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Not much “there” there

Thursday, Sep 30, 2010

* While written in a way that implies quite a bit, there’s a serious hole in today’s Tribune story

[Gov. Pat Quinn} has received political contributions connected to at least 77 of the people he has chosen for state task forces, agencies, boards or commissions since he became governor in January 2009, according to a Tribune review of public records. At least 20 of the donations from the appointees, their families or their businesses came within two months of the appointment.

We know via the story that three of those contributions were rather large. But we don’t know how big the rest of them were. We don’t even know their average size. $100? $500? $10,000? The Tribune doesn’t tell us, except to say that “many” are under the $25K asking price that Rod Blagojevich had set. They don’t define “many.” And until they tell us, I don’t think we should jump to any conclusions here.

* And of those four examples they gave? The first one was from the father of Mariyana Spyropoulos. Quinn supported her more than two years ago for MWRD. She lost the race, applied for an opening, Quinn gave her the appointment. Shortly before this year’s primary, when Quinn was literally desperate for money, her father contributed $25,000, then another $25,000 after the primary. She kicked in $1K.

While it doesn’t look great, Quinn appears to have known the father for quite a while, and dined with him twice in Copenhagen during the city’s Olympics bid.

Another appointee, William Brandt Jr., is described as a “high school chum” of Quinn’s. People with decent piles of cash often go in heavy for their oldest friends. No surprise The other is Steven Gilford, who worked with Quinn in the Walker administration.

* The last example shows you how much of a stretch some of these “connections” may be…

For an appointment to the Executive Ethics Commission, Quinn needed a Republican because state law required a degree of balance among political parties. He turned to retired Pinckneyville attorney Gayl Pyatt, a former member of the Illinois Gaming Board.

The job comes with a $37,571 annual salary and a ban on political activity. Quinn appointed Pyatt in October. Her husband, Richard, a retired funeral director, gave $500 to Quinn in November.

Gayl Pyatt said the “contribution was made because a very, very good friend” of her family held a fundraiser for the governor. If not, Pyatt said, “that check would never have been written.”

$500? Really? Move along. Nothing to see there.

…Adding… From a commenter…

Also, could the brain trust at the Trib let us know how many of those 77 received appointments to boards that PAY? Most don’t, as I recall.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Bill - Thursday, Sep 30, 10 @ 11:26 am:

    So, Quinn is cheaper than Rod? That makes it ok? Or is it just another example of being imcompetent.

  2. - Rich Miller - Thursday, Sep 30, 10 @ 11:33 am:

    Still bitter, Bill? lol

  3. - cassandra - Thursday, Sep 30, 10 @ 11:36 am:

    Actually, I thought campaign contributions were frequently the way people got on boards. Or connections, with or without $$. It’s legal I presume and it’s the Illinois Way.

    The real problem I think is that there are way too many of these boards and commissions. A housecleaning would help the state’s budget. I don’t think there has been any activity in that direct by the Quinn Admin despite all the talk about budget crises and sacrifices. And there probably wouldn’t be under Governor Brady. It’s too much of a good thing for pols who need to reward supporters.

  4. - Leroy - Thursday, Sep 30, 10 @ 11:38 am:

    I’d buy a $37,000 a year job for $500 ALL DAY LONG.

  5. - bored now - Thursday, Sep 30, 10 @ 11:41 am:

    it would be shocking, absolutely shocking, that many people get appointed to state boards who didn’t contribute something to political candidates. there are not very many people who are active in politics, let alone government, who don’t donate to politicians.

    it would hard to think that a $500 contribution constitutes pay-to-play. $5M, yeah. $50k, ok. but $500. the tribune is simply trying to tilt the field; it’s on the verge of becoming as credible as fox (or faux) news. come to think of it, it’s probably already crossed that line…

  6. - wordslinger - Thursday, Sep 30, 10 @ 11:48 am:

    About every five years, there are rumbles about getting rid of all these commission and then nothing ever happens.

    By taking a quick look at the Executive Ethics Commission website, $37,000 grand is a pretty sweet deal for no heavy lifting.

  7. - downstate hack - Thursday, Sep 30, 10 @ 11:52 am:

    $50,000 from Spyropoulos for his daughters job, but it’s okay because Quinn and he had two dinners together in Copenhagen. Maybe it is just the Illinois way, but it sure smells fishy.

