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Monday, Dec 22, 2008

* Have a great holiday, everyone. Now, let’s swing with Frank…

- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      

Important message to subscribers and blog readers

Monday, Dec 22, 2008

* Since the House impeachment committee has adjourned until next Monday, I’m gonna take some time off. I assume there will be more splashy press releases from a governor who wants to appear to be engaged, so I’ll keep some tabs on that, but after the end of today, we’re done for the week.

Have a great holiday, and we’ll talk again Monday.

- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      

This just in… Another big hole likely blown in state budget as lowest bid gets casino license

Monday, Dec 22, 2008

* 12:17 pm - Des Plaines gets the nod, despite its developer’s lowball bid

The Illinois Gaming Board has voted 3-1 to award the state’s unused casino license to Midwest Gaming & Entertainment.

The vote at a meeting in Chicago on Monday will allow Midwest Gaming to opening a gambling operation in the Chicago suburb of Des Plaines. […]

Trilliant’s [Rosemont] bid was the highest with an upfront licensing fee of $435 million, followed by Waukegan Gaming at $225 million and Midwest Gaming at $100 million. [emphasis added]

The state budget is based [if memory serves] on somewhere around $500 million for the license.

More trouble ahead.

* Tribune

Midwest beat out competitors looking to locate in Rosemont or Waukegan with an upfront bid of $122.5 million and a promise of an additional $10 million for each of the next 30 years.

Chairman Aaron Jaffe said he felt Midwest was the most reputable and generous in sharing revenues with depressed communities.

Jaffe and several other board members said they could not vote for Trilliant Gaming to open a casino in Rosemont because of past allegations that the village had mob ties.

So, is the state gonna have to bond that $300 mil over 30 years to close part of the hole in its budget?


* Statement from AG Madigan…

Today, the Illinois Gaming Board voted to award the State of Illinois’ 10th casino license to Midwest Gaming LLC to locate a casino in Des Plaines.

As I have repeatedly stated, I expect the Board to provide a transparent, public explanation of the decision-making process, so that it is clear how they arrived at their selection. To that end, each Board member publicly explained his vote today, and the Board also stated that it will publicly provide more detailed, written explanations at its next meeting scheduled for January 12, 2009. The Board’s Staff Analysis and Recommendation is also available to the public.

I have always believed that the Board’s decision must put integrity first and foremost. As the process moves forward, including the important step of completing a full Board background check on all parties associated with the application, it is critical that the Board continue to make information publicly available. Transparency will be a key factor as we move closer to restoring credibility to the 10th license.

- Posted by Rich Miller   75 Comments      

Today’s snark opportunity

Monday, Dec 22, 2008

* This press release landed in my in-box a couple minutes ago. It’s exceedingly rich with unintended irony…

A tough economy and skyrocketing prices have left many families across the state looking for alternative ways to make ends meet. With fewer lending options available, Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today reminded consumers about the dangers of predatory lenders, particularly high-cost installment and title lending companies.

“The holiday season marks a time of giving, but with a weak national economy, many families are struggling to buy gifts or even pay for basic necessities. As many people are considering taking loans to get the money they need, we want to make sure they don’t rely on predatory lenders who offer enticing but dangerous loan options, and then plunge families into an endless cycle of debt,” said Governor Rod R. Blagojevich. […]

“We want to help prevent those who are excited about buying holiday gifts for their family and friends from relying on predatory lenders,” said Michael McRaith, Acting Secretary, IDFPR.

Snark away…

- Posted by Rich Miller   28 Comments      

Impeachment hearings live-blog

Monday, Dec 22, 2008

* By the way, if you were wondering about Genson’s question to Ed Bedore: “Mr. Bedore you are familiar with the Cacciatore Company, are you not?” then you should probably take a look at these links…

* The Outfit on trial: Victor Cacciatore’s story

* Cellini business crosses party lines

* State urged to kill lease deal for Blagojevich donor

There’s lots more. Just use The Google. One can’t help but wonder if the committee really wants to go down that road.

