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Inside the Governor’s Chicago fundraiser***Updated x1***

Friday, Jun 27, 2008

[Posted by Kevin Fanning]

* Last night I was able to get inside Governor Blagojevich’s highly publicized fundraiser in Chicago, and I’m pretty sure that the hottest attraction was the bar.

The room had the capacity to hold 1800 people, and I would estimate that it was about half full.

What was really striking though, were all the recognizable faces amongst the crowd. I would estimate that a good quarter of the attendees worked for the administration in some capacity, whether it be in the office or in an agency.

One of the more notable faces that I saw was Sen. Noland. You may recall a recent post about his defense of his recall vote in an open letter to the Daily Herald. It was interesting to see him in the crowd so soon after defending his nay vote on recall.

* The Gov shook a few hands and then approached the podium to the tune of Elvis’ “a little less conversation, a little more action.” Out of all the Elvis songs, I was really hoping that it was going to be that one.

He opened with a joke about St. Patrick’s Day:

” During the St. Patrick’s Day parade I had the opportunity to walk down Columbus street with Mayor Daley by my side.

I stopped along the street to greet an elderly woman who told me how much she appreciated the great job that I was doing, and how she thought my father did a fine job too. I hesitated, and thought about not telling her who I was.

Finally, I informed her that I wasn’t Mayor Daley, but Governor Blagojevich. She smiled and said, ‘Happy St. Patrick’s Day’.”

Then he added:

“We can’t just rely on all this good press we’ve been getting these days,” Blagojevich said sarcastically to an audience of several hundred supporters who laughed. Campaign dollars were needed to counter media criticism and to “be in a strong position to tell it the way it is.”

After the “icebreaker” he rolled through his quest to give kids in Illinois health care, and trotted a young boy up onto the stage to help him showcase his agenda:

Blagojevich maintained that donors to his campaign were “not helping me be the governor or stay the governor” but instead were helping children and the elderly by allowing him to push an agenda of increased education and health care.

The governor went on to say that he asks himself: “Are you going to squander that opportunity and ruffle a few feathers…or roll up your sleeves and try to change things for people?”

Blagojevich did not use the name of his chief legislative nemesis, House Speaker Michael Madigan of Chicago, who also is the state Democratic chairman. But he again inferred that Madigan was planning a secret, post-November state tax increase.

“We’ve been fighting those who want to raise taxes on people,” Blagojevich said as he again pushed a massive public works plan that would be funded through a sizable expansion of gambling in the state.

The crowd gave a mild response, and a woman behind me shouted out “Go Governor” and “All Kids”, and then I remembered that she worked for the Department of Healthcare and Family Services.

A few people were smirking, and several others were just shaking their heads as Blagojevich rattled off a few Spanish words like “oportunidad.” Afterwards the Governor took a few photos, and then was quickly whisked away.

* The Governor has been taking a lot of heat over his fundraising appetite lately, and Treasurer Giannoulias didn’t spare him any grief in an interview last night:

The governor raised two-and-a-half million dollars last year. But nearly a third of the money - $965,000 - went to the law firm representing him in the corruption probe. And that’s pathetic, according to state treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, who takes no campaign contributions from people who do business with his office.

“Pay to play needs to end immediately, and the perception that Rod Blagojevich and their administration has put out there is that government is for sale,” said Giannoulias.

All in all I’m sure that the Governor thought it was an up night.

*** UPDATE *** I must have glanced over this little tid bit today:

Blagojevich claims correctly that there is no law against taking campaign cash from contractors or others doing business with the state. And his allies say he’s got to do it to protect himself from political enemies, such as house speaker and party chairman Mike Madigan, who also takes contributions from anyone who wants to give.

“He doesn’t like Rod Blagojevich. So Rod is left to raise money on his own and doing what he has to do,” said State Senator Rickey Hendon, (D) Chicago.

* Senator Hendon always has the best quotes, doesn’t he?

- Posted by Kevin Fanning        

  1. - Six Degrees of Separation - Friday, Jun 27, 08 @ 11:06 am:

    I don’t have a comment on the fundraiser, but would like to point out that CapFax’s media links page (a must for anyone who follows the state’s news) has been down for awhile.

  2. - scoot - Friday, Jun 27, 08 @ 11:09 am:

    Still with the Daley jokes?

