* Democratic congressional candidate Colleen Callahan has a new TV ad that pays homage (to the point where it even seems to have the same voice doing the “countdown”) to LBJ’s “Daisy” ad from the 1964 presidential race…
The horse is out of the barn,” said [Republican Martin Ozinga]. “Instead of them talking about how the door was open, we should be catching the horse.” […]
“The banking crisis is more serious than most people realize,” said Ozinga. “What’s going on is so shocking and complicated it’s hard for people to understand.” […]
[Democrat Debbie Halvorson] said she would have voted “no” on Monday’s bailout plan. The lack of any meaningful protection for homeowners facing foreclosure was one of her key criticisms of the legislation.
“If we want people to pay their mortgages, why are we allowing them to go into foreclosure?” said Halvorson, who said helping homeowners pay their mortgages would prop up the banking industry.
* As I told you yesterday, Democrat Bill Foster voted “Yes.” His GOP opponent, Jim Oberweis, said he would’ve voted against the proposal. From a press release…
“I support the action taken by the House of Representatives this afternoon in rejecting a flawed bailout plan that would have put American taxpayers at risk for $700 billion. Had I been a Member of Congress, I would have voted ‘no.’
“Now that the flawed measure has been rejected, Congress can take the time necessary to strengthen the legislation to improve the odds of its success at solving the problem at hand, while reducing taxpayer risk and improving taxpayer protections. It is important that Congress address this very serious economic crisis that we are facing, but it is equally important that Congress address this situation in a way that will subject taxpayers to the smallest loss possible while doing what is necessary to keep our financial system working in a positive way. We must not sow the seeds of future, equally serious problems by trying to solve this situation too quickly. We must do this right with reasonable speed rather than doing this wrong with great speed.”
* Republican Judy Biggert voted “No,” but her Democratic opponent Scott Harper said he would’ve been a “Yes.” From Harper’s press release…
“With our economy in trouble and with the American people deeply concerned about their homes, their investments and their retirements, Judy Biggert took the coward’s way out and voted against an economic package that would have helped rescue our markets.
“I would have voted yes.
“No one is happy about the current situation we’re in and if Judy Biggert hadn’t been asleep at the wheel on the financial services committee, perhaps we could have had more oversight and regulation and less corporate greed that got us into this mess in the first places.”
I’m more interested today in how you feel about the political tactics of the various incumbents and challengers - without the canned, pre-approved DC political talking points, of course. Let’s all take a deep breath and try to analyze the politics in a clear-headed manner without bringing that DC insanity into the blog. Thanks.
Yesterday, we talked about your use of online social networks. Let’s continue in this technology vein today.
Question: Do you have a basic cell phone or one of those “smart” phones? If you have a smart phone (iPhone, Blackberry, Treo, etc.), which one? Besides calls and texts, how do you use your device during a typical work day? What do you like most and least about your smart phone? Explain fully, please. Thanks.
*** UPDATE *** Inspired by some of the comments today, I’ve decided to give Web-Alerts.com a test run. The service tracks my RSS feed, and then every time a new post is added to this blog Web-Alerts.com sends you a text message.
This is a free, easy-to-use Internet service, but standard text messaging rates from your own carrier apply, of course.
* For whatever reason. the Sun-Times focuses today’s “Daley’s 1,000 layoffs” story on possibly reduced garbage pickups, which if you scroll down in the piece probably won’t happn anywayl.
Here’s the more important item…
The 3,000 vacancies to be eliminated include: 329 sworn Chicago Police officers; 424 non-sworn police employees; 12 sworn firefighters, and 10 non-sworn fire employees.
* The Tribune has been all over the problems associated with the problem of current police vacancies…
With retirements, firings and resignations, the department is down 250 officers and could be down more than 400 officers by the end of the year, said Mark Donahue, president of the Fraternal Order of Police, the union representing patrol officers. The department has lost about 375 officers and hired only 125 since the beginning of the year, Donahue said.
* On Saturday the mayor said he was working to hire more Chicago cops.
