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Madigan looks at stonewalling

Thursday, Jul 27, 2006

I had a story about this subject in Wednesday’s Capitol Fax.

Atty. Gen. Lisa Madigan’s office said Wednesday it is reviewing the policy of Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s administration not to make subpoenas public that it receives from law-enforcement agencies or provide information about them.

Cara Smith, Madigan’s policy director and spokeswoman, said the policy runs counter to the attorney general’s interpretation that most subpoenas are public records under the state’s Freedom of Information Act.

The governor’s office finally has an answer in today’s papers.

Blagojevich spokeswoman Abby Ottenhoff defended the governor’s policy Wednesday, saying it is based on a legal opinion about the nature of subpoenas.

“The grand jury’s meetings are not public, their discussions are not public and the subpoenas they issue are not public,” Ottenhoff said.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Just the facts - Thursday, Jul 27, 06 @ 1:16 pm:

    So why doesn’t the Governor release the pertinent portions of the “legal opinion” such as the citations to the statutes or case law that his legal counsel has determined justify his position?

  2. - Tired of the Mess - Thursday, Jul 27, 06 @ 1:31 pm:

    To this administration, when a Freedom of Information request of a public record is made, they tend to delay until forced to do so and not a minute sooner. A subpeona would also indicate that someone has done something wrong–no one in Blago’s office has (if you ask them)!

  3. - anon - Thursday, Jul 27, 06 @ 1:37 pm:

    I don’t think that the actual people in a grand jury is barred from talking about anything the grand jury has done so why can’t the public know about it from them?

    If Lisa does have gubernatorial ambitions in 2010, it’s probably in her best interest that Blago loses, Topinka comes in for 4 years, fixes the states finances (will proably have to raise taxes), and either runs for re-election or decides to hang up her hat. Either way, it’s probably more do-able for Lisa to win against JBT or an open seat than to follow Rod after another 4 years.

  4. - Anonymous - Thursday, Jul 27, 06 @ 1:39 pm:

    Grand jury members are required to stay quiet about their activities. But this stonewalling by the Gov’s office is the latest layer of credibility being stripped away. Reform and renewal? What a joke.

  5. - Anon - Thursday, Jul 27, 06 @ 1:51 pm:

    Lisa needs to get off her duff and do her job to protect the public interest related to Blago’s stonewalling, such as: refusing to disclose the extistence and nature of subpoenas; refusal to disclose bid information related to vendors winning huge state contracts; etc. She is letting Blago get away with the stonewalling.

    Also, it has been over a year since the Auditor General began referring serious problems found in audits to the Attorney General for investigation. Were any of the referrals investigated? What is the status of these investigation? I don’t recall Lisa taking specific action related to any of these referrals.

    I like Lisa. She has generally done a good job and will be easily re-elected. However, why is her opponent not aggressively demanding she take action related to these issues? At least we voters may come to know his name. At most he may actually help pressure Lisa to take needed actions.

    Voters punished Jim Ryan for not taking action related to George Ryan’s stonewalling and illegal activities. Voters will not punish Lisa in 2006, but she needs to worry about 2010. By then, we’ll know the bloody details related to the Blago investigations. If Lisa is helping to protect Blago in ways the voters felt Jim Ryan helped protect George, Lisa will have big problems in 2010.

    It is time for Lisa to get off her duff and do the right thing.

  6. - Anonymous - Thursday, Jul 27, 06 @ 2:06 pm:

    Is Lisa Madigan investigating Topinka’s hiring of Congressman Bobby Rush’s wife in the Treasurer’s office immediately after the 2002 election? That was the one where Bobby Rush endorsed and helped Topinka in the campaign. Anyone want to argue that wasn’t a pure political hire?

    And if Lisa’s not, why not? It clearly comes under the A.G.’s jurisdiction, unless she’s been told the Feds have it covered.

    Is Lisa stonewalling because of politics?

  7. - Anon - Thursday, Jul 27, 06 @ 2:16 pm:

    Anonymous 2:06. Hiring based on politics is not illegal in Illinois. Lots of jobs can be filled based on politics.

    Investigations focusing on Blago’s hiring practices involve the filling of postions that are supposed to be protected from politics. You may have heard; some people allege Blago’s apples have a few bad rotten spots and have been filling protected postions based on politics.