  3. - Diamond Dog - Friday, Jun 27, 08 @ 11:12 am:

    I can’t believe he told that Mayor Daley joke again. Get a life Rod.

  4. - Maggie - Friday, Jun 27, 08 @ 11:13 am:

    I would guess this was more a PR stunt than a fundraiser. He wanted to show he still had support. Most of the people there would have gotten the tickets for free just to show up for the cameras. Still playing the games.

  5. - problem - Friday, Jun 27, 08 @ 11:27 am:

    Nice try Kevin, but your attempts to make it sound like a disaster are just laughable.

    Get Rich back on the blog.

  6. - FlackerBacker - Friday, Jun 27, 08 @ 11:28 am:

    Kevin, while I usually believe your reporting is spot on, I would disagree with your assessment of the night. I arrived at 7 and left a bit after 8 so maybe we have different perspectives. But there were far more people than I anticipated… and the room was full. They picked the right size room for the crowd - and it did look great. I also was surprised that the Governor was still taking photos at 8 p.m. as the event was winding down. He was definitely there until the end. Yes, there were a lot of regular faces, but that is to be expected with any event of this nature. I was actually most impressed by the fact the campaign actually let reporters/cameras into the event, which hasn’t always been the case.

  7. - Kevin Fanning - Friday, Jun 27, 08 @ 11:31 am:

    ===I was actually most impressed by the fact the campaign actually let reporters/cameras into the event, which hasn’t always been the case.===

    They didn’t, at least not until the Governor left. I didn’t see any there for his speech, or while he was taking photos.

  8. - Macbeth - Friday, Jun 27, 08 @ 11:32 am:

    So does he arrive on time for his own fundraisers?

  9. - problem - Friday, Jun 27, 08 @ 11:32 am:

    Reporters were there during the speech, didn’t you hear him call them out?

  10. - Bill - Friday, Jun 27, 08 @ 11:33 am:

    So Kevin,
    Did you pay the $2500 or are you going to send us your check soon?
    Just put it on your CapFax expense account.

  11. - FlackerBacker - Friday, Jun 27, 08 @ 11:33 am:

    The reporters were right inside the entry - up on the main level of the museum. Mary Ann Ahern and her camera person, Chris Fusco and others were overlooking the crowd below.

  12. - trafficmatt - Friday, Jun 27, 08 @ 11:35 am:

    A number of years ago, I was in DC for a conference. I was in the hotel across from Watergate Hotel, and Pres. Clinton was speaking there. Needing a good pint, I was out on the street, and the DC Police had everyone stopped, which made a huge crowd on the street. When the Prez came out in the motorcade, he saw this large crowd, and he waved cheerfully. I thought to myself, he has no idea that we aren’t here for him, we are just caught. (not meant to be an attack on the former Prez, just an observation)

    I am guessing that this Guv had a similar experience last night. Lots of people there because they had to be. Pols face a difficult time if they surround themselves with people that will give them praise that drowns out the real issues.

  13. - Ghost - Friday, Jun 27, 08 @ 11:40 am:

    Nice right up kevin. I like the opener “Last night I was able to get inside Governor Blagojevich’s highly publicized fundraiser in Chicago, and I’m pretty sure that the hottest attraction was the bar. ”

    I was struck by the comment about how many STate employees were present. Particuarly after the promises to end the Ryan tradition of haveing employees be the source of campaign funds. Not sure about the others, But Lisa Madigan prohibits any of her employees or thier spouses from contributing to her campaign fund. To bad the Gov does not follow this basic practice himself. But if he cant shake down state employees and contractors he would have empty pockets. Apparently the actual people are not really supporting him that much.

  14. - trafficmatt - Friday, Jun 27, 08 @ 11:40 am:


    Care to say how many of the attacks that you are getting this morning came from e-mail addresses that end in “” or from “”?

    Stay around, Rich needs a day off.

  15. - Kevin Fanning - Friday, Jun 27, 08 @ 11:42 am:

    LOL, it comes with the territory.

  16. - steve schnorf - Friday, Jun 27, 08 @ 11:46 am:

    Ghost, As Governor, George Ryan did not accept campaign contributions from his employees.

  17. - Politico Pete - Friday, Jun 27, 08 @ 11:50 am:

    How many of the folks were FBI or federal investigators taking notes or license plate numbers– like at a mob wedding– who was there?

