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Tuesday, Jan 29, 2008

* 1:20 p.m.- Judge freezes Rezko account

A federal judge has frozen more than a quarter of a million dollars controlled by indicted businessman Tony Rezko, according to a court order made public today.

Judge St. Eve is expected to hear additional arguments from Duffy this afternoon on why Rezko should be released from jail to prepare for his Feb. 25 trial on corruption charges. She’ll also take up the frozen funds then.

More to come…

* 1:54 p.m. - The Judge has now ordered drug testing for star witness

St. Eve said Levine should submit to drug testing and any drug treatment that a pretrial services officer deems necessary. In a filing late Friday, Rezko’s defense team alleged that Levine had long abused drugs and questioned their impact on his memory of events.

Levine’s lawyer, Jeffrey Steinback, on Monday denied his client was a drug addict or had a drug problem.

* 2:10 p.m. - Daley backs Silverstein for ward race

Daley hinted strongly that Silverstein was planning to withold his support from Stone in the red-hot race for alderman against challenger Naisy Dolar last year. To firm up Silverstein’s support for Stone, Daley said he agreed to back Silverstein against Stone in the race for ward committeeman.

Daley said the Silverstein endorsement was hatched more than a year ago and had nothing to do with Stone’s decision to oppose the mayor’s tax-laden 2008 budget, which includes the largest property tax increase in Chicago history.

Stone called the mayor’s version “absolute bulls—.” The alderman said there was never any question he would have Silverstein’s support in the aldermanic race and the state senator needed no push from Daley.

“I don’t believe a word [Daley] says. I voted against his budget for the first time since he’s mayor and he’s teaching me a lesson. You give him 18 years of loyalty and he kicks you in the ass,” Stone said.

* 2:30 p.m. - The Governor denies knowing anything more about Rezko than what he reads in the papers

Blagojevich says candidates hope campaign donors are law-abiding and calls allegations against donors “one of the occupational hazards” of politics.

* 2:42 p.m. - More on Stuart Levine’s drug use

Rezko’s attorneys suggest that Levine called his source for drugs nearly 200 times between May 2002 and September 2004, according to the government’s own records.

* 3:30 p.m. - Rezko will remain in jail

A federal judge denied politically connected Chicago businessman Tony Rezko’s attempt to reinstate his bond Tuesday a day after his bond was revoked and he was sent to jail.

Rezko is due to start trial Feb. 25 on charges of mail fraud, wire fraud, money laundering and attempted extortion. He also is charged with swindling the General Electric Capital Corp. out of $10 million in loans involving the sale of a pizza business.

* 4:32 p.m. - Looks like FutureGen has fallen through. The Governor’s office just sent out a press release on it:

“The U.S. Secretary of Energy’s proposal to dismantle FutureGen is an example of politics at its worst. Secretary Samuel Bodman is not only jeopardizing the benefits FutureGen promises to deliver, but he deceived the people of East Central Illinois who spent time and resources competing for the project. We’re not giving up the fight to make FutureGen a reality in Illinois.

Just last night during his State of the Union Address, President Bush said that environmentally responsible energy is essential to keeping our economy growing, and that his budget provides strong funding for leading-edge technology, including clean coal. Secretary Bodman’s decision to reverse course on the most important clean coal project to date represents a striking contradiction to the President’s comments. I urge President Bush, who initiated FutureGen in 2003, to stand by the project and move it forward.”

- Posted by Kevin Fanning   27 Comments      


Question of the day

Tuesday, Jan 29, 2008

* There was some surprising news the other day…

In 2007, the number of workers belonging to a union rose by 311,000 to 15.7 million, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics
reported

But that’s not the question.

* The Question: What is your opinion of labor unions?

- Posted by Rich Miller   110 Comments      


Maybe Obama ought to stay away for a while

Tuesday, Jan 29, 2008

* The governor’s office was not amused yesterday when Lynn Sweet wrote this on her blog

The Obama Illinois campaign, in advance of the Feb. 5 balloting–where the Clinton team is making a run for Illinois delegates–is ramping up, with all the top Democratic office holders stumping for Barack Obama starting on Monday with one exception–Gov. Blagojevich. There’s just too much heat on Blagojevich

* I linked to the piece yesterday and got an e-mail from the governor’s office, but I was already out of the office and didn’t see it until much later. Sweet, however, received a terse phone call…

Blagojevich spokesman Abby Ottenhoff called to say that the Obama campaign has given Blagojevich an assignment, to woo six Democratic governors for Obama.

She also said that a new poll from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch shows the governor has better ratings than the legislature and aked that this be noted. The six governors on Blagojevich’s list are…

Freudenthal (WY)
Schweitzer (MT)
Bredesen (TN)
Ritter (CO)
Richardson (NM)
Henry (OK)

* Anyway, I told subscribers this morning and the esteemed Union League Club attendees of my somewhat tongue in cheek suggestion for the Obama campaign.

Since just about everybody who is anybody in Chicago politics has taken money from Rezko, including four of the five statewides that held that press conference for Obama yesterday (plus people like former Republican Gov. Jim Edgar - here’s a handy list), and since the Rezko story appears to be really heating up again, perhaps Sen. Obama’s campaign ought to just steer clear of Illinois until after Super Tuesday.

Thoughts on this?

- Posted by Rich Miller   37 Comments      


Bernie Stone’s tinfoil hat

Tuesday, Jan 29, 2008

* Alderman Bernie Stone had a couple of really bizarre reactions to this turn of events yesterday

A member of Ald. Bernard Stone’s political organization who also serves as the 50th Ward’s Streets and Sanitation Department superintendent was charged Monday following an investigation into alleged vote fraud in last year’s aldermanic election.