  8. - Anonymous - Thursday, Jul 27, 06 @ 2:30 pm:

    Anon 2:16, you are wrong. Actually there are not that many jobs that can be filled based on politics. Few jobs are legitimate political appointments.

    Bobby Rush’s wife got some banking outreach, made up new position. It’s clearly hiring of the prohibited kind. And unlike Blago, there is no way Topinka herself can say she knew nothing about it.

    It’s pure quid pro quo use of tax dollars to seal a political deal.

    Again, where’s Lisa?

  9. - VanillaMan - Thursday, Jul 27, 06 @ 2:32 pm:

    I can see Blagojevich now: “I am not a crook!”

  10. - Timbuktu - Thursday, Jul 27, 06 @ 2:35 pm:

    Who’s protect who here?
    What are they so afraid of?
    If there’s nothing to hide (as they keep feeding us)why all this legal maneuvering?
    There must be so much more!

  11. - DOWNSATE - Thursday, Jul 27, 06 @ 2:36 pm:

    I like how when the heat gets on Blago all of his minions post under anonymous and try to change it to Topinka or past governors.Please reread the posting it is Lisa Madigan going after the governor.

  12. - Lovie's Leather - Thursday, Jul 27, 06 @ 2:54 pm:

    All that I have to say is… I hope the people don’t make the same mistake twice. Eight years ago, the people made a horrible mistake by electing George Ryan as their governor. Based on Blago’s promises, they probably made the right decision in 2002. He has kept those promises. He has changed the way things work… but not for the better. If people fall for his agenda, he will be indicted in his second term. It will be a big scandal. I am trying to put the state ahead of politics, because the extent of Blago’s corruption could swing the state toward the GOP as Ryan’s corruption swung the state toward the Dems. Yeah, the state will still vote Democrat when it comes to a national race, but 25 years of Republican governorships don’t lie. It is possible for a state to play for both parties. If the democrats are smart they will vote for Topinka… it is quite ironic… because if the Republicans are smart, they should probably stay home. Voting Blago out of office is probably the best thing for the future of the democratic party in the state of Illinois. This is probably the oddest election in history.

  13. - PressDog - Thursday, Jul 27, 06 @ 3:01 pm:

    I have to admit, I feel sorry for Abby.

  14. - steve schnorf - Thursday, Jul 27, 06 @ 3:20 pm:

    I hate to parse words, but then were they violating grand jury confidentiality when they DID talk about earlier supoenas? This is one of those inconvenient situations where you can’t take both sides as the mood of the moment strikes you, you have to pick one and run with it.

    Either it is a violation, and I did do it, but I won’t do it anymore, or I did do it, it isn’t a violaton, but I’ve decided not to do it anymore ( I suppose you could throw in “the law has changed since I did it before, so I can’t do it now).

    I will say that I generally feel sorry for almost every gubernatorial press secretary who ever served.

  15. - Little Egypt - Thursday, Jul 27, 06 @ 3:57 pm:

    Oh Steve, you’re being too kind to press secretaries. No one has forced them to apply for the job, much less tied them to a microphone and forced them to stay. There have been a few in the past and present who would have done better to be in a different line of work. They simply have not been able to do the shuffle and lie fast enough. And how many press secretaries does it take to put out Blogo’s spin? For crying out loud, let’s start decreasing the state payroll by getting rid of 3 or 4 of them.

  16. - Buck Flagojevich - Thursday, Jul 27, 06 @ 3:58 pm:

    I’m sure some attorney will eventually force the issue. There are way too many people in this state who are fed up with Blago and his administrations stonewalling crap. Hopefully Lisa is waiting until a bit closer to the election to force the issue. I am sure she wants Blagozo out of the way, considering JBT only wants one term in office.

  17. - Timbuktu - Thursday, Jul 27, 06 @ 4:46 pm:

    The each and every taxpayer in Illinois will pay to defend our governor and administration.
    Memo to Rod: Johnnie L. Cochran, Jr. isn’t available anymore dude.

  18. - Anon. - Thursday, Jul 27, 06 @ 4:49 pm:

    Who gave the Goobernur the legal opinion? I thought Lisa Madigan was responsible for all legal opinions affecting state employees of Illlinois. Maybe I’m wrong….I’m not for sure.

