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House begins process to expel Rep. Derrick Smith

Thursday, Mar 22, 2012

* If Rep. Derrick Smith (D-Chicago) doesn’t resign soon, he may be expelled. A special investigating committee has been formed and members appointed by both House leaders. The end result could be expulsion for the legislator arrested last week on federal bribery charges

House Speaker Michael Madigan, who was mum on Smith in the days before the election, and Cross each named three members to the committee on Wednesday after five House Republicans requested it. That automatically triggered the committee under House rules.

Federal prosecutors allege he accepted a $7,000 cash bribe in exchange for his endorsement of a state grant application.

Sara Wojcicki says the investigation will be closed to the public. If it finds reason for discipline, a separate committee will conduct a public hearing.

* The House Special Investigating Committee membership, which has been updated this morning to show who the GOP spokesperson is

Chairperson : Elaine Nekritz D
Republican Spokesperson : Dennis M. Reboletti R
Member: William Davis D
Member: JoAnn D. Osmond R
Member: André M. Thapedi D
Member: Jil Tracy R

The committee’s first meeting is next Tuesday morning at 11 o’clock. Per House rules, the hearings are closed to the public.

* Here’s what happens next

The committee will consist of three Republicans and three Democrats. They will then make recommendations which could lead to another 12-man disciplinary committee that would decide whether to censure, reprimand or expel Smith.

The full House then takes up the matter. Expulsioin requires a two-thirds vote.

* I can’t disagree with anything in this Tribune editorial

We can thank [Secretary of State Jesse White[ especially for the mess out west. White, who’s also the 27th Ward Democratic committeeman, clouted Smith into the 10th District House seat last year after he clouted incumbent Annazette Collins into the 5th District Senate seat vacated by Rickey Hendon.

“He’s an honest, stand-up kind of a guy,” White said at the time. Smith had been hired by the Secretary of State’s office shortly after being fired from his city job for allegedly misusing city resources; he says he did nothing wrong.

White stood behind Collins through a long string of ethical lapses but abandoned her in the primary after learning she had claimed a homestead exemption on a condo outside the district where she’s supposed to live. Collins was defeated Tuesday by White’s new candidate, Patricia Van Pelt Watkins, who has done more for the district as a community activist than Collins has done in 11 years in the General Assembly. Look what happens when you give voters a credible alternative: They trade up.

It’s up to the West Side leadership to make sure that happens in the House too. Ald. Burnett, Rep. Davis, Commissioner Steele, Secretary of State White: The voters who supported your disgraced candidate were taking it on faith that you’d provide them a better choice by November. Do it.

* The Austin Weekly News caught up with Secretary White

When asked if he had any ideas who he’d like to see in the seat if Smith does step down, White demurred.

“I don’t have anyone in mind right now,” he said.

* Meanwhile, Andy Shaw at the BGA had this to say about Rep. Smith’s primary victory

Better Government Association Executive Director Andy Shaw said Smith’s election win was disappointing.

“That’s terribly discouraging, not just because the voters gave him an overwhelming victory, but because so many well-respected politicians – including Congressman Danny Davis – actually endorsed him and encouraged people to vote for him for a simple reason – he is the Democrat,” Shaw said.

According to Shaw, Smith’s election win shows Illinois politics is in the gutter.

* Congressman Danny Davis’ explanation

Davis said that while he asked voters to cast their ballots for Smith, it was about ensuring the seat stayed in Democrat control and was not a show of support for Smith. Davis said Smith should not appear on the November ballot given the ethical cloud he now faces.

“I was glad to see Derrick win the election, but I think in reality one can say that Democrats won the election,” Davis said. “I don’t think they were necessarily voting for Derrick, but I think they were saying ‘Democrat, Democrat, Democrat.’”

“It’s not just about the man, but it’s also about, as Ossie Davis said, the plan,” Davis said. “So I think people were intelligent enough, they were wise enough, they understood enough that they wanted to give themselves another chance to get a good, solid Democrat to represent them.”

