* Doug Finke doesn’t like the idea of legislators being involved in any investigation into Gov. Pat Quinn’s secret and botched early release program for violent prison inmates…
But an investigation during an election year? One that includes legislators? Oh, yeah, that will get to the bottom of things. No way that could degenerate into an endless round of political grandstanding.
He doesn’t propose an alternative, however. Just cynicism. And while I agree that there would be grandstanding (there was plenty of it during the Blagojevich impeachment, but Finke didn’t argue against that process), I also think a probe with subpoena powers would be more likely to get to the bottom of things than nothing at all.
My syndicated weekly newspaper column has more on that topic…
Gov. Pat Quinn was quoted by the Associated Press last week as saying he’s answered all questions about his administration’s controversial, secret and completely botched early prison release program, so he’s done talking about it.
I beg to differ.
I called the Department of Corrections soon after I saw that quote and asked a few questions that I’ve never seen asked.
For instance, state Sen. Bill Brady, a Republican candidate for governor, claims that Corrections Director Michael Randle has said he had informed the governor about the so-called “Meritorious Good Time Push” program, which let attempted murderers and other violent types out of prison early - several of which were then re-arrested for violent crimes. Quinn, however, has said that he didn’t know about the program until he read about it in the newspapers. How does the director explain the discrepancy, I wanted to know.
I also asked whether the word from inside was true that Director Randle had made himself the department’s direct conduit to the governor. How often, on average, did the two men talk every week, I asked.
And, most importantly, if Quinn is telling the truth that he didn’t know about this disastrous and now suspended MGT Push plan, what reason can Randle provide for his failure to inform the governor?
Not one of those questions was answered. I received an e-mail pointing me to an audio file of the governor’s press conference during which he talked how things got so out of hand. But none of my answers were found in Quinn’s comments, except that the governor reiterated he did not know about MGT Push, and that it was a mistake and that he had killed the program.
Quinn did make some good points in his presentation. For instance, inmates released under the program, beginning in mid September, would’ve all been out of prison by this month anyway.
But the governor also spent much of his time laying the blame on the General Assembly for the debacle. Quinn claimed that the director’s hands were tied because state law required that some pretty nasty convicts must be eligible for early release. While partially true, this was an accelerated early release program, and the responsibility for that acceleration - and the crimes committed during the early release periods - must fall on the administration, and ultimately on Quinn himself.
We need more answers about this botched operation, regardless of what the governor says. Quinn has stonewalled tough questions while answering only those that he can spin - and he isn’t doing a very good job of that, either.
If Quinn and Director Randle won’t provide more answers, then the General Assembly must act by holding hearings with full subpoena powers.
Another Republican running for governor, state Sen. Kirk Dillard, is also pressing for an investigation. Dillard wants the entire Legislature to sit as a “Committee of the Whole” with full subpoena powers to get to the bottom of this mess.
“Governor Quinn and his administration continue to provide vastly different stories about these programs including who made the decision to authorize the early release, why violent criminals were included in the program, and why the MGT program was secretive,” Dillard was quoted as saying in a news release.
AFSCME, the union which represents prison workers, also wants a bipartisan probe in the form of a special joint task force, including legislators from both parties and both chambers, to answer urgent questions about the administration of the corrections department
Full hearings with subpoena powers are probably the last thing the Democrats who control the General Assembly want, particularly in an election year. But this botched program literally endangered the lives of Illinois citizens. At least one prisoner released early was subsequently arrested for shooting somebody - and that’s just what we know of. The whole program was concocted and conducted in secret, and details have been few and far between.
For six years, Illinois endured the Rod Blagojevich administration, which made a bad habit of keeping things secret, blaming the General Assembly for its own mistakes and wrecking almost everything it touched. This early release program and its aftermath look more than just vaguely familiar.
When Quinn took over after Blagojevich was impeached and ousted, he said he would be different, that he believed in accountability and transparency in government. Quinn’s behavior on this issue, however, is downright unacceptable.
* Meanwhile, Gov. Quinn’s campaign tried to gin up some “stone-throwing in a glass house” coverage over the weekend. The Daily Herald fell for the bait…
llinois Gov. Pat Quinn’s opponent in the Democratic primary has criticized him for the early release of felons from state prisons.
Now the tables are turned, with Quinn calling Comptroller Dan Hynes a hypocrite for handing a part-time campaign consulting job to a felon who himself was released early.
“Maybe Hynes should clean up his own house before throwing more stones,” Quinn said in a statement released Sunday.
Quinn has been criticized for secretly releasing hundreds of violent inmates early, some of whom were then rearrested for violent crimes. That’s quite different than this, but it’s still a good gotcha game point and the DH went for it hook, line and sinker.
The original story is here.
* And then there was this…
Gov. Quinn late Friday abruptly canceled a planned appearance at a weekend fund-raiser organized by north suburban lawyer and lobbyist Anthony Abboud, known as “Individual Q” in convicted political insider Tony Rezko’s federal indictment.
Abboud had sent out an invitation to donors promising “an intimate gathering with Gov. Quinn” in Abboud’s Northbrook home Sunday night. […]
Quinn’s “Abboud-face” came after the Chicago Sun-Times raised questions late Friday about why the governor would consider raising campaign funds from someone tied so closely to Rezko, who was a main fund-raiser and advisor for impeached ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich. […]
But Rezko’s indictment disclosed that after being named by Blagojevich to the state Teachers’ Retirement System board, Abboud and another Blagojevich TRS appointee were told by Rezko to take direction from convicted influence peddler Stuart Levine, a fellow TRS board member and fund-raiser for Blagojevich.
* The governor needs plenty of money to churn out his campaign ads, and, as expected, he’s getting bigtime help from SEIU…
Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn’s campaign for election wasted little time after the New Year holiday in hitting the fundraising circuit, generating more than $140,000 in cash and services in three days last week, with nearly half coming from a politically powerful union, records show.
Records on file with the State Board of Elections show that of the $142,000 Quinn raised from Jan. 4 through Jan. 6, nearly half–$67,557—came from the Service Employees’ International Union.
* Mark Brown …I guess there are two ways you can look at Quinn courting [Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr’s] endorsement this time. Either he’s a stand-up guy who sticks with his friends, or he’s so determined to carry the African-American vote in the primary that he’s willing to risk possible future embarrassment from his Jackson connection in exchange for the mileage he can gain from it now.
* Jackson endorsement of Quinn could help with black voters, draw attention to Blagojevich scandal
* Quinn gets nod from Jackson Jr., S. suburb mayors
* Democratic governor hopefuls mostly agree
* Ex-con out as aide to Hynes campaign
* Comptroller worker probed over alleged stock scheme
* Quinn tested on commitment to open govt.
* Quinn: A different kind of animal?