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This just in…

Wednesday, Dec 3, 2008

* 4:23 pm - What a stupid thing to do

Just days after shuttering several state parks and historic sites and asking for understanding from Illinoisans amid bleak economic times, Gov. Rod Blagojevich took his taxpayer-provided aircraft to Philadelphia to tell fellow Chicagoan Barack Obama how bad things are in the state they both live in.

Blagojevich spokesman Lucio Guerrero defended the trip and use of the state plane, noting that if the governor hadn’t gone, he’d surely have faced media criticism for his absence.

“This was a historic meeting that was attended by virtually every governor in the United States and our being there could help brings billions of dollars to Illinois,” Guerrero said Wednesday in an e-mail responding to Daily Herald questions. […]

“And, had we not gone out, I am sure you would question us on why we failed to go out and meet with the other governors and the President-elect,” Guerrero added. […]

“And lastly, it’s naive to think that we can just call a meeting with Obama because he ‘lives just a few miles away.’ The President-elect has made it very clear that no state - not even his home state - would get any special treatment or favors. The economic situation facing Illinois is real and we need help. The governor will take that message to the President-elect any way he can,” Guerrero said.

Blagojevich can’t call a local meeting with Obama because Obama wouldn’t attend. Barack ain’t no fool.

* It’s amazing to me that Blagojevich apparently didn’t learn from what happened to the Big 3 auto CEOs when they flew their corporate planes to DC to beg for money. Is he just completely daft?

“Hi, I am in desperate need of a federal bailout, which is why I spent thousands and thousands of taxpayer dollars to fly myself and my staff to this meeting.”

Ever heard of commercial flights, guv?

How do I know the governor took his staff to Philly? This is from the Philadelphia Daily News’ version of Sneed

Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich dined Monday with staff at Ralph’s (760 S. 9th). The table ordered veal and chicken parmigiania and fettucine Alfredo.

I sure hope we didn’t pay for that. [UPDATE: The governor’s office assures me that the state did not pay for the meal.]

* 4:33 pm - Attorney General Madigan today when asked about Sen. Durbin’s request that George Ryan’s sentence be commuted to time served…

“I respect the work that Dick Durbin has done for the people of the State of Illinois, but I think he is wrong to seek a commutation of Former Gov. Ryan’s sentence.

“As a prosecutor, we see the impact that crimes have on the victims. In this case, the 6 Willis children and the almost 13 million people of the State were harmed by what George Ryan did.

“His case was prosecuted and he was sentenced to 6 ½ years in prison, he should serve his time. Every person who is sent to prison suffers as do their families. This is a consequence of committing a crime.”

- Posted by Rich Miller   38 Comments      

More Obama replacement follies *** UPDATED X2 ***

Wednesday, Dec 3, 2008

* Plenty of rumors today - including from a national reporter acquaintance - that Secretary of State Jesse White is back on the governor’s short-list for the US Senate. But his spokesman just said - for probably the fiftieth time - that JW doesn’t want the job.

* I’ve asked that the Post-Dispatch post the audio of this interview, but for now we’ll have to settle for this quote from Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr. regarding the appointment to Barack Obama’s vacant Senate seat…

“I am the ideal, the best and the most qualified person,” Jackson said in an unusual conference call he requested with Post-Dispatch editorial writers this morning…

He’s so humble.

* This video clip posted by PI demonstrates why Chuck Todd is one of the best DC correspondents alive…

That Matthews guy is really difficult to watch, man.

* Sam Boyd at the American Prospect seems to be catching on to how goofy this appointment process has become, but he also seems to think that appointing Emil Jones to the seat would make everybody happy.

Here’s why that wouldn’t be a great idea

So Jones, who is retiring as president of the state senate, is a perfect choice. Didn’t he resign just in time for his ward boss buddies to install his son, Emil III, on the November ballot unopposed? Didn’t he help Blagojevich in his blood feud with House Speaker Mike Madigan, turning the General Assembly into a do-nothing quagmire of epic proportions?

So governor, pick your pal Jones.

In order to bring real change to Illinois, the public needs to get a lot angrier than it is. This will really help.


*** UPDATE 1 *** Politico’s Josh Kraushaar believes he can read the governor’s mind…

Here are the five most likely contenders for the appointment


*** UPDATE 2 *** The complete audio of Congressman Jackson’s interview with the Post-Dispatch can be found at this link.

- Posted by Rich Miller   41 Comments      

No Daley? And Alexi repeats himself

Wednesday, Dec 3, 2008

* I was getting regular phone calls from Bill Daley for months, almost like clockwork. He’d always tout his gubernatorial prospects and downplay any worries about a possible Madigan vs. Daley war. But Daley’s calls stopped a few weeks before the election and I haven’t heard from him since. I reached out to him this morning, but haven’t heard back yet, so I thought I’d go ahead and post today’s Sneedling

Sneed hears rumbles that former U.S. Commerce Secretary Bill Daley, who’s on Barack Obama’s transition team, is less and less interested in running for governor.

• • To wit: And word is that Daley has no interest in moving to Washington, D.C. Hmmm. Stay tuned.

* Also, there was no real news in this story from today, but it’ll give you something else to chew on besides Daley…

State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias said Tuesday that he’s considering a run for governor in 2010.

