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A family affair - Updated x1

Monday, Aug 28, 2006

Apparently, the Secretary of State’s office is being run like a family business. Meaning they hire every relative in sight.

Last week in this space, I wrote about how Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White has been spending your money — specifically, how he put his biographer on the payroll at $73K a year, tripled his daughter’s salary in seven years and allowed the hiring of his chief of staff’s wife as a $25-an-hour part-time secretary.
Given Mr. White’s reputation as the nice guy of Illinois politics, I figured that would be it. We all mess up sometimes. On to more important stories, like Wal-Mart wages or who’s telling the biggest whoppers about Illinois finances.

As it turned out, last week’s column just scratched the surface.

Thanks to a series of phone calls and e-mails, I now have a fuller picture of who’s drawing taxpayer-funded checks in Mr. White’s office. Bottom line: There’s no need for family feuds here, because everyone’s making a buck. Even Chicago’s famed Roti clan — known for having every odd nephew and in-law on the city payroll — might be able to learn a few tricks. […]

On the other hand, the 18 job-holders referenced above are related to just 10 suits in the secretary of state’s office: Mr. White and nine senior executives that I specifically asked about. Who knows what else is going on?

Go read the whole thing for the details. There’s a lot more than this, I’m told, but White’s office doesn’t appear to be too concerned yet.

UPDATE: From a Dan Rutherford press release:

…Reconfirmed in published reports was that White accepts cash for Christmas gifts from his top employees, those he determines annual salary increases, like his predecessor George Ryan. He has also received a number of significant campaign contributions from his top staff.

“With just the examples included here, these few employees easily earn over $500,000 in taxpayer-funded salaries and contracts,” said Rutherford. “We are clearly seeing a pattern of impropriety coming to light. The people of Illinois saw Jesse White’s predecessor convicted for improprieties akin to what White is doing today.” […]

Rutherford called on Jesse White to make public his Personnel Policy with regard to hiring and promoting family members and his policy on awarding no bid contracts to family members and friends that do personal favors.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Anon - Monday, Aug 28, 06 @ 1:34 pm:

    All the more reason to put Dan Rutherford in the office.

    Unfortunately, I have $1.00 that the media won’t continue this worthwhile investigation. Undoubtedly, there is plenty of corruption in this office, if only the media/Fitzgerald would take the opportunity to investigate it.

  2. - Buck Flagojevich - Monday, Aug 28, 06 @ 1:47 pm:

    I thought JW was a decent person until I had the pleasure of riding on the elevator in the Thompson Center with him one particular day. This day there was an attractive young lady on the elevator. She said Hi to JW. His response? “Hi, you sure are easy on one’s eyes young lady.” She was quite embarrased and exited the first moment she could. I was sort of shocked myself. The only thing I managed to do was stare at him and call him a pig. No class act that man.

  3. - Walking Wounded - Monday, Aug 28, 06 @ 2:16 pm:

    People should be very concerned. Not only has he and his chief of staff been doling out jobs to all their family members, there is also a tendency to hire and keep convicted criminals on their staff. And, yes, these convicts have computer access to the public’s personal information. Be assured this can of worms will also come out. It’s time for a change.

  4. - Licanthrope - Monday, Aug 28, 06 @ 3:03 pm:

    I’m sure this is all bringing a lot of guffaws from White’s staff. They believe, probably rightly, that Rutherford isn’t even worthy of a response. Thus far, it seems he (Rutherford) might just be looking for a job with Jesse after the election. Heck, why not, Dan?

  5. - B Hicks - Monday, Aug 28, 06 @ 3:38 pm:

    You post under Buck Flagojevich, and you were offended by the Secretary’s comments? You’re such a sensitive person.

    “No class act that man.”

  6. - Buck Flagojevich - Monday, Aug 28, 06 @ 5:45 pm:

    You just lowered yourself beneath even Blagojevich Hicks. Do you find it OK to make a crass, classless remark to a complete stranger of the opposite sex? A play on words is a bit different than a full frontal assault.

    You just outed yourself with your comment.

  7. - Glass Houses - Monday, Aug 28, 06 @ 6:13 pm:

    Rutherford is one to talk. This past weekend he announced his new DuPage coordinator, someone tied to a $10 million casino kickback scheme who in his spare time illegally funnels campaign contributions.

