* 5:37 pm - These 22 people have Patrick Fitzgerald to thank. The governor has ignored pardon requests for years…
Hours after declaring himself innocent of federal corruption charges Friday, Gov. Rod Blagojevich pardoned 22 people who had sought clemency through his office.
In a statement released by his office in Chicago, the governor pointed out that his authority to grant such executive clemency comes from the Illinois Constitution, which also is the document being cited in possible abuse of power impeachment charges against Blagojevich.
* 4:32 pm - I’m told the last time that Ed Genson won one of these corruption cases was 1999.
*** 4:31 pm *** The full video of Sam Adam’s presser is here.
*** 3:53 pm *** The Illinois GOP has red-flagged a comment by Sam Adam. Earlier this week, Ed Genson said Gov. Blagojevich would not appoint a replacement for Barack Obama. Adam wasn’t so sure today…
Many Democrats had hoped privately that Blagojevich had (finally) come to the realization that he was in a politically untenable position and the best — and only — thing for him to do was step aside.
Please. What sane Illinois Democrat expected RRB to resign today?
*** 3:37 pm *** IL GOP Chairman Andy McKenna…
“Anything short of resignation today from the Governor was unacceptable.
“For the good of the people, Rod Blagojevich should resign from office immediately and spare voters any more heartache than he’s already caused.
“Illinois voters have lost faith that Blagojevich Democrats are going to do the right thing, which is why we called on Lisa Madigan to demand the legislature convene and strip Rod Blagojevich of his senate appointment powers and give a vote to the people.”
*** 3:36 pm *** From Senate GOP Leader-Elect Christine Radogno…
“Governor Blagojevich’s combative statement to the media today once again points up the need for a special election to fill President-Elect Obama’s U.S. Senate seat. It is clear this Governor intends to remain in office despite the scandal enveloping him and the State of Illinois.
“We cannot allow this Governor to make the decision – or control the process – on who will next serve Illinois in the United States Senate. Some have reported that Governor Blagojevich does not ‘intend’ to fill the seat. I would argue strongly that we cannot allow Governor Blagojevich to control the process – and make a decision to leave the seat vacant for a time to come. It is the only way we can tell Illinois citizens when they will have a U.S. Senator.”
“He told me if it doesn’t work, if it is too hard if the people of Illinois suffer, he will step aside,” attorney Sam Adam Jr. said after the governor finished speaking.
I got news for you, Sam.
*** 3:19 pm *** The complete transcript of the goernor’s statement is here.
*** 3:05 pm *** Video of the governor’s statement…
*** 3:03 pm *** More from the governor’s statement…
“Let me tell you what I’m not going to do,” he said. “I’m not going to do what my accusers and political enemies have been doing and that’s talk about this case in 30-second soundbites on ‘Meet the Press’ or on the TV news. Now, I’m dying to answer these charges. I am dying to show you how innocent I am. And I want to assure everyone who’s here and everyone who’s listening that I intend to answer every allegation that comes my way. However, I intend to answer them in the appropriate forum in a court of law. And when I do, I am absolutely certain that i will be vindicated.” […]
“Now, I know there are some powerful forces allayed against me. it’s kind of lonely right now. But I have on my side the most powerful ally. And it’s the truth. And besides I have the personal knowledge that I have not done anything wrong.” […]
“To the people of Illinois, I ask that they wait and be patient, sit back and take a deep breath and please reserve judgment,” he said. “Afford me the same rights that you and your children have. Presumption of innocence. The right to defend yourself. The right to your day in court. The same rights that people would expect for yourselves.”
Quoting Rudyard Kipling, Blagojevich called on the public to be patient and reserve judgment until the facts unfold in criminal proceedings.
“Don’t give way to hating,” he said. “Sit back and take a deep breath and please reserve judgment.”
*** 2:11 pm *** Sam Adam is speaking now.
“I’ll guarantee you, when those tapes come out… you’re gonna find out the truth on these conversations.”
Adam is now pushing back against the impeachment committee’s probe of the governor’s attempt to pass health care legislation. Expected.
“If the people of Illinois suffer, he will step aside… But I know this governor, and he has worked his entire career fighting for the poor and fighting for the disenfranchised… he can do it and he will.”
“Give us a second to breathe… give him a second to breathe and let him go back to what he does best and that’s governing.”
Q: How do you know when the threshold has been crossed for inability to governor? “This is something that is new… He’s trying the best he can. [He’ll make the decision when] nothing at all can be done… Three or four days before Easter we may have a better idea here.”
Now they’re comparing RRB to Harry Truman. Wonderful.
Good point: “The governor’s wife said something derogatory about the Cubs that nearly half the city who are Sox fans have said the same thing.” lol
“Give me the tapes and I’ll come in here and be forthright with you
“He’s not going to apologize for [working for seniors, expanding health care, etc.]”
*** 2:07 pm *** Here we go.
“I’m here to tell you right off the bat that I am not guilty of any criminal wrongdoing…. I will fight, I will fight, I will fight until I take my last breath. I have done nothing wrong and I’m not going to quit a job that people hired me to do because of false accusations and a political lynch mob.”
“I intend to answer them in a court of law, and when I do I am absolutely certain that I will be vindicated.”
“I have on my side the most powerful ally there is, and it’s the truth. And besides, I have the personal knowledge that I have not done anything wrong.
To the people of Illinois: “Afford me the same rights that you and your children have. The presumption of innocence. The right to defend yourself… Wait and be patient, sit back and take a deep breath.”
“Merry Christmas, happy holidays” and that’s it.
*** 2:04 pm *** 2 minute warning.
*** 1:53 pm *** ABC7’s live video of the Blagojevich presser is slated for this link [weather broadcast right now]. I’ll have CBS2’s live feed when it goes hot. NBC5’s live shot is here.
*** 1:46 pm *** House Republican Leader Tom Cross will have reaction shortly after the governor’s statement, Paul reports.
