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Question of the day

Friday, Aug 31, 2018 - Posted by Rich Miller

* My copy arrived today, so I haven’t had a chance to read the three chapters former Illinois Deputy Gov. Bradley Tusk devotes in his new book “The Fixer: My Adventures Saving Startups from Death by Politics” to his time with Rod Blagojevich

“Rod possessed none of the skills, work ethic, discipline, integrity, or focus to perform any real work once he won office,” Tusk wrote.

He described a typical Blagojevich workday as “a loose mix of a few phone calls, watching ‘Sports Center,’ reading long biographies of Napoleon, preparing for a run, going for a run, stretching after the run and then showering for at least 90 minutes after that.” […]

Tusk said the less-benign explanation [for why he was hired] came to him after Blagojevich’s indictment in 2009.

“I was still a naive kid. I didn’t understand the cesspool of Illinois politics. I didn’t know the players. And in retrospect, a few things were conspicuously absent from my job portfolio: hiring, grants and contracts,” he wrote.

“If you’re looking to execute a massive pay-to-play scheme — auctioning off jobs, contracts and grants to the biggest campaign donors — it’s all you care about. Rod and his cronies figured they could do what they wanted — and let me worry about running the state — and I’d never notice,” he wrote.

OK, but he also deliberately avoided that stuff. During an end of session party when Attorney General Lisa Madigan was investigating Rod for allegedly selling jobs, contracts and bill signatures, I asked him if he was worried about his own legal status. He made it a point to stress to me that he had nothing whatsoever to do with things like that. And then he split at the end of Blagojevich’s first term.

* Greg Hinz read the whole book and came away with this

The core of Tusk’s book is the suggestion that just about everyone and everything in public life is crooked, conniving, dumb as a rock or an ideological zealot—this from the guy who more or less ran Illinois government for a few years, served as communications director for U.S. Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, worked for former Philadelphia Mayor (and later Democratic National Committee Chair) Ed Rendell, and not only worked for but ran re-election campaigns for former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Of that crew, Bloomberg—and presumably himself—are the only ones that Tusk seems to have any fondness for. To quote just one of his many put-downs of the political class: “The vast majority of people who run for office are desperately insecure, often even self-loathing. They need attention and validation at all costs. Running for and holding office is the only way most of them can get it (since they typically lack the talent to meaningfully succeed at anything in the real world).”

His damnation of Blagojevich is particularly strong. The ex-state rep and congressman “possessed none of the skills, work ethic, discipline, integrity or focus to perform any real work once he won office,” he writes. It was so bad that when the governor was needed to act on pending legislation before a pending deadline, he couldn’t be bothered. “I’m picking out fabrics for three new suits (today),” Blagojevich supposedly said. “It’s gonna take a while.”

So Tusk pretty much took control of Blagojevich’s administration—too much control, the kind of thing a hungry young man would do, some others in the Blagojevich world tell me. But control nonetheless. […]

The gist of the book is advice to new-economy entrepeneurs—after leaving Illinois, Tusk made a fortune consulting for Uber—on how to get stubborn pols on the take to give them what they want. Given that, I’m not surprised by his overall conclusion.

* The Question: Your memories of or insight into Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s first term?


  1. - Smitty Irving - Friday, Aug 31, 18 @ 12:45 pm:

    Trying to deal with the “neat ideas” coming from John Filan / GOMB.

  2. - 47th Ward - Friday, Aug 31, 18 @ 12:54 pm:

    I knew Rod when he was a state rep. When he won the Governor’s office, I was delighted and while I was never on his staff, I knew those folks well and I didn’t hesitate to offer advice on the transition.

    I remember telling someone who was connected to Chris Kelly and was advising him on transition stuff that the key was to get good people in CMS. I was asked why CMS was so important, and I said because it controls the leases and contracts. After that, it was all that person seemed to care about.

    Sooner or later they were going to learn how to manipulate CMS and every other agency for maximum fundraising advantage, but I always felt a little guilty by helping them find their way.

    At one point I was offered a fairly senior level job but by then it was clear that Rod was trying to steal everything that wasn’t locked down, and even some things that were.

    I voted for Eisendrath in ‘06.

  3. - Captain Ed Smith - Friday, Aug 31, 18 @ 12:55 pm:

    Obsessed with the Madigan’s

  4. - Anon - Friday, Aug 31, 18 @ 12:55 pm:

    So, uh, why exactly was he drawn into so much political work?

    Does he address that he is one of these creatures he detests, or does he pretend like he’s not?

  5. - aufjunk - Friday, Aug 31, 18 @ 12:58 pm:

    Early on the morning after his election, someone inserted his face in the center of the seal of the State of Illinois on the official IL website. It was soon taken down and replaced with the official seal.

