support Barack Obama for president and Howard J. Brookins Jr. for Cook County state’s attorney. The DHS administrator was allowed to keep his job.

I don’t believe that Stermer really resigned over those three e-mails. As the article makes clear, that’s barely a petty offense. And Stermer did, indeed, report every wrongly sent e-mail to the OEIG because the the OEIG spent seven months going over every one of his 38,700 electronic messages.

I believe Stermer resigned because Quinn fired Executive Inspector General Wright the same day he was formally briefed on Wright’s Stermer report. This was either a ham-fisted attempt at retaliation or an extremely unfortunate coincidence. Quinn will answer questions from reporters today, and they need to ask whether he was at all aware that Wright had sent his office a report on Stermer, not just whether the governor knew what the exact wording of the report was. It would also be interesting to know whether Stermer was in on the decision to replace Wright. But don’t hold your breath on getting full answers.

* The Tribune has more on the e-mails

An influential adviser to his brother, Thomas Quinn sent an e-mail headlined: “PQ, the tax cutter.”

“I believe that it’s true to say (that) Pat Quinn has implemented more budget cuts than any other governor in Illinois history,” the e-mail said. “Isn’t that a powerful antidote message to push back at Hynes when he tries to paint Pat as a tax and spender. Also a powerful message for the general election as well.”

Through the governor’s campaign spokeswoman, Thomas Quinn said he inadvertently sent the political e-mail to Stermer’s state account. He then left Stermer a voice mail to “ignore that e-mail.”

Quinn campaign consultant John Kupper, who also got the e-mail, replied that the idea about the governor’s budget-cutting would be a “great fact, if true. Also something to test in our next poll.”

A day later, Stermer hit “reply to all” from his government account. Stermer said he would “work with the budget office to get the precise amount.”

Within minutes, Stermer then sent a separate note to David Vaught, the budget chief, asking for the total amount of money Quinn has cut from the state budget since taking office.

A third e-mail exchange took place in December, when another Quinn campaign aide asked Stermer to weigh in on proposed answers to a candidate questionnaire by the Tribune’s editorial board.

Stermer should never have replied to those e-mails, but he owned up to his mistakes. Also, the campaign folks should’ve known better than to send Stermer e-mails to his state account.

* And excuse me for not bowing to the Chicago Tribune

And Quinn’s opponent, Republican Bill Brady, didn’t hesitate to draw a straight line between the two events: “On the very day Pat Quinn was confronted with evidence by the inspector general of an ethics violation, he put his political interests before citizens yet again and fired the inspector general himself,” Brady said Monday.

It’s now up to Attorney General Lisa Madigan to determine whether to file a complaint with the Executive Ethics Commission, which could impose a fine or other discipline on Stermer.

Is there more to this story? Does there have to be? Nobody in Illinois should need to be reminded why the ethics act prohibits the use of state resources for campaign purposes. Quinn’s interpretation of the rules is liberal enough to justify a public schedule chock-a-block with barely disguised campaign appearances — four stops in a single day, for example, to “encourage shoppers to take advantage of Illinois’ first-ever back-to-school sales-tax holiday” — but there’s no question that Stermer’s actions did cross the line.

Sure, the actions crossed the line. That’s why Stermer reported it himself. And I, too, would like to know if the firing was connected or not. But, pardon me for asking, when has the Tribune published an editorial blasting state Sen. Bill Brady for voting three times for legislation that directly benefited his own construction business? Brady wouldn’t even cop to a conflict of interest, even though that was probably one of the most direct legislative conflicts many of us have seen in a very long time.

* Related…

* Quinn draws fire over timing of inspector general’s ouster

* Quinn, Stermer and Wright: Unfortunate Timing or Retaliation?

* Quinn faces questions on ethics

* Quinn set to announce new chief of staff

* Quinn feeling heat over dismissal of ethics official

* Brown: Let’s be honest: 3 e-mails not a scandal

- Posted by Rich Miller   25 Comments      

Morning Shorts

Tuesday, Aug 24, 2010

* Exelon to create 4,200 jobs as it begins series of Illinois projects

Exelon Nuclear said in a statement Monday that the $4.6 million planned program should create more than 4,200 jobs in Illinois over the next five years. The program also includes equipment upgrades at six nuclear plants.

The Zion Station decommissioning is to begin in September as a $1 billion, 10-year project.

* Post tax-credit home sales down nearly 40 percent

The president of the Capital Area Association of Realtors also cautioned in the report the “tax credit hangover” could last for a few more months.

* Sunday heroin bust sets Illinois state record

* Chicago Police Step Up Patrols In High-Crime Areas

* Sun-Times: Feels like clout got ride on Metra gravy train

* Suicides on train tracks up: ‘Copycatting is an element’

* Tollway glitch results in thousands of late violation notices

A mix-up in issuing violation notices to Indiana drivers has the Illinois tollway figuring out how to collect an estimated backlog of $7 million from 116,129 Hoosiers.

The glitch spans nearly two years from summer 2008 to spring 2010 and originated from problems related to duplicate Indiana license plates.

The duplicate license plates meant erroneous violations were going out to Indiana motorists. As a result, the Illinois tollway halted sending out fine notices in May 2008 to reprogram the electronic toll system.

* Tollway interim CEO exits

* Tribune: Changing course

Chancellor Cheryl Hyman and board Chairman Gery Chico are not talking about abolishing City Colleges’ admissions policy.

What they’re saying is that a lot of kids who are admitted to City Colleges’ seven campuses aren’t ready to take college courses. They need an alternative because the current system isn’t serving them or taxpayers well.

Yes, those students hold a diploma, often from a Chicago public high school. But many of them have been finished with high school for several years before they seek to start college. And in some cases, their high school diploma doesn’t count for much. They’re not ready for college.

* 15 Chicago schools could see longer days

In an effort to extend what is one of the nation’s shortest school days, Chicago Public Schools plans to add 90 minutes to the schedules of 15 elementary schools using online courses and nonteachers, sources said.

* CPS Holds Job Fair for Laid-Off Teachers

* FEMA awards Aurora $213,758 for West Side flooding

The project will improve drainage to Orchard Lake and alleviate frequent flooding that has occurred in the neighborhood north of Illinois Avenue on the West Side, FEMA officials said.

* DuPage to look again at infrastructure bond issue

* DuPage sets budget forums

* Kane County freeing up jail expenses

* Mitchell: State making Payday Loan Stores pay up

* AG, Board of Education start online safety program

* Madigan in Decatur to promote Internet safety initiatives

* Doctor records taken offline

* Illinois prison agency expanding job-skills program

* Alligator Still in Chicago River

* Asian carp battle moves to courtroom

- Posted by Barton Lorimor   1 Comment      

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* Reader comments closed for the weekend
* Rauner vetoes several social service bills
* Ok, that's enough
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* Rauner signs life insurance bill
* Question of the day
* State bond sale goes well, but still paid a higher price
* *** UPDATED x1 *** Picking on the little guys
* We've been a sorry state for a long time
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* I'm still befuddled by this move
* *** UPDATED x5 - Motion approved - Noven to withdraw - $421 million budget hit - One appointee appears to be ineligible - The plot thickens as three new board members appointed *** Controversy expected at TRS hearing today
* React to remap reform ruling
* Divided court kicks remap reform off ballot
* Yesterday's blog posts

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