  18. - Kevin Fanning - Friday, Jun 27, 08 @ 11:51 am:

    Ghost, I also want to point out that just because agency/ administration staffers were there it doesn’t necessarily mean that they were present because they contributed to the fundraiser. I’m sure many were invited on a comped basis.

  19. - Joe Schmoe - Friday, Jun 27, 08 @ 11:51 am:

    It was the culmination of a long day. State employees scurrying all over town to hand out tickets to assure a crowd, double checking that the cameras were from legit media and not government investigators (oh, they were outside), and the antics of the Southern Illinos contingent giddy with false hope that they’re getting a bunch of state jobs to pacify an electorate that’s nott too happy with the way their elected legislators have handled themselves in recet years.

  20. - Macbeth - Friday, Jun 27, 08 @ 11:51 am:

    One question I have — and I know nothing about the fundraising process — is: what state employee in their right mind would go to the fundraiser? I worked in state gov for a decade — and only recently parted ways — but no one, absolutely no one, would come within a hundred yards of anything remotely connected with Blagojevich.

    The guy was (is?) reviled in my agency. And anytime I communicated with other folks in other agencies, the Blagojevich griping would start and would end in unanimous revilement. I can’t describe the depths — I mean, I don’t have a vocabulary capable of elucidating the way that this particular governor has polarized and politicized *every single* thing he has touched.

    Who is contributing to this guy? He’s kryptonite in the worst way. You say state employees are part of the fundraising?

    Why? For what reason? If you’re in an agency and have any alliances to Blagojevich, you’re a pariah.

    Very weird. But again — he’ll get the votes, so what do I care? I’m out.

  21. - FlackerBacker - Friday, Jun 27, 08 @ 11:52 am:

    And Blago also does not accept contributions from state employees. Like Kevin, the employees who were present likely didn’t need to pay the $$ to get in.

  22. - DumberThanULook - Friday, Jun 27, 08 @ 11:54 am:

    Now I see why they call you Kevin “the fan” Fanning with all that spinning you are doing.

    No mentions of the crowd cheering him as covered by every newspaper. No mention that the 1,000 reported attendees filled the room.

    Trying to make it sound like all state employees, when it was the same number of “appointeds” as are always at these things.

    And completely wrong about Governor’s timetable - everyone saw him working the crowd and taking photos for over an hour until the event was over.

    Maybe you showed up at the McCain fundraiser by accident and didn’t realize?

  23. - Joe Schmoe - Friday, Jun 27, 08 @ 11:55 am:

    So, it really had northing to do with raising money….just to have boddies in the room as a prop for the continuing charage known as the Blagojevich administration….

  24. - Kevin Fanning - Friday, Jun 27, 08 @ 11:55 am:

    strong possibility…

  25. - SangamoGOP - Friday, Jun 27, 08 @ 11:57 am:

    FlackerBacker is right: And Blago also does not accept contributions from state employees.

    Blago only accepts contributions from FUTURE employees & appointees…

  26. - Kevin Fanning - Friday, Jun 27, 08 @ 11:58 am:


  27. - FlackerBacker - Friday, Jun 27, 08 @ 12:00 pm:

    Joe Schmoe, you can choose to look like it like that - or you can see it as team Blago being rewarded from time to time for their hard work.

  28. - Joe Schmoe - Friday, Jun 27, 08 @ 12:10 pm:

    Poor, misguided soul

  29. - Bird Man - Friday, Jun 27, 08 @ 12:10 pm:

    “Team Blago” You folks just kill me. Thanks for the laugh.

  30. - siriusly - Friday, Jun 27, 08 @ 12:16 pm:

    Great post Kevin! That bit about an old lady, a young girl, a young black girl, thinking that GRod is the Mayor is stale. He’s been using it for years. At least it was a joke so he can’t really be accused of lying that time.

    Clearly when the campaign finance reports come out we’ll see how many of those were real contributors and how many were comp’d seat fillers. Of course they may not file on time . . .


    - Macbeth - Friday, Jun 27, 08 @ 11:32 am:

    So does he arrive on time for his own fundraisers?”

    I had the misfortune of going to one of G-Rod’s events several years ago. He was 90+ minutes late. I left before he showed. Thankfully nobody’s ever going to have a photo of us together that can be used against me!