* 1:31 pm - ABC7 is live at Obama’s presser announcing Ray LaHood as Secretary of Transportation. Click here.
*** 1:23 pm *** Blagojevich won’t take questions. From CNN…
His attorney, Ed Genson, said Blagojevich will read the statement but will not answer reporters’ questions. Genson said he did not feel it was prudent for the governor to answer questions now
*** 1:20 pm *** Paul reports from the press room that the place is already packed. 17 TV cameras, Paul says.
* 1:16 pm - Like I said earlier, the governor’s arrest has finally forced him to do the job he was elected to six years ago. Pathetic…
After four-years, the Village of Hopkins Park finally received a signed contract from Gov. Rod Blagojevich giving it a 99-year lease on the abandoned state prison site in Pembroke Township.
* 12:57 pm - Click here to read how the impeachment hearings looked to an out-of-state blogger who happened to wander in yesterday.
* 12:38 pm - I gave subscribers lots of details about this story earlier today…
Several members of an Illinois Senate impeachment procedures panel today are meeting with constitutional lawyers in Chicago to discuss how to handle a possible removal trial of Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
Members of the Special Committee on Impeachment Trial Procedures began a closed-door meeting with constitutional law experts shortly after 9 a.m., said Cindy Davidsmeyer, spokeswoman for Senate President Emil Jones.
Davidsmeyer said the panel, made up of five Democrats and four Republicans, will establish rules and procedures of a trial should House members impeach Blagojevich. She said the attorneys conferring with lawmakers are working pro bono.
* 12:37 pm - Several outlets will carry the guv’s press conference, including WUIS Radio.
Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, who lost a bid this week to have the state Supreme Court consider removing Blagojevich, said she’s disappointed in the attitude of Genson, a renowned defense attorney. She zeroed in on Genson’s statement earlier this week, saying that he’s taking the potentially expensive Blagojevich case partly for “fun.”
“You know what? This isn’t fun,” Madigan shot back in an interview with CBS 2 Political Editor Mike Flannery. “This isn’t fun for the people of the state of Illinois. It’s not fun to see your governor arrested and taken away in handcuffs. … Unfortunately, Mr. Genson seems to have an attitude that is not appropriate for the circumstances.”
Madigan said Genson should act more professionally when he addresses the House committee.
Genson responded later in an interview with CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine. “When Lisa Madigan pays me, she’ll have the right to say what she thinks is appropriate,” Genson. “I am paying her salary, and I don’t think what she says is appropriate.”
* As I told you yesterday, Genson may have gotten himself into hot water with the impeachment committee. The governor’s attorney apparently didn’t notice his microphone was on when he made a wisecrack to an aide who told him about a phone message…
“Tell her the truth, I’m stuck in this stupid hearing.”
* Blagojevich Attorneys Consider ‘Walking Out’ of Impeachment Proceedings
But we’d like to hear Obama say one thing loud and clear right now: The best thing for Illinois citizens would be to hold a special election to fill his Senate seat.
There’s no legal issue that stops Obama from expressing his views on this. It’s a critical decision for Illinois. Do we hold an election or leave the appointment of a senator in the hands of the governor?
Earlier in the week, when a Tribune reporter asked Obama about this, Obama said he would leave the decision to the legislature.
But Democratic leaders of the legislature are stalling. Obama can have some influence. He can push them publicly to set up an election. It should be held at the same time as 2009 municipal elections to minimize cost and get the position filled quickly.
Obama has promised to disclose his staff interactions with the Blagojevich people next week, per a request from the US Attorney…
“After the President-elect announced an internal transition team investigation, the United States Attorney’s Office requested a brief delay of the release of a report of that investigation to conduct certain interviews.”
Obama is no longer our US Senator (he resigned weeks ago), and he has a few more important things on his plate than every possible legislative decision.
Also, it’s probably more likely that we’ll get an impeachment and removal and, therefore, an appointment before a special election can be held. Keep that in mind as well. I’m basically an agnostic on this issue, but there is zero chance that the General Assembly will return before January to take up the matter (unless Blagojevich does something extremely stupid like attempt to make the appointment on his own, which his lawyer said he wouldn’t do).
Republicans have awakened from their post-George Ryan lethargy to campaign vigorously for a special election. But it’s possible the people’s best hope and the GOP’s best ally may be Ed Genson, Blagojevich’s lawyer and one of Chicago’s premier courtroom strategists.
Impeachment gives the Legislature wide leeway, so Genson’s quiver doesn’t hold as many legal arrows as in a courtroom. Still, his legal skills might be able to extend the impeachment process long enough for pressure to build to force lawmakers to schedule a special election.
Genson might try to take this matter into the federal courts, but that would almost assuredly be doomed. He won’t delay it long.
* Republicans Revolt on RNC’s Obama-Blago Strategy
* Mikva not interested in replacing Obama in Senate; touts Rep. Jan Schakowsky for the seat
* Washington Post: We aren’t fans of gubernatorial appointments to the Senate. They are undemocratic and subject to abuse. Mr. Blagojevich’s alleged actions show in vivid detail the danger of putting that power in the hands of one person. The decision on who should represent the people of Illinois should rest in their hands.
* I meant to point this out earlier, but should Special Agent in charge of the Chicago FBI Robert Grant be calling into WLS AM’s Don and Roma show to cheerily explain why the Blagojevich arrest was made? Also, what the heck was he doing joking about endorsing Don’s “candidacy” for US Senate? This whole thing is already a circus without help from the FBI.
A pre-Christmas gift? Sneed is told Gov. Blagojevich, who is showing no sign of yielding his power, wielded his pen to sign 60 petitions for clemency Thursday.
• • To wit: While everyone waits to see if President Bush grants clemency to former Gov. George Ryan (Dec. 23?), Gov. Blago decided to help erase the backlog of 2,300 clemency petitions awaiting approval.
