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Mikva asks about “Indian Mafia”

Wednesday, Jul 22, 2009

* There was a somewhat bizarre back and forth yesterday during a hearing of the governor’s commission charged with looking into the so-called “clout” admissions at the U of I. The strangeness actually came from Chairman Abner Mikva, who was questioning Board of Trustees Chairman Niranjan Shah of Oak Brook. From the News-Gazette’s Twitter page..

Mikva asks: ever heard of Indian mafia– that’s a joke?

Shah: I never heard of it. Am I missing something?

Mikva: you don’t know of powerful group called Indian mafia?

No.

Huh?

Nothing about that weird little exchange made it into the media today, and I was too busy working on other stuff to call Mikva and find out just what the heck he was getting at with what appeared to be an ethnic slur, or perhaps an implication that Shah is mobbed up. [The “that’s a joke?” line seems to be an astonished reporter asking the question in real Twitter-time.]

We’re getting awful close to witch trial phase with questions like that.

Look, Shah isn’t exactly above reproach here, but implying some ethnic mob connection is a bit much.

* Then there was this

Mikva: You contributed $50,000 to Blago campaign?

Shah: I support many people

Shah: $50,000 was total contributions to Blago campaign. I supported him for congress. I supported Danny Davis, too

Chairman Mikva likes to get all high and mighty about the appearance of impropriety at the U of I. But does he not remember this Sun-Times op-ed he wrote in strident defense of Rod Blagojevich back in 2006? After listing all of Blagojevich’s glorious ethics reform proposals, Mikva went on to bash the media for making a mountain out of a molehill on corruption…

But you wouldn’t know it by reading or listening to the media. The emphasis there is on vague allegations that “some” employees have been hired improperly. There are “lists” of open positions that have gone through various persons in the governor’s office. But there are no specifics as to whether such positions are “exempt” or Rutan-covered, or evidence that people whose names may be on lists were actually treated differently than anyone else. Every administration has the right to fill certain positions with people they think will best help them implement their agenda. And for those positions where politics cannot be a factor in the selection of a candidate, there is no prohibition against anyone making recommendations for the jobs. There is, however, a very clear testing and interview process that must be used to select the best candidate. The newspaper stories over the past few weeks do not offer any evidence that those processes were violated.

In fact, most of the recent allegations seem to come from disgruntled ex-employees. No one has even checked as to whether the disgruntlement is about loss of the job or something fishy on the job. If there are credible charges of improper hiring, they should go to the inspector general, state law enforcement and the U.S. attorney’s office.

Vague allegations of improper employment practices tar and feather the whole state work force. We need state government workers who take pride in their reputations, in their work efforts, who get “psychic” income from their jobs, to make up for the gap between their pay scales and those of the private sector. We aren’t going to encourage those kinds of applicants if we don’t acknowledge reforms that are working and instead beat up on everybody who goes to work for the state of Illinois.

I’m gonna need to buy some hip waders now because all this irony just flooded my office.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

15 Comments
  1. - Brennan - Wednesday, Jul 22, 09 @ 6:58 am:

    Gee Abner. Are you familiar with the Polish Mafia, the Irish Mafia, the Mexican Mafia, and the Czech Mafia because a little birdie told me they once existed in the Illinois too. Heck, they might even still exist.

    My impression of Mikva was a lot more respectable than this. What the heck is he talking about? Does he think he’s Lee Hamilton chairing the 911 Commission?


  2. - Louis G. Atsaves - Wednesday, Jul 22, 09 @ 7:47 am:

    It’s not just Mikva with the strident defense of Rod Blagojevich. Lots of current Democratic office holders and candidates were offering strident defenses of Blagojevich’s actions on hirings, contracts and governing back in 2006, and ignored the multiple warning signs to the contrary. Let’s start with Patrick Quinn and work our way down the party hierarchy, shall we?

    To date, I haven’t seen any of them approach a microphone and say “I would like to apologize to the people of the State of Illinois for supporting Rod Blagojevich, endorsing him, and enabling him to become governor of the State of Illinois.” A tear streaked face would be a nice touch.


  3. - Brirei - Wednesday, Jul 22, 09 @ 7:52 am:

    Rich, you like to speculate on the motives of reformers. When is Pat Collins announcing for office?


