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Odds and ends***UPDATED X1***

Wednesday, Feb 27, 2008

* This was too good to pass up. From an NFIB press release…

Comptroller Dan Hynes will address a gathering of small business owners from the Springfield area tomorrow, February 28. The Springfield meeting is being hosted by Illinois’ leading small business association, the National Federation of Independent Business.

Hynes will discuss his recent report to the Legislature, which delivered a sobering reality check on the state’s fiscal health. Employers will also receive an update from NFIB State Director Kim Maisch on what to expect in the 2008 spring legislative session.

The location? Evans Disaster Restoration

Fitting.

* The Illinois Business Roundtable wants voters to reject a Constitutional Convention when it comes up for a vote this November. I have yet to find any state that was worse off after a ConCon, so I think this is an overreaction. [Hat tip: DJW]

* My former intern, Paul Richardson, is planning a Statehouse visit today. We’ll probably be gathering someplace tonight. Not sure where, yet.

* I was formally accepted as a member of the Union League Club today. I can’t believe I didn’t get blackballed.

*4:50 P.M. - Paul has just arrived, and we will be at the steakhouse formerly know as Remy’s at 7 p.m. tonight. All are welcome.

- Posted by Rich Miller   28 Comments      


Question of the day

Wednesday, Feb 27, 2008

* All the other topics are so heavy today, so let’s keep this one light

Tribune Co. CEO Sam Zell said Tuesday he won’t hesitate to sell the naming rights to Wrigley Field — even if baseball purists don’t like the idea.

“Wrigley is an obvious world-wide icon and Wrigley Field is world-wide known. But, in the world of economics, when I bought the Tribune, I didn’t get a discount because I wasn’t going to use the naming rights that field represents,” Zell said in an interview on the CNBC program “Squawk Box.” […]

“Excuse me for being sarcastic, but the idea of a debate occurring over what I should do with my asset leaves me somewhat questioning the integrity of the debate. . . . There’s a lot of people who would like to buy the Cubs and would like to buy the Cubs under their terms and conditions and, unfortunately, have to deal with me,” Zell told a CNBC interviewer.

* Question: What would be a fitting corporate name for that ballpark?

- Posted by Rich Miller   78 Comments      


Blagojevich: Tear down Cole Hall

Wednesday, Feb 27, 2008

* This may seem like a fitting tribute on its face

Governor Rod Blagojevich’s office says the building that was the scene of this month’s shooting at Northern Illinois University will be demolished and replaced with a new classroom building.

A gunman fatally shot five students attending a lecture inside Cole Hall before turning a gun on himself on Valentine’s Day.

Blagojevich plans an afternoon news conference to announce funding that will allow NIU to demolish Cole Hall. A new state-of-the-art general classroom building will be built on the site and named Memorial Hall.

But, as IlliniPundit also notes, I can’t help but wonder whether this is just another empty promise made without first identifying a funding source. It may not seem fair to appear so cynical at a time like this, but I’d hate to see expectations raised for no good reason.

This is our first discussion thread on the NIU shootings, so try to keep everything toned down in comments. Thanks.

…Adding… The facts weren’t completely clear when I first posted this, so some commenters need to take a deep breath…

* From what I gather, NIU officials were the ones who developed the idea and presented it to the governor’s office. So, it wasn’t some purely political thing concocted by Blagojevich as some commenters are claiming.

* Local legislators Sen. Burzynski and Rep. Pritchard have been involved in the discussions with the university and the governor’s staff about the proposal. They will reportedly introduce legislation to get additional bond authority and a supplemental appropriation for the project.

- Posted by Rich Miller   81 Comments      


Rezko reaction and impact

Wednesday, Feb 27, 2008

* This week’s tun of events have set the Statehouse ablaze with talk about Tony Rezko’s trial and the impact on Gov. Blagojevich

Reverberating through the Capitol was the question of whether the governor’s political standing had been mortally wounded by the official connection to the corruption case at a time when state finances are sinking.

“It doesn’t help anybody. It doesn’t help him. It doesn’t help us. It doesn’t help the people of the state,” said House Speaker Michael Madigan, a Chicago Democrat who’s often quarreled with the governor.

“This is just something that doesn’t help the cause,” Madigan said. “Better that it had not have happened.”

* Others weigh in

“I don’t think the revelation yesterday will do much practical damage to him,” said Chris Mooney, a political studies professor at the University of Illinois at Springfield. “I think the damage of this investigation has already been done, at least up to this point. The fact that everybody now knows he is Public Official A, rather than just assuming it, isn’t going to make much difference.” […]

“People who thought he was a liar will be satisfied because they now have confirmation,” said David Morrison, deputy director of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform. “And people who stood by him for other issues will perhaps acknowledge that he’s got bigger legal troubles than they thought.” […]

“The George Ryan experience suggests that once the U.S. attorney puts the light on the incumbent governor, the media will chase that public official in every venue to try to get them to expose themselves,” said Doug Whitley, president of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce.

* This administration statement didn’t go down too well

A Blagojevich press office statement said, “We don’t know anything. The governor was never involved,” echoing what the governor’s been saying since these allegations first 2 ½ years ago. […]

“I think the governor has a real disconnect with reality,” Rep. Jack Franks (D-Woodstock) said in a phone interview. “To continue to deny that he’s Official A is tantamount to lunacy.”