“I’ve been thinking about it,” he told the editorial board of The State Journal-Register in a telephone call from his Chicago office.

“You see what’s been going on in Springfield, and you see a lack of leadership,” said Giannoulias, 32, of Chicago. […]

“When you make those kinds of moves, you start thinking, ‘You know what? Why can’t we do the same thing in the governor’s office?’” Giannoulias said.


- Posted by Rich Miller   88 Comments      

Question of the day

Wednesday, Dec 3, 2008

* It’s time once again to open nominations for our second annual Golden Horseshoe award.

Today’s categories are…

1) Best state legislative staffer

2) Best state legislative secretary/admin assistant

3) Best political bar/restaurant in Springfield (must be currently operational)

Please keep in mind that this contest is not just based on the number of votes, but on the intensity of each vote. So, if you don’t explain your vote, or don’t explain it well, it will have far less weight or not be counted at all, depending on my mood.

Also, no negativity and no snark. Thanks.

- Posted by Rich Miller   58 Comments      

Our horrible cash crunch

Wednesday, Dec 3, 2008

* You’ve probably already heard about the nation’s governors asking for money from Barack Obama…

Forty-eight governors met with President-elect Barack Obama [yesterday] to press their case for a federal package to help them weather the U.S. recession that began in December 2007.

The state executives want an assistance plan to create jobs through infrastructure projects, such as highways, and to aid with programs such as unemployment benefits, food stamps and health care for the poor, said Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, chairman of the National Governors Association. Rendell said more than $130 billion in infrastructure projects are waiting to go ahead if funding is secured.

“We’re not asking for the federal government to bail us out,” Blagojevich said. “We will do our part.”

* But Gov. Schwarzenegger says he wants to get his own house in order before asking for federal money…

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who declared a fiscal emergency yesterday in California, said the state won’t accept federal money until it balances out its books.

The governor has proposed $4.7 billion in increased taxes and fees and $4.5 billion in spending cuts to close a shortfall of $11 billion. He said he is hopeful lawmakers will approve his plan, and he won’t accept federal aid until the state balances its budget.

“I’m an optimist,” he said. “We cannot ask the federal government for help until we get our act together in California.”

* Gov. Blagojevich, on the other hand, wants federal money to patch existing holes in the state’s budget. The state’s fiscal crisis is spreading fast

Urbana schools are owed more than $2.6 million by the state of Illinois, and if the state doesn’t start paying up, the schools will probably be broke by mid-March, said Urbana school district Business Manager Carol Baker.

At the school board’s Tuesday meeting, Baker and David Adcock, the director of Urbana Adult Education, said the funds were overdue since August.


By the way, the state will probably be flat broke by mid-March as well. We’re heading for a huge crisis, campers.

* The Urbana school board probably doesn’t have the flexibility to close loopholes with massive privatization schemes like Chicago

Rates for most city parking meters will increase to $1 an hour starting Jan. 1 as a result of Mayor Richard Daley’s deal to lease the spots for $1.1 billion to a private firm.

Two-third of the city’s meters now cost 25 cents an hour, but once the paperwork is finalized, any metered spot costing less than $1 per hour will increase to $1 next year, city officials said today. And by 2013, those same metered spots will cost $2 an hour, according to City Hall.

The most expensive meters, which are found in the Loop, cost $3 an hour now. They will increase to $3.50 an hour next year and $6.50 by 2013.

* More

Daley plans to use the nearly $1.2 billion in proceeds to pump $400 million into a long-term reserve fund, $325 million to help balance city budgets through 2012 and $100 million on programs to support residents in need. The remainder — about $324 million — would be a rainy-day fund “to help bridge the period until the nation’s economy begins to grow again,” he said.

* Eventually, the city is gonna run out of stuff to sell. But Daley will (hopefully) be long gone by then. This is a very good point

REDFIELD: It’s an indication that the current revenue structure, property taxes, sales taxes, revenue sharing from the state, isn’t sufficient to allow the city to keep doing the basic things that it’s doing.

Kent Redfield teaches political science at the University of Illinois at Springfield. He says a lot of cities across the country are leasing assets. But Chicago stands out.

REDFIELD: Now we’re talking about six billion dollars or so of assets over a fairly short period of time.

Redfield says privatization can work, but there’s an inherent danger to it. That, essentially, the city is giving up control of things like the Skyway and parking meters, infrastructure central to transportation and getting around town. That can undermine other aspects of how the city operates, down to the basic level of industry and commerce. Despite what Redfield sees as dangers, some aldermen are still on board.

* Related…

* Shortage of road salt, soaring prices vex states

* News conference to address parks closings

* Proposed rate increases

* Unfiltered: Daley Discusses Proposed Parking Meter Increase

* Questions and answers on the Chicago parking-meter deal

* Financial Mismanagement Caused Illinois’ Backlog of Bills

* Expect Changes in Chicago’s Snow Removal Service This Winter

- Posted by Rich Miller   29 Comments      

This clemency circus won’t end soon

Wednesday, Dec 3, 2008

* Fitz is staying out of the fray

U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald won’t say publicly what he thinks about some politicians’ calls to free George Ryan from prison. Fitzgerald’s office prosecuted the corruption case against the former Illinois governor.