• • Background: “The backlog contains requests from innocent people whose convictions were overturned but couldn’t get a job because they needed a pardon to erase the conviction from their record,” said a Sneed source.
Actually, he’s finally appearing to do the job that he was elected to do six years ago. He’s never shown any interest at all in those clemency petitions, for instance. He signed a bill yesterday that was passed by the Senate on Tuesday. That’s a complete rarity.
Blagojevich’s arrest has ironically been a boon for some.
It was 10 years ago today that the U.S. House voted to impeach President Bill Clinton and send the case on for a trial in the U.S. Senate.
Then-U.S. Rep. Rod Blagojevich was just finishing his first term in Congress and voted “no” on all four impeachment counts - two counts of perjury, one count of obstruction of justice, and one count of abuse of power - against the two-term Democratic president.
Now that Blagojevich, a two-term Democratic governor, finds himself the subject of impeachment proceedings for alleged abuse of power, his comments have newfound meaning and offer a possible insight into whether he’ll resign or force lawmakers to try to remove him.
“In the long view, our actions today will be a stain on President Clinton, but it will be a bigger stain on the 105th Congress,” Blagojevich told the Chicago Sun-Times after the 1998 vote.
* Click the pic for a larger version. Originally from IR…
* Bloomberg Campaign Manager Was Aide to Embattled Illinois Governor: When asked about Mr. Tusk on Tuesday evening, Mr. Bloomberg said, “Bradley is an honest, hard-working, competent guy,” who, he added, “never had anything to do with parts of that administration.”
Illinois lawmakers could be forced to build their impeachment case against Gov. Rod Blagojevich on a raft of relatively small grievances, rather than the blockbuster Senate-seat-for-sale allegations, for fear of undermining federal prosecutors’ criminal investigation.
Members of the state House impeachment committee said Thursday they will do nothing that would interfere with the investigation by U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald. If Fitzgerald asks lawmakers not to interview certain witnesses, they will abide by that, they said. […]
The latest complications, along with other developments, suggest it could be more difficult to dislodge Blagojevich than it appeared just a week ago.
* That last paragraph is misleading, as this bit buried way down in the piece clearly shows…
Committee members said the criminal charges against Blagojevich will still play a part in the impeachment proceedings. If nothing else, lawmakers will be able to use the 77-page federal criminal complaint, which includes sworn statements from the FBI and damning excerpts from the governor’s wiretapped conversations.
There’s a whole lot of stuff in that complaint, and not just the wiretap evidence.
* The “smaller” abuse of power stuff (besides the DHFS problems discussed below) will definitely help pad the final impeachment document…
JCAR executive director Vicki Thomas said in nearly two decades she has never seen an administration “blatantly ignore” the legislative oversight panel.
Auditor General William Holland then testified about the lack of cooperation he gets from some of Blagojevich’s agencies. […]
Other witnesses complained about the administration’s routine refusal to release public information, even when requested under the Freedom of Information Act. The administration is still fighting a court order to release federal subpoenas that have been served on it.
Although they may not sizzle like claims that Blagojevich tried to sell a U.S. Senate seat, the allegations that the unpopular governor bypassed the legislature and mismanaged the state likely will serve as cornerstones for an impeachment vote.
“It’s not as sexy as the criminal aspect,” said Rep. Connie Howard (D-Chicago), who questioned whether the governor had abused his power, “but it has to do with whether or not an executive feels that he is the last word on everything.”
The director of the state’s healthcare agency today asserted his attorney-client privilege before a panel weighing impeachment of Gov. Rod Blagojevich, saying he would testify about facts surrounding Blagojevich’s push to expand healthcare but would not comment on communications involving the program’s legality.
Barry Maram, director of the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services, said his comments would be limited due to an ongoing court challenge of Blagojevich’s expansion of the state-subsidized FamilyCare insurance program.
The state’s top welfare officials repeatedly said Thursday they didn’t know or couldn’t recall who it was that decided to press forward with a taxpayer-financed health coverage expansion Gov. Rod Blagojevich wanted but lawmakers rejected.
“I don’t know who initiated the initial initiation,” said Barry Maram, director of the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services.
Lawmakers are looking at the program as possible evidence of abuse of power by the governor.
Tamara Hoffman, Maram’s chief of staff, similarly said she couldn’t recall how the push to override lawmakers occurred but she would scan her notes, though she cautioned it might take a while to sort through the clutter.
Panel members were less than pleased with Maram and his chief of staff Tamara Hoffman’s reason for dodging questions. The two were reprimanded several times by Rep. Lou Lang (D-Skokie) who demanded to know how many people were signed up under the expanded program and how much it cost. […]
Lang also hammered the agency officials in asking who decided to move forward with the healthcare expansion. Maram said he did not know who initiated the program, but that his agency met several times with officials from Blagojevich’s office about the expansion beginning more than two years ago. Hoffman said she had a direct conversation with Blagojevich regarding rules to institute the program.
I had many conversations with many attorneys as we proceeded and, sorry, I really don’t remember at this time what those conversations were. I can tell you that I wasn’t told by the Governor. I can look in the mirror in the morning. The Governor NEVER asked me to do anything unlawful. [emphasis in original]
An attorney representing Governor Rod Blagojevich in his criminal and impeachment proceedings says lawmakers considering impeachment proceedings should not consider material from federal wiretaps.
Attorney Edward Genson made his second appearance in front of the special Illinois House committee Thursday. He says the taped conversations have not been approved as evidence in a criminal trial.
“I have cases here that I won’t belabor you with where people have tried to talk about these things in front of grand juries, and they said they’ve said they couldn’t do it,” Genson told the 21-member panel. “Until we get a chance to contest it, until we get the underlying documents, the use of this is illegal.”
18 USC Section 2515. Prohibition of use as evidence of intercepted wire or oral communications.
Whenever any wire or oral communication has been intercepted, no part of the contents of such communication and no evidence derived therefrom may be received in evidence in any trial, hearing, or other proceeding in or before any court, grand jury, department, officer, agency, regulatory body, legislative committee, or other authority of the United States, a State, or a political subdivision thereof if the disclosure of that information would be in violation of this chapter.