  6. - DuPage Saint - Friday, Aug 31, 18 @ 12:58 pm:

    I was absolutely astounded when Blago introduced his transition team and there front and center was Big Jim Thompson.

  7. - wordslinger - Friday, Aug 31, 18 @ 12:59 pm:

    I knew that when Blago’s original clout and father-in-law, Mell, publicly called him a crook that it was only a matter of time before he’d be reporting to prison.

  8. - Leatherneck - Friday, Aug 31, 18 @ 1:05 pm:

    His first budget for FY04, including imposing larger than originally promised budget cuts on all the constitutional officers (SOS and Treasurer especially).

  9. - FIREDup! - Friday, Aug 31, 18 @ 1:05 pm:

    Tusk was a power hungry, ego maniac. His own insecurity lead to valuable assets like Scott Kennedy fleeing as quickly as possible. It’s not us, it’s you, Brad.

  10. - BlueDogDem - Friday, Aug 31, 18 @ 1:13 pm:

    At the time, I was still a bit influenced by partisan politics. I hoped. I hoped his campaign rhetoric would become fruition. I was younger. Just as dumb as I am today. I still believe what people tell me to be true. I’ll prolly never learn. To say the least, Blago disappointed. Same as Rauner.

  11. - Henry Francis - Friday, Aug 31, 18 @ 1:16 pm:

    His long, goofy running stride.

    How long after the election until Trey’s book come out?

  12. - Lefty Lefty - Friday, Aug 31, 18 @ 1:20 pm:

    I remember him proposing that all children in IL get free health care. Great idea, I thought, but (and counter to what we “tax-and-spend bleeding-heart liberals” are supposed to think) how were we supposed to pay for it?

    And the band played on….

  13. - SaulGoodman - Friday, Aug 31, 18 @ 1:24 pm:

    **The core of Tusk’s book is the suggestion that just about everyone and everything in public life is crooked, conniving, dumb as a rock or an ideological zealot**

    So which one of these is Tusk?

    Also… Tusk is now working (or at least making money through his firm) as a lobbyist in the “cesspool” of Illinois politics.

  14. - perry noya - Friday, Aug 31, 18 @ 1:24 pm:

    When he first ran for gov, some of us knew he was a crook. After his first term, everybody (in the political class, that is) knew it. He was reelected in a landslide. A bad show by political leadership, the media, and the voters.

  15. - zack stamp - Friday, Aug 31, 18 @ 1:24 pm:

    the night before the inaugural at a party in Springfield I asked Governor Thompson, What did he ask you about being Governor? What was he interested in? Thompson replied–He never asked me a single question.

  16. - Smitty Irving - Friday, Aug 31, 18 @ 1:29 pm:

    Aufjunk -
    On April Fool’s Day 2006 the Jacksonville Journal Courier replaced Lincoln and Douglas in the front page banner with George Ryan and Blago. Quite a commotion.

  17. - Saluki - Friday, Aug 31, 18 @ 1:35 pm:

    When he showed up at ID’s Tavern in DuQuoin and drank beer the night before he was going to run the River to River Relay.

  18. - Downstate Illinois - Friday, Aug 31, 18 @ 1:38 pm:

    When he came down to Carbondale to announce a bunch of new road projects but didn’t have a way to pay for them when asked about the funding. I had been expecting something along with the lines of Build Illinois.

    Another time he came down to SIU’s Coal Research Center and was three hours late. Everyone’s standing outside sweating in the summertime heat. About two hours into the wait I noticed they’re moving the bandstand where he will be speaking. I assume it might be because the light’s changing or to get a certain building in the background where the new funds to be announced would be spent. Nope, nothing so legitimate. Turns out his advance chicks (IDOT community relations reps or something) wanted the stage moved so the buildings would block the wind and not mess up the governor’s hair. Even better was later when state Sen. Gary Forby did the introductions and placed a baseball cap down on Blago’s well-coiffed hair.

  19. - Montrose - Friday, Aug 31, 18 @ 1:47 pm:

    His plan to have the state distribute books to all homes with preschoolers because a study showed that kids that grow up with books in their home have better educational outcomes.

  20. - Been There - Friday, Aug 31, 18 @ 1:47 pm:

    We were introduced to Bill on this blog

  21. - VanillaMan - Friday, Aug 31, 18 @ 1:53 pm:

    I will always remember how he publically flogged a list of public servants, claiming tbat they scammed us through their vacation days. The list included a couple of public servants who had died.

    After the Chicago press conference, he flew to Springfield to do the same presser, waving the same misinformation.

    When told that the list included a couple that were deceased, he was reported as joking that it was evidence of the importance of taking vacation time instead of scamming the State.