FITZGERALD: The way the system is set up, if the White House or the Justice Department asks a U.S. Attorney’s office for their opinion, we’ll give them our candid opinion privately, but we’re not going to opine publicly.

It’s not too difficult to imagine what that “candid opinion” would be.

* But Mark Kirk jumps right in

Rejecting an idea endorsed by two top Democrats, Republican North Shore Rep. Mark Kirk sent a letter to the White House [yesterday] asking President George Bush not to commute the federal corruption sentence of former Republican Gov. George Ryan.

* As does Kirk’s fellow GOP congresscritter Tim Johnson

“I am 100 percent and strongly opposed to any pardon for George Ryan,” added Johnson.

Um, Tim, he’s not asking for a pardon.

* Other politicos are tip-toeing away from the issue

An aide to retiring U.S. Rep. Ray LaHood of Peoria suggested LaHood probably would not return phone calls because the Ryan-Durbin dust-up isn’t a subject he wants to talk about.

Rock Island Democrat Phil Hare also didn’t want to get pulled into the matter.

“Congressman Hare believes that it is President Bush’s decision whether or not to commute Governor Ryan’s sentence and has no further comment,” spokesman Tim Schlittner noted in an e-mail message.

But you gotta figure that this issue will give Republicans an easy way to distance themselves from past GOP corruption. So, we can probably expect more statements of outrage.

* Here’s an interesting tidbit that I missed the other day, probably because it was buried at the very end of an article…

Durbin said he would not ask Obama to commute Ryan’s sentence if Bush doesn’t.

So, he won’t put his own guy on the hot seat?

* The Daily Herald quotes some folks who think the whole idea is a long shot at best

Bush is an ardent death penalty supporter, having presided over more than 130 executions during his tenure as Texas governor.

It’s among the myriad reasons observers and experts doubt the effort to free Ryan will be successful, pointing to Bush’s general reluctance so far to use his clemency powers and a lack of political angles that would seem to make Ryan fit as an exception.

“I think it’s a long shot for a couple reasons,” said Dan Kobil, a law professor at Capital University in Columbus, Ohio, who studies executive clemency. “One, he hasn’t served that much of his sentence.

“He doesn’t have the personal or the political connection with Bush that Scooter Libby had.” […]

“I don’t think Bush is going to do it because I simply don’t think he’ll want to do it. What’s in it for him?” said [Paul Green], director of Roosevelt University’s School of Policy Studies. “If there’s no political motive, it’s tough to figure out what Bush would do. There’s no, in my thinking, logic to any of this.”

* And Phil Kadner is on a roll

Federal sentences are truer, but even when the evidence is overwhelming, as in the case of former Gov. George Ryan, judges are reluctant to hit elected officials with a maximum sentence. That’s why Ryan got a 6 1 / 2 - year term instead of the 10 years sought by federal prosecutors.

In the eyes of judges and lawmakers, corrupt government officials aren’t as bad as street criminals who rape, beat and murder people.

I contend their crimes are far worse. The damage they inflict on society is more widespread and longer lasting than any harm done by a violent criminal.

Indeed, if all the victims at a public corruption trial were allowed to testify at sentencing the line would stretch from Springfield to Chicago.

* Speaking of presidential mercy

A West Side alderman is urging President Bush to pardon Larry Bloom, the City Council’s self-proclaimed “Mr. Clean” who got down in the mud with an undercover FBI mole.

Bloom, a former 5th Ward alderman, pleaded guilty in 1998 to a single felony tax charge stemming from the Operation Silver Shovel corruption probe. He served six months at the federal prison camp in Oxford, Wis., before being released on Nov. 1, 1999.

Now Ald. Ed Smith (28th) is urging President Bush to “expunge” Bloom’s conviction with a pardon.

“He committed a crime. He paid his dues. He got brought down. But he has the ability and the heart to be very productive and really help people. Why not let him do that?” Smith said.

* Related…

* For Sen. Durbin, triumph and tragedy - A senator at the top of his career. A father at the depths of his grief. A man at a crossroads.

* Should Ryan serve less time than Scott Fawell?

* Republican congressmen oppose Ryan release

* Colleague Wants Pardon For Former Ald. Bloom

- Posted by Rich Miller   23 Comments      

Mixed signals galore in Obama replacement decision

Wednesday, Dec 3, 2008

* Here’s a great example of how screwed up the replacement process is for President-Elect Barack Obama’s Senate seat. Late last month, Congresscritter Luis Gutierrez said he was out of the running because he only wanted the slot for two years

Gutierrez met with Gov. Blagojevich and told the governor he would like to be a “caretaker” senator for the next two years working to get comprehensive immigration reform passed in the Senate instead of fund-raising to get re-elected to the Senate in 2010, Gutierrez said.

But Blagojevich said he was looking for someone who wanted the post long-term, Gutierrez said. “It’s basically over — unless he calls me back,” Gutierrez said.

