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The Illinois Huckaboom

Wednesday, Dec 19, 2007

* A friend of mine and I were talking last night about Mike Huckabee’s surge in Illinois. The Tribune poll showed him essentially tied with Rudy Giuliani here, but the former Arkansas governor has no real presence here. No staff, no advertising, no media coverage. Nothing. The only explanation we could come up with is that some voters are paying very close attention to the Iowa contest and are basing their decisions on that. Imagine.

* Meanwhile, some very far right fringe candidates have so far been running Mike Huckabee’s campaign in Illinois, such as it is…

[Jonathan Wright] was an assistant prosecutor in the Logan County state’s attorney’s office when he was appointed to fill an unexpired term in the Illinois House in 2001.

During his short stint in the House, he backed legislation that would have allowed student-led prayer in public schools. Wright did not seek re-election in 2002 but re-emerged on the political scene during the 2004 election when he made a long-shot bid for the U.S. Senate, running to the right of just about everybody on the ballot. […]

Also on board the Huckabee bandwagon is David McAloon of Bourbannais, who is running for a seat in the Illinois House against incumbent state Rep. Careen Gordon, D-Morris. McAloon is listed as chairman of the Slot/Values in Religion to Unite Everyone political action committee, which has funneled money to social conservative candidates over the years.

McAloon lost the GOP primary in that district last year. Wright’s Senate bid was pretty pathetic.

* Joe Wiegand, who ran Jim Oberweis’ 2006 gubernatorial primary campaign, told me today via e-mail that Huckabee is “days away from announcing Illinois Co-chairs.” We’ll see if they move up to a more A-List crowd, but almost all of those people are already on board with other candidates.

- Posted by Rich Miller   60 Comments      


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Wednesday, Dec 19, 2007

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Question of the day - One more Golden Horseshoe *** Updated x1 ***

Wednesday, Dec 19, 2007

There was one category I inadvertently neglected in our annual awards, so I’m reopening the contest today. [Now there are two categories for your commenting enjoyment]

* Best legislative secretary

* Best district office administrator

As always, please explain your answers as much as possible.

*** UPDATE *** Notice that I’ve changed this to two categories. These are distinctly different jobs, so let’s give two awards instead of one.

- Posted by Rich Miller   52 Comments      


Overblown

Wednesday, Dec 19, 2007

* I’m still with the governor on this one

Gov. Rod Blagojevich said Tuesday it’s “ridiculous” to suggest he might owe taxes for personal use of state aircraft.

* And I’m still with him even though the AP has found some instances that suggest this might possibly be an issue…

When Jane Hull became Arizona’s governor in 1997, she promised not to use aircraft for personal use. Her predecessor, Fife Symington, who resigned after he was convicted of bank fraud, had been criticized for personal use of airplanes.

But news reports in 2001 detailed more than 100 personal trips on state planes to weekend retreats and questioned whether Hull owed taxes. She later announced she would have accountants review the trips for tax liability, but no resolution ever was made public before she left office in 2003.

Former Virginia Gov. Douglas Wilder resolved a tax issue with the IRS for personal helicopter flights he took in 1990. And then-Lt. Gov. Jane Swift of Massachusetts was criticized for a state-financed helicopter trip home to avoid Thanksgiving 1999 traffic.

We have a state of Illinois building in Chicago. The governor has an office there. Many agency directors are stationed there. Blagojevich has decided that this is his base office. And the Illinois Department of Revenue backs him up, despite what some tax “experts” tell the AP…

Tax experts told the AP the IRS likely would consider Blagojevich’s principal place of business to be Springfield, the seat of state government. That means anytime he flies to his hometown Chicago with no job-related event planned, it’s a personal flight and he either must reimburse the state or pay taxes on the value as income.

A hostile IRS could probably do whatever it wants, but that doesn’t make it right.

* From the Belleville News-Democrat

We were entertained by the response from his spokeswoman, Abby Ottenhoff, who said the AP had it backward: “We define the principal place of business as Chicago and all the flights are billed accordingly.”

So Blagojevich believes when voters hired him, they wanted his workplace to be in Chicago instead of in the centrally located city with the rent-free mansion where all the other state leaders work? Who’s got it backward?

Perhaps they didn’t notice, but this was an issue during the governor’s reelection campaign last year and for most of his first four years in office. Blagojevich won reelection, despite all the criticism. So, the voters decided that it wasn’t a big deal.

If the governor uses state planes for purely personal reasons, he should obviously reimburse the state or pay taxes on the benefit. But even that Blackhawks jaunt was not purely personal. He was invited in his capacity as governor to help promote the team. Politicians do that all that time. He should probably still reimburse the state for the flight, just for appearance’s sake, but I can’t see how even that egregious example would be considered outside the realm of a governor’s normal duties as head of state.

- Posted by Rich Miller   112 Comments      


Hype or hope?