  19. - Lovie's Leather - Thursday, Jul 27, 06 @ 5:18 pm:

    Buck, where did you hear that Topinka only wants one term? It is a rumor, yes. But I have not heard anything from her on this…

  20. - state worker A - Thursday, Jul 27, 06 @ 6:02 pm:

    Lets me get this straight- the Blagojevich Administration does not want the public to know when they are being questioned for possible wrong doings? Or if they are subpoenaed, the public should not be told the reason why they were subpoenaed? No matter how I look at this, it does not sit well with this voter. The appearance of this makes you wonder!!!!

  21. - Anon2 - Thursday, Jul 27, 06 @ 6:04 pm:

    Lisa is just doing the democratic shuffle, which is a modified version of the republican shuffle.

    Lisa Madigan (Jim Ryan) sits by while Rod Blagojevic (George Ryan) stonewalls the release of public information and tries to trivialize the various investigations as long as he can.

    History sure does repeat itself sometimes doesn’t it. Don’t ya love it.

  22. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Thursday, Jul 27, 06 @ 6:15 pm:

    First of all, Lisa Madigan has never used the law enforcement powers of her office for political purposes, and that’s not what’s going on here. She has always argued that FOIA and the Open Meetings Act were essential tools to upholding government accountability and transparency, and she’s fought to strengthen and uphold them.

    This is a slightly tricky issue because it does involve a grand jury proceeding, but my guess is that the Governor’s office conveniently got this one wrong.

    The state FOIA basically says that the act applies to all materials received by the agency or in it’s possession. The only applicable exception would be for materials whose release is prohibited by federal law, or if it would impede an ongoing criminal investigation.

    There is nothing I know of in federal law that prohibits the subject of an investigation from talking about it, and there can’t be anything in the four corners of the document that, when disclosed, can reasonable be assumed to impede a criminal investigation, because it’s already been handed over to the subjects of the investigation.

    Case closed.

  23. - Carl Nyberg - Thursday, Jul 27, 06 @ 6:20 pm:

    It’s kind of hard to assume the subpoenas are low-level or peripheral if G-Rod’s office insists on keeping ‘em secret, no?

  24. - Anon2 - Thursday, Jul 27, 06 @ 6:34 pm:

    Yellow Dog Democrat 6:15. I agree with your first point in that I do not believe Lisa has used her law enforcement powers for political purposes. However, I am concerned about the appearance that she may choose to NOT USE her law enforcement powers for polical purposes. I would find both equally wrong.

    Otherwise, I think you layed the issue out pretty well.

  25. - Fed Up - Thursday, Jul 27, 06 @ 6:34 pm:

    I am so sick and tired of this Administration blatently violating the law. Where the hell do they get off? The AG has clearly said the subpoenas are public documents. The AG is the ultimate legal opinion for state matters. End of story. Period. And, nobody should feel sorry for the likes of Abby Ottenhoff. She is an idiot or a blind follower or both. She doesn’t bother to even try and spin. She just lies.

    Also, did anyone see the story on the Sun Times website ( about IDOT refusing to turn over legal documents to the AG.

    This Governor and all of his “advisors” need to go to jail!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  26. - Anon2 - Thursday, Jul 27, 06 @ 6:53 pm:

    Yellow Dog Democrat 6:15. One more point.

    It is one thing to take strong stands to push for better legislation for public access and to work with local governments to comply with those statutes. Lisa gets very high marks in this regard.

    It is quite another thing to step into the fray when the issue I think most people would agree involves blatant, systematic, and wide-spread stonewalling by another constitutional officer in many areas. I think Lisa needs to get into the fray with a very strong, very aggressive, and very public position. To do otherwise brings into question why she chose not to. Questions about whether or not is could be for polical reasons, like the questions came for Jim Ryan.

    Lisa should get out there and lead the way. This is an opportuntity her to show the people of Illinois what she is made of and what kind of leader she has the potential to be. Or, not.

  27. - Anonymous - Thursday, Jul 27, 06 @ 7:00 pm:

    Don’t forget -

    Somebody in Rod’s office was wearing a wire and the Feds have first hand info, on tape. Whether or not they will get indictments together by election day is the unknown. Judy better hope so.