* Lynn Sweet talked to His Eminence by phone yesterday and Gov. Blagojevich said Gutierrez was mistaken

“Not a deal-breaker,” the governor said. While Blagojevich has a strong preference to pick someone who will try to keep the seat, he said if he found “the right person,” it “wouldn’t necessarily preclude him or her from being the choice.”

Maybe he was just telling Gutierrez that Luis wasn’t “the right person,” or maybe the governor changed his mind, or maybe Gutierrez misunderstood, or maybe we can’t believe anything. I lean towards the latter.

* Sen. Dick Durbin disclosed recently that when he finally spoke with Blagojevich, the governor mentioned about 20 possible appointees. That’s a long list, and anybody could be on it, which is one reason why I cracked that joke to Laura Washington at Thom Serafin’s party last week…

The joker is wild. The joker, aka Gov. Blagojevich, is at the center of the state’s hottest political adventure. Last week, amid the chattering din at political operative Thom Serafin’s holiday soiree, I put the question of the season to Rich Miller: “Who will Blagojevich anoint as Barack Obama’s U.S. Senate replacement?”

“Who knows?” replied the Springfield wise man who runs the Capitol Fax news service. “Maybe you.”

Gasp. Seriously, Rich.

“Who knows? Who knows? Who knows?”

So I ran down just a few choice names out of the many in the hopper: Davis, Schakowsky, Gutierrez, Madigan, Duckworth, Chico, Jackson, Giannoulias, Jones, Raoul, Peters, Collins, Seals, Pritzker . . .

Who knows, who knows, who knows?

Miller, who has expertly skewered Blago’s missteps for years, knows that this joker is wild, unpredictable and having a ball. Illinois may be in an economic meltdown, and the feds may be hovering, but the governor is enjoying the speculation spotlight. He’s taking calls and dangling names. In one brief chat with U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, the gov tossed around 20 possibilities.

Who knows?

* What I also tried to explain to Washington was that the governor has not acted rationally for a very long while. To those, including myself, who have said in the past that the governor would make a choice which is in his best interest, I now say: How can a six-year governor with a 13 percent job approval rating truly understand what’s in his best political interest?

* Back to Lynn Sweet’s column

In a phone interview, I asked Blagojevich if he considered the vacancy an African-American seat. “I think it is a factor of a great deal of weight in my mind but it is not the only factor or the only consideration, and somebody could be the next Barack Obama who happens not to be the African American, and that person would be hard not to make a U.S. senator.”

There is no “next Barack Obama” in Illinois. He’s one of a kind.

More from the guv

“it would be very good if all the factors converged and if an African-American candidate would fit that bill . . . and that certainly would be the best of all worlds, and that’s possible, but that by itself is not the only consideration.”


* But the race factor is heating up as an issue. Bobby Rush attended a press conference this week and laid down the gauntlet

Rush said it would be a “national disgrace” if Obama’s seat were not filled by an African American.

* There are plenty who say that African-Americans shouldn’t view this as a “black seat.” That has some weight in local politics, but there are no other African-Americans in the US Senate right now, so it is a legitimate national concern.

The problem is whom should Blagojevich pick? Black politicians seem pretty united in the view that there should be an African-American replacement

“We need someone there that’s going to represent us and have a voice,” said State Rep. Mary Flowers, (D) Chicago.

“We think we ought to replace one with one. And so that is our request,” said Jerry Butler, Cook Co. Commissioner.

But black politicians, themselves, are divided

“I happen to believe that I am the best possible replacement that he can find,” [Congressman Danny Davis] said.

Davis is West Side. Jesse Jackson, Jr. is South Side. Emil Jones is also South Side, but he despises Jackson.

* Back to Sweet

Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) is waging an overt drive. I asked Blagojevich what he thought of Jackson’s public campaign.

Blagojevich offered a response I took as lukewarm, but I may be reading too much into his measured comments.

“He’s got a right to do it,” Blagojevich said, “and he obviously believes in himself as a candidate for the United States Senate and his public campaign is, you know, something he obviously believes appropriate and helpful, and all power to him.”

It’s quite a spectacle. Perhaps Laura Washington would be the best choice after all, but I’m sticking with Bill.

* Related…

* Zorn: It’s awfully late in the game to be appointing a senator

* Judge sets early date for Rezko corruption sentencing

* Judge sets sentencing date for Tony Rezko

[We have a new post up on this same subject so I’m closing comments on this one. Go here]

- Posted by Rich Miller   26 Comments      

Morning Shorts

Wednesday, Dec 3, 2008

* U.S. Steel to idle Granite City Works steel mill

Lower demand for steel used in the automotive and construction industries is leading United States Steel Corp. to temporarily idle the Granite City Works steel mill and two others, the company said late Tuesday afternoon.

As of mid-November, the Granite City plant employed more than 2,100 hourly workers and salaried employees. U.S. Steel would not say Tuesday how many of the area workers would be laid off but said about 3,500 workers across the three plants would be affected.

Few other details were available Tuesday evening.

Neither the company nor United Steelworkers Local 1899, which represents workers at Granite City Works, could say how long workers would be laid off.

* Making sense of crime during a recession isn’t so clear-cut

In Chicago, property crimes are up more than 3 percent and robberies even more so, in excess of 9 percent.

