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Oddities and ends

Thursday, Jan 26, 2012

* Groups often give stipends to people who agree to attend an event, like a few dollars and a box lunch to travel to Springfield for a day of “lobbying” or a protest event. It’s a common practice, but can sometimes do more harm than good because the bused-in folks are just bodies designed to fill a room. They don’t usually know what the heck they’re doing there. Remember when ComEd worked with Chicago-area ministers to send a bunch of people down to Springfield to demand a rate increase? I talked to some of them and they had not one clue why there were at the Capitol.

But I can understand why folks are upset that some ministers bused in protesters to a community event in order to loudly support the Chicago Public Schools’ position of closing a school, . The Sun-Times editorialized on the issue today


There is no other way to describe the practice, revealed by the Sun-Times and other media, of ministers hiring “rent-a-protesters” to advocate for proposed Chicago public school closures.

Reporter Rosalind Rossi on Tuesday told the story of two men who said they were offered $25 to $50 to support the closures of two schools. Both men said they were asked to attend two separate closure hearings this month after they showed up to apply for financial help with their energy bills at the Englewood office of the HOPE Organization.

The Rev. Roosevelt Watkins III, who runs the group, denies they were paid to protest, saying the money paid was for training. The facts say otherwise, including testimony by many who watched the so-called protesters, many of whom switched from pro-closure to anti-closure by the end of the hearings, along with the container of envelopes filled with cash seen at the HOPE office after the hearings. WBEZ profiled a third protester allegedly paid by HOPE and a fourth who said she was among a busload of rent-a-protesters paid at a different hearing by another church.

We hope the outing of these rent-a-protesters will be enough to kill the practice.

It might “kill the practice” on the school closure issue, but the rent-a-body game has a long history in Illinois because it brings in revenues. What nobody has asked yet is if Rev. Watkins is using indirect taxpayer cash for these actions.

Rev. Watkins, by the way, was part of AT&T’s Statehouse “citizen lobbying” effort in its legislative fight against Comcast a while back.

* Props to Tim Furman for shooting this video of the rent-a-protesters at a West Side school closing hearing. The protesters are completely ignorant of why they are there, including one person who says to Furman that she’s there to “save our school for the children”


* Furman wrote about the protesters on his blog last weekend, before the source of their funding was known

With the exception of a lone “boo,” the paid people were silent until near the end, when one of them - I believe it was this fellow on the right - gave an incendiary anti-teacher, anti-Crane, anti-union speech. I’ll dig up that audio later. In any event, the audience was howling, and a bit of a shoving match followed. A lot of people out of their chairs, but it ended quickly. I’m not sure who’s paying these people to come in but I can’t imagine that bringing in these obvious fakes is in anyone’s interest. If I were a charter operator busing in ringers for a public hearing, I’d want better ringers.

Good ringers are hard to find.

…Adding… WGN also has video of the rent-a-protesters.

* Meawhile, go get ‘em, Lisa

The Illinois attorney general filed a lawsuit Wednesday accusing Standard & Poor’s of misleading investors by assigning its highest ratings to risky mortgage-backed investments during the years leading up to the crash of the housing market.

The lawsuit from Lisa Madigan’s office alleges the agency compromised its independence by issuing high ratings for unworthy or risky investments as part of a strategy to boost revenue and market share. The lawsuit cites internal emails and conversations, including an instant messenger exchange in April 2007 in which an employee tells another that an investment “could be structured by cows and we would rate it.”

“Publically, S&P took every opportunity to proclaim their analyses and ratings as independent, objective and free from its desire for revenue,” Madigan said. “Yet privately, S&P abandoned its principles and instead used every trick possible to give deals high ratings in order to retain clients and generate revenue.” [Emphasis added]

But, now, of course, S&P’s ratings are supposed to be akin to the word of God when it comes to Illinois finances.

* Did Congressman Don Manzullo scrub his website? From a Congressman Adam Kinzinger press release…

For years, members of congress came to Washington with one goal: let’s start spending. Some like Congressman Don Manzullo even bragged about it. The times have changed leaving long-time politicians to decide one thing: stand by their past spending record or run away from it. Congressman Manzullo decided not only to run away from his record but also to erase it.

Just last week, under Don Manzullo’s biographical page of his governmental website, he proudly highlighted a laundry list of earmarks totaling millions of dollars. The disappearing language came after the Kinzinger campaign questioned Congressman Manzullo’s record on earmarks. Now, in order to find any mention of what was once proudly and easily found on his congressional website, one must now dig through thirty-nine pages of past press releases.


* What happens when you quietly give a former alleged mob bookie a state job and then have to quickly fire him when word leaks out? He gets reinstated, of course

According to IDOT, an arbitrator recently ruled the state did not have “just cause” to fire Peluso. The arbitrator ordered him reinstated to his job, including back pay totaling more than $103,000.

IDOT said in a statement that it is disappointed: “The department aggressively defended its position and strongly disagrees with the arbitrator’s decision.”

“Why would the collective bargaining agreements protect someone like this?” Rep. Ed Sullivan asked.

The Republican state representative is asking for an investigation into Peluso’s re-hiring, as well as how the ex-mobster got the job in the first place.

* Usually, one can expect one’s attorney to stick up for him when a reporter calls. Sam Cahnman’s lawyer kinda threw his client under the bus when the SJ-R asked him about his attempts to have a civil “no-contact” order dismissed against Cahnman, a Springfield alderman who is running as a Democrat for the Illinois House…

Through his attorney, Dan Fultz, Cahnman, 57, is requesting that the case be tossed because, when filing her petition for a no-contact order, the 23-year-old who sought it didn’t allege sexual conduct between herself and Cahnman was “non-consensual.” The motion to dismiss states that “non-consensual sexual conduct or non-consensual sexual penetration” is a requirement under the Civil No Contact Order Act.