  31. - S. Illinois - Friday, Jun 27, 08 @ 12:20 pm:

    Joe Schmoe - be careful using the words “charge” and “Blagojevich” in such close proximity. Some folks around here get understandably nervous. :)

  32. - nieva - Friday, Jun 27, 08 @ 12:24 pm:

    Was this a fund raiser for his reelection or his upcomming trial??

  33. - Little Egypt - Friday, Jun 27, 08 @ 12:27 pm:

    Steve, my spouse had to fork over money on two separate occasions for a couple of fundraising tickets for Ol’ George when he was governor and it was done on State time. Oh wait a minute, it was done during a “coffee break” while the political hack in the office walked around with an empty coffee cup in his hand blatantly stating he “was on break”. The years - 1999 and 2000. Spouse was on the way out the retirement door when hit up again in 2001 and refused to pay.

  34. - Say WHAT? - Friday, Jun 27, 08 @ 12:27 pm:

    Ewwwww! Did the people who attended need a shower after the event? I feel dirty just reading about it.

  35. - Kevin Fanning - Friday, Jun 27, 08 @ 12:30 pm:

    DumberThanULook -

    ===No mentions of the crowd cheering him as covered by every newspaper. No mention that the 1,000 reported attendees filled the room.===

    What newspaper mentioned the crowd “cheering?

    I was told the room fits 1800 people, my estimate was that half as many people attended. That seems pretty close to a 1,000 to me. (Although it’s too generous)

    ===And completely wrong about Governor’s timetable - everyone saw him working the crowd and taking photos for over an hour until the event was over.

    Maybe you showed up at the McCain fundraiser by accident and didn’t realize? ===

    If by working the crowd you mean take 10 photos with people he recognized, than sure.

    As for the McCain fundraiser, I doubt that would be much fun either, but I bet people would actually attempt to listen to the speech without a big ol’ smirk across their face.

    I like the nickname though. Creative.

  36. - Cassandra - Friday, Jun 27, 08 @ 12:30 pm:

    What’s happening with that ethics bill, anyway.

    Is this fundraiser a dinosaur, a last wave to the Democratic state fund-raising past or merely a taste of gigantic sums to be gathered up by our Blago as the 2010 primary approaches.

    Don Harmon and Cindi Canary….where are you….?

  37. - Kevin Fanning - Friday, Jun 27, 08 @ 12:31 pm:

    ===What’s happening with that ethics bill, anyway.===

    The gov is “improving” it, remember?

  38. - steve schnorf - Friday, Jun 27, 08 @ 12:38 pm:

    LE; sure it was for George? Lots of times, county chairmen or local candidates have a fr with a gov as featured guest.

  39. - NimROD - Friday, Jun 27, 08 @ 12:46 pm:

    “Was this a fund raiser for his reelection or his upcomming trial??”

    Nivea - It’s the same thing for this governor. He might as well have the donors make the checks out to Winston & Strawn. That is…if he actually PAID his legal bills.

  40. - A Citizen - Friday, Jun 27, 08 @ 1:03 pm:

    It is usually a good idea to select a law firm with a successful record on things you may be charged of doing. I just hope they are as successful with guv as they were with George Ryan. Makes me almost want to donate.

  41. - Little Egypt - Friday, Jun 27, 08 @ 1:18 pm:

    Steve, two checks made out to “Citizens for George Ryan”. I keep them close by to prove that spouse had to pay for the job.

  42. - Macbeth - Friday, Jun 27, 08 @ 1:25 pm:

    So at what point does Blagojevich explicitly make the link between his legal woes being part of “rocking the system?”

    In other words, I’m assuming the next step of spin will be letting folks know he has this legal bills — and therefore needs campaign cash — because this is the cost of “rocking the system.”

    Maybe this link has already been made. I don’t know. But it seems a natural spin to link any and all ongoing legal trouble as the price paid by a reformer like himself. (And then the final spin will be link together the notion of a martyr with the idea of a reformer.

    This, of course, happens after he’s indicted. Assuming we don’t all vote him in again. (Or even if we *do* vote him in again.)

  43. - steve schnorf - Friday, Jun 27, 08 @ 1:31 pm:

    LE, I thought she already had the job?? That sounds a little more like SoS, but if you say it wasn’t, you should know. He sure wouldn’t let any of us that reported to him donate.

