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Impeachment hearings *** Monk’s cell phone tapped? ***

Monday, Dec 29, 2008

* 11:25 am - Blagojevich attorney Ed Genson is flailing away at the impeachment process. Listen or watch here.

* 21:12 pm - In case you missed it whilst listening to the scintillating debate…

U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald is seeking to release portions of recordings made in the criminal probe of Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich to a panel of lawmakers considering his impeachment.

Fitzgerald said four intercepted calls in redacted form should be released to the impeachment committee, according to a filing today in Chicago federal court. The conversations relate to calls between Blagojevich and “Fundraiser A” about a bill that would direct a percentage of casino revenue to the horse racing industry, prosecutors said.

“Fundraiser A” is the governor’s brother and chairman of the governor’s campaign committee.

* 1:25 pm - For those of you who continue to claim that this thing is being deliberately slow-walked

The head of the panel has said a recommendation on impeachment could go to the full House as soon as next week.

* 1:46 pm - USA Fitzgerald discusses some of the ways the G got their info within his motion to release some tapes…

On October 29, 2008… this Court entered an order authorizing the interception of oral communications, for a thirty-day period, on the residential phone of Governor Rod Blagojevich. On November 26, 2008, this Court (through the then-acting chief judge) extended the authorization for another thirty-day period.

In November 2008, this Court authorized the interception of oral communications on the cellular phone of Lobbyist 1.

Lobbyist 1 is said to be Lon Monk.

- Posted by Rich Miller   210 Comments      


Question of the day

Monday, Dec 29, 2008

* The setup

The governor is supposed to appoint Barack Obama’s vacant Senate seat. But Rod Blagojevich is under a federal cloud of alleged corruption. And so the question remains on how this position will be filled.

Chicago Democrat Will Burns says he will put forth a bill in January that calls for the Illinois House and Senate to confirm the gubernatorial appointee.

BURNS: Balancing the fiscal problems the state is facing with the need for more disclosure and a better process, I thought that this hybrid proposal provides the public with more transparency.

Burns says a special election would be too costly. His proposal calls for two public hearings on the governor’s appointee. That person would then have to be approved by both chambers in Springfield. If passed, the new law would be limited to the Obama vacancy.


* The Question
: Does this seem like a reasonable alternative to you? Or, do you prefer something else, like, perhaps, a special election.

Explain fully, please.

- Posted by Rich Miller   134 Comments      


A look ahead

Monday, Dec 29, 2008

* Blah, blah, blah

The Illinois House committee investigating the possibility of impeaching Gov. Rod Blagojevich reconvenes Monday.

Blagojevich attorney Ed Genson is expected to take center stage. He said Sunday he plans to submit President-elect Barack Obama’s internal report on contacts with the governor to the panel.

Genson says the report will support the governor’s claims that he did nothing wrong in his handling of Obama’s vacant Senate seat.

All the report really shows is that Blagojevich wasn’t insane enough to directly offer a pay to play to Team Obama. BFC is right

State Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie, chairwoman of the committee, said Sunday that Genson’s request to submit the report would probably be approved. But she expressed skepticism that the report would prove the governor’s innocence.

“Maybe in this particular instance someone didn’t run a stop sign, but it doesn’t say they didn’t run a different stop sign,” she said.

* Meanwhile, I’ve been telling subscribers about this, um, unfortunate convergence for a couple of weeks or so

Embattled Gov. Blagojevich is supposed to be in federal court on Jan. 14 in Chicago. He also has the constitutional duty that day to preside over the state Senate in Springfield as new members are sworn in.

The clash between the governor’s duties and his legal problems promises to get interesting. The state Constitution requires the governor to be in the Capitol to run the Senate until its members elect a president.

But Blagojevich is also required to show up for a preliminary hearing to determine whether there’s probable cause for the case against him to proceed.

Then there’s the budget address, scheduled for February 18th. The State of the State address is not yet scheduled, but Blagojevich often combines the SOTS with the budget speech.

* Related…

* Fitzgerald asks panel not to subpoena Obama aides

* Blagojevich’s lawyer to submit internal report to impeachment panel

* Blagojevich attorney to submit Obama report

* More pieces to Senate seat puzzle

* Where the impeachment process stands today

* Governor can handle double duty

* Sen. Rutherford meets with FBI

- Posted by Rich Miller   13 Comments      


The governor is a cooked goose

Monday, Dec 29, 2008

* My latest Sun-Times column

Everybody, calm down. This nightmare will soon be over.

I try to avoid cable TV news shows, but I tuned in this week to watch some of the talking heads grossly overreact to reports that U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald won’t cooperate much with the General Assembly’s attempt to remove Gov. Blagojevich from office.

The talking heads were babbling wildly over whether that meant Blagojevich might remain in office for the rest of his term.

Not a chance.

Nobody ever expected Fitzgerald to assist the impeachment process. His refusal was already factored in. The Legislature will still get Blagojevich, though.

Imagine what you would do to your state legislators if they voted to exonerate the governor. Not a pretty thought, eh?

Well, trust me, your legislators know exactly what’s going through your mind right now. No way will they let that guy off the hook.

Legislators don’t need “real” evidence to boot Blagojevich from office. This isn’t “CSI-Illinois.” The impeachment process is a political, not a legal process. And, politically speaking, Blagojevich is “Dead Man Walking.”

Yes, we can expect the governor and his attorneys to put on a show of force. Blagojevich’s fiery speech a week ago was a nice little preview.

My initial reaction to Blagojevich’s speech was that the governor had focused totally on himself. Ten percent of the words he used — 44 out of a 445-word speech — were personal pronouns like “I” or “me” or “my.” His extreme narcissism was on full display.

