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Late afternoon political update

Thursday, Jul 27, 2006

· UPDATE: ICPR has an analysis of Gov. Blagojevich’s Chicago TV ad spending since the primary.

The first wave, which began immediately after the primary and continued through mid-April, featured 30-second spots. In frequency and distribution, this wave was largely similar to the pattern he established in the primary, with a high concentration in news and public affairs and daytime programming. This wave included 453 ads at a cost of $732,000.

The second wave, which began in late-April and ran for about three weeks, featured 15-second spots bookended during ad breaks, including 1,365 ads at a total cost of $1.2 million.

The third wave, which ran from June 2 through July 3, appears similar in placement to the second: 15-second spots bookended during public affairs, news, and daytime programming. This wave included 1,764 ads at a total cost of $1.5 million.

All told, the governor has now spent more after the primary than before; this calendar year, he has spent nearly $4 million running ads in the Chicago market alone.

The campaign has been “dark” in Chicago since then, but ICPR reports that the ads will crank up again next month.


· The Daily Herald has a long Q&A with Barack Obama posted on its site, along with this story:

U.S. Sen. Barack Obama expressed concern about the growing number of reports of potentially illegal hiring under Gov. Rod Blagojevich, but said he’s willing to help his fellow Chicago Democrat’s re-election bid.

“I have not followed closely enough what’s been taking place in these investigations to comment on them,” Obama told the Daily Herald this week. “Obviously I’m concerned about reports that hiring practices at the state weren’t, at times, following appropriate procedures. How high up that went, the degree at which the governor was involved, is not something I’m going to speculate on.

“If I received information that made me believe that any Democrat had not been acting in the public interest, I’d be concerned.” […]

If the governor asks me to work on his behalf, I’ll be happy to do it,” Obama said.

· Topinka wants a special session. Didn’t George Ryan try this one? From a press release:

State Treasurer and GOP nominee for Governor Judy Baar Topinka today called on Gov. Rod Blagojevich to call a Special Session of the General Assembly to provide motorists with tax relief from high gas prices.

As a candidate for Governor, Blagojevich criticized state officials for inaction on gas prices — when gas was $1.99 per gallon. As Governor he hasn’t lifted a finger to help Illinois families fight prices that are as high as $3.30 per gallon.

· The governor’s latest press release touts his action to protect those vulnerable from the heat.

As Illinois prepares for the heat of August, Governor Rod R. Blagojevich announced today that up to $9 million in cooling grants will be made available this Monday, July 31, 2006, to help protect the most vulnerable populations of Illinois including seniors, the disabled, and families with small children, from the dangerous weather conditions by assisting with household energy bills.

· The Cook County GOP has started a new website called BlagoWatch. It’s a spoof of the governor’s TopinkaWatch website. Check out the morph image on the main page.

· Speaking of morphing, the NorthWest Herald’s cartoonist had the same idea as the Cook County Repubs. Check it out.

· From a Radogno press release:

The two candidates for Illinois State Treasurer, Republican Christine Radogno and Democrat Alexi Giannoulias, will participate in a candidates forum hosted by the National Association of Women Business Owners Chicago PAC on Friday, July 28. This is the first face-to-face debate between the two candidates. […]

What: Illinois State Treasurer Candidates Forum
When: 8 a.m. Friday, July 28
Where: Maggiano’s Banquets
111 W. Grand Avenue, Chicago

- Posted by Rich Miller   8 Comments      

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   36 Comments      

All in a day’s work

Thursday, Jul 27, 2006

Yesterday, the Chicago city council passed the “big box” ordinance.

Defying Mayor Daley and challenging Wal-Mart and Target to follow through on their threats, a bitterly divided City Council voted Wednesday to require Chicago’s big-box retailers to pay employees a “living wage” of at least $10 an hour and $3 in benefits by 2010.

The 35-14, veto-proof vote is an overwhelming victory for organized labor and the latest in a string of legislative defeats for a corruption-weakened Daley.

…Decided not to force dog owners to implant microchips in their pets.

“Let me talk to you about defecation. . . . Dog-do is the caviar of rats,” [Ald. Burt Natarus] said.

…And voted themselves a pay raise.

Chicago’s $98,125-a-year aldermen would see their salaries rise with the inflation rate over the next four years, under an ordinance approved Wednesday by a City Council that gave itself political cover.

By mandating wage and benefit standards for “big-box” retailers, aldermen can claim they did more than feather their own nests.

It was the third time a “living wage” was approved on the same day as an aldermanic pay raise. The last two times, the increase for Chicago’s working poor applied only to employees of city contractors.

The aldermanic pay raise was approved by a vote of 27-16.

[Emphasis added]

- Posted by Rich Miller   35 Comments      

Politics and child support

Thursday, Jul 27, 2006

The Tribune editorial board flushes out a recent press release.

Earlier this month, Gov. Rod Blagojevich announced that the state helped to collect a record $1.14 billion in child support payments in the last fiscal year. “Before I became governor, the child support system in our state was the worst in the nation,” Blagojevich said in a statement. “But this program has turned around. … More Illinois parents than ever are getting the payments they are owed so their children can have the childhood they deserve.”