    To me, that revealed what a lying fake he was.

  22. - Sue - Friday, Aug 31, 18 @ 1:55 pm:

    Having the chance to once interact with Tusk my impression at the time was he was an arrogant snot. A perfect hire he was not

  23. - My New Handle - Friday, Aug 31, 18 @ 1:58 pm:

    I remember him running against the light in front of the Spfld YMCA and almost getting hit by a car. A security guy was following him on a bicycle. That incident cemented my opinion of his self-absorbed arrogance.

  24. - My New Handle - Friday, Aug 31, 18 @ 2:00 pm:

    And he was late for Demuzio’s funeral.

  25. - Just Me - Friday, Aug 31, 18 @ 2:01 pm:

    Blago’s first term was like stepping out onto the porch and gladly inhaling a deep breath of fresh air after a long, cold winter….only to discover that the air you just breathed in came from the hog farm down the road.

  26. - Matts - Friday, Aug 31, 18 @ 2:06 pm:

    47th - good judgement and a controllable ego served you well. Those with neither, not so well.

  27. - Arthur Andersen - Friday, Aug 31, 18 @ 2:22 pm:

    When Chris Kelly recruited the late Lynn Raney from Gov. Ryan’s staff to handle manifest transition and inaugural chores, and then Rod’s first press conference where he announced the firing of 35 “political operatives,” only to have Raney find out his name was on the list.

  28. - Original Rambler - Friday, Aug 31, 18 @ 2:23 pm:

    Tusk was a very smart guy, but he never waded into the nitty gritty. Guys like Greenlee and select others at GOMB were more valuable for dealing with the day to day mini crises that come with running the state. He appears to have an inflated opinion of himself and his contributions.

    In many ways, running the state is more difficult than running a business. You have many more stakeholders to deal with before being able to get something done. In business, if you’re the boss you get to do what you decide without any such obstacles. Just ask our incumbent governor about this.

  29. - DuPage - Friday, Aug 31, 18 @ 2:28 pm:

    Speaking of Blago, that reminds me, Patti had better remind Trump to let him out with time served BEFORE Trump leaves office. I get the feeling Trump may be leaving soon, probably pardoning HIMSELF right before resigning.

  30. - Leatherneck - Friday, Aug 31, 18 @ 2:40 pm:

    Ethics testing with questions easy enough for a grade schooler to ace–only to be told that you failed the test for “getting done too fast.”

  31. - Horizontal Man - Friday, Aug 31, 18 @ 2:41 pm:

    Pay to Play. Things changed immediately after election. Used the money to bury Judy.

  32. - Arthur Andersen - Friday, Aug 31, 18 @ 2:55 pm:

    Also want to second Smitty Irving’s post. Filan had either spending the same dollar twice or not at all down to an art form.

  33. - Dance Band on the Titanic - Friday, Aug 31, 18 @ 2:59 pm:

    Meeting one of Blago’s IDOT “liaisons” who grew up with him and regaled me with a story of their running numbers for the bookies back in the neighborhood. Never tried to verify the story (nor did I fully believe it) but the person did end up going to jail on other charges unrelated to Blago. Heck of an impression.

  34. - Leatherneck - Friday, Aug 31, 18 @ 3:14 pm:

    Blago’s offer to place Steve Bartman in a witness protection program after the infamous Game 6 of the ‘03 NLCS:

  35. - Leatherneck - Friday, Aug 31, 18 @ 3:18 pm:

    How quickly Blago replaced George Ryan not only as Governor, but as a frequent winner (along with W) of Jim Leach’s “B–thead of the Week” award many Fridays on Springfield’s WMAY.

  36. - Gone, but not forgotten - Friday, Aug 31, 18 @ 3:25 pm:

    I remember his horrific destruction of IDOT, stripping it of professionalism, and replacing it with corruption, unqualified management and complete disregard for the motoring public.

  37. - Smitty Irving - Friday, Aug 31, 18 @ 3:33 pm:

    Horizontal Man - Not to quibble, but what beat JBT: (1) 3rd Party that got 10%; & (2) 6th year of GOP Presidency. Head to head in 2nd year of a GOP Presidency, JBT would’ve whipped him, despite $.

  38. - Arthur Andersen - Friday, Aug 31, 18 @ 3:49 pm:

    47, don’t feel bad about pointing out CMS. Cellini had already given Rezko and Kelly a road map of hot spots in State Government long before the election, bless his heart.

  39. - Lester Holt’s Mustache - Friday, Aug 31, 18 @ 4:01 pm:

    John Gianulias. John was a good man and a good friend. Also a walking example of every “little old man” cliche you’ve ever heard.

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