  4. - MrJM - Wednesday, Jul 22, 09 @ 8:56 am:

    Perhaps Mikva is using “Indian Mafia” to mean an the amalgamation of Indian lobby and rights groups in politics and the media. You know, like the word’s use in the “Gay Mafia.” (Or is there a queer crime syndicate of which I’m woefully unaware?)

    – MrJM


  5. - VanillaMan - Wednesday, Jul 22, 09 @ 9:03 am:

    Yes, there is an Indian Mafia. They live in Indiana.


  6. - wordslinger - Wednesday, Jul 22, 09 @ 9:26 am:

    Hard to believe anyone put a defense of Blago in writing. That’s a gift that keeps on giving.


  7. - Ghost - Wednesday, Jul 22, 09 @ 9:31 am:

    I am more concerned that in a fincial crisis the U of I created a 115,000 k job for Shah’s son in law!!! U of I funding neededs some serious reducing if they can make up 115k positions for 34 year old family members of the board.


  8. - Enemy of the State - Wednesday, Jul 22, 09 @ 9:32 am:

    Does the Indian Mafia have something to do with the Chief? Let’s go with the “Buyin’ Illini” for a mascot change to make our state consistant across all lines and put this matter behind us.


  9. - lake county democrat - Wednesday, Jul 22, 09 @ 9:57 am:

    I lost some respect for Abner Mikva when he backed Nancy Kazack for congress over Rhahm Emmanuel. Not because I thought Rhahm was that great, but surely Mikva knew all about the late anti-semite Ed Moskol (he’d been on the front page of the Tribune for beyond-the-pale remarks twice in the past) and was comfortable with his presence until his attacks on Emmanuel were picked-up by the mainstream media.


  10. - Macbeth - Wednesday, Jul 22, 09 @ 10:06 am:

    ===
    To date, I haven’t seen any of them approach a microphone and say “I would like to apologize to the people of the State of Illinois for supporting Rod Blagojevich, endorsing him, and enabling him to become governor of the State of Illinois.” A tear streaked face would be a nice touch.
    ===

    Perhaps that will come once Blagojevich is behind bars. I suspect most folks are hedging their bets.

    I suspect Blagojevich is still planning to ride this out and then run for president in 2016. If by some miracle he teflons his way through the trial, you bet he’ll run — or at least blow a lot of hot air talking about it.

    But if he ends up in jail, there’ll be a lot of retrospective, “Well, when I look back …” comments. I bet we’ll even get one from Emil Jones.


  11. - Abe's Ghost - Wednesday, Jul 22, 09 @ 10:07 am:

    They should look into the way UIS cooks their admissions books to make their numbers look better than they really are. Not to mention the students admitted who shouldn’t have been based upon their qualifications and then can’t make it. This is a serious a scam as the clout issue.


  12. - Yellow Dog - Wednesday, Jul 22, 09 @ 11:04 am:

    “American Indian Mafia” was the title of a 2008 book that debunked the victimization claims of the American Indian Movement (AIM), which the FBI viewed as a domestic terrorist organization, but which has staunch allies among many big-time liberals, including Robert Redford and Oliver Stone.

    I’m thinking Mikva failed to realize he’s probably the only guy who read it, and made a bad — really bad — joke.


  13. - fed up - Wednesday, Jul 22, 09 @ 2:33 pm:

    Pat Quinn defended Blago in 06 and kept his mouth shut up until it was obvious he was going to be indicted. Both the Madigans were supporters in 06 and didnt Obama endorse blago in 06 and help run the blago campaign in 02. Corruption is ok if it helps you get ahead why rock the boat.


  14. - Nitti - Wednesday, Jul 29, 09 @ 2:41 am:

    Come on, my friends. Abner Mikva was using the phrase as a term of endearment and friendly sarcasm!


  15. - kingmaker - Wednesday, Jul 29, 09 @ 10:09 pm:

    There is no ‘Indian Mafia’; however, there is a group ‘political untouchables’ in Chicago land area. The think; no one can touch them. Once by one getting into the hot seats now with law and order. There are few more to go. Time will prove the rest. Stay tuned !!!!!!!!!!


Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.


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