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Reform and Renewal - Illegal plot to pack elections board abandoned

Wednesday, Jun 27, 2007

* I haven’t given this story nearly the attention it deserves. Here it is in a nutshell

Blagojevich filed four temporary Board of Elections appointments with the secretary of state last month, to become permanent upon Senate approval… Permanent appointments to the board must be approved by two-thirds of the Senate, meaning Republican support would be needed for them to pass. Temporary appointments don’t need immediate Senate approval.

[Senate Republican Leader Frank Watson] has alleged that Blagojevich is attempting to “skirt” state law by inserting people onto the board without Senate approval and that early primary elections in Illinois make the issue more timely

* Here are the four people the governor tried to appoint to temporary board slots, with potentially problem areas highlighted by myself…

- Bruce Meckler, a Democrat whose Chicago law firm has contributed $127,000 to the governor’s campaign fund. Meckler’s firm has done more than $550,000 in business with the state in the past two years.

- Mary K. Penn of Bloomington, whose husband, John Penn, is chairman of the McLean County Democratic Party and is a prominent official with the Laborers’ International Union, which has contributed more than $1.3 million to Blagojevich’s campaign fund.

- Nicholas Grapsas of Palatine, an attorney who is a partner in the Chicago law firm of Quinlan & Carroll. The firm is chaired by the father of the governor’s chief legal counsel, William Quinlan. Blagojevich nominated Grapsas as a Republican.

- Keith Fruehling, a Republican attorney from Champaign County.

* So, how was Blagojevich able to make temporary appointments?

State statute requires that the Senate confirm all new nominees to the Board of Elections before any of them can take office. However, the state constitution allows governors to make temporary appointments to fill state board vacancies when the Legislature is in recess.

* But there was a problem with the move…

The office of Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan issued an advisory letter last week that called Blagojevich’s temporary appointments “nullities” because the vacancies they attempted to fill had not yet been created and the Senate still is in session.

* Yesterday, the governor backed down

Gov. Rod Blagojevich backed down Tuesday from a controversial bid to remake the state’s election board. […]

“I’m pleased that was worked out,” Watson said after a meeting with the governor.

Watson credited Madigan’s five-page opinion as being a key to getting Blagojevich to reverse course.

“I think he’s got enough on his plate right now without having to deal with that problem,” said Watson.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - VanillaMan - Wednesday, Jun 27, 07 @ 9:11 am:


    Since when can’t a guy buy an appointment with this governor, Lisa Madigan?

    And where is your campaign bucket for my donation?

    Like ya! Like ya lots!

  2. - Sango Dem - Wednesday, Jun 27, 07 @ 10:14 am:

    I’d be happy with any board members who don’t think its their job to stop people from registering to vote. The attitude at the board is ridiculous.

  3. - Cassandra - Wednesday, Jun 27, 07 @ 10:28 am:

    So….where was “Chief Legal Counsel” Quinlan when Blago was making those not-totally-legal appointments. Looking the other way?

  4. - Captain America - Wednesday, Jun 27, 07 @ 10:40 am:

    More evidence that “pay-to-play” legislation is essential to changing the way business is done routinely in Illinois even thought it has no bearing on these appointments. Changing the corrupt poltical culture in Illinois requires legislative and prosecutorial initiative.

    I have no objection to any of these people, i just see no reason for the circumvention of Senate approval of the appointments.

    Kudos to Lisa Madigan for standing up to the governor yet again - on the FOIA federal subpoena issue and on the temporary appointments too.

    Both Republican and Democrats should be particularly concerned about election board appointments because of national efforts to suppress voting by minorities, as well as various controversies about the integrity of ballots and ballot-counting procedures.

  5. - A Citizen - Wednesday, Jun 27, 07 @ 11:31 am:

    WhoooEeee - If Temporary appointmrnts cost that much, how expensive are the permanent ones? Blago is pricing them out of the market!

  6. - Anon - Wednesday, Jun 27, 07 @ 12:03 pm:

    What a disgusting attempt to further subvert the function of the Board of Elections.

    Nick Graspas is a Republican like I am a Volkswagen. Partner, shmartner - HE WORKS FOR BILL QUINLAN, SR. chief outside counsel to the Chicago Democratic Machine! Mr. “Republican” Graspas has a track record of helping Mr. Quinlan defend Machine politicians.

    The Board of Elections was created by the Illinois Constitution of 1970 to be above politics, since it is not under the control of the legislature or the Governor.

    Subverting the Board, to prevent it from unduly “interfering” with Machine political maneuvers, has been a Machine objective for years. Just look at the amendments to the Election Code in 2003. Before the Amendment, the Board, made up of 8 Democrats and 8 Republicans, needed 5 votes to block a case from going to public hearing and decision - otherwise the case automatically went on. After the amendment pushed by Mike Madigan, the Board needs 5 votes to HEAR a case, or the case automatically dies. When the 4 Democrats vote “No” (more like the FIVE Democrats voting “No” once Graspas is there) the case dies. So, as of right now there isn’t a chance in hell that the Board will ever review any Machine antics, no matter how bad.

    Welcome to One Party Rule, Folks!

  7. - Anon - Wednesday, Jun 27, 07 @ 12:05 pm:

    Sorry, the Board has 4 Republicans and 4 Democrats. That’s why 5 votes is a majority.

  8. - fed up - Wednesday, Jun 27, 07 @ 3:36 pm:

    just another example of Blago not caring about laws. Madigan has been a plesant surprise as AG. I didnt think she was up to the job a few years ago. Maybe blago could get a book on goverment to read while flying back and forth everyday. I would feel better about this huge waste of taxpater dollars if he was at least doing something.

  9. - Papa Legba - Wednesday, Jun 27, 07 @ 6:58 pm:

    It looks like there will be another couple of pages that P. Fitz has to type up.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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