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Check story keeps bouncing back

Monday, Sep 18, 2006 - Posted by Rich Miller

The columnists aren’t letting this story go away.

* Neil Steinberg:

This is my roundabout way of saying Gov. Blagojevich’s explanations of the $1,500 check a pal gave to his daughter on her 7th birthday do not wash in the real world. It’s excessive, disproportional and no excuse stands up to scrutiny. (If it’s a tradition, what did he give her the year before?)

You wouldn’t accept the money from a friend. You wouldn’t consider accepting it. Me neither. My ethics are malleable as Play-Doh, and I know such a lavish gift stinks. The governor can spin this one like a top between now and Election Day and it’s always going to come up wrong.

* Eric Zorn:

It’s simple enough that people are talking about it–not just the news nerds and political junkies, but the average voters: the people whose impressions of public figures aren’t based on encyclopedic knowledge of every last policy and program but on broader impressions.

When was the last time you heard a zesty talk-radio debate or a lunchtime discussion about allegations that Chris Kelly and Tony Rezko, two of Blagojevich’s top fundraisers, steered some pension contracts to investment firms that fattened Blagojevich’s war chest? Or about hints that Blagojevich will be implicated in the case against former Illinois Health Facilities Planning Board member Stuart Levine for influence-peddling and insider dealing?

These brewing scandals are arguably far more significant than My Big Fat Birthday Gift, which the FBI is investigating, but they don’t fit neatly into one paragraph and they don’t concern transactions that normal people have every day.

As soon as most of us start hearing such words as “questionable commission appointments” and “scathing audit by the Illinois auditor general,” our eyes start to glaze over and we decide we’ll just wait for the jury verdict, thanks very much.

* Chicago Sun-Times editorial board:

The governor says it’s an “outrage” he has to answer questions about the gift. What’s outrageous is that the governor, who likes to see himself as a man of the people and a corruption-buster, doesn’t get why, at the very least, his acceptance of this gift contradicts that self-view.

* Yours truly:

But even aside from the criminality, what sort of a governor accepts a $1,500 gift for his kid from a friend of modest means just after he put the guy’s wife into a nice little state job? If this is completely innocent, didn’t any alarm bells go off in the governor’s head? And what kind of a governor then neglects to report this gift, and several others, on his ethics forms for years, and then only reports them after the FBI comes calling?

This story stinks on multiple levels. And it’s up to the governor himself to clear it up. Have there been any other large cash gifts to his children from people with an interest in state government? Has he accepted any large cash gifts since he was elected governor? Even though the governor’s office claims Mrs. Ascaridis was qualified for her job, a mutual acquaintance has informed me that she ran a doggy daycare business before she got the job, so I can’t help but wonder what the hiring process entailed.

And, finally, have the governor’s personal financial records been subpoenaed by federal prosecutors?

I’ll let you know if we ever get a full response. But don’t hold your breath.

* Doug Finke really nails this one.

Some people seem to have a lot of good luck, and some seem to have a lot of bad luck. Then there are people who seem to have an unusual number of coincidences, like Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

People or businesses give money to Blagojevich’s campaign fund and win state contracts. It’s a coincidence. Ads promoting the All Kids health-care program run on TV right before or after ads promoting Blagojevich’s re-election bid. It’s coincidence.

Now we have a longtime Blagojevich friend who gives a $1,500 gift to Blagojevich’s daughter two weeks after the friend’s wife gets a state job. This after the wife flunked a state hiring test. The wife lived in Chicago. The job was in Whiteside County. At least, the job was there until it was moved to DuPage County after the wife got the job.


  1. - anonymous - Monday, Sep 18, 06 @ 8:37 am:

    Give me a break. The person who gave the gift was friends with the governor for 30 years and even stood up at his wedding. Enough. Leave his poor family alone.

  2. - Bill - Monday, Sep 18, 06 @ 8:48 am:

    More spouting off from that paragon of virtue, Steinberg. This guy’s arrogant,condescending attitiude gets on my nerves. Hey Neil, go pick on Bob Green and leave the rest of us alone.

  3. - schroedk - Monday, Sep 18, 06 @ 8:52 am:

    Uh, no, we should NOT leave them alone. No matter whether you personally like the governor or not, he works for us, the voters. If you owned a company, and you found out your personnel/HR manager that you hired was doing 1/2 the stuff that Blago is alleged to be doing, you wouldn’t think twice about firing him. It’s sad that so many voters are blinded to politician’s faults simply because they are “Democrat” or “Republican”.

  4. - just watching - Monday, Sep 18, 06 @ 9:01 am:

    Are you talking about his “poor family” that he hoisted up in front of reporters as a human shield so not to have to answers any questions about his complete lack of morals or ethics?

    Or is it the “poor family” that he uses to funnel money through under the guise of birthday present for corrupt hiring pratices?

    come on now, honestly have you or your children EVER gotten a $1500 birthday present from anyone that is not immediate family? Quit fooling yourselves

  5. - Arthur Andersen - Monday, Sep 18, 06 @ 9:02 am:

    “This guy’s arrogant,condescending attitiude gets on my nerves.”

