Friday, May 30, 2008
Personal Asides: A Federal Solution to the Blagojevich Problem In the Chicago Way, the Fr. Pfleger Problem Hits the Party First, then the Church.
The Agnew Solution.
A former high-up federal prosecutor whom I talked to the other day told me that in his estimation the feds will arrive at an Agnew solution to the Blagojevich problem.
Vice President Spiro Agnew was formally charged by the feds with accepting bribes totaling more than $100,000 while Baltimore chief executive and Governor of Maryland, receiving some of the money from past favors while holding the office of vice president. After a deal with the U.S. attorney, Agnew pleaded no contest on October 10, 1973 to a single charge that he had failed to report $29,500 of income received in 1967 and as part of the deal resigned as vice president.
My source says that the Agnew solution would be applied to both Rod and Patty Blagojevich in this manner. There is a thick tissue of probes involving his possible corruption a leasing deal reached for occupants of a remodeled Illinois Tollway oasis the Illinois Department of Transportation the Illinois Department of Corrections thje Department of Children and Family Services a letter sent to Attorney General Lisa Madigan from U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald that the feds are looking into very serious allegations of endemic hiring fraud in the Blagojevich administration that Blagojevich had accepted a $1,500 check from Mike Ascaridis, described as a close Blagojevich friend two weeks after Ascaridis wife received a state job, she receiving the job despite having failed a hiring exam, Blagojevich says the check was written as a birthday gift to his oldest daughter and then that it was given for his younger daughters christening that a company contributing nearly $120,000 to his gubernatorial campaign in 2002 won a no-bid contract, awarded by the Illinois Capital Development board that reports to the governor. And all this before we get to Tony Rezko.
As we all know Blagojevich fundraisers Antonin Rezko and Stuart Levinme were indicted and are on trial for participating in a scheme to obtain kickbacks from investment firms seeking business from two state boards, Levine pleading guilty and testifying against Rezko.
On top of this the feds are investigating the fact that Patricia Blagojevich was a business partner of Rezko for at least a decade and in 2004 received over $38,000 in real estate commissions from him that as a licensed real estate broker she received $113,700 in commissions from Anita and Amrish Mahajan. Anita Mahajan owns a urinalysis company that has been given a no-bid contract with the state Department of Children and Family Services and Amrishajan is president of a bank that has had two requests pending before state regulators to acquire two out-of-state banks that Melvyn L. Weiss, a lawyer was indicted after having made a $10,000 contribution from his firm which Friends of Blagojevich returned that Blagojevich did not return another $40,000 from Melvyn Weiss and other lawyers in Weiss firm that Weiss paid $5,000 toward lodging, meals and entertainment for Blagojevich and others with him during a December, 2003 trip to New York.
Moreover that Blagojevich campaign adviser Chris Kelly was indicted on federal charges of tax fraud unrelated to either the governor of political work but Kelly has been listened as a co-schemer in court filings related to the Rezko fcase and that prosecutors say he was involved in pressuring prospective state contractors for finders fees or political contributions that Blagojevich is widely acknowledged to be Public Official A in the Rezko indictment that a federal district judge named the Blagojevich campaign and Blagojevich as the intended beneficiary of at least one of Rezkos extortion attempts that federal prosecutors sought to prove that his top advisers were involved in kickback schemes that Levine mentioned Blagojevich by name at least 30 times in opne day of testimony, declaring under oath that the governor told him [Y]ou stick with us and yhoull do very well for yourself, that Levine testified Blagojevich was aware of a shakedown involving a film producer Tom Rosenberg in 2004
In addition, that Joseph Cari, Jr., the former finance chairman of the Democratic National Committee testified Blagojevich was at one time trying to form a national fundraising presence in order to run for president, the governor tellilng him that contracts, legal work and investment banking work would be awarded to people who helped that the former head of the Illinois Finance Authority, Ali Ata, became the first person to accuse Blagojevich of personally offering a position in his administration in return for campaign contributions that having met Rezko several times regarding fund-raising efforts for Blagojevichs campaign and discussing a job with a state agency in return for contributions, Ata subsequently being appointed to the IFA post that a federal judge confirmed Blagojevich was indeed Official A that a $25,000 Club has been probed in which 75% of businesses, unions and individuals that give $25,000 donations to the Blagojevich campaign fund received benefits from the state, including state contracts and appointments to state boards that Friends of Blagojevich received a $10,000 campaign from an elevator constructors PAC in the same month that three union officers received appointments to the Illinois Elevator Safety Board.
Blagojevich and his press spokesmen have consistently denied his involvement in all these matters. Nevertheless
in view of all this, the former federal prosecutor told me the feds are expected to offer a deal to both Blagojevichs. The governor will take a plea of an indeterminate lesser nature and resign in return for which his wife shall either not be prosecuted or receive a confinement sentence, allowing her to continue to care for their two daughters.
Thus endeth the insight of the former prosecutor. Political types are moving into speculation.
The Emergence of Pat Quinn as Governor.