In fact, crime rates across the country have gone up in every recession since the 1950s, said Richard Rosenfeld, a criminology professor at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

Still, other factors could be at work. An increase in the population of males between 17 and 25—the gender and age of typical offenders—can be a contributing factor to a rise in crime.

* Attorneys for Bensenville claim proposed O’Hare expansion is unconstitutional

* Milwaukee neighborhoods could print own money

It’s not a new concept—experts estimate there are at least 2,000 local currencies all over the world—but it is a practice that tends to burgeon during economic downturns. During the Great Depression, scores of communities relied on their own currencies.

And it’s completely legal.

* Radio static: Stroger takes on Claypool

What followed was the first unofficial broadcast debate between Stroger and Claypool 14 months before their highly anticipated — but not yet confirmed — showdown for board presidency in the 2010 Democratic primary.

* Stroger, Claypool take feud to radio

* Press Release: Citizens’ Lawsuit Challenges $62 Million Dollar Uptown TIF

* Tax relief could keep many in their homes

Cook County Assessor James Houlihan has come up with a temporary, yet well considered, solution to ease the pain. Under a plan he has proposed, if the property taxes you pay exceed 5 percent of your household income, you would get a one-time relief check, up to $700.

* FBI: Police officers, jail guards were muscle for ‘drug deals’

* Where corrupt officials learn to share

* Harvey cop allegedly suggested where to do drug deals

“The best spot for ya’ll to do that, believe it or not, is the train station,” Stallworth allegedly said. “Fast-food places, that’s where we be looking.”

* 15 officers caught in FBI drug sting

* Ex-cop convicted of conspiracy

* Giannoulias: Pension proposal worth fight

* Giannoulias: No estimate for layoffs under pension plan

* State Capitol Q&A: State government jobs

* Justin Oberman latest name in 5th District race to replace Rahm Emanuel

* Marin: Carpenters Union Shafts Members?

But Prate fought back. And gathered evidence. And went to court. And ultimately into binding arbitration.

If you want to read the decision of arbitrator James P. Martin, it’s a great read. Martin, who is 82 and has 44 years of experience arbitrating more than 3,000 cases without ever being reversed, wrote the following:

“Mr. Prate would be a very unlikely candidate for work as an adviser to a charm school. . . . However, his record in this matter is truly impressive: years of fighting the union, at great cost and with little success, and an indomitable determination not to be walked upon.” Martin found “Mr. Prate to be true and honest,” with a mound of evidence to back him up. The union leadership, he determined, “vindictively makes Prate unequal” to other companies.

- Posted by Kevin Fanning   19 Comments      

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Wednesday, Dec 3, 2008

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- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      

This just in…

Tuesday, Dec 2, 2008

* 12:18 pm - Wow. From the US Attorney…

A six-passenger, twin propeller engine aircraft flew on May 13 this year into west suburban DuPage Airport where three men awaited its arrival. Two of them – Ahyetoro A. Taylor and Raphael Manuel, both Cook County Sheriff’s Office Correctional Officers – accompanied an individual whom they believed brokered large-scale drug transactions but, in fact, was an undercover FBI agent. They boarded the aircraft, which was operated by two other undercover agents, and began counting packages of what was purported to be at least 80 kilograms of cocaine stashed inside four duffel bags. Taylor, Manuel and the undercover agent they accompanied removed the duffels from the plane and took them through the airport lobby to the trunk of the agent’s car in the parking lot. Taylor and Manuel, in a separate car, followed the agent to a nearby retail parking lot, where the agent parked and got into the officers’ vehicle. Together, the trio watched as yet another undercover agent arrived, removed the duffels from the trunk of the parked car, placed them in a Mercedes and drove away. The FBI agent posing as the drug broker then paid Taylor and Manuel $4,000 each - allegedly their most profitable payday in the corrupt relationship they began with the undercover agent at least a year earlier.

The undercover agent, while posing as an employee of a business in south suburban Harvey, was the hub in multiple spokes of police corruption in which Taylor and Manuel – often together with other officers they recruited – allegedly provided armed security for purported cocaine and heroin transactions throughout the south suburbs in 2007 and 2008. The investigation resulted in the unsealing today of federal charges against 17 defendants – 15 of them sworn law enforcement officers, including 10 Cook County Sheriff’s Office Correctional Officers , 4 Village of Harvey police officers and a Chicago police officer. The defendants allegedly accepted between $400 and $4,000 each on one or more occasions to serve as lookouts and be ready to intervene in the event real police or rival drug dealers attempted to interfere with any of a dozen different purported transfers of kilogram quantities of cocaine and heroin.

Today’s arrests and charges were announced by Patrick J. Fitzgerald, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, and Robert D. Grant, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. They commended the assistance of the Cook County Sheriff’s Office in the investigation.

All 17 defendants were charged with conspiracy to possess and distribute kilogram quantities of cocaine and/or heroin in eight separate criminal complaints that were unsealed following arrests early today.

The full press release is here.

* 2:48 pm - From the Tribune

Officers allegedly were paid up to $4,000 each as they served as lookouts and prepared to step in if law enforcement cracked down on the operations, authorities said. The undercover investigation run by the FBI allegedly saw officers protecting poker games and transporting cash.