* And here’s what a commenter had to say about it yesterday…
Note the last clause. Here’s where he’s off kilter: If the disclosure of the tapped calls is illegal for the House committee to hear, it would also be illegal to have been submitted to the federal court as the basis for the complaint. Dumb beyond measure. He’s grabbing at straws.
Genson complained that the wiretaps might have been illegal, even though they were authorized by a judge. He said a number of hurdles have to be cleared before taped conversations can be used in a trial. Committee members have repeatedly pointed out they are not conducting a trial.
Genson may eventually ask a federal court to intervene and stop the House from using the wiretap evidence. Good luck with that, dude.
* Meanwhile, the impeachment committee has sent a letter to US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald…
The letter to Fitzgerald, which was under virtual lock and key by the committee, explicitly identified about 20 current or former members of Blagojevich’s administration the panel wishes to hear from and several lobbyists, including those representing horseracing interests, sources said.
Among those named are Blagojevich adviser and lobbyist John Wyma, former chief of staff and lobbyist Alonzo Monk, ex-Deputy Gov. Robert Greenlee, Deputy Gov. Louanner Peters, former Blagojevich budget director John Filan, current budget director Ginger Ostro and Blagojevich’s most recent chief of staff, John Harris, who was arrested and charged with the governor on Dec. 9 and has since resigned, sources said.
Another name on the list is former Blagojevich personnel employee Dawn DeFraties, who was wrongly accused by the administration of allegedly manipulating the state hiring process and fired as a testament to Blagojevich’s commitment to battle corruption.
But an administrative law judge said the administration never proved its allegations against DeFraties, who said she merely was taking hiring orders from the governor’s office. A Downstate judge ultimately threw out the governor’s case against her, describing it as “bizarre” and “Kafkaesque.”
She was ordered reinstated and has acknowledged cooperating with federal investigators probing hiring fraud under Blagojevich.
* From the New York Times we have a more detailed report about the federal government’s attempt to freeze the governor’s campaign fund…
Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich of Illinois plans to ask that he be permitted to use campaign funds to defend himself against federal corruption charges, a lawyer who represents the head of the embattled governor’s campaign fund said Thursday.
Michael D. Ettinger, the lawyer for Mr. Blagojevich’s brother, Robert, who is chairman of the campaign fund, The Friends of Blagojevich, said that the governor would make the request to the judge assigned to his case when and if he is formally indicted.
“There’s a real question about how he will be able to pay for his defense,” Mr. Ettinger said. […]
Mr. Blagojevich may also be blocked from using campaign funds to pay for his defense. Mr. Ettinger said the fund has received a letter from the office of United States Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald warning that federal prosecutors would seek the forfeiture of the campaign contributions, and advising that the fund should not spend, dissipate, or conceal any of its resources. There was $3.6 million in the fund as of June 30, according to public filings.
Meanwhile, defense lawyer Michael Ettinger, who represents Robert Blagojevich, said there is an expectation that the governor’s campaign fund will be indicted.
“There’s precedent from [former Gov. George] Ryan,” Ettinger said. “I assume they’ll do that here too.”
If that happens, Ettinger said they’ll seek a hearing to have attorney fees set aside from the campaign.
Earlier this week, prosecutors notified the fund that they would seek to freeze it.
“Don’t spend it or conceal it or dissipate it, we’ll seek reimbursement if you do,” Ettinger said the letter stated.
* This bit of background shows that there is a precedent for using a frozen campaign fund to pay legal expenses, however…
Gov. Blagojevich’s last campaign finance report shows Friends of Blagojevich had $3.6 million in the bank as of June 30. The 76-page affidavit that accompanies the criminal complaint filed against Blagojevich cites a cooperating witness as saying his campaign was seeking to raise $2.5 million by the end of the year, when a tougher campaign fundraising law takes effect. […]
Putting attorneys and Blagojevich on notice that the campaign money could be forfeited if he were convicted could effectively freeze the fund — something the government did as it built its case against former Gov. George Ryan.
The Citizens for Ryan campaign fund eventually was charged and convicted of racketeering, although U.S. District Judge Rebecca R. Pallmeyer allowed the fund’s defense attorney to tap it for his fee.
Taxpayers will not have to foot the bill to defend Gov. Rod Blagojevich against criminal charges or moves to oust him from office, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan said Thursday.
“It is absurd to suggest that taxpayers must finance the defense of a criminal action against Governor Blagojevich who is accused of corruptly betraying the public trust for personal and financial gain,” Madigan said in a letter to defense attorney Ed Genson.
Genson submitted a letter to Madigan Wednesday specifically outlining the cases against the governor and requesting the state pay for his defense in those cases.
Genson later claimed he didn’t expect taxpayers to fund his criminal defense, only his defense against ongoing impeachment proceedings.
The Chicago Sun-Times reported Tuesday that Moreno sent word of minority contractor preference through county interim hospitals chief David Small, which led to a sit-down between Garcia and Med Assets President John Bardis, sources said. Med Assets hired Chicago Medical but recently ousted the company, claiming it overbilled by as much as 135 percent.
“It’s an extraordinarily bad deal for the citizens of Cook County at an extraordinarily difficult time,” Civic Federation President Laurence Msall said. “We are opposing this budget, because it’s built on the unsustainable concept of borrowing over $360 million for operating expenses right on the heals of this massive tax increase.”
* The Illinois Supreme Court has ruled in favor of pharmacists whose lawsuit had been dismissed. The suit attempted to stop the governor from forcing them to dispense the “morning after” pill. The Supremes ruled that they deserve a hearing, but refused to make a ruling on the merits of the case itself…
We have previously acknowledged that plaintiffs’ claims are legal in nature, but we do not believe that it would be consistent with our role as a reviewing court to rule on the merits of the Conscience Act where defendants, as of yet, have not been required to answer the allegations of plaintiffs’ complaint in the trial court.