Apparently, hizzoner’s statement is now inoperative.
* Chicago is facing a $420 million budget hole, but…
The 1,000 layoffs are expected to save $100 million.
A battle is brewing over a request by CTA President Ron Huberman to change his pension status. Huberman is a former Chicago police officer. He has angered other officers with a new application for police pension benefits.
A Chicago police detective who was beaten while off-duty on Chicago’s North Side over a week ago is reacting to the news that the man accused of beating him will not face a more serious charge. […]
Detective Amato and others believe the charges should be more serious because the attack was against a police officer. The police officer’s alleged attacker, 27-year-old John Jasas remains free after attending court last week, where a judge refused to charge him with attacking a police officer. That follows a decision by the state’s attorney’s office to file what is “perceived” as a lesser felony because, they say, Detective Amato was off duty. The veteran cop counters, saying a Chicago police officer is “always” on duty.
Beaten Chicago Police Detective Steve Amato left court feeling assaulted all over again. Not only was the man accused of attacking him not charged with battering a police officer, but the hearing the 18-year police department veteran was told to attend Monday morning took place last week without him or his testimony.
The University of Iowa professor looked at air samples from all over Chicago, and found the chemical in about 90 percent of them. She says the source is a mystery. It looks a lot like a byproduct of paints, but it’s not concentrated near, say, paint factories.
HORNBUCKLE: It’s so ubiquitous that I almost wonder if it’s released from paint after the paint is applied to buildings and streets and walls. I don’t know.
PCBs have been linked to cancer and neurological problems. The government banned manufacture of PCBs, but Hornbuckle says PCB-11 isn’t manufactured. That means the ban may not apply.
Historically, PCB11 is one of 209 compounds manufactured between the late 1920s and the 1970s. The report noted that they were primarily marketed as mixtures called Aroclors by chemical companies until U.S. production ceased in the late 1970s. The distribution of PCB11 throughout residential areas of Chicago suggests that the compound is a past or current component of consumer paint products.
Health Effects related to pcb-11: Birth or developmental effects, Brain and nervous system, Cancer, Endocrine system, Immune system (including sensitization and allergies), Persistent and bioaccumulative, Reproduction and fertility
Convicted political fixer Antoin “Tony” Rezko has been quietly visiting Chicago’s federal courthouse, setting off speculation that he may be spilling secrets to federal prosecutors in return for a lenient sentence.
Prosecutors investigating Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s administration would plainly like to hear what Rezko knows, and there is plenty of incentive to talk.
“Jail is horrible and Tony Rezko has just two options,” says Jay Stewart, executive director of the Better Government Association. “One option is to do nothing and get a full sentence. The other is to cooperate with prosecutors.”
Rezko had nothing to say to prosecutors while he was on trial. But all that seems to have changed after six months behind bars in the notorious federal prison in the South Loop.
“It is a dungeon and when you spend night after night in those conditions and face the prospect of doing it for years to come, all of a sudden a light goes off and you may want to cooperate with the federal government,” CBS 2 Legal Analyst Irv Miller said.
Two attorneys said Monday they and other lawyers have been contacted by prosecutors seeking to check information that only Rezko could have told them. Both attorneys spoke only on condition of anonymity, saying prosecutors have sought to keep such matters secret as part of the grand jury investigation.
The Chicago Tribune reported Sunday it had found four lawyers who claimed to have been called by prosecutors with information that seemed to be from Rezko.
“[The reported talks] could break off in a number of points in the process - - at the interview stage because the information isn’t checking out, and after the interviews because each side values the information differently and the two sides can’t reach a deal,” former Assistant U.S. Attorney Patrick Collins said.
“Mr. Rezko, if they do reach a deal, will receive no get-out-of-jail-free deal because then he’d have no value as a witness,” Collins said. “You can’t put up a witness who got to walk out of jail for a serious crime.”
The polling results I’ve seen from both sides of the debate say more of you will vote for a state constitutional convention this November than won’t.
