Friday, November 7, 2008
Personal Aside: What Happens to Fitz Now?
The big question here in this citadel of the national Democratic party (the nations oldest political machine) and the home of the walk-on-water messiah is whether a ramrod-straight Irish Catholic federal prosecutor will reappointed by President-elect Obama. If so, Patrick Fitzgerald will continue to prosecute more members of the bipartisan combine which runs this town and state. For now, he is a distinct threat to the man known as Richard II, Mayor Richard M. Daley, the Democratic apparatus here including the governorand very possibly Obama. So dont hold your breath that his service will be renewed by our reformist president.
Fitzgerald, 47, is the U..S. attorney for the northern district of Illinois, who, ever since his appointment in 2001, has been giving fits to Daley Democrats and moderate Republicans who bed down with the Dems There is no doubt that he, recommended for his post by Republican U.S. Senator Peter Fitzgerald, (no relation), is fearless and heedless of political propriety. No sooner was Pat Fitzgerald named by George W. Bush than he launched an investigation of GOP Governor George Ryan with close ties to the White House.
Ryan, an apostate ex-prolifer who turned pro-abort and who commuted the death sentences to all inmates of death row to life in order to ingratiate himself with what he figured would be a liberal black jurya close confidant of Mayor Daley and non-ideological pragmatic Republicans in Washington including members of President Bushs staff and then House Speaker J. Dennis Hastertwas found guilty on all 18 counts against him. He got a sentence of 6-1/2 years. So powerful was Ryan that James R. (Big Jim) Thompson, 72, a liberal Republican former governor who is the states most clout-heavy lobbyist, devoted years at his blue-chip law firm on a pro-bono basis to getting Ryan sprung on successive appeals which went all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court. Thompson spent more than $20 million of the firms money using its top defense counsel defending Ryan which cut into his and his partners bonuses for which in pique they replaced him as managing partner.
Being demoted didnt bother Thompson, a multi-millionaire and former federal prosecutor who discarded a rosy career to hustle for big bucks clients in Springfield and Washington, D. C.. He has bigger things to worry about. For years he was a man driven to spend whatever it cost his law firm to get his former lieutenant governor off the hook reportedly petrified that if angered Ryan would spill some costly beans about Thompson and others in the rarified world of Republi-crat back-scratching.
So solicitous was Thompson after Ryans conviction that he had Ryan driven to the federal prison in his own law firms limousine while he sat in the back seat comforting Ryan while Ryans wife sobbed. Thompson is supposed to have said hed work overtime to get George W. Bush to pardon the bulbous-nosed old ex-governor whose licenses for bribes corruption as secretary of state contributed to aliens getting commercial licenses who could not understand English. One such illegal contributed to an accident that burned five children alivea grisly act for which Ryan refused to apologize.
Getting Close to Richard II.
Having convicted Ryan, Fitzgerald started to move on the Great Untouchable in Chicago politicsMayor Richard M. Daley. In 2005 his office indicted a number of top aides to Daley on charges of mail fraud, alleging numerous instances of corruption in hiring practices at City Hall. Despite a federal decision allegedly removing hiring as reward for continued political service, it seems Mayor Daley had turned a blind eye to its operation. Fitzgerald found that a Daley top aide fielded requests for promotions from taxpayer-paid civil workers in recompense for political work they performedincluding flooding the neighborhoods with canvassers in the 5th district which cuts an oddly-shaped swath across the citys north side in behalf of Rahm Emanuel.
Emanuel is a lean and hungry Cassius a former ballet dancer but who is definitely not a girly man a brash and profane son of an Israeli immigrant (he uses the f word in almost every sentence), who owes his soul to Mayor Daley and who had become (a) political director of the Clinton White House where he regularly defended the 42nd president in the media vis-à-vis the Monica Lewinsky affair and (b) a multi-millionaire by learning first-hand from those close to ex-treasury secretary Robert Rubin how to make money in the investment banking business by using his old political connections. He became independently wealthy $16 million net worth managing a merger involving Chicagos major utility, Com Ed which as a novice he managed by hanging on the phone and following orders dictated by Rubin associates. He was on the board of Freddie Mac, never mentioned in a laudatory New York Times bio, Freddie Mac having been fined $50 million during the time of his service for serious ethical impropriety). He ran for Congress in the 5th district (Dan Rostenkowskis old district) and when a senile worker for Emanuels Democratic opponent claimed Emanuel had duel citizenship (here and Israel) Emanuel raised a stink, claimed his opponent was anti-Semitic and got the nomination, tantamount to election.
Still and all, his election ground game was run largely by patronage workers from the city water department, for which its recruiter, Don Tomczak, went to jaila matter Fitzgerald is still looking at. Once in the House, Emanuel proceeded apace, is a member of Ways and Means and is now chairman of the House Democratic Caucus. He has just been appointed as Obamas chief of staff in the White House. But needless to say, Emanuel will never forgive Fitzgerald for prosecuting the man who mobilized city water department employees into a political army that elected him and others.