    Bill, don’t you and Blago have a pot and kettle issue here?

  6. - Anonymous - Monday, Sep 18, 06 @ 9:17 am:

    rod doesn’t have the testicular virality to answer questions about this. It might work with the press but not with the feds.

  7. - Shelbyville - Monday, Sep 18, 06 @ 9:21 am:

    And the Sun-Times says that he will coast to a victory of landslide proportions. Why should he change?

  8. - Wheres the leadership??? - Monday, Sep 18, 06 @ 9:23 am:

    anon 8:37 Get serious!!! I have friends that stood up in my weddding, that are wealthy and they have never given me or my family that size of a gift, and if they did, I would not accept it. I don’t need an ethics test to tell me what is right or wrong.

  9. - bored now - Monday, Sep 18, 06 @ 9:34 am:

    i’m sorry, but even if this is a benign gift, it has every appearance of the form of corruption that has been rife in the state for so long. surely the governor (and his supporters) are not blind to that…

  10. - Truthful James - Monday, Sep 18, 06 @ 9:35 am:

    We certainly have changed “business as usual”, haven’t we?

    This irrational need for money and campaign loyalty in Illinois is — I believe — due in part to the overlong campaign season. Time equals money. Perhaps voter ennui (low turnout) is due to the same thing. Connecicut just had their primary. How dare they hold it so close to the General Election.

  11. - Carl Nyberg - Monday, Sep 18, 06 @ 9:44 am:

    What does Rod & Patti’s kid need $1,500 for?

    Seriously, Gramps is loaded. Someone will give her a scholarship to a state university.

  12. - Bill - Monday, Sep 18, 06 @ 10:01 am:

    I think “Gramps” and the family are estranged. He, like Mike’s wife, just couldn’t help themselves and decided to take their family disputes to the press.

  13. - Rich Miller - Monday, Sep 18, 06 @ 10:11 am:

    Bill, I think you may have put the cart before the horse.

  14. - Jaded - Monday, Sep 18, 06 @ 10:22 am:

    Why only the one daughter? If the guy is such a great friend, why not give $1500 to the college fund of the youngest daughter as well. That $1500 would be worth well more when whe was college age because it would have about 5 or 6 more years to earn interest. How much did he give her when she was born? That seems like a bigger deal than the 7th birthday.

    How did he know she had a college fund? Did he and Rod sit around one night talking about this and Rod say:

    “Hey dude grab me another beer. Man the Cubs suck again this year, and I am tired of of these White Sox fans. By the way, I just started a college fund for my oldest daughter and it is a little light. Hey, you wanna hear me name the 1964 Cardinals again forwards and backwards?”

    Ascaridas: “God no. I’ll give you $1500 for your daughter’s fund if you promise never to do that again”

    Rod “Deal”

    You know what, now that I think about it, this is no big deal. He was just a good friend. All Governor’s have good friends just trying to help. Ryan had some good friends too. All they wanted to do was help pay for a wedding, help out the kids, and make sure George and Lura Lynn had a good time in Jamaica. This too is no big deal. It will all just blow over (in about 6 to 8 years).

  15. - DOWNSTATE - Monday, Sep 18, 06 @ 10:26 am:

    The real story on this is why all of a sudden is stories like this growing legs.Could it be Blago’s worst nightmare that the real voters are taking a hard look at him.Give us a comprehinsive poll reading in about 3 weeks and you will get a much better picture of the fight.

  16. - fedup dem - Monday, Sep 18, 06 @ 10:39 am:

    I just hope that the voters of this state will soon realize that a Blagojevich win in November will mean the prospect of having a SITTING Governor stand trial on corruption-related charges in federal court. If you thought having George Ryan stand trial was disruptive to our state government, just wait until Rod’s trial.

  17. - VanillaMan - Monday, Sep 18, 06 @ 11:05 am:

    That $1500 check has become the punchline for most public and private discussions last week.

    Blagojevich has always tried to be a comedian, and he has finally found his material. I want to know when voters are going to stop laughing at him, and realize they are laughing at themselves as the stooges they’ve become.

  18. - Cassandra - Monday, Sep 18, 06 @ 11:06 am:

    What if the headlines said “governor gives a state check for $1,000,000 to wife of friend who gave his daughter $1500.” That might raise a few more eyebrows, even if you didn’t believe that the job and the gift were clearly connected.

    I infer from the info in the press that Mrs. A. is in a civil service job, which means she has lifetime job security and can’t be fired unless she is convicted of a serious felony. Let’s say she and Blago are around the same age, she has about 15 years to a nice state retirement. Her total annual compensation package is worth at least $65,000 when you count those lush health and pension benefits. And
    we’ve all heard that Blago hires get really great raises. Over the 15 years, $1,000,000 easy. And she won’t even have to do any work for it if she doesn’t want to. Nobody will be evaluating her job performance. Civil service.

    If the majority of taxpayers in this state believe it’s ok to hand out $1,000,000 of our money to special gubernatorial pals, well, we’re the chumps, not the Blagos and the Ascaridises.

  19. - Marie - Monday, Sep 18, 06 @ 11:24 am:

    So, if the source of the contribution to this so-called college fund is found to be ill-gotten, can it be declared invalid?