* I told subscribers about this a couple of days ago…
Sneed hears that Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn, who is this/close to becoming the state’s main man, tossed his premier fund-raiser Monday night — but refused to accept any money!
• To wit: “I never saw a fund-raiser where you didn’t collect funds,” said a Sneed source who attended the Taxpayers for Quinn event at Fulton’s on the River Monday night. “People were told to put their checkbooks away.”
• The upshot: So Quinn turned the fund-raiser into a holiday party and paid for it. “Sometimes, you have to do the right thing as you see it,” said Quinn.
• Added Quinn: “I just didn’t feel comfortable accepting checks and having fund-raising done [considering] what happened a week ago with this scandal. We’re all committed to straightening things out,” Quinn told Sneed. “It was kind of a game-time decision that I made over the weekend.”
• The partyshot: It was also a pre-birthday party: Quinn turned 60 Tuesday. “I was born on the 175th anniversary of the Boston Tea Party,” said Quinn.
• The backshot: One partygoer said he’d never seen so many people at a Quinn fund-raiser.
There were about 500 people in attendance, almost ten times the usual. The line of well-wishers stretched far outside the restaurant.
* Chuck Sweeny was at the party and scored an interview…
What would Quinn do to solve the states serious fiscal problems, the $4 billion backlog in unpaid bills, the $2 billion budget gap and the $42 billion pension debt?
“The key is to have much stronger economic growth than we have now. There’s no way we are going to be able to close this deficit and move to economic recovery if (Blagojevich) remains the governor. The scandal is costing us a reduction in our credit rating, and the amount extra we had to pay for borrowing $1.4 billion this week is $20 million. That is truly a corruption tax.”
Would Quinn as governor seek to raise revenue to right the state’s fiscal ship? He said he’d propose a commission to examine tax breaks and “propose a moratorium on special breaks until we get out of this economic problem.” But which loopholes? One man’s loophole is another’s job-creating tax incentive.
One excessive loophole, Quinn said, is the 1.75 percent commission paid to retailers on sales taxes they collect for the state. […]
“If you cut it in half, you pick up $100 million. This is money the customer is already paying,” Quinn said.
Would Quinn propose an income tax increase, even a temporary one, to get the state’s books in order?
“I don’t want to make any judgments on income tax. Part of it is the whole issue of getting access to the real numbers from the governor’s office. (Blagojevich) has not always been totally candid, and I’m a little bit reluctant to make judgments until I see real numbers that are not phony baloney.”
That last paragraph is a classic dodge. He’s obviously not ruling out an income tax hike, but for obvious reasons doesn’t want to create any reasons to oppose his ascension right now.
[Cynthia Canary, director of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform] cautioned that if he assumes the governorship he’ll have to tone down his “gadfly” ways, so as to settle the tensions inflamed by Blagojevich.
“(Blagojevich) was a bully. … Pat’s gonna have to show us a different kind of leadership,” she said. “There is a sense of outrage among people that far transcends anything I’ve ever seen.” […]
House Republican Leader Tom Cross said Quinn’s role was largely “ceremonial” as lieutenant governor. But he praised Quinn as an independent mind and fondly recalled working with the lieutenant governor recently on legislation to improve dam safety.
“He’ll have to step up and I hope he can, because it’s needed for the state,” Cross said, adding that he believes Quinn could serve to eradicate the “raw personality conflict” that exists between the sitting governor and the legislature. […]
“I think he’ll be a real difference in Illinois from what we’re used to,” [Dick Simpson] said. “He won’t take bribes, he’ll be a straight arrow … whether he’ll have the best public policy we’ll have to wait and see.”
State Comptroller Dan Hynes had more than $2.3 million in campaign cash on hand as of June 30. Attorney General Lisa Madigan reported over $2.1 million. Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias had almost $1.3 million, and Secretary of State Jesse White showed about $669,000.
Quinn had just $91,000. And maybe an old car with a falling ceiling that might be good for a few more headlines.
* 4:18 pm - Majority Leader Currie just announced the committee will adjourn today and then reconvene Monday at noon. “I would be prepared for two days, as you know we’re off Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.”
* 3:43 pm - Rep. Franks said he thought the governor’s failure to testify at the hearing might be used against him. Chairperson Currie said Franks was speaking for himself and that it was not as of yet the position of the committee.
At one point, another one of Blagojevich’s attorneys, Sam Adam Jr., could be overheard suggesting to Genson that they walk out of the impeachment hearings. It seemed to be said quietly enough that members of the panel could not hear—but the mics on the table picked up the exchange.
Genson replied to Adam “No I’m not walking out” adding “you can walk out.”
Adam then said to Genson, “No if we do it, we do it as a team,” and dropped the suggestion.
* 3:22 pm -Washington Post: Illinois Panel Hears Testimony on Blagojevich’s Conduct… SJ-R: Auditor general says he’s troubled by administration
* 2:59 pm - More attempts at normalcy…
Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today signed a law that extends the Medical Practice Act until 2010. Recognizing the necessity in providing quality healthcare in Illinois, Senate Bill 2179 continues the regulation of physicians and ensures that no licenses for practicing doctors in Illinois will expire at the end of the year.
* 2:56 pm - We’re now onto the flu vaccine disaster. Holland claims, rightly that the administration knew the purchase was not legal.
Holland: High ranking Illinois officials appeared to be aware that the vaccine would probably never be delivered.
* 2:54 pm - CLTV has some raw video from earlier today.
* 2:52 pm -Tribune: Healthcare director dodges questions at impeachment hearing
* 2:44 pm - Holland: “Procurement code was violated on a routine basis.”
* 2:40 pm - Rep. Lang wonders whether these audit findings demonstrate incompetence or a pattern of abuse of power. Holland: That’s not for me to determine.