Peggy Ryan, the woman’s attorney, has asked that the motion to dismiss be denied. She says non-consensual sex can be alleged not only through the petition but also through sworn testimony.

“Mr. Cahnman, seven months after an emergency civil no contact ordered was entered, is asking the court, despite (her) sworn testimony before the court and statutory provisions requiring that testimony to be taken into account, to dismiss the petition because a pro se petitioner did not use the words ‘non consensual’ in her petition,” Ryan wrote.

Fultz said Wednesday that Ryan’s response is “well taken,” and he will meet with Cahnman to decide how to proceed. [Emphasis added.]

That’s all you got, dude? Really?

* Other stuff…

* School watchdog probes reports of paid protesters

* Paid protesters a new force in school closings debate - Protesters say they were paid $20, $25 to attend hearings

* Standoff Between City Colleges And Their “Frontline” Employees

* Illinois Humanities Council board member resigns in protest of auctioning a dinner with Bill Ayers

* City watchdog accuses Emanuel administration of stymying probes

* ‘Disturbed’ Preckwinkle announces changes at Cook County morgue

* City stumbles with damage control on NATO/G8 summits

* Jesse Jackson Jr. Absent During State of Union

* Illinois Commerce Commission executive director departing

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Knome Sane - Thursday, Jan 26, 12 @ 2:20 pm:

    “Illinois Commerce Commission executive director departing”

    Tim Anderson is a classy guy for whom I wish nothing but the best! Good luck in your new role as Secretary of the Senate!

  2. - Shore - Thursday, Jan 26, 12 @ 2:39 pm:

    The trend with “conservative” members of congress has been they campaign against DC but from the moment they get in they start falling in love with the system. If Kinzinger wins, I’d bet money we’d see him 2-3 cycles down the road touting his work delivering for the district, among other things that he’ll hit manzullo for doing.

  3. - Rod - Thursday, Jan 26, 12 @ 3:06 pm:

    Rich in relation to the rent a protester issue. I believe that the Chicago Public Schools inspector general is investigating if any CPS funds given to the church organizations were used to pay these protestors. I do not know about other government entities investigating.

    Yesterday Mayor Emanuel was asked about this issue at a press conference and all he would say is that the ministers were interested in children getting a good education. He refused to comment on the payments issue. It did not look good on WGN last night.

  4. - wordslinger - Thursday, Jan 26, 12 @ 3:23 pm:

    Good for the AG. There’s a lot of raw meat against S&P in the Senate testimony and evidence presented last year.

    If nothing else, maybe it will light a fire under the SEC and Justice Department, who have never seemed to eager get to the bottom of things when it comes to the crash.

  5. - Kerfuffle - Thursday, Jan 26, 12 @ 3:30 pm:

    Cahnman - If this guy had any class he would resign his position and just go away.

  6. - WashingtonIrving - Thursday, Jan 26, 12 @ 3:40 pm:


  7. - mark walker - Thursday, Jan 26, 12 @ 3:51 pm:

    Lisa’a got a point, but will there be some payback against the state by S&P and other rating agencies?

  8. - Judgment Day - Thursday, Jan 26, 12 @ 5:20 pm:

    Re: S&P

    Could there be blowback over the whole S&P ratings on the MBS securities ratings meltdown?

    Well, yeah - but the IL AG’s part in this entire mess is ultra tiny, and the blowback won’t be aimed at the IL AG as much as everywhere and anywhere else (The Mortgage Servicers, the credit rating agencies [S&P, Moodys, & Finch], Wall Street in general, MERS, all the “Too Big to Fail” [TBTF] banks; FHA, Freddie/Fannie, the US “Lack of Justice” Department, most of the different entities in the US Treasury [in both Bush43 & Obama administrations]).

    IF (hopefully; “WHEN”) it all blows, it’s going to be spectacular to see all the rats and various other rodents scurrying around looking for a place to hide.

    Btw, there’s other state AG’s who have already pushed these same buttons, so IL AG is not first in line on this one.

    There looks to be an enormous amount of corruption going on here that is almost beyond comprehension, it’s so extensive and pervasive.

    Watch blogs like Naked Capitalism and Zero Hedge to get the flavor of exactly how bad it really is.

    Also, there are reasons that the credit ratings companies haven’t been sued up to now. Many MBS issues have already been downgraded, but the real issue is were the downgrades valid? If a rating gets dropped below A-, many institutional investors can’t hold them, or are severely limited on how much they can hold.

    This is a really problematic area on these credit rating agencies. Lisa has to be somewhat careful here, because she could really kick something off that could have lots and lots and lots of unintended consequences.

    Not saying good or bad, just reality…..

  9. - reformer - Thursday, Jan 26, 12 @ 6:49 pm:

    There have been no criminal charges in Alderman Cahnman’s case after 7 months, just a no contact order. There’s no reason to assume guilt in someone who hasn’t even been accused.

  10. - Anonymous - Thursday, Jan 26, 12 @ 8:01 pm:

    “Rich in relation to the rent a protester issue. I believe that the Chicago Public Schools inspector general is investigating if any CPS funds given to the church organizations were used to pay these protestors. I do not know about other government entities investigating.”
    That is narrowing the investigation far too much. Asked that way, it is like saying was the money I gave your left hand used improperly? No? Fine then. Meanwhile the money from the left hand is underwriting these frauds. The better question I whether and why any public dollars are going there at all.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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