* Kinda weak

The leaders who have joined the chorus for Smith to step down include Gov. Pat Quinn and Smith’s top political backer, Secretary of State Jesse White.

“The governor thinks he should step down. He thinks [Smith] is not going to be able to be an effective representative for his constituents given the circumstances. The governor would urge the representative to step down as soon as possible,” Quinn spokeswoman Brooke Anderson said Wednesday.

Quinn on Saturday tiptoed around Smith’s bribery charge, calling his race a “tough call for voters,” but one “they’ll be able to sort out.” Other top Dems, including U.S. Rep. Danny Davis (D-Ill.) even campaigned for Smith after he was arrested.

When Smith was charged, White did not address whether his protege should step down, only issuing a brief statement saying “I am very disappointed with the conduct alleged in the charges. I am confident this case will be handled fairly and justly by the judicial system.”

White’s call Wednesday for Smith to resign had nothing to do with the primary results, a White spokesman said.

“After reviewing the situation, having time to think about it and overcoming some of the shock of the original charges, he feels that the people would be better represented if someone else was in that spot,” White spokesman Dave Druker said.

- Posted by Rich Miller        


38 Comments
  1. - 42nd Ward - Thursday, Mar 22, 12 @ 10:48 am:

    Tom Swiss received 45% of the White vote and 17% of the Black vote. But race had no role in this campaign.


  2. - Rich Miller - Thursday, Mar 22, 12 @ 10:49 am:

    ===But race had no role in this campaign. ===

    They may say that, but it most certainly did, and it started with Tom Swiss.


  3. - wordslinger - Thursday, Mar 22, 12 @ 10:51 am:

    –but because so many well-respected politicians – including Congressman Danny Davis – actually endorsed him and encouraged people to vote for him for a simple reason – he is the Democrat,” Shaw said.–

    Well, it was a Democratic primary. If the other dude hadn’t been a Republican, it might have been a different story.


  4. - Northsider - Thursday, Mar 22, 12 @ 10:53 am:

    A) Tom Swiss is a Republican who tried to fool voters for whom he was contemptuous. Oddly enough, they weren’t fooled and he was thoroughly and deservedly stomped.

    B) Derrick Smith is a nebbish of the highest (lowest?) degree who deserves expulsion from the House and whatever the federal court decides. Thanks, Jesse White. Thanks, a lot. Care to apologize?

    C) By moving to expel him, are House leaders setting a precedent (at least for the modern era)? And will they follow this precedent next time?


  5. - dave - Thursday, Mar 22, 12 @ 11:06 am:

    **Tom Swiss received 45% of the White vote and 17% of the Black vote. But race had no role in this campaign. **

    So in other words… Swiss lost both the white and black vote, and neither was close.


  6. - Shore - Thursday, Mar 22, 12 @ 11:07 am:

    “According to Shaw, Smith’s election win shows Illinois politics is in the gutter”-I don’t think it took this charade for Illinois politics to enter the gutter.

    Maybe this guy can be bunkmates with blago.


  7. - Oswego Willy - Thursday, Mar 22, 12 @ 11:10 am:

    ===
    Well, it was a Democratic primary. If the other dude hadn’t been a Republican, it might have been a different story.===

    That was the ‘rub’ … a Repub in the Dem primary, all the while the Dem is indicted. There would have been a different set of senerios if there was an actual Dem running and not Swiss, a Repub …


  8. - Wensicia - Thursday, Mar 22, 12 @ 11:26 am:

    And people wonder why so many stayed home rather than vote. The party needs to field better candidates. The excuse they dominate the state isn’t reason enough to sit silently by while total jerks and criminals are allowed to run for office.


  9. - Vasyl - Thursday, Mar 22, 12 @ 12:30 pm:

    What Oswego Willy said — no question in my mind that Smith would have lost to a real Democrat.