The numbers still aren’t there yet. The question on the fall ballot must either be supported by 60 percent or by at least half of all those voting in the election itself. Still, it’s getting there.
I’m one of those who supports a constitutional convention. And after 18 years of covering Illinois politics, I am not only convinced a convention is necessary, I also believe I have a duty to tell you why.
Last week, I explained to you how our state constitution has allowed legislative leaders and the governor to seize infinitely more power than the constitution’s framers ever dreamt, and how that power grab is destroying our system of government.
This week, I’d like to toss around a few ideas that a convention might address to break at least some of that stranglehold.
Before I do, always keep in mind that once a convention is called, you have the right to elect all the delegates. When those delegates finish their task, you have the right to vote up or down on all proposed changes. Voters have the final word on everything.
One of the biggest Statehouse problems is that legislative leaders can serve as long as they can get themselves re-elected. I started to notice many moons ago that with every new session I covered, I gained a bit more respect and influence. That happens for pretty much everyone who sticks around. And it’s even more true for leaders, like the House speaker and Senate president, because they have so much institutional power to begin with.
Limiting a leader to 10 years of controlling the gavel would allow the Statehouse a fresh start on a regular basis.
But there is still the almost incomprehensible institutional power that the leaders already own. A new face every decade won’t change that fact.
One of the most refreshing reform suggestions I’ve heard is to require nonpartisan, computerized legislative redistricting.
Our legislative district maps look like they were drawn by crazy people. They’re all over the place, weaving this way and that for miles on end.
In reality, they are carefully constructed by the powers that be every 10 years to protect their favored incumbents.
Voters don’t choose their politicians, politicians actually choose their voters. As a result, only a small handful of incumbents ever have to face a serious opponent, all courtesy of their leaders who carefully draw the district maps.
Iowa’s legislative districts look more like squares. Iowa requires the use of a computer program that completely disregards party and power favoritism. Illinois has far more minority voters than Iowa, which would require more complicated district outlines to make sure a federal judge doesn’t kill it off, but this can be done here. The result? Lots more competition and far less reliance on all-powerful leaders.
Our campaign finance laws allow unlimited contributions by legislative leaders to their favored candidates. The leaders control most of the money raised in this state, so there’s no way those laws will ever change because the leaders also completely control the lawmaking process. A constitutional convention could curtail that fundraising power or eliminate it altogether.
Leaders appoint all committee chairmen, all members of those committees and all bills sent to those committees. This ensures that the chairmen and members always do their leaders’ bidding. Stop that, and you take away a huge amount of power.
Some people favor recall and term limits for all legislators. I’m an agnostic on recall and I’m pretty sure that term limits for legislators in general (not leaders, just legislators) would be a bad idea, but that can all be up for debate if there is a constitutional convention. Others want to give citizens a right to pass laws on their own through ballot initiatives. That could be chaotic, but certainly interesting.
Nothing is guaranteed in life, of course. None of these reforms may come to pass even with a constitutional convention. But none of it will ever happen without one. So, once again, please vote “Yes” this November.
Next week, we’ll take a look at what can be done to rein in the governor’s excessive powers.
As you may know, there will be a referendum question on the November ballot asking if we should hold a convention to overhaul the Illinois Constitution of 1970.
And as you may also know, most of those who are in power and doing fine under the current system are opposed to the idea. Soon, you’ll be subject to a well-funded campaign representing the entire political spectrum telling you what a risky and expensive proposition a so-called con-con would be.
But what you may not know is that even the ballot question itself seems to be part of that campaign. […]
And you may conclude, as I do, that it has only one purpose:
To marginalize the very idea of a con-con by reminding voters how unpopular it was 20 years ago.
*** UPDATE *** A friendly member of the special interest opposition noted that I missed a couple of stories out of Peoria today…
Representatives with the Peoria Area Chamber of Commerce, the League of Women Voters of Greater Peoria, the Illinois Federation of Teachers and the Labor Council of West Central Illinois gathered Monday at Peoria City Hall to voice their disapproval with a referendum they claim will only exacerbate problems in the state.