Lang: Purposeful or slipshod work by staff? Holland: On occasion purposeful, on occasion slipshod staff, sometimes overworked staff. His history with DHFS always shows a “real struggle to get routine information.”
Gov. Rod Blagojevich has no plans to address the public today, despite having said Wednesday he would, according to his spokesman… Blagojevich spokesman Lucio Guerrero said the governor may talk Friday or next week.
“He is not jerking you around,” Guerrero told reporters at an afternoon news conference.
* 2:19 pm - Holland is now talking about IPAM, which didn’t exist as a corporation when it was given a $30 million state contract. The contract was an utter mess and Blagojevich slammed Holland over his investigation.
* 2:07 pm - I just looked at the blog’s traffic report for the past week. Wow. Thanks, people!
* 2:02 pm - Auditor General Bill Holland is now testifying. He said he can’t testify on the Loop Lab School controversy because the audit isn’t finished yet. The reason? “We’re having trouble finding out who was actually responsible.”
* 1:56 pm - Fran Eaton is following this thing almost sentence by sentence. The SJ-R “blog” is being updated far less frequently.
Well, the case is a fairytale, the process is a witchunt. The fact of the matter is, uh, I don’t know that Illinois is doing itself any credit. In the light of the scandal, in the light of the problems that the image of the state of Illinois is having, it seems to me that to put together a process, which deprives, uh the governor of any sort of rights whatsoever, does not do Illinois proud. […]
[Regarding some committee members] Because a good majority of this panel has gotten up since the panel has started, and made speeches against, uh, the governor. that’s not what you call due process, that’s not what you call a neutral forum… They, they don’t, they don’t belong on this panel.”
* 1:24 pm - Genson’s mic was left on during the break and I’m pretty sure I just heard him say regarding a message from someone else: “Tell her the truth, I’m stuck in this stupid hearing.” [Two commenters also heard him say this, so I struck out the “I’m pretty sure” stuff]
* 1:19 pm - Genson tried to cross-examine a previous witness, but was continually shut down by the committee. “I’ve been sitting here for hours listening to that and I asked six questions and I’ve had four objected to.”
* 1:02 pm - The governor’s attorney Samuel Adam just tried to ask how many lives were saved in Illinois as a result of the governor going around JCAR. The question was disallowed.
* 12:56 pm - It’s a mystery to me why these aggressively evasive testifiers from DHFS are not being threatened with contempt.
* 12:40 pm - Genson just assented when asked if the federal wiretaps and recordings were “illegally obtained.” He then added, “We have no proof or indication that this wiretap complied [with federal law]… Without giving us an opportunity to contest it, the admission of [the wiretap evidence] is unacceptable… and illegal.”
Rep. Fritchey: “The intercepts were authorized [by a judge]… It’s my opinion that the authorization was proper.” Genson: “Your opinion is wrong, with all due respect.”
* 12:35 pm - Rep. Franks: Do you consider yourselves rogue employees, or were you taking specific directions from the governor’s office (to go around JCAR and the GA)? Who made the decision and when was it made? Answer: No real answer. Sheesh.
* 12:17 pm - Rep. Lang pretty much summed up his view on whether the administration’s decision to create a health care program without legislative approval was an impeachable offense: “You did not follow the law.”
* 12:10 pm - Man, these DHFS people are getting creamed on just about every issue. Evasiveness pervades, and Rep. Lang is having none of it.
* 11:57 am -Feds: Winston & Strawn can’t represent Bill Cellini
* 11:46 am - Fran Eaton is doing a pretty darned good live-blogging job. Click here.
* 11:35 am - The G has warned Blagojevich that if he withdraws money from his campaign fund, they’ll demand a forfeiture if he’s eventually convicted…
Attorney Michael Ettinger represents Blagojevich’s brother, Rob Blagojevich, who is chairman of the Friends of Blagojevich fund.
Ettinger says a letter he received from federal prosecutors this week warned that if money is withdrawn from the fund, the government will ask that it be forfeited and returned if Blagojevich is convicted.
As far as the criminal complaint goes — heavy on allegations, light on evidence — many defense lawyers point out that merely talking about committing a crime (selling a Senate seat, for example) may not be prosecutable without evidence that specific acts were taken in furtherance of such an intent.
The governor is on tape ordering his subordinates/pals to make calls to further his schemes. That’s the evidence.
But just as it has been wrong in recent years for this country to throw due process and the rule of law overboard in the name of combating terror, it would be wrong to throw it overboard in the name of quickly ridding Illinois of an alleged corrupt governor.
The governor, a relentless runner, reportedly surprised feds when, upon entering his home, he began jogging in place — and then lying down in the fetal position. He reportedly repeated the frenetic exercise several times.
* 10:11 am - Genson is still having trouble distinguishing between a courtroom and an impeachment proceeding. He just called Rep. Currie “Your honor.”
The chairman of the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority board today directed his agency’s inspector general to review the process by which the $1.8 billion congestion-relief program came to fruition to ensure it was not tainted.
The program — which calls for the construction of interchanges and carpool lanes — was mentioned in the criminal complaint against Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who allegedly was trying to use it to motivate an unnamed highway contractor to make $500,000 in campaign contributions.
Federal prosecutors will try to freeze the money in Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s campaign account, according to a letter defense attorney Edward Genson said the political fund received this week.
If prosecutors are successful, the move would severely hamper Blagojevich’s ability to pay huge legal bills as he fights corruption charges in what could be a long-running court battle. The governor has been charged with two criminal counts in federal court, but has not been indicted yet.
Blagojevich considered moving money out of the fund to try to avoid having prosecutors seize it, authorities alleged in court documents last week.
The “Friends of Blagojevich” fund hasn’t been frozen yet, but sources said the letter alone will have a crippling effect on the governor’s ability to move money out of the fund because of the possibility that prosecutors would later seize the money.