    But I voted for him just, and now the next step is to see him resign from both the House and the nomination. I would add one more step to make this all OK: the committeemen need to commit to a transparent, open process — I know that legally they can make a backroom deal, but they shouldn’t in this case. I was denied a real choice, but they can design a pretty decent process that makes up for it. It’s happened for other vacancies.


  10. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Thursday, Mar 22, 12 @ 12:32 pm:

    === The party needs to field better candidates ===

    Jason Plummer.

    It goes for both sides.


  11. - mark walker - Thursday, Mar 22, 12 @ 12:34 pm:

    Nekritz and Reboletti are both good choices, and they’re smart enough to get this done fairly, without screwing up the pending Federal case.


  12. - too obvious - Thursday, Mar 22, 12 @ 12:59 pm:

    Andy Shaw never really did get IL politics.

    Smith’s opponent was also a fraud dum dums.


  13. - 47th Ward - Thursday, Mar 22, 12 @ 1:08 pm:

    ===Nekritz and Reboletti are both good choices, and they’re smart enough to get this done fairly, without screwing up the pending Federal case.===

    I agree that they are good choices, but I think it’s going to be very difficult to do this without interfering with the federal case. For example, will the Committee seek to call CS-1 to testify? Will they ask the FBI to testify? Is the federal complaint all the Committee has to work with?

    I think simply pointing to the allegations as reported in the news is sufficient grounds for a vote to remove Smith, but that’s setting a precedent that could haunt the General Assembly. I think it is next to impossible for Smith to put on a defense during the Committee proceedings that wouldn’t also threaten his case in federal court.

    If Smith decides to go to trial, I would guess he’d argue entrapment based on my reading of the complaint. I’m not a lawyer, and the tapes will probably convict him nonetheless, but until CS-1 is identified, we don’t know how credible this witness will be. And I can’t imagine a scenario where the feds would cooperate with the House Committee proceedings.

    This is not an easy assignment. Smith has rights, the most important of which is the presumption of innocence. He’s already lost the presumption that he isn’t a scumbag, but there is no criminal penalty for that.


  14. - Easy - Thursday, Mar 22, 12 @ 1:08 pm:

    Absolutely insane to compare Derrick smith to Plummer. Have you completely lost your moral compass? This isn’t about partisanship, it’s about the restoring integrity of public service and the constant challenges Illinois officials bring to that task.


  15. - Rich Miller - Thursday, Mar 22, 12 @ 1:11 pm:

    === For example, will the Committee seek to call CS-1 to testify? Will they ask the FBI to testify? Is the federal complaint all the Committee has to work with?===

    As with Blagojevich, the House will probably just use the written record. Fitz did allow one federal witness for the impeachment process He may again.


  16. - 47th Ward - Thursday, Mar 22, 12 @ 1:18 pm:

    You’re right Rich, and the written record (the federal complaint) is enough to justify a vote to remove Smith, which will pass easily.

    From what I remember of Rod’s impeachment, the feds did cooperate in a limited way, but there was more testimony in the impeachment process about issues that were not raised in Rod’s federal case. In other words, with Blagojevich there was plenty of material to be brought up in an impeachment that didn’t overlap with his federal case. That really isn’t the same with Smith. This is all we have (as far as I know) against Smith.

    And it’s enough. I don’t want anyone to think I’m defending Smith because I’m not. I think the General Assembly sets a dangerous precedent if it is now OK to remove a legislator who was indicted but not yet convicted of a crime.


  17. - Steve Bartin - Thursday, Mar 22, 12 @ 1:53 pm:

    We are Democrats, yeah! We’ll vote for anyone the Machine bosses tell us to, yeah! Even bribe takers are better than someone who’s not a real Democrat , yeah! We like one party government , yeah! We are for high taxes, yeah!


  18. - just sayin' - Thursday, Mar 22, 12 @ 3:01 pm:

    Too bad Republicans tried to out slease and out con the Dems.

    Had they been honest and run Swiss as a Republican, would at least be able to show the flag through November.

