* As most of you know, I am a big proponent of throwing out the way Illinois draws its legislative and congressional maps. A recent Tribune editorial had this interesting tidbit…
In November’s election, incumbents got more than 75 percent of the vote in 25 of the 40 state Senate districts that were in contention, and 72 of the 118 House districts.
More than 75 percent of the vote. Because incumbents are beloved? No. Because Illinois gerrymandering — the drawing of districts for raw political gain — is a legalized protection racket. Who gets protected? Not you.
* How important is redistricing to legislators? A New Yorker story from last year, which included an observation about the day after the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001, might just turn your stomachs…
For many Illinois state legislators, September 11th was not an event that required much response. The attacks occurred just before an important deadline in the redistricting process. John Corrigan, the Democratic consultant in charge of redistricting, told me that he spent September 12th talking to many legislators, Obama not among them.
“It was like nothing had happened,” he said. “Everybody came in and all they cared about was their districts. It wasn’t any one particular legislator from any one particular community. I learned a lot about state government. Their job was not to respond to September 11th. They were more worried about making sure that they had a district that they could run in for reëlection.”
On September 12th. Sheesh.
They’ll never let that one go without a gigantic fight, but a fight must be fought.
* Yet, this sort of “all or nothing” attitude in a legislative environment is just plain counter-productive…
The head of Gov. Pat Quinn’s anti-corruption commission looked into the eyes of the legislature’s top leaders at the Illinois Capitol and said nothing less than a sweeping victory on a package of good-government proposals is necessary to clean up a state notoriously not ready for reform.
Removing government secrecy, overhauling campaign financing, removing politics when awarding contracts, changing the way elections are held, enforcing strong penalties for misbehavior — every one of these reforms must be approved or “there will be a hole, there will be a trap door, there will be room for the next scandal,” former federal prosecutor Patrick Collins told the leaders.
I can’t help but wonder if Collins won’t try to use this commission as a springboard to something else. I hope I’m wrong, but my potential candidate radar is strongly activated by this man.
* My syndicated newspaper column kinda got buried in Mike’s massive MS yesterday (thanks to Mike for taking over while I was in bed with flu-like symptoms). So, here’s another excerpt…
By far, the most ironic aspect of this entire post-Rod Blagojevich push to reform Illinois has to be the last paragraph of Gov. Pat Quinn’s much-praised reform commission report.
“All constitutional officers should issue executive orders, comparable to George Ryan’s Executive Order No. 2 (1999), prohibiting their campaign funds from accepting contributions from state employees under their control.”
Former Gov. Ryan issued that executive order because his crooked campaign fundraising operation at his old secretary of state’s office had triggered a federal corruption probe and he was looking for some political cover. That investigation, of course, eventually put Ryan in prison.
Gov. Quinn’s reform commission chairman Pat Collins - who presided over the insertion of that rare Ryan praise into the commission report - was the chief prosecutor at Ryan’s trial. Ryan’s executive order didn’t prevent Collins’ feds from also convicting his campaign committee.
A few years before he issued that order, Ryan pushed through widely hailed reforms of the state’s lobbyist registration and disclosure laws in the run-up to his successful 1994 re-election campaign against noted reformer… Pat Quinn. Several of Ryan’s lobbyist pals got caught up in his federal prosecution.
The irony just never stops in this state.
The lesson from this ought to be that passing new laws, no matter how enlightened and reasonable and strict, will not stop the bad guys from being bad guys. They are what they are. George Ryan and Rod Blagojevich are living proof of that hard-and-fast law of the universe.
Obviously, though, we’ve got a real problem here in Illinois, and some changes have to be made. But making those changes - and making sure they actually work and don’t break something else in the process - isn’t nearly as easy as the newspaper editorial boards and some of the reformers always make it sound.
* Ill. Reform Commission to release final report
* Durbin: Fitzgerald will stay as prosecutor
* Rod Blagojevich defense lawyers ask judge to tap campaign fund
* Rod Blagojevich’s lawyers seek access to $2 million in campaign funds for legal fees
* Blago’s brother wants to use campaign money for defense
* Attorney Allan Ackerman may join Blagojevich legal team