* But the governor’s office modified its response somewhat with other reporters

“Yesterday’s disclosure repeats what’s already been reported, and doesn’t change our position,” Ottenhoff said. “So our hope is that legislators will base their decisions on the stimulus plan and other important issues based on their communities’ needs.”

What do you think will be the legislative impact of the Rezko trial?

- Posted by Rich Miller   22 Comments      


New revelations about upcoming Rezko trial

Wednesday, Feb 27, 2008

* Let’s take a quick look at new revelations about the upcoming Rezko trial

Gubernatorial fundraiser Antoin “Tony” Rezko had so much influence with the state of Illinois, state hiring officials not only took his advice on who to employ, but they came to his office to get it, a new federal government filing alleges.

In Rezko’s upcoming trial, federal prosecutors plan to call Jennifer Thomas, an assistant to Joseph Cini, “who was the point person for hiring within a number of state agencies,” said the government.

“Thomas will testify that from approximately late March or early April 2003 through November 2003, she and Cini attended regular meetings at Rezko’s office where Rezko provided names and information on candidates not only for state agency jobs but also vacancies on boards and commissions,” the government wrote.

* A bit of history on that office…

Nearly two years ago, Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s inspector general issued a searing confidential rebuke that called the governor’s patronage office “the real machine driving hiring” in one state agency for jobs that were supposed to be free of political influence. […]

“This effort reflects not merely an ignorance of the law, but complete and utter contempt for the law,” wrote Zaldwaynaka “Z.” Scott, who served as Blagojevich’s first executive inspector general under an ethics law he signed. Scott, who left the post to join a private law firm last year, said she could not comment on her report. […]

The inspector general’s findings take on added significance after [the] disclosure that U.S. Atty. Patrick Fitzgerald is looking into allegations of “endemic hiring fraud” within Blagojevich’s administration.

* The prosecution’s first witness was also disclosed…

Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s former campaign finance director will be the leadoff witness at next week’s fraud trial of political fundraiser Antoin “Tony” Rezko, federal prosecutors said Tuesday.

Kelly Glynn, who was finance director of the Friends of Rod Blagojevich campaign fund, may be on the witness stand before the end of next week as the projected three- to four-month trial gets under way

* The feds laid out the scam

“Rezko parlayed his success in raising significant sums of money for Gov. Blagojevich into power by gaining access to high-ranking Illinois officials, being given deference in filing board and job positions, and by influencing how certain boards conducted business,” prosecutors said. “At base, Rezko’s power and importance flowed from his ability to raise money.”

Discuss.

- Posted by Rich Miller   16 Comments      


Levine’s secret life and a Rezko prediction

Wednesday, Feb 27, 2008

We’re going to break up this Rezko stuff into different posts because there is so much ground to cover today. Try to stick to the topic at hand in your comments. Thanks.

* Much of this sordid information about Stu Levine has already surfaced, but it’s still not very pretty

A source close to the case against Rezko says star government witness Stuart Levine led a secret life of illicit drugs and all-night sex parties, and may have a faulty memory. […]

The source said Levine is alleged to have led a “secret life” in which he allegedly engaged in all-night drug-fueled sex parties, some in hotels in Lincolnwood and Springfield. He also is alleged to have been seen using drugs in his office during business hours.

This allegedly happened while Levine was working for the federal government as its star witness against Rezko and other defendants, the source said.

I can’t help but wonder whether the feds knew about this activity at the time and covered up for Levine.

And, again, please avoid any speculation in comments. Thanks.

* The end of the story contained this prediction…

[CBS 2 legal analyst Irv Miller] says he would not be surprised if Rezko cuts a deal with the feds in the few days remaining before his trial. Such a deal would have him plead guilty to lesser charges in return for telling prosecutors everything he knows.

What do you think about that?

- Posted by Rich Miller   32 Comments      


Morning Shorts

Wednesday, Feb 27, 2008

* “My Way”

Two House Democrats are trying to take a different route than the governor to expand state-sponsored health insurance to 147,000 adults. They’re using legislation, something Gov. Rod Blagojevich tried to do last year but got nowhere.

* Blagojevich health plan blocked again

For the second time in three months, a state legislative panel has rejected Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s request to allow 147,000 parents and caretakers to buy discounted health insurance through the state’s FamilyCare program.

* Panel rejects expansion of Family Care

* The possibilty of seventeen-year olds voting

* Bill to lower voting age to 17 goes to House floor for debate

An Illinois House committee voted 5-3 to advance the proposal onto the floor for debate.

* Illinois House gets proposal on voting age

* Oberweis, Foster largely bankrolling own campaigns

* Did Jim Oberweis Violate the “Millionaires’ Amendment”?

* Foster, Oberweis talk Iraq, taxes and values

“That’s something people understand.” Foster said an “orderly and promptly” withdrawal should begin, but he didn’t give a specific date, saying military leaders should decide exactly when.

* Foster, Oberweis face off on health care

* Oberweis believes in health care for cows, not people

* Is Stroger ready to make a deal?

On the table and set for a vote today are tax plans that could ultimately end up costing you more to buy a plane ticket, a drink at a bar, a car, hotel room, clothing or other merchandise.

* County budget deal ready if Stroger agrees

* Stroger sales tax increase dies, but Cook commissioners weigh smaller bite

* Do or Die Time for Cook County Budget

* Judge approves sale of Canton plant

* City auditor caught living in suburb

* IHSA photo policy brings audit call

- Posted by Kevin Fanning   2 Comments      


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