    Now GOP got nothin’. What a bunch of losers. And Swiss is now a man without a party.


  19. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Thursday, Mar 22, 12 @ 3:20 pm:

    @Steve Bartin -

    Do I need to remind you that George Ryan was elected governor in 1998 after the death of six children was linked to his illegal fundraising enterprise?

    You want me to dig up a list of all of the Republicans who supported his election effort?

    Please, spare us the Holier-than-thou.

    BTW, technically its two party government. Unfortunately, your team likes to sit on the sidelines when there’s actual work to be done. On the upside, we can always count on Tom Cross for a press release.


  20. - just sayin' - Thursday, Mar 22, 12 @ 3:27 pm:

    Good point YDD. And let’s not forget the modern era of IL corruption was ushered in by the Republican Secretary of State from far southern IL who had the shoe boxes of cash in his hotel room after he died. His home in Vienna is now a museum. That’s how seriously downstate Republicans take corruption.


  21. - soccermom - Thursday, Mar 22, 12 @ 3:35 pm:

    I was not delighted by the appointment of Rep. Smith. But between an accused criminal who will certainly be replaced by someone better (thanks to increased public scrutiny) after the election and someone who is running as a Democrat to represent people he considers stupid and easily fooled, I go with the placeholder. Not sure why that makes me corrupt…


  22. - Oswego Willy - Thursday, Mar 22, 12 @ 3:46 pm:

    ===we can always count on Tom Cross for a press release.===

    I just hope the next time Tom Cross does a press release on someone getting indicted, it would reall be great if the HGOP would get what the person was charged with CORRECTLY …

    “You guys know what I meant …”


  23. - Oswego Willy - Thursday, Mar 22, 12 @ 3:50 pm:

    - soccermom -

    I get up in the morning, shower … vote … then go home and shower again… then I start my day.

    I dunno if it works, but it does, at times, get the stink off me.

    Just a “tip” so you don’t feel corrupt.


  24. - Chicago Cynic - Thursday, Mar 22, 12 @ 4:15 pm:

    I think my pro-reform friend who lives in the district put it best. It was felon vs. fraud. Felon won.


  25. - 47th Ward - Thursday, Mar 22, 12 @ 4:34 pm:

    Alleged felon…


  26. - Oswego Willy - Thursday, Mar 22, 12 @ 4:38 pm:

    The first meeting of the Committee is Tuesday, at 11.

    Jesse and Madigan have all weekend to “discuss” with the “gentleman from Cook” what needs to be done, and by when.

    Example?

    “Derrick, do you want a jury pool tainted with the fact the Illinois House of Representatives thinks you did something and kicked you out, officially? I dunno anyone who would want that fact out there before htey go to trial…”

    Four days for Jesse and MJM … Better than 50/50 it never gets to the Committee meeting. We will see.


  27. - Oswego Willy - Thursday, Mar 22, 12 @ 4:40 pm:

    ===Alleged felon… ===

    True.

    Alleged “fraud” … dunno if we need an alleged there ….?


  28. - Original Rambler - Thursday, Mar 22, 12 @ 5:07 pm:

    “I would add one more step to make this all OK: the committeemen need to commit to a transparent, open process”

    If they do, that means the backroom deal has already been cut!


  29. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Thursday, Mar 22, 12 @ 5:48 pm:

    My memory is a little rusty, but I believe that the Blagojevich impeachment included transcripts of the wiretaps.

    47th Ward is correct that Smith’s best defense is entrapment…based on the argument that the confidential informant lied to the fbi and then set him up.

    I’m hoping that Smith will commit the selfless act of resigning. If he’s waiting for a deal, its not coming. No one is gonna offer a guy looking to flip a ride to the airport.

    What Madigan will do instead is remove him from office and run an independent against him in the fall. Not even a minister…some minister’s wife.