* 3:19 pm - Adjourned until Monday.

* 3:18 pm - Rep. Mendoza asked that Genson bring his client to the hearing next week. That’ll happen.

* 3:15 pm - Rep. Currie: We have not yet heard back from the US Attorney’s office.

* 3:14 pm - Rep. Currie will also “re-request” information that was promised and never delivered by DHFS.

* 3:10 pm - Rep. Black is asking that DHFS chief of staff Tami Hoffman be subpoenaed. Currie: She’d like a chance to see first what is missing in the Department’s response before deciding on a course of action.

* 3:09 pm - Genson is asking for a one-week adjournment in order to round up his witnesses. Currie: We’ll want to look at your list to ascertain their relevance. Genson: I can give you the list tomorrow morning. Currie: How long will your presentation take? Genson: Approximately one day.

* 2:56 pm - Rep. Lang is now discussing DHFS’ response to the committee’s request for follow-up information.

Lang said the committee hasn’t had a chance to review all the documentation submitted by DHFS, but that it doesn’t appear the Department has fully complied. Lang: It appears that the Department is not interested in providing full information. Lang also wondered if someone “above them” ordered the DHFS officials not to appear at today’s hearing. Their absence today, Lang said, is “appalling.”

Rep. Lang said the committee’s letter to the US Attorney has made some horse racing industry lobbyists uncomfortable because their names were included in the letter. “We are casting no aspersions against anybody who was in that section of the letter…. The committee is not after you.”

Rep. Fritchey: “I’ve known Barry Maram to be a good and honorable man.” He added: “Any aspersions as to Maram’s character… I don’t think are warranted.” Maram has a family member on the West Coast who is “very ill.”

* 2:52 pm - The House impeachment committee has posted a letter from DHFS Director Barry Maram notifying the committee that he and his chief of staff will not be available to testify for the rest of the calendar year, due to “previous committments and out of state travel.” The letter also claims that the Department has submitted “more than 70 pages of follow-up documentation as requested by Committee members.”

* 2:29 pm - Rep. Lang just made a suggestion which seemed to be accepted by the chair. Lang wants committee investigators to look into the propriety of no-bid contracts that were paired with campaign contributions. Not sure how they’ll do that unless they use their subpoena powers. But even then, they might risk stepping on USA Fitzgerald’s probe.

* 2:10 pm - The committee did a pretty good job this morning of rebutting defense attorney Ed Genson’s claim that the federal wiretap was “illegal” and shouldn’t be used against Gov. Blagojevich in the impeachment process. Former Assistant US Attorney John Scully did a credible job of detailing the process for obtaining these wiretap warrants.

The state lease issue was less compelling, however, as explained below.

The Illinois Campaign for Political Reform’s Cindi Canary is now testifying, and Genson has already objected to her testimony as irrelevant. Chairperson Currie has ruled that the testimony so far is “background” info and therefore will be allowed.

* 1:21 pm - Is ignoring or “going around” the state’s Procurement Policy Board an impeachable offense? Anything can be an impeachable offense, of course, but I ain’t so sure that this is a very big peg to hang it on unless it’s used as part of an overall pattern of malfeasance, misfeasance or nonfeasance. But, as a stand-alone complaint it doesn’t appear to rise to a level of “importance.” [rewritten at the suggestion of a commenter]

* 1:11 pm - Some numbers to chew on

Over an eight year period covering his tenure as governor and build up for the 2002 governor’s race, Blagojevich raised $58.3 million with 435 donors giving $25,000 or more, for a total of $20.6 million. These donors constituted 35.3 percent of Blagojevich’s fundraising.

* 12:13 pm - The committee is now hearing testimony about how wiretap authorizations are obtained from a former DoJ attorney. This appears to be in response to Genson’s claims that the wiretap was illegal and that the committee cannot use this evidence.

* 12:09 pm - Majority Leader Currie said the committee will have follow-up questions to the Health and Family Services today. She added that the committee has yet to hear back from US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, but hopes to hear something today.

