Monday, December 22, 2008
The Week Past: Indian Givers for Blago at Behest of the Jacksons.
Obama supporters here are angered and exasperated that what had been regarded as a perfect transition up to mid-December has turned into a media scandal-hunt for connections between the president-elect and the soiled Rod Blagojegvich regime. The vaunted Democratic party is reeling from the stench. Worse, there are no Republicans to blame as the Dems control the legislature, all state constitutional offices and the state courts.
Gov.Blagojevich has declined to resign to the keen disappointment of Democrats everywhere. Friday he held a news conference well not a conference since he wouldnt take questionsbut a cameo appearance wherein he said I will fight, I will fight, I will fight until I take my last breath! One of his attorneys, Sam Adams, said he would only resign if it became absolutely clear he could not govern. Adams compared Blagos low ratings to those of Harry Truman.
So Dems continue to suffer--not just from impeachment of the governor which began last week but from the fear that a special election for the U.S. Senate just may propel a Republican to the seat by an electorate sorely turned-off at Democratic party corruption. A Republican senator from Illinois? How bizarre! Impeached or not, Blago will be tried on charges of official misconduct alleged by the U.S. attorney, abuses of official position, political hiring and firing of state employees, so-called `Pay to Play allegations, acts performed without legal authority and any additional charges that may come up in public testimony.
Apparently caught up in the sticky spider web is Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. whose unseemly lust for the Senate caused him to take leave of his senses and got him huddling with Blagojevich. It also got him to push his kid brother, Jonathan to round up a group of Indian entrepreneurs to hold a fund-raiser for Blagojevich aka a bribe to convince the governor to name Jackson. The event was held on the Saturday before U. S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgeralds minions hustled Blago out of his house at 6 a.m., put him in cuffs and took him to the federal building where he was indicted.
Jackson, gaunt from gastric bypass surgery two years ago after his will for dieting failed, looks like an emaciated skull on a beanpolewhich hasnt helped him in repeated news conferences at which he denied his evident ambition to get Blago to give him the Senate job was excessive. He has hired an attorney to untangle him from Blago spider web as did his old man the once pro-lifer turned pro-abort Rev. Jesse Jackson aka The Pout and brother Jonathan. The senior Jackson held a news conference at which he denied his own culpability but the media failed to cover it full throttle since he couldnt think of a rhyme for Blagojevich. Jesse, Jr. has made a startling effort to reclaim his idealism by announcing that he has been in touch with the Feds since last summer, trying to trap Blago and that he and his wife Alderman Sandi turned down the governors offer to name Jacksons wife as head of the state lottery in return for a $25,000 campaign contribution. Sounds thrillingly honest but if so, Patrick Fitzgerald might ponder, where did the Indian givers to Blago called together to pony up, ostensibly at Jonathan Jacksons behest come from?
Speaking of Fitzgerald, while I think he is just what the doctor ordered to clean up Illinois, there are times I think hes a zealot. Last week, in my estimation, he over-reacted when he impounded Blagos campaign fund, the only source of money the governor can use to pay reasonably competent lawyers to defend him. Fitz did this same thing with George Ryan. It comes perilously close, in my book, to disarming a defendant and rendering him powerless before the huge preponderance the Feds have in prosecution. I think Pat has the good on Blago but he neednt make the battle unfair by stripping the governor of legal assistance to make his case. But then John Kass, whom I regard as the best newsman-commentator in this town possibly the nation says that Jimmy DeLeo will see that the governor has decent representation. That eases me somewhat. (If Kass doesnt get the Pulitzer for his great stuff on this mess, the prize is fixed).
Meanwhile what Drudge calls the Silence of the Rahm, a cocoon of muteness, has descended over Rep. Rahm Emanuel who has been slated to become Obamas chief of staff. What worries the Obama media people is not that Rahm is caught on tape with Blago and his staff a full 21 timesbut that Emanuels propensity for 4-letter words will be revealed and cause a distinct toxic shock to idealists who believe Obama will bring a wafting air of clean breeze to politics. If worse comes to worst, Emanuel will have to decline his White House job and allow himself to be tossed by the Messiah under the same bus as he did Jeremiah Wright, Bill Ayres, Bernadine Dohrn and Louis Farrakhan which means Rahm may have to quit and keep his House seat so as to spare Obama embarrassment.