If he accepts as Agnew did, the resignation would propel Lt. Governor Pat Quinn to the governorship. The types I talked to maintain that Attorney General Lisa Madigan would likely not move to challenge Quinn rather than become governor with such enormous state fiscal problems to solvepreferring to wait for a better opportunity. But Quinn would be challenged for the Democratic nomination on the grounds that as part of the Blagojevich administration he has inherited the taint albeit he has been vociferous about opposing the governor.
Quinn is seen as a seasoned campaigner and brilliant media strategist who would make the most of the ability to try to bring order out of chaos but highly unpopular with the Democratic party regulars.
Fr. Pflegers Embarrassment to Party Trumps Church.
Roman Catholic pastor Fr. Michael Pfleger has led a charmed life as pastor for life at Saint Sabinas, having cowed the Chicago archdiocese a pillar of Jello anyhow with the threat that if he would be removed for term limitation as many other pastors have to observe he would raise a ruckus and start his own church. Oh no-no-no! What terrible press that would cause!
Last night, as the nation has seen on television, Pfleger went to Trinity United Church of Christ and put on a display against Hillary Clinton and Caucasians generally that elicited a thunderous roar of approval by the largely black, hate-whitey audience. Pfleger loves a show and he relished his clowning around, affecting Hillary sobbing into a hanky and prancing around as a performer for the relish of the crowd.
The speech should have been the last straw in a series of Pfleger insults to his Church and the IRS, making a mockery of its supposed stance against mixing politics with nonprofit church worship. If this had been another priest who had gone to a church, blistered Obama and his black following, you could bet that he would be hauled down to the chancery and silenced sent to a rehab center because of mental imbalance (a favorite prior archdiocese punishment to some authenticist priest dissenters) before the day is over. But in an archdiocese where ecclesial leadership comes in the form of parsing over performance, where lay public relations specialists hold sway, that is not likely to happen. But still, Pflegers near-lunatic conduct has shocked even the staid Democratic party adherents who plan to occupy many of the posh offices that used to be Quigley preparatory seminary which they have now assigned to themselves.
Now as before, the archdiocese, fearful of its own shadow, trembling in its deference to the largely Irish bloc of hack, pro-abort Democratic politicians who guide much of its fundraising, doesnt want to encourage a racial confrontation over removal with the white Pfleger the darling of black activists, leading the Church to be perceived as horrors!...authoritarian, seeking to censor the fiery pastor for political activity in behalf of civil rights so treasured by the oligarch one-party (most of whom nominal Catholics) that has been in power in Chicago longer than the USSR existed from Lenin to Gorbachev.
Previous archbishops were themselves simpatico to calming the waters with the local Dems. Now the job has been handed over to the de-facto CEO of the archdiocese, Jimmy (his baptismal name) Lago, the lay chancellor formerly Ed Vrdolyaks best Democratic precinct captain. Lago more than anybody else understands that Pfleger is far more than just another hyperbolic racial demagogue. He is a key operator in the Cook county Democratic party, and is every bit as bright a light in the Democratic party firmament in his own way as are the Democratic Catholic Daleys, the Madigans, Emil Jones, the Hynes, Eddie Burke, the Stroger clan et al, not to forget that great layman Dickie Durbin. And then you get to the black Protestant wing: Barack Obama and the three Jacksons. Jimmy Lago understands that to make Pfleger a martyr ruptures the archdioceses indissoluble linkage with the Democratic party, the party of abortion and gay rights and secularism. That tie-in now goes right up to the probable (the election is his to lose) next president of the United States, Barack Obama
Although Obama has issued a statement chastising Pfleger for his wild and frenetic appearance at Trinity United Church of Christ and Pfleger himself has expressed contrition for acting much like a drunk on a spree , Pfleger still has an enormous following among blacks and is in fact, word and deed a major Democratic party leader.
If this had happened to a Roman Catholic pastor in, let us say, Deerfield who entertained a crowd with prancing about insulting Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama in favor of John McCain, a heavy hand bearing the ecclesial ring now bequeathed to the chancellor would smack him upside the head and hed be on a long-long sabbatical.
Pfleger should be unhorsed as pastor tomorrow, chastised officially, not given any further pastoral appointments while he undergoes prolonged suspension. He truly is one of the very few Catholic clerics who has earned his trip courtesy of the mental health budget to the funny farm for psychological counseling. There is one very slight chance some of these censorious actions would happen. Not because he has harmed the Church. Mercy, no. If he has indeed harmed the Obama campaign so seriously by resurrecting the specter of a loony rogue pastor ala Jeremiah Wright that Pflegers future service to the Democratic party has ended. That just could be. Obama really has been put at a disservice by this clerical clown, a disservice that Obama didnt ask for, doesnt deserve and could, if continued, haul him down. This could kick up Jeremiah Wright, always jealous of competition, for a repeat.
But I dont think Pfleger will be unhorsed or even seriously criticized by Church authorities. Pfleger will appear chastened either at the archdiocesan office or in his rectory and will stay that way until the very next opportunity to misuse his ministry for partisan political advantage while the archdiocese turns its back and raises its eyes in hypocrisy.