Ed Genson said he will present his side tomorrow to the committee and will make a statement to the committee today. But he also said he’d prefer that everything be wrapped up today.

* 12:06 pm - The hour of noon having arrived, the committee is now convening.

* The festivites are scheduled to begin at noon. Listen or watch here. Or check CNN’s feed here.

Please, use this thread only for today’s committee-related activities. Thanks.

- Posted by Rich Miller   87 Comments      

Topinka: Blagojevich forced lobbyists to pay $10K entrance fee

Monday, Dec 22, 2008

* Perhaps Ms. Topinka should testify to the impeachment committee, or take her story to the US Attorney…

A former state treasurer says lobbyists had to pay $10,000 to get in to see Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

Former Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka, who was the Republican candidate for governor against Blagojevich in 2006, says lobbyists who found the governor not in his office at the Capitol would then come to her office and commiserate.

“Some complained that if they went into the office and had an appointment with the governor, it was expected that they would drop $10,000, almost as an entry fee, before a meeting would even take place,” Topinka says.

* And speaking of lobsters

A federal judge late last week upheld Connecticut’s ban on lobbyists and state contractors making contributions to state political campaigns.

In a 98-page decision, U.S. District Judge Stefan R. Underhill in Bridgeport on Dec. 19 said the General Assembly was justified in enacting such a ban given Connecticut’s history of public corruption scandals involving high-ranking state politicians.

“I conclude that the legislature had a constitutional, sufficiently important interest in combating actual and perceived corruption by eliminating contributions from individuals with the means and motive to exercise undue influence over elected officials,” Underhill wrote in Green Party v. Garfield.

The judge maintained that the state’s campaign-finance law, which passed in wake of the corruption scandal that drove former Gov. John G. Rowland from office in 2004, does not “materially undermine” lobbyists’ constitutional right to free speech or to freely associate with candidates and political parties.

- Posted by Rich Miller   34 Comments      

Question of the day

Monday, Dec 22, 2008

* Your favorite Christmas/winter holiday memory?

- Posted by Rich Miller   22 Comments      

Willie Brown chats with Blagojevich, dishes

Monday, Dec 22, 2008

* At least somebody is talking to the governor. Here’s Willie Brown’s latest column

I got a call from Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich the other day. The first thing I said to him was, “You know, this call is probably being taped.” […]

He laughed, we talked, and all in all he seemed in pretty good spirits for a guy looking at federal charges.

That’s because he has no clue. More…

I wouldn’t bet on him stepping aside anytime soon. If anything, his hand is getting stronger by the day.

I don’t think he’ll ever step down voluntarily, but Brown never really explains why he thinks Blagojevich’s hand is “getting stronger by the day.” Perhaps that’s just what the guv told him.

I can’t go into details, but my impression is that the whole mess started because the governor had been considering appointing a political rival, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, to the Senate so she wouldn’t be able to run against him when he went up for re-election in 2010.

Apparently, Obama’s people weren’t happy about the idea of Madigan coming to Washington, and there were some pretty heated conversations between Blagojevich and Obama chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, which I understand will burn your ears off.

That doesn’t quite jibe with widely published reports about a list Emanuel supplied to Blagojevich

Sometime after the election, Emanuel called Harris back to add the name of Democratic Atty. Gen. Lisa Madigan to the approved list, the source said.

But, hey, maybe Emanuel just caved in to the idea. We don’t know for sure.

It sure is funny, though, that Blagojevich has found a way to blame Obama for his own troubles. Typical.

* We should all be most worried about this passage…

I know Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said after the “pay to play” stories hit the press that he wouldn’t seat anyone appointed by Blagojevich. But if the governor appoints someone of impeccable credentials - say, a university president or Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley’s brother Bill, who used to be Bill Clinton’s commerce secretary - who’s going to say “no”?

If Brown got that idea from Blagojevich himself, then all heck is about to break loose.

* While the governor chats up his few remaining buddies, Pat Quinn is quietly putting together a transition team

As a disgraced but defiant Gov. Rod Blagojevich vows a lengthy fight to hold on to his office, Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn has been quietly working to put together a transitional government for when, or if, he is able to seize the reins as Illinois chief executive.