Just how big of a turnaround has this state really made? The federal Office of Child Support Enforcement says that in 2001, when Illinois ranked dead last of all the states in collecting child support payments, only 38 percent of the $2.61 billion owed to Illinois children was collected. That came to roughly $992 million.

But compare that with the governor’s new “record” of $1.14 billion. Not a huge jump. Now consider that the new state total for child support owed has risen to $2.8 billion. So the collection rate since fiscal 2001 has improved by roughly 2 percentage points, give or take some deadbeats.

Which raises this question: Is progress in that order of magnitude worthy of all the crowing from the governor?

- Posted by Rich Miller   16 Comments      

Get out the milk carton

Thursday, Jul 27, 2006

We had a story about alleged attorney general candidate Stu Umholtz’s fundraising on the blog earlier this week. The AP takes it a little further.

Who needs television ads when you have the DAR newsletter?

Heading into the heart of campaign season, Republican Stewart Umholtz lacks the money for commercials, staff or the other trappings of a traditional bid for Illinois attorney general. He had just $44,301 on hand as of June 30.

But Umholtz insists he has a strategy for victory, one that relies on reaching people through the Internet, being included in newspaper voting guides and even getting mentioned in newsletters from Daughters of the American Revolution, boating groups and other clubs.

“If I get a newsletter in the mail of a group I participate in, then I’m more likely to read that newsletter, perhaps cover to cover, than I am to read ads in a newspaper,” Umholtz said.

Words fail me.

- Posted by Rich Miller   16 Comments      

Question of the day

Thursday, Jul 27, 2006

Sorry for the lack of postings today. Consider this an open thread. I’ll be back this afternoon.

- Posted by Rich Miller   48 Comments      

Bleak forecast

Wednesday, Jul 26, 2006

More bad budget news.

Early retirement programs have helped shrink the Illinois government payroll, but those savings will be lost and a deficit created in the long run due to a delay in pension contributions, according to a recent report.

The Illinois Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability (ICGFA) published its study last month, saying the state will have to increase pension contributions by $10.3 billion over nearly 40 years.

That increase is necessary because of legislation that allowed the state to avoid pension contributions in fiscal 2006 and 2007. Illinois currently has the most underfunded pension program in the nation, the report said.

Dan Hankiewicz, pension manager for the ICGFA, authored the pension report. He said the state now has a goal of catching up on pension obligations by 2045. Carrying that debt for so long will put the Illinois budget under constant pressure, Hankiewicz said.

“In the long run, the true cost of the ERI will be approximately $8.5 billion,” due to the pension holiday and some offsetting short-term financial benefits, Hankiewicz said.

[Emphasis added]

It’s good to see the smaller papers taking on complicated budget issues. First it was the Rockford Register Star’s excellent piece on the state’s deficit, and now the Quincy Herald Whig looks at pension deficits.

Read the whole thing.

More like this, please.

- Posted by Rich Miller   57 Comments      

Franks won’t endorse Blagojevich

Wednesday, Jul 26, 2006

This was not unexpected.

A Democratic member of the Illinois House who has been harshly critical of the administration of Gov. Rod Blagojevich said Tuesday he does not back the governor for re-election.

“I am not going to support the governor,” said Rep. Jack Franks of Woodstock, who is unopposed in his bid for a fifth two-year term. “I don’t think he’s done a good job … fiscally.” […]

“I think his relationships with the legislature are poor,” Franks added of Blagojevich. “I don’t appreciate the fact that he, quite frankly, has disdain for the legislature and doesn’t respect it as a body. … I’ve also got a problem with a governor who refuses to come to the state capital and live here.”

- Posted by Rich Miller   34 Comments      

SurveyUSA: 45-34-17-5

Wednesday, Jul 26, 2006

SurveyUSA has the same point spread as Rasmussen.

In an election for Governor of Illinois today, 7/25/06, incumbent Democratic Rod Blagojevich defeats Republican challenger Judy Baar Topinka, according to a SurveyUSA poll conducted exclusively for KSDK-TV St. Louis. Blagojevich gets 45% today. Topinka gets 34%. 17% would vote for some other candidate. 5% are undecided. Since an identical SurveyUSA KSDK-TV poll 9 weeks ago, Blagojevich has gained 2 points and Topinka has lost 3 points. Blagojevich had led by 6, now leads by 11. Among male voters, Blagojevich had been down 4, now up 8, a 12-point swing in his favor.

Topinka is tied with Blagojevich among white voters. But Topinka trails Blagojevich among black voters 6:1. Blagojevich leads by 57 points among Democrats. Topinka, who is Illinois State Treasurer, leads by 50 points among Republicans. Independents are split. Blagojevich wins 5:1 in the city of Chicago. The two are effectively tied in Suburban Cook County and in the Chicago Collar Counties. Topinka is up by 4 points Downstate. The election is on 11/7/06.

Crosstabs are here.

Notice the high percentage for “other.” That breaks down to 18% Republicans; 14% Democrats; 22% independents.

For other poll results, go here.