“We believe it’s inappropriate, unpredictable and expensive,” League President Mary Jane Crowell said.
Two of those very same attributes would apply to our current system.
“The special interest, current political dysfunction in Springfield and party politics may gain control of the delegate election selection process as well as deliberations. So results may be unrepresentative of voters concerns,” said Mary Jane Crowell with the Greater Peoria League of Women Voters.
So, we already know that those three things have a rock-solid grip on our current process, yet the League is currently in, um, league with those very same special interests and masters of political dysfunction and party politics to oppose the con-con. Slightly hypocritical? Surely not! It’s the Leauge of Women Voters, for crying out loud. They are above such associations, except, you know, when they’re not.
*** UPDATE 2 *** Houlihan throws in with the proponents…
Cook County Assessor James Houlihan says he’s decided to urge voters to back a Nov. 4 ballot measure that would, if passed, require the state to convene a constitutional convention, or “con-con.”
Mr. Houlihan says he’s also decided to “bring some money to the table” on behalf of the so-far underfunded pro con-con side. The Cook County Democrat won’t say how much, but it could be substantial, since his political fund had $782,000 in the bank as of June 30, according to a disclosure report filed with the state Board of Elections.
And there are some money problems for the anti’s…
Business groups had pledged to raise $3 million to $5 million to oppose con-con, but amid a sour economy, that effort is lagging, according to a source close to the matter.
I’ve been hearing the same thing for weeks. Organized labor is apparently carrying most of the ball on this one, at least for now.
Officer Taylor was 39. He had been on the force 14 years. He was, we are told, studious and ambitious, and he loved being a cop. He leaves behind a wife and young daughter.
Ask any cop and he or she will tell you — Officer Taylor’s widow and daughter are now family for life to the entire Chicago Police Department, kept close to the heart behind every badge. They will be welcomed to every police picnic, embraced at every police ceremony.
But, as they would be the first to add, it will never be enough.
All the kind words and all the warm embraces can never make up for the loss of one living husband, one living father.
While the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune have earned the headlines in the Tribune shakeup, it’s the company’s other dailies, like The Morning Call in Allentown, Pa., and Florida’s Orlando Sentinel and the South Florida Sun-Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale, that are feeling some of the most significant effects.
Tunney noted that the Daley administration initially wanted the seventh-inning cutoff to apply to all playoff games, not just potential title clinchers. They also wanted to implement it without notice when the Cubs clinched the Central Division championship.
“At the beginning, they didn’t want to do anything [to compromise. But], we listened. We’re all interested in the same goal,” he said.
* 3:31 pm - Martin Ozinga attempts to explain that big contribution to Rod Blagojevich…
Republican congressional candidate Martin Ozinga III said Monday he donated $10,000 to Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s campaign fund so that he and other concrete industry officials could have a private audience to express their concerns to him about state construction projects. […]
But Ozinga said he saw nothing wrong with the private luncheon held with Blagojevich and other concrete and construction industry officials. He said the donation was made at the request of another concrete industry official he did not name. […]
“It’s interesting to me that making contributions to Democrats is automatically considered pay to play,” Ozinga said. “That, in my opinion, is outrageous and I would challenge my opponent or anybody else to show that my company’s benefited in any which way shape or form by making political contributions to anybody.”
Ozinga said his company, Mokena-based Ozinga Bros., does not have any major state contracts, and instead acts as a subcontractor on some construction projects. It does hold a long-time contract with the city of Chicago.
Congressman Weller was the only member of the US House recorded as not voting. Typical.
*** UPDATE 1 *** From a press release issued by Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr….
“To heal the systemic problems in our financial system we need to treat the cause, not only the symptoms. Congress needs to pass and the president needs to sign into law the following provisions: 1) a second stimulus to help those squeezed by the financial crisis; 2) a substantial investment in infrastructure which could jump start the economy while creating jobs, and; 3) a program that helps keep taxpayers in their homes. This bill does not contain provisions that explicitly help borrowers restructure their mortgages. Buying ‘trash (bad mortgages) for cash ($700 billion bailout)’ may not cure our financial system, since it was these bad mortgages that engineered this market collapse,” said Jackson.