“It’s presumptuous to announce anything,” Quinn said. “But I think that the public should be secure in the knowledge that, if the governor is impeached or resigns, then we’re ready to start in a moment’s notice.” […]

Quinn has reached out to a “couple dozen” friends, seeking transition advice. In an interview Friday, he vowed that his administration would include “individuals of the highest integrity and competence.”

Among those Quinn is relying on to shape a transition are Brian Hamer, director of the state Department of Revenue, and Jack Lavin, director of the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity. Hamer worked with Quinn after his 1982 election to the former Cook County Board of Tax Appeals. Lavin served with Quinn after he won the state treasurer’s position in 1990 after the corruption scandal that took down predecessor Jerome Cosentino.

But Lavin also provides a reminder to one aspect of the scandal unfolding around the governor—former Blagojevich fundraiser Antoin “Tony” Rezko, who was convicted in June on federal corruption charges.

Those Rezko types are everywhere. It’s almost impossible to avoid them. Lavin has done a good job at DCEO, so I, for one, don’t hold Rezko against him too much.

* Related…

* In Blago’s Defiance, Echoes of an Idol, Richard Nixon

* The truth? He can’t handle the truth

* Funding a Special Election Could Help Save Newspaper Industry

* Who gains, who loses?

* More tollway trouble

* Don’t give Rosemont 10th casino license

* Unable to do his job, gov should step down

* Lawmakers not swayed by Blago’s bold denial

* No right to be so wrong

* Daley declines to call for Blagojevich’s resignation

- Posted by Rich Miller   47 Comments      

Fitzgerald blasted, feds’ case examined

Monday, Dec 22, 2008

* I told you about Victoria Toensing’s claim a few days ago that US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald may have violated ethics rules when he went overboard with his comments about the allegations against Gov. Rod Blagojevich. Toensing is a longtime and sometimes inaccurate Fitzgerald critic, but she was on the Fox News channel this past weekend blasting away again

Toensing: I wrote the op-ed piece after I talked to a journalist. I was explaining how he had violated the ethics law and the journalist said to me, Yeah, but he’s so quotable.

Gigot: Well, in our business it’s just what–

Toensing: That’s the attitude out there.

Gigot: Well, let me–if this is–if Fitzgerald is in fact violating Justice Department guidelines–and you make a persuasive case that he is–

Toensing: He has.

Gigot: –then why don’t his superiors at Justice rein him in?

Tonesing: I don’t know.

Gigot: Somebody has the obligation to–why don’t they? Why doesn’t the attorney general or the deputy attorney general rein him in? Are they too afraid of him?

Toensing: Well, I think by ending this case so soon, he has made himself untouchable as far as not only this administration but the next administration. And maybe that was one of the reasons that he came forward so fast. You know who he reminds me of, and that’s Eliot Spitzer, and there were those of us, including the Wall Street Journal editorial page, who knew how Spitzer was overplaying his power as an attorney general. I didn’t care about his sexual peccadilloes. I cared about how he was abusive as an attorney general.

And it’s the same thing. He threatens people. Fitzgerald threatened the late John O’Neill when he was sacked in New York because there was a leak to ABC News. Fitzgerald decided O’Neill had done it and told him he was going to indict him. I mean, he threatens people. I know numerous instances of that. That’s his weapon of choice.

* Meanwhile, the Daily Herald looks at something that a few national media types have used to claim Blagojevich is somehow innocent. “Did he actually do anything illegal?” they ask. Well

The line between just talking and conspiracy, “that’s where it gets real gray,” said Terry Sullivan, a former Cook County prosecutor and now an attorney in private practice.

“Did you take that little extra step beyond boasting?” is the key question, Sullivan noted.

Len Cavise, a law professor at DePaul University, said there is a line between talking about a crime and committing one. A crime generally occurs, he says, when someone acts on the talk and that includes directing someone else to carry the crime out.