Wednesday, Dec 19, 2007

* Yesterday’s announcement that the lucrative FutureGen project would be sited in Illinois created a lot of hype. But the Bush administration’s Energy Department wasn’t at the press conference. The US government’s share of the project’s cost is huge, and DOE officials have been grumbling about the rising costs of the project for a couple of weeks (a bit before Illinois started to get private signals that it was ahead in the bidding war with Texas) so that should have sent up a lot more red flags than it did…

The Energy Department’s absence speaks volumes considering the government (a.k.a. taxpayers) is slated to foot most of the bill: 74 percent compared to the industry’s 26 percent. A November report includes a section about what would happen if the feds didn’t share the burden… “in the absence of DOE participation, it is unlikely the FutureGen Project would be implemented.” The report later adds, “The No-Action Alternative is considered a ‘No-Build’ Alternative.” [Emphasis added]

I’m sure it’s just a coinkydink that the Bush people are upset that their guy’s home state of Texas lost out in the bidding to Illinois, of all places. And pardon me if I’m not buying the “rising cost” argument against this proposal. This administration has few rivals in the spendthrift department.

* Still, the SJ-R had some wise words of caution in this matter…

We love the idea of the FutureGen project. It’s a great technology and this project will be a boon to east-central Illinois in many ways. If successful, it could be an environmental boon worldwide.

But we don’t like what we saw Tuesday, when - it appears - FutureGen tried to use emotions in Mattoon as leverage to get its way with the government. The alliance appears to be banking on the Department of Energy not wanting to play the bad guy and break the hearts of those who celebrated on Tuesday.

We hope that strategy doesn’t backfire, leading officials in Washington to dig in against FutureGen. In the short term, it has left a cloud of doubt and confusion over those who celebrated Tuesday morning.

Few people have ever won a political fight with the Bush administration.

* More stories, compiled by Paul…

* Matoon chosen as FutureGen site

* Illinois lands FutureGen power plant

* Illinois gets FutureGen plant in Tuesday morning announcement

* Illinois lands coal plant, but White House warns of rising costs

* FutureGen picks Mattoon, but much work remains

* Matoon picked for FutureGen project, decades after Texas beat IL in other multi-billion dollar science project

* SIU will see effects of FutureGen project

- Posted by Rich Miller   19 Comments      


Political resolutions

Wednesday, Dec 19, 2007

SouthtownStar columnist Allison Hantschel listed her “political resolutions for an election year” today…

1. Refuse to forward political joke e-mails.
2. Not say a single thing about a candidate I can’t back up with at least one fact.
3. Avoid entirely any mention of various candidates’ sex lives.
4. Turn off the television and put down the magazine at the exact moment the conversation about the candidates’ wardrobes begin.
5. Murder the “electable” criterion in its cradle.

Go read the whole thing and come back here to discuss your own additions, subtractions, etc.

- Posted by Rich Miller   6 Comments      


Another flip-flop by Schock

Wednesday, Dec 19, 2007

* Peoria Journal-Star columnist Phil Luciano’s piece today is about a somewhat suspect change of heart by congressional candidate Aaron Schock…

The latest pol to stagger me is Aaron Schock. The Peoria wunderkid is skyrocketing to notoriety, but his recent loop-dee-loops make me dizzy.

First came Schock’s innovative approach to world peace: sell nuclear missiles to Taiwan, which somehow would not prompt China to go ballistic but instead embrace American policies. Hmm. That’s like trying to win over the neighborhood bully by calling him a yellow-bellied wussy. Good luck.

Then came news of Schock’s refusal to show up at debates if opponents videotape him. He says he’s worried they might use footage to kick him in TV ads. Um, yeah, duh - that’s politics. Worse, by dodging cameras, he comes off like a whiny Britney Spears scurrying from paparazzi - hardly the image of a get-tough Republican.

But his oddest move is his yes-I-do/no-I-don’t support for Rudy Giuliani, as revealed in the Word on the Street column Monday.

Schock endorsed Giuliani last spring and planned to run as a delegate. He was even on Giuliani’s “leadership team,” which meant he was supposed to have some influence over events in Peoria and the Rock Island area.

But when Schock decided to run for congress he didn’t just drop out of the Giuliani leadership team, he also withdrew his endorsement. Schock’s campaign manager explains…

“When you’re in a primary of your own, you’re not going to endorse other candidates.”

Not really. Lower-tier candidates often love to hitch their stars to presidential contenders.

LaHood announced he wouldn’t run again in July. Schock had been preparing to run for that seat for longer than he will likely admit. He was up and running almost immediately, and on August 24th, he was announced as the regional chair for Peoria and Rock Island.

Schock’s decision to abandon Giuliani was news to House GOP Leader Tom Cross, who supports Schock in the race and is heading Giuliani’s campaign effort in Illinois.

“We thought he was on board,” said Cross spokesman David Dring.

Oops.

Luciano’s closing argument…

It seems like more political tap-dancing. Plus, it begs the question: Can an effective leader change his mind so much?

Discuss.

