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.