“It is like a mob boss who says, ‘Geez, I really like that guy dead.’ That is not a crime,” Cavise says. “But if he says, ‘Go kill that guy,’ that is a crime.”

Patrick Collins, the former federal prosecutor who put ex-Gov. George Ryan away, agrees with Fitzgerald - that for conspiracy, or schemes to defraud, you just have to agree with someone you will commit a crime for there to be a crime; you don’t actually have to ever have to take an “overt act” toward committing it. But just because it’s a crime doesn’t mean you’ll get a conviction, Collins noted.

“An agreement that’s not brought to fruition is still a crime, but it doesn’t have enough jury appeal,” Collins said.

“If Blagojevich said, ‘go do this,’ it’s enough. But it’s kind of a lousy case if Harris blows it off,” Collins noted.

“You want steps taken in furtherance of the agreement, or the jury’s not going to believe there was an agreement,” Collins said.

What Collins suspects prosecutors are busy doing is going around to the Senate candidates and company executives that Blagojevich is on tape talking about, and seeing if, on their end, anyone from the governor’s office ever showed up or called demanding anything.

* Related…

* Secret Tapes Helped Build Graft Cases In Illinois

* Fitzgerald Plays Peoria

* US Attorney Fitzgerald speaks at Bradley U.

* Special Agent in Charge just typical Naperville dad

- Posted by Rich Miller   15 Comments      

The answer man

Monday, Dec 22, 2008

* For whatever reason, the State Journal-Register editorial board thinks the House impeachment committee should tackle these questions. I’ll try instead…

Blagojevich treated rulings of the General Assembly’s Joint Committee on Administrative Rules’ and the Committee on Government Forecasting and Accountability as merely advisory. He freely ignored them, whether embarking on expensive health-care initiatives or closing prisons or arbitrarily moving divisions of state government. Is there a way the General Assembly could change this without violating the state constitution’s separation of powers?

The General Assembly greatly increased the powers of JCAR a few years ago. Blagojevich signed the bill into law. He then proceeded to ignore the law. Laws don’t mean much to this governor.

The governor has amendatory veto power, but Blagojevich used his veto pen to rewrite bills he didn’t like. Should there be more rigid guidelines for amendatory vetoes?

Probably, but he’d likely just ignore those, too. The only real way to accomplish this is via a constitutional amendment, which would need a three-fifths approval of both chambers and then go before the voters.

If the General Assembly would not authorize money Blagojevich wanted, he sometimes shifted money from other places in the budget. (He did this in 2006 and 2007 to devote $15 million toward stem cell research.) Can the governor’s power to make such moves be curtailed?

It sure can, but doing so would greatly harm his ability to deal with budget problems in tough years.

And then there is the biggie: Money. Blagojevich’s immediate legal troubles all are focused on money. Specifically, his race to squeeze big donations from campaign contributors before the new state ethics law takes effect Jan. 1 and to get big donations in exchange for President-elect Barack Obama’s Senate seat. If Illinois had a reasonable limit on personal contributions and stringent laws on corporate donations, Blagojevich probably would not have had the golden visions alleged by the feds.

Maybe. But, then again, maybe he might’ve just focused on padding his own pockets, rather than his campaign fund.

* Related…

* Ethics: An Illinois story

* What’s happened, what’s next in Illinois’ impeachment soap opera

* On with impeachment

* Impeachment panel awaits word from prosecutor

* Impeachment 101: A guide for Illinois

* Panel may call ex-deputy gov to testify

* We expect too little from our politicians

* Finally, the whole world can see how it is in Illinois

* Governor bringing state down with him

* The “Bleeping” Business of Corruption

* Illinois horsemen deny Rod Blagojevich association

* Horse racing bill may be part of pay-to-play plan

* How Blago Made My Novel a True Story

- Posted by Rich Miller   6 Comments      

Jackson lays out his timeline

Monday, Dec 22, 2008

* The Sun-Times puts together a timeline of when Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr. talked to the feds. Turns out, it wasn’t until late summer of this year

Late summer 2008: Federal authorities and Jackson have their first telephone conversation about his 2006 meeting with Rezko, a source close to Jackson said last week. During that conversation, Jackson volunteers that his wife, Sandi — who became a Chicago alderman in 2007 — was being considered for a job as Illinois Lottery director in 2002 after Blagojevich had won his first term as governor.