  8. - Bill - Thursday, Sep 30, 10 @ 11:54 am:

    Yeah. I guess I’m still a little bitter. Its just that Quinn’s got these things that are bleeping golden and he’s giving them away for bleeping nothin’.
    It kind of offends my sensibilities.

  9. - Give Me A Break - Thursday, Sep 30, 10 @ 11:55 am:

    Cassy: You are on to something here about the numbers of boards and commissions. However, I’ve been in committee and seen the legislative staffs of a state agency oppose a bill or resolution creating another task force or commission due to cost. Those legislative staffers are ripped to shreds by General Assembly members who all but come out and say they don’t care what it cost.

  10. - RMW Stanford - Thursday, Sep 30, 10 @ 11:56 am:

    You right there is a whole in the Tribune story, but that being said it still not good for Quinn, since I am sure there will be some voters that this will harm him with.

  11. - soccermom - Thursday, Sep 30, 10 @ 12:01 pm:

    He has received contributions from 77 out of 800 appointments? Wow, Illinois government is for sale. Except from the 720 people who have yet to pony up. Sheesh.

    And Mariyana was endorsed by just about everybody, including — wait for it — The Chicago Tribune. Did her dad give them money, too?

    This one was a huge reach, even for the Trib.

  12. - Responsa - Thursday, Sep 30, 10 @ 12:08 pm:

    Anyone open to the possibility that the fact there’re 800 “appointments” to “agencies, commissions, boards, and task forces may be the part that gets voters’ attention? Yeah, proof positive there that Illinois government has already been cut to the bone.

  13. - Anonymous - Thursday, Sep 30, 10 @ 12:09 pm:

    As other posters have commented, the problem here is less ‘pay for play’ as the relevancy of the Boards and Commissions exisiting in the first place. Eliminate them, and so goes the opportunity for political appointments. Problem solved (and money saved).

  14. - wordslinger - Thursday, Sep 30, 10 @ 12:11 pm:

    The Wacky Funtime Bunch on WGN News this morning were funnier than usual.

    They recounted the Trib story and then, “For reaction to this story, we go to to….

    …Tribune reporter Ray Long.”

    Surprisingly enough, Ray thought is was an important story, lol.

  15. - Louis G. Atsaves - Thursday, Sep 30, 10 @ 12:15 pm:

    What would have Quinn the Reformer/Crusader pre-2002 have said about all this?

    Oh yeah! He put his blinders on then and never bothered to take them off. The old Quinn would have screamed bloody murder about the $50,000.00 in donations and pointed out over and over the nexus between the donations and the appointment to fill the vacancy. He would have scheduled regular Sunday morning press conferences about it.

    The new Quinn merely proclaims that he is still honest! How come I imagine a little “he he” after those words come out of his mouth these days?

    McPier veto and the union donations? Nothing there. Union agreement not to layoff and suddenly an endorsement? Nothing there.

    Sounds like the Trib is onto something. What has Quinn received after June 30, 2010 from these appointees, if anything?

    But then, he is the “transparent” governor. “He he.”

  16. - Cincinnatus - Thursday, Sep 30, 10 @ 12:27 pm:

    Louis A,

    There is no “old” or “new” Quinn, there is only “this” Quinn who has sold positions and rules for money and votes. To those that say there is only 10% of the commissioners on the list, well those other 90% are probably Blago holdovers. And speaking of Blago, I’m sure he had way more donors than those wrapped up in the Federal trial, so it must be okay, using your logic, that it was only 0.001% (or whatever) of his donor base.

    It appears to me, from the comments of those with long histories with Quinn that something has changed. Whether it is the pressure of his office, his campaign, complacency, old age, medical, or psychological, something has apparently changed. I believe all of you with personal history that Quinn is (was) a good guy. What explains his current state, and is it relevant to his ability to govern?

  17. - Montrose - Thursday, Sep 30, 10 @ 12:38 pm:

    When I read the article, I thought the same thing as Rich - is this it? We need to review the question of the day about what really is “pay-to-play.” For me, this does not fit the bill. I don’t see any quid pro quo going on with these appointments.

    Now, could this hurt him? Sure. The appearance of pay-to-play can be just as damaging as actually doing it, but the Trib is trying way to hard here. It feels like the lines between reporting and editorializing are getting blurrier and blurrier up in their tower.