  44. - Anonymous45 - Friday, Jun 27, 08 @ 1:40 pm:

    that depends on your definition of “best”…

  45. - Anonymous45 - Friday, Jun 27, 08 @ 1:42 pm:

    BTW, Cassandra, Harmon and Canary (and Fritchey) have done their part and given the Governor a bill to sign that will end play to pay…last I heard, it’s sitting on Blago’s desk….

  46. - Ghost - Friday, Jun 27, 08 @ 1:47 pm:

    Kevin for fun you might take the names of those State employees you saw gathered and see how many of them also are contributors.

  47. - Kevin Fanning - Friday, Jun 27, 08 @ 1:59 pm:

    Not a bad idea.

  48. - p - Friday, Jun 27, 08 @ 2:13 pm:

    Gov doesn’t take contributions from state employees.

    But the project would also require Kevin to list the 250 employees he claims were there.

    That would be something to see if he could back up his claim on that.

  49. - Vote Quimby! - Friday, Jun 27, 08 @ 2:15 pm:

    Employees may not have had to buy a ticket, but don’t you think *someone* was keeping track of who exactly showed up?

    Let’s Go Cubs!

  50. - Little Egypt - Friday, Jun 27, 08 @ 2:28 pm:

    Steve, for a few years before 1999 up to retirement in 4/01, spouse paid regularly into some type of campaign fund for whomever was governor. We hace cancelled checks from Jim Edgar too when he was governor. We never wrote out a check to anyone at SOS - it was always whomever was in the governor’s chair. Prior to Edgar it was Thompson. We’ve thought about framing the checks but then again, it’s not something to be very proud of.

  51. - GA Watcher - Friday, Jun 27, 08 @ 2:37 pm:

    Speaking to the Update re Senator Hendon’s reaction: Do you think the Blago defense team will play the “Mikey made me do it” card?

  52. - Joe D's Cousin Ralph - Friday, Jun 27, 08 @ 2:44 pm:

    Everyone knows that the Governor has fully embraced pay to play. He will keep doing it until the feds prosecute him. And, state employees and contractors will keep paying Rod to play until he is convicted and removed from office. It is an addiction. Why change things now, it will only make past conduct look more troublesome

  53. - Little Egypt - Friday, Jun 27, 08 @ 2:53 pm:

    Rod is the definition of “dysfunctional”. You would think with the Feds breathing down his neck he would at least begin to change his ways and not give the Feds any further ammunition. This boy is as dumb as a box of rocks and as sharp as a marble.

  54. - Ghost - Friday, Jun 27, 08 @ 3:01 pm:

    - p - you are incorrect. The Gov has contributions from State employees listed. The most notorious contributor listed is Stuart Levine.

  55. - Vote Quimby! - Friday, Jun 27, 08 @ 3:29 pm:

    anybody see this on sjr about the Harrisburg event?

    When Abeln attempted to enter the building selected as the division’s new home — a former Wal-Mart and former Cadillac dealership — she was turned away by a representative of the Southeastern Illinois College Foundation, which owns the building. All those entering were being asked their affiliations.

  56. - S. Illinois - Friday, Jun 27, 08 @ 3:50 pm:

    Or what about this from the SJ-R article:

    “Employees who do not move with the division’s offices to Harrisburg will be offered jobs at the same levels and pay grades elsewhere in IDOT or in state government, the governor said.”

    I thought this was supposed to be a cost-cutting measure. Now we are going to create new jobs for the Springfield employees and give their jobs to political patrons in southern Illinois. Let’s see….140 jobs times $25K each to the legal defense fund….

  57. - Princeville - Friday, Jun 27, 08 @ 4:24 pm:

    yeah, but VQ, if Ms. Abeln would have checked first she would have known she would be denied entrance. It was a press conf. for media and invited persons. Just like with any informational picketers/protesters from AFSCME, they could be near and carry signs whatever, but they knew they could not and would not try to enter and/or interfer with the conf. This was a news conf to announce the move and location not a question/answer session or a confrontational event.

  58. - DumberThanUThink - Friday, Jun 27, 08 @ 4:29 pm:

    Great job Kevin
    I assume you liked the other poster’s name becuase of the name I picked which is actually the motto for Blagoof’s second term. The first term motto was “we don’t know and we don’t care”
    Have a restful weekend.