Rep. Jackson also tells the feds that Blagojevich later indicated to him that Sandi Jackson did not get the job because Rep. Jackson did not contribute $25,000 to Blagojevich’s campaign fund.

“During this conversation, the U.S. attorney said, ‘Yes, we would like to sit down with you … about these two things: the Sandi incident and about the meeting with Rezko,’” the Jackson source said.

“And the congressman said ‘Fine, we’ll get together with you guys, no problem.’ However, at the time — this was late summer or so — there was already those thinking that Barack was going to be elected president and that the governor was going to appoint the next U.S. senator.” Jackson then told the feds he was interested in the Senate seat.

“The U.S. attorney said, ‘Fine, what we’ll do is we’ll put it on hold right now. We will get back with you after the presidential election.”

At some point thereafter, Jackson got a call about scheduling that meeting, but it was agreed that it was too early to set a date.

So, he squealed but he didn’t want to totally squeal until after the election? I’m not sure I get that reasoning. Did he want to avoid informing on Blagojevich in order to snag that Senate seat?

Nov. 5 or shortly thereafter: Jackson talks again to the feds by phone.

“We did have another conversation the day or so after the presidential election,” the Jackson source said. “The U.S. attorney said we still want to talk to you about these things, but we understand now there’s an open seat, so let’s postpone our meeting again.

“We want to talk to you after the appointment and before the inauguration. We’ll meet anywhere you want to go.”

It sure would be helpful if the US Attorney would clarify this story, but don’t hold your breath.

Night of Dec. 8: Feds try to call Jackson on his home phone and cell phone to tell him about Blagojevich’s arrest and that his name might surface in the case. They cannot reach him.

Dec. 9: Blagojevich is arrested.

Dec. 9: The feds reach Jackson at his Washington, D.C., office. They tell him “he is not a target and he is not suspected of doing anything wrong,” according to the Jackson source.

My sources indicate that the feds didn’t call Jackson the night before the arrest. Indeed, the spokesman for the US Attorney’s office said he believed Jackson’s attorney “misspoke” when he claimed earlier this month that the congressman was given a heads up.

Again, a clarification from Fitz would be nice.

* Meanwhile…

A key figure in Illinois Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich’s alleged scheme to sell a U.S. Senate seat has sought immunity from federal authorities in return for his cooperation.

Businessman and political fundraiser Raghuveer P. Nayak is Individual D in the federal complaint, sources said. Individual D was being squeezed by the governor for campaign cash, according to prosecutors, in order to appoint Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) to the Senate seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama.

Investigators appeared at Nayak’s home in Oak Brook, a Chicago suburb, the morning the FBI arrested Blagojevich, the sources said. Federal agents that day contacted a number of people connected to the case. […]

The Chicago Tribune has reported that Nayak hosted an Oct. 31 luncheon where he discussed raising $1 million for Blagojevich to help persuade the governor to choose Jackson.

The congressman’s brother Jonathan appeared at a Nayak-sponsored fundraiser for the governor three days before Blagojevich was arrested. […]

Jackson’s lawyer, James Montgomery Sr., reacted to the news of Nayak’s bid for immunity by saying, “If that is indeed the case, and if that cooperation relates to my client, then [Nayak] is trying to save his own skin. That’s all I have to say.”

- Posted by Rich Miller   15 Comments      

Morning Shorts

Monday, Dec 22, 2008

* Out of her hands

After five years of fighting to keep Chicago Police torture cases from being reopened, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan is seeking to shift responsibility for a handful of the remaining cases to the Cook County state’s attorney’s office.

In a court motion filed earlier this month, Madigan’s chief deputy, Alan Rosen, said the office was willing to continue on eight cases on which it had already invested considerable effort but asked that responsibility for five other cases be returned to State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez.