Fourteen of the defendants were either arrested or surrendered today and are expected to make initial appearances in U.S. District Court this afternoon.

Two of the officers are accused of selling powder cocaine, and all are charged with conspiracy to possess and sell drugs.

An undercover agent acting as a drug dealer allegedly paid 16 of the defendants some $44,000 during the course of the investigation. In once incident, corrections officers Ahyetoro Taylor and Raphael Manuel met the undercover agent at the DuPage Airport, where they allegedly helped count what they believed were 80 kilograms of cocaine. The officers each were paid $4,000 for helping with the shipment.

Authorities said the undercover agent posed as an employee of a Harvey business that was not identified. It was described by authorities as the “hub in multiple spokes of police corruption” as Manuel and Taylor recruited officers to help them.

- Posted by Rich Miller   53 Comments      

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Tuesday, Dec 2, 2008

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Question of the day

Tuesday, Dec 2, 2008

* You may have seen this

Budget restraints have halted drug testing of applicants for child-welfare jobs at the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services.

Drug screening was required for anyone seeking positions at DCFS or its private contractors that deal directly with children or families.

* A longer AP story included this bit

Other state agencies test for drugs. Prison-system and state police workers must be clean to get a job and then face random tests. State workers with access to nuclear facilities and people who want state jobs that require driving commercial vehicles such as trucks also must pass, officials said.

* The Question: When, if ever, should state employees be tested for drug use, including marijuana? Explain fully.

- Posted by Rich Miller   32 Comments      

Durbin backlash gaining strength

Tuesday, Dec 2, 2008

* Phil Kadner whacks Sen. Dick Durbin but good for asking that the president commute George Ryan’s prison sentence…

[Durbin] sides with Ryan’s pitiful wife, apparently forgetting the story of Tammy Raynor.

Raynor worked at a driver’s license facility under Ryan and saw the bribe-taking. When she protested, she was harassed. Her life was threatened. She was transferred.

But wherever she worked, she took notes on the corruption that she saw and stuffed them in the pockets of a multi-colored winter coat that she wore even in the summer.

At one point, Raynor claimed her mother passed Ryan’s wife a note, at a fundraising event, explaining the situation Raynor was in. Ryan’s wife, the woman Durbin feels so bad for today, said she never got the note.

I believe Raynor, whose testimony helped send Ryan to prison.

Durbin feels bad for Ryan. He feels bad for Ryan’s wife.

But he feels no sympathy for the honest people who live in this corruption-infested state.

I’m not surprised. You don’t get to be a U.S. senator from Illinois thinking about the little people.

* Mark Brown is outraged

It’s hard to be against mercy. We all should strive to be merciful and compassionate.

But we also ought to have some standards as to when we show mercy, and the line doesn’t start with crooked politicians who fight, stall and postpone their convictions until they’re old enough to be considered more sympathetic.

Let me preface anything else I say with this: I’ve always liked Durbin. I respect him. I think he tries to be a decent public servant. But I think he’s so wrong on this one it’s ridiculous, as was his attempt at justifying his decision.

Basically, it all boils down to the fact he knows the Ryans personally and is therefore familiar with what a hardship the ex-governor’s prison sentence has been on Mrs. Ryan in particular.

He explained his decision in the context of spending his entire public life trying to correct government injustices of one sort or another that have been brought to his attention by members of the public. He chalked up the Ryan clemency bid as just one more example of that.

When pressed, though, Durbin said he couldn’t remember ever seeking clemency on behalf of anybody else. And he also backpedaled from the notion that Ryan was the victim of any injustice.

* The Sun-Times editorial board examines some problems with Durbin’s logic

The senator’s notion of fairness is not informed by the facts in Ryan’s case.

If Ryan is released early, he will have spent less time in prison than two friends convicted in the case — Ryan’s aide, Scott Fawell, who did the dirty work, and businessman Lawrence Warner, who profited from the dirty deals.

Hardly fair or proportionate.

Often, special early release is reserved for the most penitent of prisoners. Ryan is the exact opposite. Years after his conviction, he has yet to apologize to the people of Illinois or, more specifically, to the Willis family, who lost six children in a fiery crash in 1994. Ryan’s corrupt secretary of state office gave a license to the unqualified truck driver involved in that crash.

Durbin said he hopes Ryan will apologize — when he gets out.

What a backward notion. And again, hardly fair.

Even if Ryan were to apologize while standing on the prison steps, we would have to question his sincerity. Ryan’s wife has said his conscience is clear.

* The Tribune editorial board published an open letter today to President Bush…

President Bush, you know George Ryan as an affable governor from your past. The people of Illinois know him as a criminal whose first-tier legal team couldn’t sway jurors from convicting him on 18 corruption counts.

We urge you, Mr. Bush, not to tell the preyed-upon people of Illinois that public corruption doesn’t matter.

We urge you to demonstrate that the difficult work of courts and jurors does matter.

We urge you not to free George Ryan.

* And the Daily Herald, like just about everybody else, brings up the dead Willis children

George Ryan wants to spend time with his family. We think he should continue to reflect in prison on the fact that a bribery scandal in the secretary of state’s office he led resulted in the deaths of the six children of Rev. Scott and Janet Willis.