As of June 30, the date of his latest campaign-finance report, Blagojevich had about $3.6 million in his campaign war chest. He’s been on a major fund-raising swing since then, though any money he’s raised might already have been spent on legal fees or other expenses.
There’s precedent for freezing Blagojevich’s fund. In 2002, prosecutors got a judge to freeze $1 million in then-Gov. George Ryan’s campaign fund before Ryan was indicted. They charged that the Ryan fund was a criminal enterprise and said they wanted to make sure it had money available to pay possible restitution costs. Ryan was convicted of corruption charges and is serving six and a half years in prison.
* The attempt to freeze the campaign fund may have prompted Ed Genson to ask for state funds to pay for the governor’s impeachment defense. The Sun-Times tells us about AG Madigan’s rejection of that request…
Attorney General Lisa Madigan rejected late Wednesday a request by Gov. Blagojevich to have taxpayers pay for his defense in impeachment proceedings and at his criminal trial.
The governor’s lawyer, Edward Genson, contended that Madigan, as the state’s chief law enforcement officer, has a duty to represent the governor. But she can’t do so because of a conflict of interest related to her unsuccessful push for the state Supreme Court to declare the governor unfit for office.
Madigan’s chief of staff Anne Spillane, fired back, saying “This assertion is meritless” in a letter to David Ellis, House Speaker Michael Madigan’s general counsel. […]
That provision of the law, she said, “therefore cannot entitle the governor to legal representation at the State’s expense in the proceedings before the House of Representatives. […]
The governor’s lawyer later told the Sun-Times it was never his intent to have the state pay for the governor’s criminal defense despite sending a letter to Madigan Tuesday that made that request, and which prompted Spillane’s response.
The attorney for a key confidant to Gov. Rod Blagojevich said Wednesday that he is not cooperating with investigators as part of a coming plea deal.
Chris Kelly, a former top fundraiser and adviser to Blagojevich, is set to plead guilty Jan. 16 to tax fraud charges stemming from illegal gambling debts. Kelly served as the governor’s point man on casino regulation.
Kelly’s attorney, Michael Monico, said after a court hearing Wednesday that cooperation with investigators “will not be part of the agreement.”
Yet, Monico sidestepped questions about whether Kelly was cooperating at all.
The new Illinois Tollway chief is out after less than a month on the job.
Jeffrey Dailey’s resignation on Wednesday comes at a tumultuous time in state government following last week’s arrest of Gov. Rod Blagojevich on federal corruption charges that included trying to sell President-elect Barack Obama’s vacant seat in the U.S. Senate.
Among other things, Blagojevich also is accused of allegedly linking work on a $1.8 billion Chicago-area tollway construction project to political contributions from a contractor. That episode referenced in the criminal complaint happened before Dailey was on the job.
Dailey “wants the opportunity to pursue opportunities in the engineering or transportation fields,” said Tollway spokeswoman Joelle McGinnis.
President-elect Barack Obama’s incoming chief of staff Rahm Emanuel had a deeper involvement in pressing for a U.S. Senate seat appointment than previously reported, the Sun-Times has learned. Emanuel had direct discussions about the seat with Gov. Blagojevich, who is is accused of trying to auction it to the highest bidder.
Emanuel talked with the governor in the days following the Nov. 4 election and pressed early on for the appointment of Valerie Jarrett to the post, sources with knowledge of the conversations told the Sun-Times. There was no indication from sources that Emanuel brokered a deal, however.
A source with the Obama camp strongly denied Emanuel spoke with the governor directly about the seat, saying Emanuel only spoke with Blagojevich once recently to say he was taking the chief of staff post.
But sources with knowledge of the investigation said Blagojevich told his aides about the calls with Emanuel and sometimes gave them directions afterward. Sources said that early on, Emanuel pushed for the appointment of Jarrett to the governor and his staff and asked that it be done by a certain date.
If he didn’t cut a deal with the governor, then there’s really no “there” there.
On Wednesday, O’Connor acknowledged he had not yet lined up the support he needs to win the Democratic endorsement, in part because Emanuel is standing on the sidelines.
“The problem is, they’re in the middle of a very serious situation and this is less important [by] comparison,” O’Connor said, referring to the transition process.
Measuring his words carefully to avoid alienating Emanuel, the alderman said: “He could clear the field, but I’m not asking him to do that at this time.”
[Emanuel] has told Democratic ward bosses that he would like to reclaim the seat after a few years as chief of staff.
He was believed to be leaning toward O’Connor, in part, because the alderman might be amenable to giving up the seat at some point.
* But here’s a spot of good news for the governor. “Bobby the Boxer” denies claims by Robert Cooley that Blagojevich was a bookie who paid street taxes…
Cooley told the I-Team that in the 1980’s Mr. Blagojevich was paying mob protection money, known as a street tax, to North Side outfit soldier Robert Abbinanti, once nicknamed ‘Bobby the Boxer.’
“My name is Bob Abbinanti. You did a report yesterday with Robert Cooley pertaining to Mr. Blagojevich stating that I was a bookmaker and that I took a street tax from him in the late 80’s,” said Abbinanti.
In a phone call to ABC7, Mr. Abbinanti denied having been Blagojevich’s mob handler 25 years ago.
Abbinanti admits having run outfit gambling rackets with Marco ‘The Mover’ D’amico and that he was convicted with top mob gambling bosses for which he spent six years in the federal penitentiary.
“I don’t know what Rod Blagojevich did or has done but I do know one thing. I never met the man. I never spoke to the man. I never had any business personal or in any way with him and you know what, it’s just an injustice,” said Abbinanti.
* This assertion by Ed Genson has to come as a relief to Democrats who were worried that Gov. Blagojevich was just crazy enough to think he ought to fill Barack Obama’s vacant Senate seat…
Gov. Rod Blagojevich will not fill the state’s open U.S. Senate seat, an appointment federal prosecutors say he tried to sell to the highest bidder, according to a news report.