* Hundreds of DCFS kids left in limbo in inappropriate settings, Cook County guardian finds

The result: Hundreds of foster children are waiting weeks, sometimes months, in psychiatric hospitals, foster homes and correctional facilities that child welfare officials have deemed inappropriate or unsafe, according to data analyzed by the Cook County public guardian’s office and state records reviewed by the Tribune.

* State school funds fall short

She’s not just talking pennies. More than $4.5 million in late payments from the state are still waiting to be collected by the West Aurora district.

In East Aurora, administrators are dealing with a $5.7 million deficit, said Finance Director Jay Augustine.

“We’re going to meet in early January to go over all different types of scenarios,” Augustine said of the funding crisis. “There’s not enough information right now. All we know is that the state is out of cash.”

State Superintendent of Schools Christopher Koch said that the state is not immune to the economic slowdown, and that the state has more bills than it can currently pay.

* Financial meltdown slowing wind-power boom

* Bad tidings for local retailers

* Can Holiday Cheer Survive Economic Downturn?

* Smoking ban working well in Illinois prisons

* Hospitals seeking infusion

A capital infusion from Washington offers the only real hope of new money for so-called safety net hospitals desperate for cash for even routine upkeep of tired facilities. Facilities that treat mostly uninsured or public-aid patients, such as the West Side’s Mount Sinai Hospital, lack the profits and deep-pocketed donors needed for big expansions or medical technology common at university and suburban hospitals, where the fully insured are more likely to seek treatment.

* City can’t afford 50 aldermen any longer

But in all these talks, not once has it been suggested we lop off something completely unnecessary — so many aldermen.

* Chicago police boss’ 1st year saw major rise in violent crime

Still, the city is approaching 500 homicides for the year, a number the city has not reached since 2003.

* Gun of choice in homicides — semi-automatic

* Arne Duncan’s deputy Barbara Eason-Watkins focuses on reading

* 20 of city’s public schools slated to close or merge

* CTA sheds light on new subway emergency efforts

* Segal heads list of disbarred

More than four years after a federal jury convicted him of looting millions from his Near North Insurance brokerage, Mickey Segal has been disbarred by the Illinois Supreme Court. Segal’s law license had long been suspended, but the court waited to disbar him until his appeals ended. He’s serving a 10-year prison sentence.

The court also recently disciplined three other lawyers who pleaded guilty in high-profile cases:

* Illinois meth address database to go public, but not Missouri’s

* State’s DUI campaign can’t be ignored

* Debbie Halvorson is the freshman

From Crete to the nation’s capital, Halvorson wants you to know she’s a stand-up gal who wants to get things done

* LaHood reinvents himself yet again

* Wife of Gov. George Ryan sent President George Bush a letter on her husband’s behalf

* Tax talk: Cook vs. Will counties

* Cook County sheriff stages holiday ruse to catch fugitives

* Political battles intensify as election approaches

* Are Five-Second TV Spots The Future?

* WLS-TV’s Andy Shaw to retire; Charles Thomas named new Ch. 7 political reporter

Andy Shaw, a mainstay of Chicago media for more than 30 years, is retiring as WLS-Ch. 7’s political reporter at the end of January, the Walt Disney Co.-owned ABC station announced today.

Succeeding Shaw on the politics beat will be Charles Thomas, who joined Channel 7 in 1991 after several years as a Midwest correspondent for ABC News.

Shaw has been covering politics for WLS since 1983, after a 1976-82 run as NBC-owned WMAQ-Ch. 5’s education reporter and editorial director. Shaw covered education for the Chicago Sun-Times before that.