Then Fitzgerald moved to the scandal-plagued program in the city that involved hiring private trucks to do city work. Daley-connected truck owners waited patiently in line to sign up their vehicles and drivers so that they could stand idle and collect money for doing nothing in a $40 million program. Daleys kid brother sold insurance to three major trucking companies which understood that if their vehicles were to be hired by the city it would be prudent to have John Daley write the insurance. Twenty-five percent of all hired truck companies happened to come from the 11th ward, ancestral home of the Daleys where John serves as Democratic committeeman (in addition to commissioner of Cook county where he is ensconced as chairman of its finance committee). In return more than $105,000 in campaign donations flowed to the mayor from companies in the program.
In February, 2005 Daley, his cheeks aflame addressed the hired trucks scandal by shoutingreminiscent of his late father, Richard I [1902-76] (although with better syntax)Anyone who believes that my interest in public life is enriching my family, friends or political supporters doesnt know or understand me at all.. My reputation and the well-being of this city are more important to me than any election. The press corps which still retains its honor could hardly keep a straight face. Sure enough, in February, 2006 a close relative pleaded guilty to taking at least $5,400 to steer hired truck work to a trucking company.
Following this, Fitzgerald prosecuted the former city clerk, Democrat pro-abort James Laski with taking bribes and obstructing justice after the feds caught him on tape urging witnesses to lie to a grand jury and deny they gave him $500 to $1,000 a week each in cash bribes to keep getting business in the hired truck program. Also his predecessor was convicted in a ghost payroll scheme with taxpayers shelling out more than $400,000 in salaries to six politicians who didnt show over a dozen years. In addition Fitzgerald discovered that tons of asphalt paid by the city were stolen by truck drivers in the hired trucks program and used on private jobs.
Then to the Bush Administration.
Pro-Bush Republicans were gloating about these bad things happening to the Daleyites when Fitzgerald wheeled on his heel and retaining his office here went to Washington part-time as special counsel to investigate the Valerie Plame matter in 2003. He brought an indictment on 5 counts against Lewis (Scooter) Libby, Vice President Cheneys chief of staff and for a time the Bush administration held its collective breath fearing that he would indict Karl Rove, the presidents political guru and National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley. Libby was convicted of 4 of the 5 counts and sentenced to a $250,000 fine, 2-1/2 years in prison and 2 years of probation. After an appeals court rejected Libbys attempt to delay the prison sentence, President Bush commuted that portion of Libbys sentence. I personally have trouble with this conviction since the purpose of the probe was to find out who leaked to journalist Robert Novak that Plame was CIA-connected. Fitzgerald knew at the outset it wasnt Libby but deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage (and, in fact, told Armitage to shut up about it). Fitz claims he caught Libby in a subsequent lie so he convicted him anyhow the mark of a true zealot which confirms what his critics say about him, but no one accuses Fitz of being soft on those he zeroes in on.
After Fitzgerald returned full-time to prosecutions here, one Republican writhing under an investigation for fixing contracts was caught on tape vowing he would use his credentials with the White House presumably with Rove who began in politics here to get Fitzgerald replaced. Sure enough, in March, 2007 it was revealed that Fitzgerald was ranked among prosecutors who had `not distinguished themselves on a Justice Department chart sent to the White House in March, 2005. The downgrade was so blatant that President Bush rushed a statement out saying Fitzgerald is a highly qualified prosecutor who carried out his responsibilities [on the Plame matter] as charged.
Embarrassment for Big Jim.
All the while Big Jim Thompson was defending George Ryan pro-bono, Fitzgerald launched an investigation against the pompous CEO of Hollinger newspapers, which owned a string of publications including The Chicago Sun-Times, Conrad Black. He charged Black with criminal fraud, violations of fiduciary obligations and running a corporate kleptocracy. The indictment came perilously close to the patriarch of lets-cut-a-deal bipartisanship in Illinois, Thompson who was chairman of the newspapers audit committee. Big Jimbo so relished serving on a board that included Henry Kissinger and neo-con Richard Perle that he personally and without examination signed off on outlandish expenditures by Black to ingratiate himself with management. As result Thompson was investigated by the SEC for wanton carelessness, agreeing to expenses by Black that were not remotely connected to the newspaperand very narrowly missed being indicted for malfeasance by Fitzgerald. Black was convicted last year and sentenced to 78 months in federal prison, required to pay the newspaper $6.1 million in restitution and a fine of $125,000. Thompson escaped federal indictment by a hairs breath and there is no doubt that he is gunning for Fitzgerald to be replaced.
Corruption with Ties to Dem Governor.
Although liberal Democrat Gov. Rod Blagojevich was elected (Serbian Orthodox) on a pledge to end corruption in Illinois government, Fitzgerald moved swiftly on first report of play for pay dealings in state government where big contributors were rewarded with cushy contracts and other favors. Republican Thompsons law firm was Blagojevichs general counsel on ethics (believe it or not) and Thompson raised campaign money for Blagojevich. Now Blagojevich has been widely rumored to be the unnamed Public Official A in the indictment of Antonin Tony Rezko, who has been a major fund-raiser and patron for Barack Obamas career who has aided Blagojevich in at least one alleged extortion attempt.