My conclusion was that Blagojevich had no cares whatsoever about the people of Illinois. This fight, like everything else in his rein of error, is all about him. The rest of us are mere spectators.

But a few legislators I know had a somewhat different take. When Blagojevich ranted, “I will fight until I take my last breath,” those legislators saw the gauntlet once again being thrown directly at them.

The word “impeachment” was first uttered publicly back in the summer of 2007, when the General Assembly and the governor engaged in a superheated, months-long battle. The governor and his henchmen reacted swiftly.

Legislators were threatened with direct retaliation. If they had a mistress, their wives would hear about it. If they had ever asked for an untoward political favor from the governor or his staff, they would be dragged through the mud right along with him. Every rumor they’d ever heard about personal or official corruption would be leaked to the media. It would be total war.

There is precedent for this. During Bill Clinton’s impeachment all sorts of nasty things came out about Clinton’s enemies.

But Clinton had the support of the voters back then, and a few reporters were more than willing to help the White House expose the rank hypocrisy of Congress’ ridiculous proceedings.

Unlike Clinton, Blagojevich has a 7 percent job approval rating. The vast majority want him removed from office and imprisoned.

And the comparison to legislative “wrongdoing” will be tougher to make. It’s doubtful that Statehouse reporters will “find” anything on any legislator that’s even close to auctioning off a U.S. Senate seat for personal gain. It would be an impossible comparison to make.

Still, nobody will be surprised if Blagojevich attempts retribution. A quick read of the FBI’s surveillance records clearly shows that’s his way.

The best defense for individual legislators is a good offense. Get it over with quickly and be done with him.

Also, this guy is wrong. The Senate’s rules for the impeachment trial will likely include a provision to allow the Senate to override any rulings made by Chief Justice Fitzgerald, who will preside. That’s the same rule used in Bill Clinton’s US Senate trial.

Again, take a deep breath and relax. I think Quinn may have it about right

Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” Sunday that he is certain scandal-plagued Gov. Rod Blagojevich will be out of office in less than two months.

Speaking from Chicago, Quinn said he believes the Illinois legislature will impeach Blagojevich by Abraham Lincoln’s bicentennial birthday celebration Feb. 12.

It may be a bit later than that, but if the rules are well-written, it won’t be too much longer.

* Related…

* A Not-So-Accidental Governor

* Southern Illinois campaign contributor says he didn’t ‘pay’ for state appointment

* Corruption crisis creates confusion in Illinois

* National media in for a letdown

- Posted by Rich Miller   45 Comments      


Morning shorts

Monday, Dec 29, 2008

* State owes Peoria hospitals millions

* Illinois transportation projects sought as part of federal stimulus package

Gov. Rod Blagojevich has provided the Obama transition team with about 300 transportation projects estimated to cost $2.4 billion and put about 94,000 people to work in the state.

Concern exists that elected officials not be permitted to use any federal windfall as a substitute for coming up with a state capital-improvement spending plan for long-term projects. Illinois lawmakers have not passed a state capital program in almost a decade, leading to a backlog of deferred maintenance and delays in roadway and mass-transit capacity-expansion projects.

Projects that can have a large impact should make up the core of any stimulus package, the experts said. Examples include improving the region’s mass-transit systems by building new Metra commuter rail stations, eliminating all Chicago Transit Authority slow zones, purchasing new trains and buses and modernizing the congested rail freight network.

“The projects selected must have meaningful and lasting value” to increase economic growth, Blankenhorn said. “We only get one shot at this thing.”

* Time for tough staffing decisions

As the new year approaches, municipalities throughout the region are faced with 2009 budgets that need to be slashed in the face of declining revenue.

Ranging from the big - such as Naperville or Elgin - to the smaller communities like Antioch or Wauconda, layoffs have been ordered or at least considered as city councils and village boards decide what to do to balance the budget. Suburban governments, like so many local companies, are not immune.

* Michigan Ave. bridge to get $3.5 million facelift

* 2009 brings higher fees

CTA, parking rates to go up, but a state capital bill may help.

The state hasn’t passed a capital bill in nearly 10 years, and the CTA alone claims it needs $6.3 billion to buy new trains and buses, fix tracks and bridges and update communications. The lack of a capital bill this year has been blamed on fighting between Gov. Blagojevich and other state leaders.

* Winners, losers and the CN merger

* EJ&E sale shifts from ugly to mixed

* Report: Chicago most segregated big city

* Suburbs less segregated due to small black populations, experts say

In most areas, black populations are very small, which experts say makes it much easier to integrate. In places where the percentage of black residents is higher, there is far more segregation.

Take suburban Cook County, where about 75 percent of blacks or whites would have to switch neighborhoods to integrate perfectly, a Tribune analysis shows. Reasons for segregation mirror those in Chicago: Historical separation continued with black migration from the city and white flight to other suburbs. Personal preferences and economics influence moves by both whites and blacks.

* Tougher driving comes with DUI conviction

If new mandated sensors detect alcohol, car won’t start

* ‘Gang-related’ killings much more than that

* Study: Murders among black youths on the rise

* Festivus pole latest addition to state Capitol display

Festivus was created by character George Costanza’s father, Frank, as a sort of protest against the commercialism of Christmas. The holiday’s slogan is “A Festivus for the Rest of Us.” Its symbol is an aluminum pole with no decoration because Frank Costanza found tinsel distracting.

Michael Tennenhouse, 18, of Springfield, got permission from Secretary of State Jesse White’s office to install the pole, something he said is “kind of silly and in the name of fun, really.” But Tennenhouse also said he wouldn’t have bothered if not for the fuss generated by a Nativity scene being placed in the rotunda followed by the atheist sign protesting organized religion.

- Posted by Mike Murray   11 Comments      


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