UPDATE: I should also point out that SurveyUSA, Rasmussen and Topinka all have Blagojevich at 45 or 44, while the governor’s poll had him closer to 50 percent, at 47. Any time an incumbent is below 50, even if he or she is ahead, that’s bad news. Yes, he has a strong lead, which gives him legitimate reason for optimism. But he hasn’t proved yet that he can close the deal and the persistent thunder from the US Attorney’s office ain’t helping.

- Posted by Rich Miller   42 Comments      

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Wednesday, Jul 26, 2006

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- Posted by Rich Miller   Enter your password to view comments      

Question of the day

Wednesday, Jul 26, 2006

I really don’t like Alderman Burton Natarus. I lived in his ward for over four years and I found him to be a worthless joke. But I partly agree with this position.

Calling it dangerous, disgusting and downright unsanitary, downtown Ald. Burton F. Natarus (42nd) on Tuesday declared his opposition to allowing dogs to accompany their owners to Chicago’s sidewalk cafes.

I love dogs. I hate most dog owners. Unless dog owners can certify that they’re competent and respectful, I say keep those dogs away from the cafes.

Anyway, the question today is not “Is Burt Natarus a raging doofus?” because that pretty much answers itself. The question is: What do you think of the proposed Chicago ordinance which would allow dogs in outdoor cafes?

PS: Burt, you’re gonna have a very hot primary race. Maybe it would be best not to insult your fellow aldermen.

“Just because Schulter says it’s a good idea and Walter Burnett [27th] says it’s a good idea doesn’t mean it is. I know more about animals than they do,” Natarus said.

- Posted by Rich Miller   70 Comments      

Campaign update

Wednesday, Jul 26, 2006

· The governor’s preschool plan seems like a pretty decent program on its face.

But the program has restrictions on how the slots are doled out, giving priority to children who are at risk of failing in school. After at-risk children are placed, working families meeting certain income guidelines are next in line for openings. Then any open slots would go to other families who applied.

However, like all of Gov. Blagojevich’s much-hyped planS, I’m just waiting to be disappointed by depressing revelations in the near future about how the whole thing is screwed up.

By the way, we’re all very aware that some people don’t like mandatory pre-school, but this isn’t mandatory. So, please, try to stay away from the black helicopters in comments.

· Topinka was in Rockford yesterday.

“Out of all 50 states, Illinois ranks last in net assets and second to last in government funds. Boy, are we limping. … We are drowning in red ink, and that means we lack in the ability to invest in our future, especially in critical improvements to our state’s roads and bridges and other transportation needs,” Topinka said. […]

In four years, she said, Blagojevich took $2.8 billion from the road fund, $1.2 billion more than his predecessor George Ryan took.

“We are Illinois, which is a great state, and somehow it’s being left in the dust here. … I don’t think we should settle for mediocrity any longer, and I’m willing to put in the work to get a capital program and put Illinois back to work,” Topinka said.

The thing about Topinka is her quotes jump right off the page. The governor’s sometimes do, too, but it’s mostly what he says, not how he says it.

- Posted by Rich Miller   35 Comments      

United gets promise of fuel tax break

Wednesday, Jul 26, 2006

This story may get some traction.

Gov. Rod Blagojevich has promised to provide some relief from high fuel prices, but not for the millions of motorists facing stiff prices at the pump.

Rather, as part of a package of incentives offered to keep United Airlines from moving its headquarters out of state, the governor has pledged to work with the General Assembly to reduce the sales tax it charges the air carrier when it fills the tanks on its planes.

The move comes as Blagojevich and Democratic leaders have soundly rejected similar proposals to reduce the amount of sales taxes the state charges motorists when they fill up their cars, trucks and SUVs.

Blagojevich spokeswoman Rebecca Rausch denied the incentive was a case of the governor looking out for Big Business instead of the little guy.

I hope the company got that promise in writing.

- Posted by Rich Miller   13 Comments      

Morning shorts

Wednesday, Jul 26, 2006

· “Illinois could have an advantage over Texas in the sweepstakes to land a $1 billion, nearly pollution-free power plant, the chief of the state’s coal association said Tuesday.”

· “A nonprofit organization locked in a nearly two-month strike by workers at Illinois’ only prison for drug-addicted inmates is urging its drug counselors at two other state prisons to reject joining a labor union.”

· Metro East gas tanks won’t run dry

· Editorial: “Gov. Rod Blagojevich loves to brag about Illinois being first with this program or that entitlement. Now, in part because of all his spending, he can brag about our state being the worst off financially.”

· Editorial: Governor’s dishonesty is never good policy

· `Big-box’ vote a nail-biter

· Daley urged not to bulldoze cemetery

· Wind farm delays pit Durbin, Obama against FAA

· Marin: Living wage would help poor and benefit Chicago

· Attorney general wants lower water rates

· Guv will be grand marshal of India Independence Day parade

· “A wire service reported Tuesday that former Gov. Jim Edgar is a candidate for federal transportation secretary, but Edgar told the Tribune he was ’surprised’ to hear it.”

- Posted by Rich Miller   4 Comments      

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