- Posted by Rich Miller   26 Comments      


Morning shorts

Wednesday, Dec 19, 2007

* Illinois Issues picks SJ-R Heupel to be executive editor

* Press Release: Trial lawyers’ reaction to ‘judicial hellhole’ report

* Sun-Times Editorial: Field of schemes

Sam Zell needs to stop looking for sweet deals from taxpayers. The Tribune might have allowed him to gobble up its company with very little money down, but we aren’t so charmed by billionaires. Instead, he and his new company need to court the growing list of private buyers for their crumbling stadium. Remember whom we are talking about here. Samuel Zell is No. 52 on the Forbes rich list with a net worth of $6 billion. The Tribune is the third largest newspaper company in the country. Turn down the violins, please.

* Halvorson to Blago, ‘Get moving on the airport

Halvorson (D-Crete) said Tuesday she’s giving the Illinois Department of Transportation until March 1 to submit its airport layout plan to the Federal Aviation Administration. If IDOT doesn’t meet the deadline, Halvorson threatened to start publicly airing her grievances with Gov. Rod Blagojevich and his administration.

“After March 1, I’m not going to be quiet,” said Halvorson, a candidate for the 11th Congressional District seat being vacated by U.S. Rep. Jerry Weller. “I have been very cooperative so far.”

* Fermilab fiscal ‘disaster’ feared

Fermilab may have to shut down for a month or more and stop research on a pivotal new physics project if federal budget cuts passed by the House this week become law, according to the Batavia lab’s director, who said the fiscal woes amount to the biggest crisis in the facility’s 40-year history.

The physics lab’s overall budget would drop by $62 million under the new House-Senate compromise on the 2008 budget, said Fermilab director Pier Oddone. The lab had been planning for an operating budget of $372 million.

* Daley calls son’s city deal a ‘lapse in judgment’; video here

At that point, the always-emotional mayor choked back tears as he struggled to continue. “I hope those people understand that Patrick is a very good son,” Daley said. “I love him. And Maggie and I are very proud of him. I hope you will respect that I will have nothing more to say on this.”

With that, Daley changed the subject to the CTA’s financial crisis. Asked a few minutes later if he knew whether his son or nephew were involved in any other city contracts, the mayor said, “I don’t know.”

His press secretary, Jacquelyn Heard, said later that calls to contract officials in various city departments yielded no evidence that the mayor’s son, who is now in the Army, and nephew are involved in any other city business.

* Mayor says son erred in investment judgment

* Carol Marin: Taxpayers need Daley’s answers

* Monitor rips city hiring

The report by Noelle Brennan, who has monitored city hiring since August 2005, alleged that several high-ranking aides to Daley skirted hiring rules to give jobs to favored candidates. In other instances, preferred job-seekers were put on the payrolls of outside contractors to get around restrictions at City Hall, Brennan said.

Many city employees who violated hiring rules have not been punished, the report said. Brennan also alleged that city lawyers repeatedly provided false or misleading information about hiring problems, hampering her investigation.

* Talcum powder sent to Daley, aldermen in letters; more here and here

* Dozens of city grade schools could close

As many of them below capacity are clustered in a few neighborhoods, the district’s overall elementary enrollment has fallen by 41,000 over the last seven years.

Dispensa said that trend is seen elsewhere nationwide, as younger families have fewer children. The children of many Baby Boomers, meanwhile, have moved on to high school, where enrollment remains strong for now.

* Tribune Editorial: The 17% charade in Cook Co. budgets

Some officials may again try to exploit the 17 percent charade Wednesday, when they’re scheduled to discuss possible cuts of 10 percent for 2008. Expect to hear them whine about those 2007 cuts — followed by their blustery resistance to doing what mere taxpayers have to do whenever their income falls short of the amount of money they need: reduce spending.

The true story of the 17 percent started to unfold last week. The county’s budget director distributed a report on actual budget cuts for 2007. The report startled several board members who dutifully had cut 17 percent from their own office expenditures — and assumed everyone else in county government had done the same.

Not so.

* Officials set to oppose county cuts

Most of Cook County’s top officials are expected to testify Wednesday that they cannot sustain a 10 percent cut in their 2008 budgets.

Commissioner John Daley (D-Chicago), chairman of the Finance Committee, said he has received letters from most countywide elected officials and department heads, nearly all of them saying their operations could not withstand another round of spending reductions.

- Posted by Paul Richardson   21 Comments      


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Wednesday, Dec 19, 2007

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« NEWER POSTS PREVIOUS POSTS »
* Reader comments closed for the weekend
* State Journal-Register endorses Rauner "with reservations"
* *** UPDATED x1 *** Pritzker campaign lawyer hints at defamation suit, claims campaign was never served
* Rauner says he's "trying to eradicate" the Madigan machine "cancer," but the "treatments are tough"
* Question of the day
* *** UPDATED x2 - Speaker Ryan to campaign for Davis *** Trump likely coming to Illinois to boost Bost
* Musical Interlude: Try (just a little bit harder)
* Tell me another fairytale, Grandpa
* Rauner again denies any delays at Quincy veterans' home
* "Speed dating" candidates
* Lawyer won't answer simple questions as some anonymous former Pritzker staffers speak out
* AFL-CIO launches "massive" digital ad buy
* SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - Today's edition of Capitol Fax (use all CAPS in password)
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* Yesterday's stories

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