  8. - muletown - Monday, Aug 28, 06 @ 6:39 pm:

    I believe Dan Rutherford is Vice President of International Marketting for Servicemaster. Except for Mr. White’s job I do not think he will need to fill out an application for employment with the Secretary for a job. He is also one of the most respected Senators in the legislature. A position he could keep for the next 100 years if he wants to because he is that well liked in his district. The reason Mr. White is ducking his opponent is because he does not have the mental capacity to go one on one with his opponent. A fact that the state of Illinois is beginning to realize on a daily basis. At 71, Mr. White is a game old horse who is looking to lay down another 4 years as Secretary of State and do nothing. His record of do nothingness is evident when anyone has to deal with his office. So the White people better laugh now because come election day the will have a new boss!!!

  9. - Licanthrope - Monday, Aug 28, 06 @ 7:31 pm:

    Muletown. I’ve known Dan Rutherford for quite some time and, as you suggest, find him to be a solid guy. He’s a good fundraiser and a hard worker. But, like JBT, he is scared to death to hurt “good guy” Jesse White in the eyes of the public (obviously White is the top vote getter for the Dems).

    I’m one who thinks if you want to win and you have the ammo you shouldn’t let your opponent’s likeable persona dictate your campaign’s decisions. If I were Dan or Durante (who, btw Glass Houses, is free and was never arrested or indicted)I would be on the phone with Zorn with Schoenberg with editorial boards throughout the state saying “Jesse isn’t the gentle tumbler you all think he is. He is part and parcel of why we need new leadership. He is George Ryan junior. Here’s why . . .)”

    Instead, he issues a critical press release. Wow, he’s one serious candidate! Now you can see why I think he has laid for Jesse and his dem buddies in the legislature all along. And, btw, you’ll find out what a liability that Service Master job becomes before the election.

    Two cents.

  10. - Licanthrope - Monday, Aug 28, 06 @ 8:02 pm:

    Also, muletown, your post is the first time I’ve heard anything about White ducking Rutherford. It hasn’t been said at a press conference; I don’t think it was said on Repub. Day at the fair.

    What does that say for DR’s sincerity in running to win or is he really trying to draw attention as the “the guy in 2006 who treated Jesse White respectfully”–even though the long time sleazy son of the 42nd Ward was as dirty as the rest of ‘em–even some of the Governor’s worst insiders. Jesse made a lot of goo goo promises that he has obviously broken.

    The really frustrating thing is that there are only only a few of us talking about them. That’s why I said White’s folks are just sitting back laughing. I’ll bet you a month of Jesse’s salary that they’ll continue to operate without regard for public tax dollars thumbing their nose at everyone, hiring as many relatives as they choose (”screw you critics,” they’ll say, “Jesse is untouchable).

    It’s just too bad. Too freakin’ bad for those of us who though we had a legitimate shot at Jesse after all these years.

    There’s always 2010. I just hope we don’t hold the nomination for Rutherford. He certainly appears to value some faux respect for Jesse more than he values “doing what it take” to win–even if it means bloodying up the good Mr. Sec. White.

  11. - Old man, look at my life - Monday, Aug 28, 06 @ 9:36 pm:

    Couple-three things:

    One, I’m astounded at Rutherford using the George Ryan name like this. You never would have seen that in previous years, using the name of the biggest convicted crook of your own party, who once held the same job you’re going for, as a bludgeon to attack the opposing guy with. The times they are a changing!

    Second, This story breathes needed life into Rutherford’s campaign, making his a small-scale version of Judy’s. If he can generate enough buzz to overcome voter inertia and sentiment, Jesse’s political life may end 4 years shorter than planned. There is definitely an anti-incumbent tang in the fall air. Can Rutherford make enough out of it? Tough, but maybe not impossible as it seemed last week.

    Finally, I have known and worked with Jesse for years. The guy has been in every ehtnic neighborhood of Chicago and can tell you hello, goodbye, thanks and got to hell in about 30 languages. He’s wooden on the podium but very engaging in person, off the cuff, very genuine. But.

    He makes sexist, inappropriate comments to women all the time, and to a lesser extent to men as well. I want to try to explain it without condoning it. I’m not an apologist for the man, truly, I don’t wish to be.

    The man at 70-plus is a product of his times. He has lived and done things enough for any two men in that time. Done many good things for this state, and, if half of the rumors are true, also made errors of judgement from time to time in his personal life. This is no doubt his last campaign no matter what. But he comes from an era where talking like that to or about women was considered being complimentary, and I am positive, positive, that in Jesse’s mind he IS being complimentary to them when he says these things. I could never re-train my 80-year-old peasant-born grandpa to not call people like Jesse the n-word; Grandpa never meant it as an insult, merely as a convenient handle, a descriptor of physical appearance, a brand name if you will. Even when he accepted one for a tenant in his own 2-flat, this is what he called them, without thinking. Got along great with the tenant for over a decade, even with this “language barrier”.