  30. - Steve Bartin - Thursday, Mar 22, 12 @ 5:56 pm:

    To Yellow Dog Democrat:
    Everything is so great in declining Chicago, yeah. Fine public schools, low crime. We need more one party government. It works so well. We need everyone to be a registered Democrat in city council, at the States Attorney’s office, at the Mayor’s Office. One voice, unity, everyone must think alike! Yippie! It’s kine of like North Korea or Cuba.


  31. - Anonymous - Thursday, Mar 22, 12 @ 6:00 pm:

    it’s interesting that the Secretary of State doesn’t have not one African American department head, but J White manages to find someone “qualified” every time to fill a vacancy for elected office. Not one minority department head, but he’s quick to pull a guy out of his organization to be an elected official. something smells in Denmark


  32. - Oswego Willy - Thursday, Mar 22, 12 @ 7:28 pm:

    ===Everything is so great in declining Chicago, yeah. Fine public schools, low crime. We need more one party government. It works so well. We need everyone to be a registered Democrat in city council, at the States Attorney’s office, at the Mayor’s Office. One voice, unity, everyone must think alike! Yippie! It’s kine of like North Korea or Cuba.===

    Well then, build an organization, recruit some good candidates, raise some money, and win some offices. Anyone can point to the mess on the floor, someone needs to do something.

    Your Pal,

    Oswego Willy


  33. - Steve Bartin - Thursday, Mar 22, 12 @ 8:18 pm:

    To Oswego Willy:

    Reform will come through bankruptcy. Sometimes politics can’t redeem a corrupt system. The good news is Chicago politicians will have less influence in Springfield and Washington D.C. as their population fails to match the national growth rate. Mr. Smith’s victory the other day proves that running honest candidates is virtually impossible in Cook County. After all, the voters in Smith’s district have the same morals as him.


  34. - Oswego Willy - Thursday, Mar 22, 12 @ 8:59 pm:

    ===Mr. Smith’s victory the other day proves that running honest candidates is virtually impossible in Cook County. After all, the voters in Smith’s district have the same morals as him. ===

    All Smith’s win proved is the Madigan is better than Swiss in a campaign, and Swiss shouldn’t try to fool people. Swiss said the very thing I am posting when he lost.

    Sometimes, its just politics.

    Your Pal,

    Oswego Willy


  35. - Oswego Willy - Thursday, Mar 22, 12 @ 9:04 pm:

    ===After all, the voters in Smith’s district have the same morals as him.===

    Further,

    That sentence is as bad as Swiss saying the voters of the district are “Extremely Low Information Voters”!

    You need to get over yourself on the grandeur of what you THINK is going on, and realize what DID go on …

    I fell bad for you that you feel the need to post that sentence. Good luck finding whatever it is you are looking for, because political reality is lost on you.


  36. - steve schnorf - Thursday, Mar 22, 12 @ 10:54 pm:

    Dog, you parsed your words very carefully (”linked”), but I can’t believe that you truly believe George Ryan’s fundraising efforts in any way caused the death of those children. In effect you are saying that If George Ryan’s campaign hadn’t sold fundraising tickets to employees, then those employes wouldn’t have been issuing fraudulent drivers licenses in return for bribes. Anyone who knows anything about the SoS office, up thru today and with due deference given to the efforts and success of White’s IG, knows that simply isn’t true. I think so do you.


  37. - wordslinger - Friday, Mar 23, 12 @ 8:19 am:

    –Everything is so great in declining Chicago, yeah.–

    There is a lot of capitalism going on there. Hundreds of thousands of people going to work every day. Check out that skyline, all privately funded.

    You don’t hear a lot of whining about how you can’t make a living unless there’s a state-funded prison in the region. Little more imagination and hustle going on.

    Sorry you’re such a victim, Steve. Maybe you can get a state job.


  38. - Fishingvest - Friday, Mar 23, 12 @ 4:35 pm:

    Why did the feds pick the week before the election to indict or release his indictment? It seemed that they controlled the timing, did I miss something because I was busy working on a campaign.
    What’s worse taking action before election day or picking up the candidate at his election day party?


Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.


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