Rezko was convicted by Fitzgerald on 16 of 24 counts against him. Sent to prison where he could well spend decades, he so dislikes solitary confinement that he has agreed to talk to prosecutors. The danger for Blagojevich and a host of pols of both parties--and possibly for Obama---is not inconsiderable. The first indication of Rezkos information came last week when a big power-broker in the Republi-crat combine was indicted, Catholic Bill Cellini, close to Ryan, Thompson and a host of Dems, who has been playing bipartisan deals in this state since 1969. The feds also are looking seriously at Mrs. Blagojevich, daughter of a highly placed Catholic multi-millionaire Democratic pro-abort alderman who started the man known as Blago on his way and who has been estranged from the governor and the fact that Patricia Mell Blagojevich, a licensed real estate broker, earned $113,000 in commissions from the owners of a company that won a no-bid contract with the state.
But now it gets really interesting since Fitzgerald has done years of digging that may finally tie the Presidential Swami of Hope, Obama to dirty deals in the filthiest municipal tag team match of corruption extant in the nation, a process that John Kass of the Tribune, the only major columnist not supinely craven to Obama, calls the Chicago Way.
Ties to Obama.
Because Pat Fitzgerald is such a straight arrow, pols here dont know how to deal with him. Regarded as an instinctive Democrat due to his Irish heritage as the son of a hotel doorman, born in Brooklyn, Fitzgerald has nevertheless been fearless in prosecuting close-up allies of Mayor Richard II and will likely indict a second governor, Democrat Blagojevich with rumors that this will be done before Thanksgiving.
Not only that, with jailbird Antonin Rezko chirping like a canary in order to get his sentence reduced, what happens to the entire Democratic structure of power if bad things surface in his tales about Barack Obama who is regarded by so many media idolaters as a distant relative of the Deity? Like pro-abort Catholic MSNBC commentator Chris Matthews they feel collectively a tingle up their leg when Obama walks into a room. But the facts are there and this Demo-publican combine town is pathologically worried Fitzgerald will uncover more.
What is known is toxic bad p.r. for Obama (but never played up by deferential local and national media). Rezko rehabbed a 31-unit building here eleven years ago with a loan from Chicago taxpayers. They couldnt find the money to restore the heat in a winter season but they did dig up enough dough to give $1,000 to the newly elected state senator whose district included the rehabbed building.
Obama, then a young operator on the make, took donations from Rezko while Rezkos low-income housing empire was collapsing, leaving many black families in buildings with squalid conditions, lack of heat, filled with drug dealers and squatters. In all, 11 buildings Rezko rehabbed were in Obamas legislative district. There is no evidence that Obama lifted a finger to help ease conditions caused by Rezkos company; instead, he gratefully accepted Rezkos dough and patronage. Moreover as a lawyer, Obama helped Rezkos company get more than $43 million in government funding to rehab 15 buildings for the poor. Many had code violations; hundreds of apartments were vacant; taxpayers have been stuck with millions of dollars in unpaid loans; at least a dozen times, the city of Chicago had to sue Rezko for failure to heat the buildings.
And thats not all. What might interest Fitzgerald is that Obama teamed with Rezko in a cushy deal to improve his own living conditions. With money from his autobiography which through media hype became a best-seller, Obama then a U.S. senator paid less than the asking price for the home. He wanted to acquire a lot next door for a garden.
Then Rezkos wife who was earning only $30,000 in salary paid the full price for the lot next door and Obama bought part of the lot from her for $104,000a transaction Obama later apologized for as a boneheaded mistake, acknowledging people might think he benefited from this gift from Rezko. The U.S. Senates ethics violations take such benefits seriously as weve learned from the case of Alaskas Ted Stevens, found guilty of seven felonious counts of accepting gifts without reporting them. Rumor is consummate digger Fitzgerald is finding further business dealings between Obama and Rezko.
What to Do with Fitzgerald Dems Ponder.
John McCain announced that if elected president he would keep Fitzgerald on the job in Illinois. Obama has been less definite but in his smooth way expressed support for the prosecutor. Yet behind the scenes, there is much consternation in Democratic circles here. One pol close to Obama told me its important we ditch this guy but do it the right way. Meaning kicking him upstairs in Justice. But there Fitzgerald might still influence a probe. So the entire Illinois Demo-publican combine starting with the president-elect and centering on Richard II is uneasy.
Chicago Democrats arent known for ancient history or literary accomplishment but they would be interested to learn that his namesake, Britains Richard II [1367-1400] overreached in power-grabbing, was deposed and sentenced to the Tower.
In Act II, scene 2 the besieged king says, the ripest fruit soon falls. Richie Daley making license plates with George Ryan and Rod Blagojevich? Brrrrr!