Anish Eapen, 37, of the 7500 block of North California Avenue, faces charges of official misconduct, absentee ballot fraud and mutilation of election materials, officials said..

* We’ll get to the reaction in a moment, but here’s more of the background

A source familiar with the investigation said Eapen and Ramos “would target different people—primarily Indian and Pakistani voters—and suggest that they take absentee ballots. They would give them reasons why they should be taking absentee ballots—not necessarily valid reasons. They would be present when they filled out the application for the absentee ballot and, in some instances, they would bring the absentee ballot back to the people to vote.”

* And the payoff…

“We know where this all started. We know it’s politically-based. When does it break? Eight days before an election where Congressman Schakowsky is backing my opponent. It stems from an election where Congressman Schakowsky was backing my opponent….Her aide was soliciting the state’s attorney to investigate. It’s absolutely a devious political trick. That my good friend Dick Devine can be part of it is shocking,” Stone said.

Yep. Jan Schakowsky is now dictating Dick Devine’s investigations. Sounds perfectly sane and reasonable to me.

* But the black helicopters don’t stop there…

He added, “For the last six months, there has been a virtual campaign directed at anybody who voted for Bernie Stone. I always thought the ballot box was sealed. Apparently, nobody who voted for anybody else has ever gone before the grand jury. How do investigators know how these people voted? Has the secrecy of the ballot box been breached?…. They’re being asked, `Why did you vote for Bernie Stone?’ “

Perhaps, alderman, they’re asking your voters about alleged misdeeds because your guys are the ones who absentee voted them. You don’t need some super-secret G-Man code on ballots to figure that out.

- Posted by Rich Miller   17 Comments      


Room for improvement?

Tuesday, Jan 29, 2008

* Another local sales tax increase may face legislators upon their return to Springfield…

Metro East officials may look to a temporary sales tax to fund costly repairs to the levee systems that protect the flood plain along the Mississippi River.

State Sen. William Haine, D-Alton, said Monday he would introduce a bill next week that would let Illinois counties impose up to a quarter-cent sales tax to pay for emergency levee repairs and storm water control measures.

If it becomes law, the legislation would provide a possible funding mechanism for a massive levee modernization project in Madison, St. Clair and Monroe counties. The price tag could be as much as $180 million.

Some of the levees are more than 60 years old. They’re high enough to withstand a major flood, but officials say there is a need to replace old pumps, pipes, gates and electrical panels and build new relief wells to prevent potential problems from underseepage.

Haine said the legislation would let counties establish commissions that could issue bonds for flood and storm water control and, subject to consent of their county boards, levy a sales tax of up to a quarter cent.

“This is as important as roads and bridges,” Haine said.

It doesn’t sound unreasonable, but I wonder how the governor might “improve” this tax hike. It’s not like he can let seniors ride free on levees. Thoughts?

- Posted by Rich Miller   27 Comments      


Morning Shorts

Tuesday, Jan 29, 2008

* Ward superintendent charged with vote fraud; more here

* Committee OKs landmark status for IBM building

* Seniors’ free rides begin March 17 — if they have RTA photo IDs

* 1st Chicago tavern busted for smoking

* District 6 candidates accept reality of O’Hare expansion

* Candidates have health care visions

* 2 contend for GOP nod in 3rd District

* Crowded field vying. for 3rd District Democratic nomination

* Illinois trooper in fatal crash should be fired, lawmaker says

* Sales tax could pay for Illinois levee repairs

* Report cites substandard care for deaths at VA hospital; more here

* Is Dan Seals Showing Impaired Judgment in Supporting Eddie Washington?

* Judge candidates question factor of race in bar polls

* Businessman challenges Schmitz in 49th District

* WTVP required to raise a little more cash

“If WTVP, Channel 47, can raise another $450,000, the public television station and its creditors will have reached a tentative deal for $5.25 million.”

* Illinois lawmakers want presidential election changes

* Roskam’s response to State of Union address

* State establishes scholarship fund for children of lost Armed Forces members

* Big loan gets Rezko jailed; more here

* Star witness has drug problem, defense says

* Rezko put in jail; bail is revoked

* Was Rezko as surprised as he looked?

* Rezko not reason for Blagojevich no-show at Obama event

* Bill Baar: Tony Rezko: “a philanthropist to the medical community”

* Illinois representatives’ reaction to State of the Union

* Illinois early voting ends Thurdsay

* Foreclosures land Illinois in group’s top 10 list

* Ralph Martire: Illinois tax policy generates far too many negatives

“But unfair taxation is only one of many flaws in Illinois’ tax system, which fails to respond to the modern economy or generate stable revenue while inefficiently over-relying on local property taxes to fund services. The collective result: a revenue system that cannot sustain public services.”

* Bush asks perseverance on sagging economy, patience on Iraq; read the transcript here

* State of rivals’ union? Tense

* Giuliani hints he may drop out if he loses Florida gamble

- Posted by Kevin Fanning   10 Comments      


Open thread

Tuesday, Jan 29, 2008

I’m doing a breakfast panel discussion at the Union League Club this morning, so the blog will have to wait a bit.

This is an Illinois politics open thread.

Try to be nice to each other, and, for Heaven’s sake, don’t do any real estate deals with Tony Rezko while I’m gone.

Kevin is in charge of monitoring comments whilst I’m away. Have fun.

- Posted by Rich Miller   19 Comments      


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Tuesday, Jan 29, 2008

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