Saturday, September 3, 2005
Daley could take state Democrats down with him
Let me be the first to make this statement: I think the Daley corruption in Chicago issue could wipe out the entire Democratic ticket next year -- and affect some national congressional races for the Democrats as well.
It is the most grotesque occurrence in modern Chicago history. Under Mayor Richard J. Daley there was only one scandal: in 1960 when eight Summerdale District cops were off-hours burglars, which added up to $100,000 in stolen TVs and other appliances. Daley hired O.W. Wilson, an incorruptible police superintendent who replaced ''clout'' captains and the scandal was over.
Compare that to the fact that Richard M. has been interrogated by the FBI, and had by his side a criminal lawyer. More than 20 people have pleaded guilty in connection with the Hired Truck scandal. Payoffs there were widespread, with thousands of dollars worth of city property stolen -- and last month two city officials were charged with rigging the city's hiring system.
This Daley admits he didn't stem the corruption. No one has been found who hired Angelo Torres to run Hired Trucks, and the entire city has grounds to believe that nothing -- and I mean nothing -- government does is on the level.
That's the first bad sign for the Democrats, and a big one.
Here's No. 2: Consider that the entire Democratic ticket that will run next year is from Chicago: Gov. Blagojevich, Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn, Attorney General Lisa Madigan, Secretary of State Jesse White, Comptroller Dan Hynes (presumably, they will pick someone outside Chicago for treasurer, but don't bank on it). The two legislative leaders, House Speaker Mike Madigan and Senate President Emil Jones, are from Chicago.
No. 3: All the while, the governor's mansion in Springfield stands empty because the governor prefers Chicago.
No. 4: The 2006 off-year election is expected to draw low voter turnout.
No. 5: When corruption hits a party, its own voter turnout trails off.
Reason No. 6 is a straw in the wind: On July 30 Rep. Jerry Weller (R-Ill.) introduced an amendment to the highway bill to ''keep Cook County corruption out of the Will County regional airport [Peotone]'' since federal procurement standards would be involved. A circumspect guy like Weller wouldn't have dared to do that before the scandals loomed.
No. 7: Earlier this week, Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.), chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, spoke at the City Club to defend Daley. That wouldn't have been necessary in Daley's pre-corruption days. And although the media here didn't pick it up, the counterpart committee, the Republican Campaign Committee, issued a statement that Emanuel was trying to justify corruption. Emanuel's frantic defense of Daley is not unlike Ron Ziegler's initial, halting defense of President Richard Nixon when the Watergate scandal started to bloom. The GOP is determined to tie a can to Emanuel's tail: He is a defender of Daley corruption. Imagine a Democrat running in a swing district like Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and Emanuel wants to come in and raise money for him. Would he risk his opponent linking him with Daley's foremost apologist for corruption?
I've just enumerated seven strong signals of corruption that the Democrats may well lose Illinois. But won't George Ryan's trial trump them? Compare Ryan's hoary old scandals to the string of firecrackers popping daily from the City Hall, and I think I know where the focus will go.
These signals tell me that the Republicans should nominate a governor who isn't part of the old Thompson-Edgar-Ryan Republicrat hybrid. That would mean no Jim Edgar -- but unless he's lost his mind, Edgar won't ditch a $600-grand-plus income for $150,000 to go back where he started. The Republicans should pick a candidate who has been as far away from politics as is possible to find -- either from the far-far suburbs or Downstate. This rising tide of Daley corruption will sink Democrats' boats. Which is the way it should be after arrogant one-party rule since 1931.