Our sympathies lie with them.

* Sneed is Sneed

Sen. Dick Durbin, who asked President Bush for former Gov. George Ryan’s freedom Monday, feels he did so with approval.

• • The approval? Whenever Durbin faces a tough decision, he “thinks about what the late Sen. Paul Simon, a very compassionate man, would have done,” said a Sneed source.

• • The upshot: “Durbin believes Simon would have given a nod of approval to his action. Paul Simon is his North Star when it comes to politics,” the source added.

• • Backshot: In a rare expression of public compassion from a politician, Sen. Durbin gets Sneed’s award for bravery. It’s not easy knowing you’re going to be flooded with hate mail for doing what you think is the right thing. Sneed is told Sen. Durbin was inundated with negative messages the day after he announced he was thinking about asking President Bush to commute Ryan’s federal corruption sentence.

- Posted by Rich Miller   65 Comments      

Whatever happened to the city hall probe? *** UPDATED x2 Harvey cops probed; Rezko sentencing set ***

Tuesday, Dec 2, 2008

* During the closing arguments of the corruption trial of Mayor Daley’s patronage chief Bob Sorich, a federal prosecutor promised the jury that there would soon be more heads on the wall

“For those who are there and are responsible for this scheme, there’s another day,” Assistant U.S. Atty. Philip Guentert told jurors in 2006, during closing arguments. “City Hall is chock-full of the schemers.”

That was way back in July of 2006, and as the Tribune notes today, prosecutors have since been almost completely silent…

Since then, only former Streets and Sanitation Commissioner Al Sanchez, accused of being a co-schemer, and an assistant have been charged in the probe.

Federal prosecutors rarely announce publicly when secret grand-jury investigations have ended. But in a telling sign that the hiring investigation appears over, lawyers for the Daley administration say they last heard from U.S. Atty. Patrick Fitzgerald’s office on this issue in April 2007, a month after Sanchez was indicted.

Some bigtime folks with close ties to Mayor Daley were implicated during Sorich’s trial…

Evidence at Sorich’s trial indicated that former top Daley aides Timothy Degnan, Victor Reyes and John Doerrer may have participated in the fraudulent hiring scheme, according to a government filing.

And prosecutors have been a bit chummy with Daley of late…

At the funeral of Chicago Police Detective Joseph Airhart last month, Fitzgerald and Robert Grant, the head of the FBI’s Chicago office, were seen chatting with Daley for at least 20 minutes. And during the summer, Daley spoke at the FBI’s 100th anniversary celebration at Navy Pier. After the speech, Grant and Daley posed for photographs.

* I don’t think I’m the only one who has wondered what happened with this probe. Sorich was convicted on July 6th, 2006. That very same day, George W. Bush showed up in Chicago to have dinner with Mayor Daley on the president’s 60th birthday, which seemed kinda odd at the time.

Too tinfoil hatty? I dunno.

* Meanwhile, the Daily Herald obtained some documents via the Freedom of Information Act about how former Illinois Tollway chief Brian McPartlin recused himself from awarding a contract to McDonough Associates a few days after he spoke to the company about a job. McPartlin now wants a waiver from the state ethics laws to go to work for the company. Here’s a partial timeline, but you should definitely go read the whole thing

On June 19, McPartlin informed Illinois State Toll Highway Authority Chairman John Mitola, he was looking for a job in the private sector. With three kids approaching college age, it was crucial to “make this career move to afford them the opportunity of a college education,” his letter says. His salary was $189,000 a year.

A month passed and McPartlin executed a $592,000 contract with McDonough July 17, according to his Sept. 8 petition to the ethics commission. The firm has done more than $30 million of work for the tollway.

Two weeks later, McPartlin talked to McDonough about setting up a meeting with top executive Feroz Nathani, his petition states.

“I am well aware of the restrictions on my employment activities and the prohibition of participating in any work involving the tollway by McDonough,” McPartlin wrote to commission Executive Director Chad Fornoff.

“I do not participate personally or substantially in the decision to award contracts, nor do I, or have I, influenced any decision to award contracts. However, I am one of three individuals at the tollway (including Catuara and Mitola) authorized to execute any contract approved by the board.”

Attorney General Lisa Madigan has asked the state Ethics Commission to delay approving the waiver while she looks into the matter. That seems prudent.

*** UPDATE 1 *** From the Tribune

Federal agents were making arrests in south suburban Harvey this morning in connection with an investigation of police corruption, authorities said. A spokesman with the Chicago office of the FBI confirmed an operation was under way and said details would be coming.

From the US Attorney’s office…

Patrick J. Fitzgerald, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, and Robert D. Grant, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, will hold a press conference at 2:00 p.m. today, Tuesday December 2, 2008, to announce a significant law enforcement operation involving alleged police corruption in the south suburbs. The press conference will be held in the U.S. Attorney’s Press Conference Room on the 11th floor, north end, of the Dirksen Federal Courthouse, 219 South Dearborn St., Chicago.

Full details of today’s operation, including criminal charges and a detailed press release, are expected to be distributed after noon today, and the press conference room will be open to members of the media at 1 p.m. Approximately a dozen defendants being arrested today will have their initial court appearances beginning at 3 p.m. today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael Mason in Courtroom 2214 in the Dirksen Federal Courthouse.