Last week, media was keeping vigil outside the office building where the governor and his wife met with this towns foremost criminal lawyer, Ed Genson, who is admired by his fellow legal shark buddies for getting rock singer R. Kelly off from charges of having sex with a minor (but Genson failed to get Conrad Black acquitted for financially plundering the Hollinger company which owns the Sun-Times).
Genson, an elderly, colorful red-haired, bearded alley fighter who rolls into a courtroom on a motorized scooter (suffering from a degenerative bone disease), is an expert on delaying tactics. The congressional impeachment of Bill Clinton took four full monthsbut, Genson points out gleefully, Clinton didnt contest the process which made it run quickly. The only comparable case is the impeachment of Gov. Evan Mecham (R-N.M) in 1988 which took a month to get a conviction but Genson dismisses that by saying Mecham didnt defend himself effectively.
Blago could put on a stall by taking an inordinate amount of time to legally respond to chargesbut on the other hand, reportedly at least 25 people have gone to the U.S. attorney to declare they were shaken down by the administration and the chief of staff and deputy governor have resigned with insiders quietly spilling the beans to Fitzgerald with the possibility of a mass resignation of staffers in protest to Blagos unwillingness to resign.
Also last week, Lt. Governor Pat Quinn called for Blagos resignation and then impeachmentnot surprising because either one would make Quinn governor. Quinn has spent a lifetime crusading as a kind of ersatz Ralph Nader reducing the size of the state House membership by a third on expectation it would save money (wrong: it propelled the chamber into a vise-like control of four top leaders while the balance of the House membership think of themselves as mushrooms, covered with fertilizer and kept in the dark).
Quinn, who normally is very sanctimoniousrolling his eyeballs to heaven to attest his own honesty--fumbled badly by taking four definable but inconsistent positions on how Illinois should find a senator to replace Obama. First he said without equivocation that the legislature should provide for a special election rather than hold still for a governors appointment. Second after consulting with the Democratic hierarchy, he said the state should continue with a gubernatorial appointment (the Daley forces worrying that the state is so regurgitating from the Blago scandal that the electorate might gasp!..elect a Republican senator). When the prospect of appointment displeased 71% of the state via recent poll, Quinn invented a third way: he should name a senator who would serve only until a special election is held something which may not fly under the constitution. Finallyyesterday on TV, he retreated to his original stance, supporting a special election. This day-by-day change of heart is not much different from Blago.
All the while Attorney General Lisa Madigan, took a case to the Illinois Supreme Court asking for permission to appear before it to urge the court to declare Blago unfit to hold his office. She used legal terms but meant in plain Chicago-ese that Blago is blotto or nuts and should be removed by the court. But Madigan is herself interested in the governorship and could benefit directly if Quinn, becoming governor, names himself to the senate making her the governor. The Democratic controlled court refused to consider her motion.
At the same time, Madigans step-father, House Speaker Mike Madigan, technically a Dem pro-lifer (because he represents the conservative white southwest side of the city) but tight-lipped laconic who presides unblinkingly while his Democratic majority passes pro-abort and pro-gay rights legislation, has moved very-very slowly so as not to interfere with his dimpled darling daughters dominance of the news. Finally after a legislative poll showed his House members favoring impeachment 108 to 1, he set up a committee which is studying the possibility of impeaching the governor. It would work like the federal lawthe House brings forth the charges and the Senate sits as jury with the chief justice as judge.
The same poll showed 90% of state lawmakers favoring a special election. A statewide Rasmussen poll has 79% of all Illinois favoring instant jail for Blagojevich. They evidently dont want to bother about the niceties of a trial, evidently.
Also, the U. S. Senates number two Democrat but number one jellyfish, pro-abort Dick Durbin, immediately came out for a special election but was called on his cell phone by Daley who reportedly thundered so loudly that a terrified Durbin had to cover his ears whereupon Durbin said immediately he wants an appointment.