Mr. Blagojevich’s lawyer said Wednesday that the governor would not name someone to fill the vacancy created when Barack Obama was elected president, according to a Wall Street Journal report.
“(U.S. Senate Majority Leader) Harry Reid said that they’re not going to accept anybody he picks. Why would he do that?” said Ed Genson, Mr. Blagojevich’s lawyer. His remarks came at a news conference that followed an impeachment hearing in Springfield.
Apparently hoping you’d be distracted, state Democratic officials have reversed course on holding a special election early next year to fill the state’s vacant Senate seat.
Never mind, the Democrats say.
Costs too much.
It is stunning to see that little more than a week after our governor was charged with letting base considerations undermine public policy, members of his own party have jettisoned principle and let base considerations undermine public policy.
We thought we’d get a reprieve. A little bipartisanship. A bit of consideration for what’s best for the people.
But no, Democrats are afraid that if the seat goes up for election, rather than have a new governor fill the spot, then the voters might choose someone who’s not a Democrat. Namely, a Republican.
The last thing Illinois needs in the midst of turmoil following the governor’s arrest is having either party playing politics.
To borrow a phrase often used by Sen. Dan Rutherford, R-Chenoa, this is a time for statesmanship not partisanship.
Yet the Illinois Republican Party is sending out messages with alarmist phrases such as, “Don’t let the Blagojevich Democrats appoint our next senator.”
Talk about guilt by association.
We suppose there are some “Blagojevich Democrats” left out there - such as soon-to-be-retired Senate President Emil Jones - who did Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s bidding.
But there also are a lot of Democrats who dislike the governor as much, if not more, than Republicans. After all, the vote to form an impeachment committee was unanimous. […]
We also wouldn’t consider House Speaker Michael Madigan a “Blagojevich Democrat.” He is certainly a Democrat, so it’s no surprise he supported Blagojevich over Republican Judy Topinka in the last gubernatorial election, even serving as a leader in Blagojevich’s campaign.
But considering his opposition to Blagojevich on numerous issues, there’s no way he is a “Blagojevich Democrat.”
* And the Rockford Register Star slams the Illinois Republican Party for misrepresenting facts in its latest TV ad…
Although the ad does not specifically say we endorse a special election, it strongly implies that we do.
We see no need for a special election and said so in an editorial published Tuesday.
We think Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn is qualified to select Barack Obama’s replacement as Illinois’ junior senator. We think a special election would deprive the state of representation too long and be too expensive.
The ad also would make you think the president-elect favors a special election. He has not said whether he favors a special election or whether he thinks Quinn should make the selection. […]
The ad also tries to tie Quinn with Blagojevich. “Now Blagojevich’s lieutenant governor, Pat Quinn, wants to handpick our senator, going back on his word.”
Quinn is not Blagojevich’s lieutenant governor; he’s the state of Illinois’ lieutenant governor. Quinn has been a frequent critic of Blagojevich and has no relationship with the governor. The two men have not spoken to each other in 18 months.
*** UPDATE *** The RR-Star complains today that their earlier editorial was completely misrepresented by the IL GOP, but I took a look at the editorial and here’s what it says…
Anyone whom Blagojevich appoints would be tainted by whispers the seat was bought rather than earned.
A special election is the only way to ensure the seat is given because of merit instead of money.
Yes, it was about making sure Blagojevich didn’t appoint somebody, but they did say they liked a special election. They doth protest too much.
[ *** End of Update *** ]
* The Peoria Journal Star, which endorsed a Senate President candidate favored by Gov. Blagojevich, whacks the Dems hard for backing the governor in the past…
It reminds us of a conversation with some local Democratic Party leaders in 2006, when we expressed dismay that they could back any candidate who, it was alleged even then, seemed so corrupt. The answer we got was disappointing. Essentially it was a shrug, accompanied by a-Democrat’s-gotta-support-a-fellow-Democrat explanation. We warned then that theirs might be a short-term gain, long-term loss, that Rod Blagojevich could very well take the party down with him - just as now-imprisoned former Gov. George Ryan did his - no matter how weak the alternative
A woman who’s name has surfaced as a possible contender for president-elect Barack Obama’s senate seat was in Bloomington Wednesday.
Tammy Duckworth, who is also the Director of the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs, was presenting the “Veteran of the Month” award.
Duckworth said she didn’t want to comment on the ongoing Blagojevich investigation or the status of the vacant senate seat, but she did want to clear one thing up.
“I have not spoken to the governor about the senate seat, I have had no conversations with him, I’ve just been focused on my job,” she said. “My name has been floated but that’s not anything I have ever put forward myself.”
* On a semi-related topic, an ultra conservative columnist claims that House GOP Leader Tom Cross is…
a pro-abort who was Blagojevich’s college roommate
The two men never went to college together, so they couldn’t have been roommates.
Representative Ray LaHood, an Illinois Republican known for his willingness to criticize his own party and to work with Democrats, is likely to be named by President-elect Barack Obama as his choice for transportation secretary, according to a person familiar with the selection.
LaHood, 63, whose district includes the headquarters of Peoria, Illinois-based Caterpillar Inc., has known Obama for more than a decade and is close to Rahm Emanuel, the Illinois congressman designated by the president-elect as White House chief of staff. He is retiring from Congress this year after serving seven terms.
The announcement may come as soon as Friday, said the person, who spoke condition of anonymity.
When Michael Reese Hospital announced it was closing in June, union workers and community activists rallied and protested.
They demanded that the city recognize the 200-plus laid-off workers from the Service Employees International Union. The city has ponyed up $272,000 for retraining. If city officials have their way, the hospital land will be a 2016 Olympic site.
Aldermen are letting the City of Chicago buy the land where Michael Reese Hospital sits. They say the $86-million deal could help in the city’s bid to host the 2016 Olympics. The plan is to use the land for the Olympic Village, then turn the development into mixed use housing. Alderman Toni Preckwinkle says the price is a steal.