After the vote, Republicans claimed that the Democratic leadership had been warned that fewer than 60 Republicans would vote for the bill. Democrats denied the claim, saying they never would have brought the bill to the floor if they had been told there was so little Republican support.
BIGGERT: Everybody seems to be in such a hurry to go home that I don’t think Congress is thinking clearly.
Biggert says the proposal the House voted on today did not go through the normal committee channels, which hurt its odds of passing. She says she would like a rescue bill to include a measure that would beef up the number of FBI inspectors looking into mortgage fraud.
“It was not a gift or a blank check. It provided the federal government the authority to loan money to certain financial institutions so they could resume lending to ordinary Americans. This would have allowed more families to afford their homes, cars and tuition payments and enabled our farmers to continue buying equipment, seed and fertilizer.
“Now it is imperative that we go back to the drawing board and craft new bipartisan legislation that protects Main Street from Wall Street. As we consider our next steps, I will continue to fight to enact stronger protections for homeowners facing foreclosure, something this bill lacked.
“We should also pass an economic stimulus package that creates jobs by investing in our crumbling infrastructure.
“While action is necessary to keep our economy on track, the heavy-handed push from the Bush Administration and this Democrat majority places too great a burden on taxpayers with no guarantee of success. The plan voted on in the House incorporated watered down aspects of executive compensation limits and provided for insufficient use of private capital.
“Unfortunately, negotiations were unable to produce a solution to keep our economy on track without exposing taxpayers to extraordinary risk – this is why the bill failed.
Prior to the vote, LaHood, R-Peoria, said he would back the $700 billion plan because changes made to it in recent days ease the concerns he previously had.
“I think it will give confidence to the market. I think it will give confidence to investors. I think it will give confidence to the American people,” LaHood said.
*** UPDATE 9 *** From Melissa Bean…
“I voted to support Secretary Paulson’s proposal only after working to improve it with limits on executive compensation for those who got us into this mess. I pushed for a strong equity stake for taxpayers, so that when the financial sector profits, taxpayers profit too. And I pushed for strong bipartisan oversight of this unprecedented authority.”
*** UPDATE 10 *** From Rep. Bill Foster…
“Nobody likes the situation we are in, and this bill was far from perfect, but today, in an extremely tough and close vote, I supported the Emergency Economic Stabilization bill to ensure the economic hardships facing our middle-class families and small businesses all over the 14th District would not worsen,” Rep. Foster said. “The bill was the tough medicine we needed to get the economy back on solid footing.”
After the bill failed, as a result political gamesmanship, the New York Stock Exchange lost 777.78 points or 7%. The NASDAQ lost more than 9 percent. According to Bloomberg News, $1.2 trillion in market value was erased from American equities.
Said Foster, “We now know the price of inaction — $1.2 trillion lost today alone. You don’t have to be a scientist or a businessman to know that the $350 billion we were committing to stabilize the market – with good prospects for most of the money being returned over time — was a much better deal for Americans than what happened as a result of the bill being defeated.”
In Springfield, they’re cutting $140 million dollars for school construction across the state. They’re slashing $600 million in health care for the poor, shutting down drug prevention programs and removing funds for gun violence prevention initiatives. They’re even cutting funds to help abused children.
But on November 4th, some people in Springfield want us to spend an estimated $80 million dollars on a constitutional convention.
That’s why Citizen Action/Illinois, along with the Illinois League of Women Voters, the Illinois Federation of Teachers, and many other organizations oppose a constitutional convention.
Let’s send a strong message to the lobbyists, politicians and special interests: Illinois can’t afford $80 million dollars for a con-con when we have so many other priorities.
Learn more about the why you should Vote No on a constitutional convention by visiting http://www.protectillinoisconstitution.org .