  18. - bored now - Thursday, Sep 30, 10 @ 12:41 pm:

    Cincinnatus: i love the ostrich argument. by putting your head in the sand, and assuming that pat quinn can do anything he wants, only shows the profound naivete of your argument.

    could pat quinn do better? probably. will pat quinn do a better job than bill brady? without question. bill brady’s desire to turn illinois into some medieval archduchy may appeal to the ultraconservatives, but he will have no effect on the fiscal condition of this state. he’ll fold faster than rod blagojevich when he matches up with mike madigan, and probably end up turning the entire state over to the speaker. just so he can say he reduced the freedom of women to control their own bodies. what a putz…

  19. - Cincinnatus - Thursday, Sep 30, 10 @ 12:54 pm:

    bored now,

    First, have you looked over that stack of polls? I do want to hear what you think about them.

    To your current post, it is not me that is making the ostrich argument, but those that are so quick to dismiss any possible wrongdoing (political or actual) with the Trib’s allegation.

    There isn’t much to the argument some made saying it is only 77 of 800 commissioners, is it? Does a political contribution have to break some dollar threshold to be considered questionable? Is it $1k, $5k, $25k.

    I agree with the posters that said $500 is nickels and dimes, and I agree with Rich’s statement about long-time friends, but does it not seem to you that people here are defending Quinn very quickly, and discounting the countervailing arguments just because they are either partisan or old friends of Quinn themselves?

  20. - steve schnorf - Thursday, Sep 30, 10 @ 12:58 pm:

    Jeez, things are getting over the top here. Why do some on here insist on turning the candidates they don’t favor into bad people? Brady isn’t an ultra-conservative nut, and Quinn certainly doesn’t seem to me to be a corrupt person at all. Could some of you work more on intellectually disagreeing and less on demonizing?

  21. - Small Town Liberal - Thursday, Sep 30, 10 @ 1:15 pm:

    My god, what a brilliant move by Quinn. If he could only sell every $37k board appointment for $500 he could raise probably at least a few thousand dollars. That would really turn this race around…

    There’s nothing of substance here, any attempts to prove otherwise is typical tin hattery.

  22. - The Captain - Thursday, Sep 30, 10 @ 1:25 pm:

    At what point (and I’m only half kidding here) does the Trib have to fill out an in-kind contribution form for the Republican party this cycle?

  23. - soccermom - Thursday, Sep 30, 10 @ 1:38 pm:

    Also, could the brain trust at the Trib let us know how many of those 77 received appointments to boards that PAY? Most don’t, as I recall.

  24. - Chicago Dem - Thursday, Sep 30, 10 @ 1:40 pm:

    And a front page story! Geesh. Quinn friends and previous supporters give Quinn money. Wow. What a scoop.

  25. - Liandro - Thursday, Sep 30, 10 @ 1:41 pm:

    When it was the Republican getting blasted for a donation (or something) from an old high school friend who also was a big banker, I said it amounted to nothing. I stand by that for Quinn, too: long-standing friends/supporters are going to give, whether or not they get jobs or anything other stuff. The standard for telling a long-term supporters or friend they can’t support their candidate financially is quite high in my book. These little things don’t seem to pass the test, by a long shot, for me.

    That being said, I agree with Responsa: the real story/question here is how many of these appointments/commissions/bureaucracies are actually needed, and how many are wasteful? Let’s start cutting some costs. If these are for spoils system nonsense, all the more reason to take an axe out.

  26. - cassandra - Thursday, Sep 30, 10 @ 1:46 pm:

    Maybe we could get the BGA’s new investigative team (Herguth et al) to take a look at all those state boards and commissions. It would be interesting. Who is on them. How much do they make, if anything. Who appointed them. What are they supposed to produce. Did they produce it? If not, how late is it.

    The results would be fascinating I’m sure and the fact of an investigative project would probably focus the mind of the next governor on this issue
    of unnecesary boards and commissions.

    Maybe not. Their to-do list probably stretches
    to 2020 and beyond.

  27. - fed up - Thursday, Sep 30, 10 @ 1:51 pm:

    yeah the Spyropoulos gave Quinn $51,000 and she got a job no big deal, I bet they were speaking Greek when discussing the “donation” so Quinn doesnt know what the intent was.

  28. - soccermom - Thursday, Sep 30, 10 @ 2:01 pm:

    Fed Up — Not to get picky, but the Governor appointed a well-qualified candidate to a board. He had supported her two years before, and named her to the board to fill a vacancy. She has done a terrific job according to everyone, including the Tribune itself. Well AFTER she was appointed, her father gave a donation to the Governor’s campaign.