  28. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Thursday, Jul 27, 06 @ 8:36 pm:

    Anon, Anon2, Fed-up: I trust this Attorney General to maintain the credibility and integrity of her office by acting impartially. She won’t pull any punches like were pulled in the Burge case, nor will she hang an innocent man out into the wind for political gain as Jeff Tomzak recently did in Will County.

    Madigan will rely on her bipartisan staff of attorneys to develop a thoughtful, well-crafted, impartial opinion. If she does otherwise, it opens her up to charges of partisanship from either the Blagojevich administration or the Republicans. The editorial boards will do with that opinion what they will.

    As an aside, I don’t know what all of the fuss is about. It’s not like a subpoena is going to name names or level charges. The kinds of documents their requesting might lead to speculation as to what the investigation is all about, but the US Attorney has already told us that.

    I don’t know why some Republicans are so afraid of Lisa Madigan that they never miss an oppotunity to lash out at her. I think that Lisa Madigan would openly admit that she’s had a pretty lucky life. But of all the paths she could have chosen, she chose to intern for Senator Paul Simon. Even if you’ve never met her, never heard all the good things that the Republicans who work for her have to say, the fact that Simon is one of her role models should tell you a little bit about her character.

    As for Abby Ottenhoff, it’s not her legal opinion, it’s some lawyer’s, and I’m sure that some lawyer for the administration has crafted a legal opinion that says they don’t need to turn over the documents. Heck, I’m not a lawyer, I just play one on t.v., so I could be wrong. The Attorney General will answer that question soon enough, so let’s stop blaming Ottenhoff and focus any blame on the folks who actually deserve it.

  29. - Cherry - Thursday, Jul 27, 06 @ 8:50 pm:

    Just read the IDOT article in the Sun Times. I knew something was amiss there this week. Too much secrecy. What a mess, the in-fighting among democrats is wild.

  30. - 'The Gay Governor' - Thursday, Jul 27, 06 @ 8:56 pm:


    Ottenhoff makes plenty of money — probably in excess of $90,000 — to be the stone-walling face of the state’s chief executive.

    This is her chosen profession. She gets paid to say whatever Blago/Tusk instruct her to say. She gets paid to promise reporters she will call them back, then not call them back.

    She gets paid to say Blago is an honest man who runs a transparent government out of one side of her mouth, while saying Blago will not disclose arguably public documents pertaining to the federal investigation of his administration’s possibly criminal activities out of the other.

    All with a straight face.

    Save your pity for somebody who deserves it.

  31. - Anonymous - Thursday, Jul 27, 06 @ 9:39 pm:

    Anyone know which candidate, Judy or Blago, has made a higher proportion of illegal political hires for the state jobs they control?

    My money’s on Topinka.

    Where’s Lisa Madigan? Is she giving Topinka a pass for political reasons?

  32. - steve schnorf - Thursday, Jul 27, 06 @ 9:41 pm:

    You know, I doubt very much that Abby Ottenhoff knowingly and intentionally lies to the press, and I really think it’s pretty bad style to suggest otherwise without pretty solid evidence. I’ve never known a governor’s press secretary who did that. I don’t know her, but I do know some of the other people in the Governor’s press operation, and I consider them high caliber professionals.

  33. - Reformed - Thursday, Jul 27, 06 @ 10:29 pm:

    On a related note, whats this all about!?:

  34. - confused - Thursday, Jul 27, 06 @ 10:36 pm:

    what’s the big deal one way or another, doesn’t it eventually come out anyway?

  35. - CONFLICTS OF INTEREST - Friday, Jul 28, 06 @ 11:04 am:

    If the Attorney General was asked to forward her investigation of corruption in the Gov’s office to the U.S Attorney she would also have to forward any request for information regarding subpeonas or the pending investigation to the U.S Attorney. The Attorney General has a conflict of interest in investigating the Governor’s administration or “the State of Illinois administration” pursuant to the U.S Attorney’s June 20th letter no matter what angle you look at it and all of the answers must now come from the federal gov’t even though they are silent. The AG cannot respond to those request mentioned in the above article.

    U.S Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald must respond to the request for freedom of information of the subpeonas

  36. - values matter - Friday, Jul 28, 06 @ 1:55 pm:

    The price of being a spokesperson tends to be your soul. Ottenhoff is rewarded for being a parrott, regardless of the merit of what she’s saying. Not sure money is worth that. Folks like Urbanek did that for GRyan. In the end, values do matter in life.

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