Co-Directors, Citizen Action/Illinois
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* The DCCC made a pretty stupid mistake when it waited until just the other day tot release these relatively (in campaign terms) ancient poll numbers…
A Global Strategy Group poll conducted August 17-19 of 400 likely voters with a 4.9% margin of error shows Dan Seals within striking distance of Congressman Mark Kirk 39%-46% with 14% undecided. After voters are informed with each candidates’ message and bio, Dan Seals comes out ahead 45%-40%.
At the presidential level, Illinois Senator Barack Obama leads the district 51%-36% over Senator John McCain. President Bush’s approval rating in the district is an abysmal 21%.
“Republican Congressman Kirk is clearly extremely vulnerable for voting with his Republican leadership 88% of the time,” said DCCC Midwest Regional Press Secretary Ryan Rudominer.
While we still expect Kirk’s lead in polling to close between now and Election Day as Democratic voters “come home,” it is notable that he appears to maintain a significant lead against 2006 Democratic nominee Dan Seals.
Unlike some of his perennially targeted peers, Kirk has been aggressive in going after his opponent early on in the general election campaign. He has leveraged his financial edge over Seals to run ads accusing the Democrat of wanting to raise the capital gains tax and holding a subsidized-gas stunt in the district that clogged traffic and earned a police fine. For his part, Seals will label Kirk as a pro-war Bush ally who is out of touch on the economy and in the pocket of big oil.
Republican polling showing a 20 point gap in this race paints a picture that is likely to fade over the next few weeks, as Democrats ramp up their attacks on Kirk and Seals has more of a chance to tie himself to Obama. But Kirk has run an impressive campaign to date, and has put more distance between his own standing and that of the top of the GOP ticket than we expected. This race is still highly competitive, but for now, it moves back to the Lean Republican column.
That won’t help at all.
* Meanwhile, GOP congressional frontrunner Aaron Schock is still having trouble with that Bush fundraising issue…
State Rep. Aaron Schock’s campaign manager said Friday that if U.S. Sen. Barack Obama’s presidential campaign pays the local costs of police and fire protection during a visit to Springfield last month, then they might consider doing the same for Peoria.
Considering that Springfield is billing Obama’s campaign for a public event that could be attended by anyone for free (unlike Schock’s purely private event that charged an admission price), Schock may have to do more than maybe consider a refund…
A city of Springfield spokesman said the city, behind a policy of Mayor Tim Davlin, will charge Obama’s presidential campaign approximately $50,000 for a visit to the Capitol City on Aug. 23 to announce that Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., would be his running mate.
Police Chief Steven Settingsgaard got his picture taken with President George W. Bush in July, when the president attended a fundraiser at Angus Weaver Farm in support of state Rep. Aaron Schock, who is running for Congress. […]
What we’re not sure about, though, is whether the chief paid the $5,000 asking price for the picture, if he got to keep the photograph for free, or if he even walked off with a photograph. Plus, who was “they?” He declined to answer follow-up questions we had about the picture.
Regardless of the merits of reimbursing the city, this has become a political no-brainer.
This was a statewide poll, but a plurality, 42-33, believed the city was safe. 25 percent were unsure. Even a plurality of self-identified conservatives thought the city was a safe place to live by a 38-35 margin. Just shy of a majority of liberals said it was safe, 48-37. 42 percent of males and females thought it was safe.
The racial disparity, however, was huge.
42 percent of whites thought the city was a safe place to live, while 30 percent said it wasn’t.
But just 18 percent of African-Americans surveyed said Chicago was a safe place to live and a large majority, 59 percent, said it wasn’t safe.
63 percent of those making over $100K a year thought the city was safe, while just 25 percent of those making $20K-$40K said it was safe.
Not surprising, of course, but definitely food for thought. For all its progress, Chicago is still a sharply divided town when it comes to standard of living.
Daley needs to stop stonewalling on this police vacancy situation, own up to the mess and get something done.
Just weeks before he is to be sentenced, political fund-raiser Tony Rezko is in the midst of intense discussions with federal investigators, sources close to the investigation confirmed to the Chicago Sun-Times.