  59. - Fed Up State Employee - Friday, Jun 27, 08 @ 5:01 pm:

    S. Illinois - By contract, IDOT union employees would have bumping rights within state employment where they are qualified. Let’s make sure everyone knows that Blagoof is NOT doing anything for these employees. That is negotiated with AFSCME.

    Bottom line though is that if 100 or so employees at IDOT bumped into other positions, those bumped employees would likely be laid off.

    So….if the IDOT employees all go to Harrisburg, 100+ jobs lost in Springfield and transferred. If those employees bumped in Springfield, 100+ employees in Springfield laid off, 100+ new jobs created in Harrisburg.

    If someone watching is employeed by AFSCME, please add your comments…thanks.

  60. - steve schnorf - Friday, Jun 27, 08 @ 5:03 pm:

    LE,I started contributing to Edgar in 1973 and was always proud of it. I also contributed to Ogilvie and Thompson, and have never felt a need to hang my head about that. As I said, Governor Ryan would not allow us to to contribute to him.

  61. - Fed Up State Employee - Friday, Jun 27, 08 @ 5:05 pm:

    S. Illinois - Forgot to add you are correct about the added jobs, if those employees decide to stay in Springfield and bump. No cost savings there with the additional new jobs in Harrisburg and don’t forget that would be salaries year after year, not just now.

    But, let’s wait and see how the hearings go on July 31st….

  62. - Sheryl - Friday, Jun 27, 08 @ 5:28 pm:

    Just check out all checks/contributions that consultants, contractors and whoever else wanted to do business with the Illinois Tollway.

  63. - wordslinger - Friday, Jun 27, 08 @ 8:46 pm:

    Kevin, great job. You were there where the rubber meets the road. Pretty impressive, huh?

    Kind of confusing, kind of pathetic. These are the Big Wheels in Illinois? You’re getting a hell of an education. Once you get over the sadness, the empowment feels damn good.

  64. - S. Illinois - Friday, Jun 27, 08 @ 9:21 pm:

    Fed - I would never suggest Blago would be doing anyone favors (without a significant campaign contribution)

  65. - Disgusted - Friday, Jun 27, 08 @ 9:26 pm:

    Here’s a quote from Senator Forby from the today:

    “…they are still going to have the public hearing. The public hearing is just a hearing. The governor can do whatever he wants to do. There is no legal vote there. There is no vote that means anything. He (Blagojevice) has the final say.”

  66. - The Conscience of the State - Saturday, Jun 28, 08 @ 9:20 am:

    I hope he tells thay Daley joke as he gets processed into Oxford.

  67. - Anon - Saturday, Jun 28, 08 @ 10:07 am:

    to Fed up- your assumption that everyone at Traffic Safety is a union member. What the Gov did was to offer everyone not just the union employees jobs! I bet the personnel people at IDOT just cringed at that comment. I think it will be a he just missopke type of situation. Also, with all the empty jobs and reduced head count in Central Illinois there shoucld be no problem finding jobs for these employees, if they are serious which they are not. Based on the type of move I would bet all non union help will be let go dems and repubs alike. This is a screw you Sangamon County for not supporting the Gov. And yes as the Bush Administration loves to say over and over again elections have consequences!

  68. - soggy biscuit game - Thursday, Jul 10, 08 @ 5:21 am:

    vqudjpe mdxfucp gwceyj biotl

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

* Reader comments closed until Tuesday
* *** UPDATED x1 *** Tribune asked 16 mayoral candidates to release tax returns, 6 complied
* A rough idea of what they're looking at
* Question of the day: Golden Horseshoe Awards
* Rauner was wrong about "record levels" of unionization
* SUBSCRIBERS ONLY: Stava-Murray updates
* Pritzker's inauguration ball tix will benefit Cabrini Green Legal Aid Clinic and Illinois Fairgrounds Foundation
* Rauner claims he's been too busy to reflect on his term
* Pritzker's day in DC
* *** UPDATED x3 - Morrison wants emergency meeting of ILGOP - McConnaughay explains - Schneider responds *** Rauner says he tried to drop out of race after primary
* Feds re-raid Ald. Burke's office
* Yesterday's stories

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