    Being unable to change didn’t make him right either, but we all recognized he was too old to adapt and change. We all were expected to just bear along with him in consideration of his age and declining faculties. I have inlaws with ingrained prejudices in the same age bracket as Jesse, and I gave up trying to correct them, even as I object to them using those terms in front of me.

    This could be one reason George Ryan still doesn’t think he did anything wrong, what he was doing all along was how effective political business had always been done, since early times. George’s problem may have been that the world started taking the rules seriously while he wasn’t paying attention. Jesse’s problem with women is he’s too old to not say out loud what is in many men’s heads every day. It’s how he’s built, and he’s being true to his nature.

    The nepotism can be explained, though not justified, by the same process. It may not be so much an arrogance as something done out of habit by long standing custom. People of a certain age just take certain things for granted, even if the ideas are outdated.

    No matter what, the customs ARE changing. All over. It’s a new era, not as dirty as the past, certainly not as clean as we want it. But progress is being made in every generation, as long as we pay attention to these issues and keep making a noise about what is right and what is expected of our leaders.

  12. - disgusted - Monday, Aug 28, 06 @ 9:59 pm:

    At the state agency I work for we have our Administration Manager’s wife’s girlfriend (you read it correctly - think open marriage). In addition, he has his girlfriend working there also. His girlfriend and his wife’s girlfriend don’t get along - go figure!

  13. - Licanthrope - Monday, Aug 28, 06 @ 10:00 pm:

    Old man, I agree with most of your assessment of Jesse–trapped innocently enough in a time warp of archaisms toward women and government. That is no excuse and doesn’t excuse Rutherford from using his social and political faux pas to try to prove JW’s out of step with average working folks.

    JWs people seem convinced that everyone in the voting public will give Jesse a pass this year because, after all, he IS Jesse, the Xmas Turkey distributor, the mentor, the tumbler, the former cub, the grand ole tumbler.

    If we’re just going to concede that he has this won and we’ll wait til 2010 then I might look at whoever runs against Rutherfor in the 2010 primary since he did one of these wink and nod deals with Jesse and flipped us (the people who want to help him) the Bird. There are a lot of us who have a hard time shaking Rutherford’s hand after this cave-in fiasco. I feel bad for you folks on rutherford’s campaign because many of us know the deal Topinka cut with Jesse in years past and hate to see her sink us again along with our SOS candidate.

    Sick at my stomach.

  14. - Veritas - Tuesday, Aug 29, 06 @ 2:57 pm:

    Rutherford’s a glad handing, go-along-to-get-along politicican. If Dan believes going soft on White will pay political dividends in the future, you better believe that’s the road he’ll take. In Rutherford’s mind, this race is about his future, not that of the people of Illinois.

  15. - annon. in central illinois - Tuesday, Aug 29, 06 @ 6:16 pm:

    Hey Licanthrope ?? Been reading your posts…Interesting !? …what are you talking about here ?? You seemed pretty well versed & sure of yourself regarding the GOP candidate. What do you know that we don’t ??? What’s the “cave-in fiasco” all about ??

  16. - annon. in the stykes - Wednesday, Aug 30, 06 @ 6:03 am:

    No response from “Licanthorpe” …apparently nothing really to say. He or she has made some pretty bold allegations in several spots here about Dan R., first I’ve really read. Just curious myself, as are others, to why ??? “Flipping the bird”…don’t you think that’s a little over the top too ?? “To people who want to help him” ??? …ya like you are one of them !

  17. - Walking Wounded - Wednesday, Aug 30, 06 @ 1:14 pm:

    Hey anon. in th stykes. My impression from Licanthorpe’s writings is that he/she has a lot of knowledge on this race, but for whatever reason, casts a jaded eye towards Rutherford.
    I’ve been watching Rutherford campaign for a while now, and he is certainly putting in a whole lot of time and effort and energy towards being elected.
    I don’t claim to know the Senator’s campaign strategy, but I surely don’t see how he’s “flipping the bird” to his supporters.
    Time will tell on this, as I don’t believe the last has been heard on the ongoing corruption in White’s office

  18. - Anon - Thursday, Aug 31, 06 @ 4:13 pm:

    Okay, Rich, I won’t call out names. I’m just glad to see that there’s even a remote possibility that corruption in the SOS’s office will be unveiled and prosecuted.

    And from a die-hard Dem, GO RUTHERFORD!

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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