  20. - Louis G. Atsaves - Monday, Sep 18, 06 @ 11:36 am:

    All I know is of all the alleged scandals being allegedly investigated by the Feds about the current Governor, in my Tuesday night bowling league the only one talked about is the “birthday gift” of $1,500.00. And they aren’t joking around about it.

    Eric Zorn may have hit the nail on the head on this issue. The other “scandals” are too complex to fit into a soundbite. The $1,500.00 birthday gift right after you gave my wife a job thing hits home big time.

  21. - North of I-80 - Monday, Sep 18, 06 @ 12:09 pm:

    $1500 story has some real legs under it. IF this has real substance, what will the next step from the Feds be? Before or after the election??

  22. - One Man Can Make A Difference - Monday, Sep 18, 06 @ 12:16 pm:

    For those who are expecting the Governor to speak out about this issue, GIVE IT A REST!

    Legally, no one is going to publicly speak about allegations under scrutiny by the federal gov’t. The only way we’ll know the truth is:



  23. - Ashur Odishoo - Monday, Sep 18, 06 @ 1:12 pm:

    If is looks like a duck, walks like a duck, talks like a duck, and smells like a duck…

    Ashur Odishoo
    State Representative 11th District

  24. - DOWNSTATE - Monday, Sep 18, 06 @ 1:30 pm:

    As far as him talking to the press he has been told that”THE THINGS YOU SAY MAY BE USED AGAINST YOU.”

  25. - Online - Monday, Sep 18, 06 @ 2:24 pm:

    I have several siblings, each of which is a multi-millionaire.

    The largest individual gift ever given to a niece or nephew was approximately $200 in value and it was a combined graduation/birthday gift.

    The governor’s response creates more questions than answers.

  26. - Little Egypt - Monday, Sep 18, 06 @ 3:06 pm:

    He may have been told that the things you say can be used against you but apparently he hasn’t figured out that the things he DOES can be used against him also.

  27. - Gregor - Monday, Sep 18, 06 @ 3:31 pm:

    We have 1,500 reasons to vote Topinka.

  28. - Buck Flagojevich - Monday, Sep 18, 06 @ 4:05 pm:

    Wow. So many things to chose from. No wonder the Fed’s are taking their time. What will it be? Tax evasion, that’s always a good one to get a politician. Illegal hiring by voiding the Veterans preference and Rutan violations. Or will it be rolled up into a neat little RICO package?

  29. - Shallow Pharnyx - Monday, Sep 18, 06 @ 6:26 pm:

    I’m waiting for Patti to write a letter condemning the scrutiny the press has given to her daughter’s birthday gift.

  30. - Emily Booth - Monday, Sep 18, 06 @ 8:23 pm:

    Cassandra, there is no lifetime job security with state employment. Second, it’s very easy to push a merit comp employee out the door. And, three, as a political appointee, she would’ve been out the door anyways with a change in administration. But, I agree with the undertone of your post, what Blagoyevich has been doing with hiring is abominable.

  31. - Ronnie Dobbs - Monday, Sep 18, 06 @ 8:42 pm:

    Gregor, you’re going to need more reasons then that to get people to vote for Topinka. Heres a tip, maybe an actual campaign would help. Cheers!

  32. - Angie - Monday, Sep 18, 06 @ 9:39 pm:

    So, between Amygate, Stuart Levinegate, Provenataxrulingappealgate, and SisterClaudettegate, remind me again why people still insist on supporting the Aquanet King? Is it his slick attempt to appeal to the ladies by playing pretty boy with the Bon Jovi-like “I am my hair” obsession? That might be all he has going for him. He gets the dippy twit vote.

    This lady is voting for Judy. At least she might not completely crush the Illinois business climate around here the way Rod has done with his hundreds of new fees that he piled onto Illinois businesses. Gee, do you think that’s why Illinois has trailed other states in the economic recovery? Ya think?

  33. - Disgusted - Monday, Sep 18, 06 @ 10:22 pm:

    Vote Green.

  34. - Gregor - Monday, Sep 18, 06 @ 11:47 pm:

    “The price good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men.”


  35. - IrishPirate - Tuesday, Sep 19, 06 @ 5:48 am:

    Growing up and your childhood buddy becomes governor……good times. Later he gets your wife a nice government job…………better times.

    You give his daughter a $1500 birthday check………..PRICELESS!


  36. - Roy Slade - Tuesday, Sep 19, 06 @ 8:22 am:

    I received a wedding present from a friend that I have known for twenty some years- two tickets to a Cardinals Baseball game. I contacted our department’s ethics officer to insure that I was able to receive such a “gift”- though it was a wedding gift. I ended up paying for the tickets- rather than worry about the possible conflicts.

    However, the Gov can get a $1500 check- from one of his best friends- two weeks after his wife gets a state job that she is not qualified for- and NOT report it for two years. Sure- there is nothing wrong here!

  37. - TheManTheMyth - Wednesday, Sep 20, 06 @ 4:48 pm:

    Quick question—just what the heck does “stood up at his wedding” mean? I’m confused….

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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