*** UPDATE 2 *** From the AP

A federal judge in Chicago has set a Jan. 6 sentencing for political fundraiser Tony Rezko, who helped bankroll the campaigns of Gov. Rod Blagojevich and Barack Obama.

Defense attorney Joseph Duffy says Rezko just “wants to get on with his life.” Duffy made his comments while leaving court Tuesday after Judge Amy St. Eve set the date.

Duffy, however, left open the question of whether Rezko is still cooperating with the government’s investigation of corruption in the Blagojevich administration.

* Semi-related…

* Conflict of interest: Four Illinois Supreme Court justices have been asked to withdraw from hearing an appeal of a legal-malpractice case against Corboy & Demetrio, one of the nation’s top personal-injury firms, because the justices have gotten political contributions from the Chicago firm’s attorneys.

- Posted by Rich Miller   9 Comments      

Morning Shorts

Tuesday, Dec 2, 2008

* State shortchanged hurt workers for 30 years

The state unit that handles compensation claims for injured workers has concluded that Illinois short-changed at least some beneficiaries and their heirs, and that it did so for as long as a stunning 30 years.

Neither the Workers’ Compensation Commission nor anyone else in state government is yet saying how much the snafu might cost Illinois employers, who will have to make up any shortfall. But the money apparently is owed, and industry sources say the final tab could top $100 million.

* ISU execs disappointed by budget cuts

* Giannoulias Calls Out Governor on Abandoned Pension Plan

The cost of this corruption can be measured in the millions of dollars in unnecessary costs that the state pension systems have paid over the past five years so that corrupt political insiders could protect their criminal behavior.

* Consolidation concerns

* Birkett testing the waters for a 2010 state run

But for what office?

“I’m not ruling anything out at this point. I came very close to winning that race in 2002. Lisa Madigan was a strong opponent, backed by her father’s organization,” Birkett said, referring to Illinois Democratic Party Chairman Mike Madigan, who also is the House speaker.

Here’s my interpretation: If Lisa runs for governor, Joe would go for attorney general. If she seeks re-election or runs for a different office, Birkett would run for governor.

* Joe Birkett explores another run for statewide office

* Alvarez sworn in as state’s attorney

* New process installed will move to cut deal with CN”>for evaluating judges

The Judicial Performance Evaluation Program that had been voluntary for more than 900 judges who preside over Illinois courts became mandatory Monday with the Illinois Supreme Court’s announcement of new initiatives to improve judicial performance.

The new measures mandate that all judges undergo an intense evaluation consisting of a review of their opinions and performance by attorneys and court personnel at least once during their terms.

* 16th Circuit’s 1st black chief judge sworn in

* $150 million casino and hotel opens in Rock Island

* Calumet City Not Giving Up Casino Hopes

* Illinois bets on recycling programs

The Illinois Recycling Grant Program is doling out $760,000 throughout the Chicago area during what is traditionally the most wasteful time of the year—the holiday gift-giving season.

The money will allow some communities to expand curbside recycling programs and other cities and private businesses to hire additional workers and address electronic waste.

Programs receiving grants include:

* City reaches deal to lease parking meters

* Daley Plaza Tree To Light Up Downtown Chicago

* Most Chicago Police Squad Cars May Soon Be SUVs

* Political columnist is one of three vying to lead Paul Simon Public Policy Institute

David Yepsen, a political columnist for the Des Moines Register, said the institute could be used as a means to explore national issues, like combating racial prejudice, studying women in politics, government spending and debt, health care in rural America and campaign finance reform.

* Frankfort will move to cut deal with CN

* Suburbs face a storm of service cuts

“What you’ll see is … local government is usually one of the first industries to feel the pinch,” said Dave Bennett of the Metropolitan Mayors Caucus. “And then it’s always among the last to feel the recovery as well.”

* Buffalo Grove stays the course on budget

* Amnesty offered for red-light, parking tickets

People with Chicago parking or red-light tickets who take advantage of an amnesty that began today could save money and avoid the possibility of getting “booted” next month.

Half of the penalty for late payments on the 3.5 million outstanding tickets issued before 2007 will be waived for those who pay under the amnesty that ends Feb. 14, city Revenue Department Director Bea Reyna-Hickey said today.

- Posted by Kevin Fanning   10 Comments      

Morning video

Tuesday, Dec 2, 2008

* Kids say the darndest things…

Via Bridget.

- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      

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* CPS won't close early despite judge's ruling
* Reader comments closed for the weekend
* Governor files statement of economic interests
* Question of the day
* Today's number: $14.5 million
* Everybody needs to do their jobs
* "Results are all that matters"
* Rate the latest Rauner duct tape ad
* Gun dealer licensing bill moves to House
* US House general counsel has serious questions about Schock probe
* *** UPDATED x4 - Lightford responds - Manar responds - Purvis responds - Lawsuit rejected *** The CPS lawsuit probably won't solve anything right away
* The new Richard Goldberg
* Rauner's city pension brick holds
* "Rauner-funded Republican Party"
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» State Week: Women's March; Rauner's 'A' grade
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