There’s no question federal authorities are interested in Rezko, a former top adviser and fundraiser to Gov. Blagojevich, as a federal witness. But one source who spoke on the condition of anonymity, warned it’s too early to call the discussions full-fledged cooperation.
Already, however, Rezko has provided information to the feds, who are in the process of vetting it, sources said. […]
Rezko not only was privy to inside meetings with the governor, but engaged in numerous real estate dealings with his wife, Patti.
* And the kicker…
One source with knowledge of the investigation into the governor and into his wife Patti Blagojevich’s real estate dealings say the probe is going “at top speed.” [emphasis added]
* The Tribune also uses the governor/wife angle in its story…
[Rezko’s] cooperation would give prosecutors investigating the governor and his wife access to someone they have described as an ultimate political insider at the center of a pervasive pay-to-play scheme. […]
Still, there are indications Rezko has already provided investigators with information.
Four attorneys have told the Tribune in recent days that federal prosecutors have telephoned them and other attorneys either with news Rezko is talking, or armed with details only Rezko could know. The lawyers speculated prosecutors are using the preliminary talks with Rezko to shake loose more cooperation from other witnesses.
“I had very recent a conversation with an assistant U.S. attorney that led me to believe they were getting specific information from either Mr. Rezko or Mr. Rezko’s lawyer,” said a defense attorney who said he represents a figure in the case.
*** UPDATE *** Check out the comments by the BGA guy in this CLTV report…
* Considering all the recent reports that Tony Rezko is talking, possibly related to some of Ali Ata’s stories about alleged corruption involving the governor, the timing of this story seems like a bit of a coinkydink…
Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s administration has canceled a lucrative office lease with a convicted former state agency director who testified in the corruption trial of Antoin “Tony” Rezko.
The decision, announced Friday, came four months after the Tribune reported that Ali Ata had failed to disclose the names of his partners in that lease and three old leases, as required by law.
Ata was in line to receive up to $13 million under a contract extending to 2018 for a South Side office building used by the Illinois Department of Human Services.
Ata was a onetime associate of Rezko, the Blagojevich fundraiser convicted on federal charges that he used his political clout to orchestrate a multimillion-dollar kickback scheme.
* This next one just doesn’t surprise me. Another splashy gubernatorial press conference to announce a sexy initiative that has a totally bungled follow-through…
With deaths on the rise in highway construction zones, the state cracked down four years ago by mandating stiff fines for motorists caught speeding by high-tech photo enforcement.
Yet so far this year, Cook County has not recorded a single conviction carrying the hefty fines and court costs, a Tribune analysis of court records has found. The vast majority of offenders saw the charges dismissed outright or reduced to a regular speeding ticket with much smaller fines and penalties.
Enforcement of the law appears spotty in DuPage County as well.
The supervising judge over Traffic Court in Chicago expressed surprise at the results, while Cook County prosecutors blamed poor photo quality for many of the cases being thrown out by judges or passed over for prosecution.
* The Post-Dispatch runs a very well-researched story today about alleged spending abuses in the Illinois Capital Litigation Trust Fund…
— The fund has become a magnet for investigators and experts who travel to Illinois from all over the country to participate in trials, and a full-time income source for area professionals. One Springfield investigator’s website states that the fund “created an opening … to go into business” for himself.
— Defense professionals routinely charge private-sector rates to the tax-funded system, sometimes billing hundreds of dollars an hour for making phone calls, driving, flying — even packing suitcases. Many have earned six figures from the fund; a couple have approached the $1 million mark.
— Prosecutors, too, have been allowed to bill the state fund for death penalty trials, a fact that some critics believe encourages them to seek the death penalty in murder trials, pushing costs onto the state instead of their home counties. Records show some prosecutors used death penalty trials as justification to bill the state for office equipment, computers and inmate medical care, all normally county expenses.
— Three years after the Legislature revised the fund’s rules in response to reported abuses, there remain few limitations on how much can be billed, and for what. Cost control rests with presiding judges who, swamped with stacks of bills and hesitant to taint their trials, are under pressure to approve just about any voucher that’s put in front of them.