    It’s not — her dad gave a donation and then she got a job. It’s — PQ supported her for years and appointed her to a job she was more than qualified for. Later, her father gave PQ a donation. Sorry, I’m not seeing the smoking gun here.

  29. - chitownhv - Thursday, Sep 30, 10 @ 2:18 pm:

    Colonel McCormick would be proud.

  30. - Xgman - Thursday, Sep 30, 10 @ 2:29 pm:

    Whom should an office-holder appoint to these boards - his enemies? Should someone who contributes to a candidate be thereby precluded from any appointment? We make these candidates raise huge amounts of money to run and advertise. This is a non-story, and the criticism is hypocritical.

  31. - fed up - Thursday, Sep 30, 10 @ 2:32 pm:

    It might not be a big deal to you. Quinns partner was Blago who was often accused of selling these appointments.

    “He had supported her two years before”, Like he supported Blago 2 years before.

    “Well AFTER she was appointed, her father gave a donation to the Governor’s campaign.” Really how long like several months yeah no way that’s related in anyway.

    “Sorry, I’m not seeing the smoking gun here.” Yup just like their was no smoking gun until the FBI showed up at Blago house.

    This is just like the union campaign donations $500k to help force contractors to give into union demands No pay to play there.
    Only a month before Gov. Pat Quinn rewrote legislation to help the Teamsters at the McCormick Place convention center, the labor group gave the Democratic governor $75,000 in political donations, his campaign acknowledged Thursday. No that’s not Pay to play.
    How about the recent endorsement by AFSCME after Quinn promised no job cuts you know the one the budget chief appeared at even though it was a political event and he isn’t supposed to be there.

    Why would any of this make one question if Quinns is selling appointments or promises for campaign cash

  32. - Louis G. Atsaves - Thursday, Sep 30, 10 @ 2:58 pm:

    So the person appointed to the Executive Ethics Commission with the understanding that she will not politic while holding such a position is going to report herself over the $500 check written out by her husband to the Quinn campaign?

    His Chief of Staff quit over three misdirected political e-mails sent out on the State system.

    I don’t get it.

    Quinn loudly proclaims himself squeaky clean, all the time. Yet there are multiple squeaks since he took office that raise questions.

    So is he squeaky clean as he often self-proclaims, or is he just squeaky?

  33. - Ghost - Thursday, Sep 30, 10 @ 3:13 pm:

    Temepest in a teapot on the quid pro quo. Blago had meetings where specific minimium amounts were required. There isno evdience here that Quinn was requesting or requring any contribution, much less a specific amount, in order to get the job. No quid pro quo.

  34. - Okay Then/ Will County Woman - Thursday, Sep 30, 10 @ 9:14 pm:

    I agree with others about this Tribune story; while it may not hurt Quinn given the seemingly relatively low number of appointees cited, it certainly doesn’t help. Also, I agreed with Dennis Byrne way more than I did Eric Zorn the other day in their tete-a-tete. I agree with Byrne that the AFSCME deal just raises all kinds of flags. Does Brady have money to do a series of “who is this guy?” counter ads? we’ll see because there is material for him to work with.

  35. - Tex - Thursday, Sep 30, 10 @ 9:47 pm:

    those were 77 appointees with “connections” to people who donated, not necessiarly appointees who donated….Just what does Ray Long mean by “a connection”? A child, parent, aunt, uncle, grandparent, a neighbor, the local bank teller? Tell us Ray, which is it.

    And Rich is right, how much did they give? Come on Ray… you put it out there…now justify it. He obviously has the information…and yet, it wasn’t important enough for him to actually state in the story.

    According to the State Board of Elections website, there are 940 people who made donations to various candidates who all share the last name of Long. Several of which went to Bill Brady. Can I now say that Ray Long has “Connections” to Bill Brady campaign contributers? Why not… afterall, it would be the only reasonable excuse for this weak story.

    Long is short on credibility…and the Tribune needs to back to the business of distributing news… There are more facts in the National Enquirer.

    on another note, I do agree that there are far too many boards and commissions. But the G.A. loves to create unfunded third-party entities that they can shift the blame to (and the work) when they have no clue as to how to actually get something done. The Republicans are the biggest offenders. Brady’s not even in office and he’s already talking about appointing a magical board of directors/economic advisors… talk about kicking the can down the road.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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