- Posted by Mike Murray   11 Comments      

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Monday, Dec 22, 2008

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Sunday video - You made a fool of everyone

Sunday, Dec 21, 2008

* I was looking for a video of a different song to illustrate tomorrow’s Capitol Fax and decided this one was perfect for our use here. Hubris, false promise of hope, indelible corruption, fatally harmful lies, the inevitable downfall and the abandoned, ruined temple. It’s got everything, man…

You’ll get yours yet

- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      

Golden Horsehoes, Final Round

Sunday, Dec 21, 2008

* With all the excitement of the past two weeks I’d almost forgotten about our latest round of Golden Horseshoe awards. Here they are…

* Best press spokesperson (legislative, congressional, local or statewide) goes to Steve Brown, who flaks for Speaker Madigan…

[Brown] can shove it down our throats with a soft smile.

* The best non-press staffer for a constitutional officer award goes to Colleen Daley at Treasurer Giannoulias’ office. This comment sums her up best

Colleen Daley stands out in a very competitive field of staffers. Colleen puts in a lot of time and lets her boss get the credit. Quintessential staffer now, destined for bigger things later.


* Best Statehouse lobbyist just has to go to Tom Suffredin, who lobbied the comment section on his own behalf

Since I did not see anything explicitly stating that one may not nominate oneself for a Golden Horseshoe, I figured that I would take this opportunity to do a little pro se lobbying(Not pro bono, mind ye. Loophole finding and prompt billing are both important lobbyist skills).

In reviewing the list of other nominees, I have noticed a pattern. These men (seriously? all guys? really? in 2008?) all possess experience, knowledge of the legislative process, good teeth and hair, nice suits, impeccable reading and writing ability, the respect of their peers and good interpersonal skills.

I have none of these things.

It’s still a 50/50 proposition that I will even find the capitol building on any given session day (is it off second or third? oh wait monroe is one way the wrong way, darn,screw it, i tried, i’m just going home i’m tired anyway.) And if I do manage to find it, I’ll probably get lost once I’m there (mezzanine? how come i can’t get there from here? screw it. i’m going to the rathskellar for chicken fingers.)

I thank a previous commenter for pointing out that I am often at the capitol very late, but I feel that I must point out that this is mostly a result of my inability to remember that the east entrance is closed in the evenings and I get disoriented by the other doors (Stratton and Howlett Buildings look the same to me, i have no sense of direction, and may possibly be colorblind as well).

Plus who could forget my stirring “Record of appearance only. No position on the merits.” committee testimony? People wept.

Moreover many of the other nominees have won awards in the past. Me? Not so much. Rich, you know that this thing will go on my desk or wall or whatever proudly. Can the others say the same? I think not.

This screed is likely riddled with spelling and grammatical errors. I am also functionally illiterate. I may not have mentioned this.

His name is too long to make him a subscriber-only blog password, so I guess I gotta give him the award to get him off my back. Dave Feller was much easier to deal with.

* The other winners can be found at this link. Congratulations to all.

- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      

Stephanopoulos: Emanuel cleared?

Sunday, Dec 21, 2008

* From George Stephanopoulos’ blog

Sources tell me that the Obama team’s review of contacts with Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich will show that Rahm Emanuel had only one phone conversation with Blagojevich.

The contact, described as a “pro-forma” courtesy call, came as Emanuel was named Chief of Staff for Obama. Most of the discussion concerned Emanuel’s Congressional seat (which had previously been held by Blagojevich), with only a “passing reference” to the Senate vacancy, according to these sources. No deal for the Senate vacancy was discussed. […]

The sources add that the report will show Emanuel also had four phone calls with Blagojevich Chief of Staff John Harris. During those conversations, the Senate seat was discussed. The pros and cons of various candidates were reviewed, and the sources say that Emanuel repeatedly reminded Harris that Blagojevich should focus on the message the pick would send about the governor and his administration.

Sources also confirm that Emanuel made the case for picking Obama confidante Valerie Jarrett during at least one of the conversations. In the course of that conversation, Harris asked if in return for picking Jarrett, “all we get is appreciation, right?” “Right,” Emanuel responded.

Bottom line: these sources say that Obama’s report, which is expected to be released this week, will confirm what Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald and President-Elect Obama have said — and what Governor Blagojevich clearly believed: that Obama officials were not open to any kind of deal for the Obama Senate seat.

- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      

* More shenanigans!
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