A Metro East private investigator has been the biggest beneficiary of the state’s death penalty fund.
Alva Busch, a retired Illinois State Police crime scene technician prone to wearing an Indiana Jones-style hat and suspenders, has billed the Illinois death penalty fund more than $920,000 over about five years through his company, Metro Investigations.
A Post-Dispatch review of records show Busch, 60, has worked on more than 20 death penalty cases from Belleville to Chicago.
His billing hours range from as many as 49 hours (a total of $3,185.00) billed on one day to a quarter of an hour ($18) to send an e-mail.
On a Cook County death penalty case, he billed 1.5 hours — the time it took him to prepare billing statements for the previous two years. On April 16, 2007, he billed $65 — or one hour —to send trial exhibits through UPS. […]
Busch was allowed to bill for hundreds of dollars in “out of pocket” expenses, but rules governing the fund don’t require itemized receipts.
$88,000 - Charge for bringing in Harvard psychiatrist as a witness
$10,000 - Cost to build mock-up of crime scene that was never used
$9,500 - Bills for “attempts to locate witness,” at $75 per hour
$360 - Charge for 80 minutes it took expert witness to pack for flight
$97 - Bill for 90 minutes spent making $17 in copies at Kinko’s
$18 - Investigator’s bill for sending an e-mail
After what has happened in the last few days, it’s more likely that Gov. Rod Blagojevich will be indicted or impeached or both.
* The Trib goes on to reference the allegations of a stepped-up investigation against Blagojevich and his wife, and last week’s appellate court ruling which stopped the governor from implementing a new program without legislative approval. The Tribsters say all we can do is wait and see what Patrick Fitzgerald does, but…
Blagojevich’s attempt to go around lawmakers and spend money they didn’t approve for a vast health care program may be just as insidious as his pay-to-play politics. His effort to expand health care through the program known as FamilyCare was soundly rejected by the Illinois legislature. But he did it anyway, spending millions of dollars to broaden eligibility for state-funded health care to people with higher family incomes.
* And that leads us to the Tribune’s flip-flop on impeachment…
Earlier this year, this page strongly supported a movement to give voters the chance, through a constitutional amendment, to recall public officials. We said at the time that impeachment of the governor shouldn’t be pursued. But this court ruling on his health care gamble gives reason to revisit that.
Democratic Rep. Jack Franks has encouraged House Speaker Michael Madigan to convene a committee to investigate if articles of impeachment are warranted. That seems like a sound idea.
So, they’re not exactly in favor of impeachment, just in favor of holding hearings to see whether impeachment is warranted. But that’s a start. The Blagojevich administration was spinning last June’s wishy-washy editorial as a stern warning against holding preliminary impeachment hearings. I can’t wait to see the react to this one.
People living in Chicago and nearby suburbs face some of the highest risks in the nation for cancer, lung disease and other health problems linked to toxic chemicals pouring from industry smokestacks, according to a Tribune analysis of federal data.
It is an office of enormous power. Simply by starting an investigation, a prosecutor can savage a person’s life. We raise this issue because Peraica, for all his strengths, has revealed a habit of attacking first and mastering the details later, a troubling trait for someone who wants to be the county’s top criminal prosecutor.
In one instance, for example, Peraica turned a fair shot into a cheap shot. He appropriately questioned whether Alvarez was wise to pick Robert Clifford, a powerhouse personal injury lawyer who has sued the county in the past, to be her campaign finance chairman. Alvarez’s response is that if a conflict of interest were to arise, she would deal with it openly.
But Peraica went on to suggest that Alvarez somehow violated legal ethics and the law by turning over to Clifford various criminal court files in the case of Girl X, the 9-year-old girl who was raped and beaten in 1997. Clifford was representing Girl X in a civil suit. In truth, Alvarez did not personally turn over any files to Clifford. Rather, he obtained the files through the routine, legal and entirely appropriate discovery process.