Throughout all this, youd think the Chicago Tribune would be in hog-heaven since it disclosed the feds taping Blago but not so. Blago was quoted saying he wouldnt help its owner, real estate billionaire Sam Zell, palm off Wrigley field on the state taxpayers unless Zell fired his editorial writers who have been very critical of the governor. Fitzgerald, hearing the tape, asked the paper to hold off blowing the whistle while he gathered prosecutorial evidence. The Trib sat on the story for a while but got cold feet, fearing the rival Sun-Times would scoop it on its own storyso it broke the story. But it was too early. Fitzgerald didnt completely have the taped goods on Blago and condemned the Trib for botching his prosecution. Result: the paper and Zell missed a great opportunity to be as close to a national scandal as the Washington Post was with Watergate.
The result from the Tribs cold feet is that some legal authorities feel that Blagos criminal attorney Genson may have a pretty good case in defending the governor. After all, no criminal act seems to have been perpetrated and its no sin or crime to be taped talking dirty or bringing up on the phone possible recompense for naming a senator. Fitzgerald, however, says Blago crossed the line when he discussed with an aide obtaining a $300,000 a year job from the Service Employees International Union in return for naming its favorite to the senate. Prosecutors have brought a good number of corruption cases utilizing laws that make it a crime for an official to deprive the public of honest services. But this requires evidence that the official tried to seek something of value in return for an official action. It would have aided Fitzgeralds prosecution if Blago were taped actually offering the senate seat in exchange for a personal favor like cash, a job or job for a family member. To some lawyers, the tapes Fitzgerald has is just talknot a firm inducement to corruption. Yes, the stuff Fitzgerald revealed is said to be a mere snapshot of what he has. But there is no doubt that the panicky Trib squashed the opportunity for more incriminating evidence.
Which is bad news for the Trib empire and the arrogant Zell whos had a truly bad 2007-8, paying too much for the Trib media empire, then running into near-bankruptcy trying to get out from under its huge debt. Hes a runty motorcycle enthusiast, who with slit eyes and a reddish beard, bears a remarkable resemblance to medieval paintings of Lucifer and who like the one he resembles insists everything and everyone has a price. He has been quoted as saying he cares not a whit for the newspaper business (merely wants to make it pay before he dumps it), adding that Pulitzer prizes mean nothing to himbecause they make him pay higher wages to its recipients.
Daley Worries About Olympics.
Daley who is monomaniac on winning the Olympics for Chicago in 2016 when he will be 74 and in his 27th year as mayor in this one-party town is worried that the bad press Illinois is getting on corruption may jeopardize it. The mayors zest for the Olympics has nothing to do with sports competition and everything to do with a floodtide of construction, land acquisition and jobs which would nurture the machine in perpetuity. He enlisted Barack Obama to do a taped commercial for Chicago last Nov. 11 to the international Olympics committee saying, arrogantly, that the games will come just as heObamais concluding his second term. The president-elect didnt mention any federal funding for the Olympics, much to Daleys disappointment but possibly it could be tucked into his overall grandiose plan to spend to stimulate the economy. Daley hopes Obama will open the federal spigot in the same way the mayors great and good friend George W. Bush helped pay for the never-ending OHare airport expansion: one possible reason for the odd couples close friendship although what Bush got out of their pact is unknown.
Except for The Readers ace urban affairs/political writer Ben Joravsky , the push for the Olympics has been shrouded in public relations mist generated by Daley for which he should give thanks to the supine Chicago media. Initially he declared the Olympics wouldnt cost the city anything. Then, just after he was reelected to a four-year term, the U.S. Olympics committee said it wouldnt support Chicago as the U.S. nominee unless it put some skin in the gamea gamblers term for kick in some dough. A week later Daley had the city council earmark $500 million of taxpayers money to support the games. He explained the $500 million would only be spent if private monies werent available to cover the costsnot unlike a Ponzi scheme. He then sketched all the advantages the city would get: four 15,000-seat arenas for field hockey, tennis, swimming and equestrian events a 75,000 track-and-field stadium and 15,000 units of housing for an Olympic village.
Media here fail to note that the infrastructure for the 2012 Olympics in London, originally budgeted at $3.6 billion, has ballooned to $14 billion already and is still growing. Nobody brings that up but then in a city whose one-party government has outlasted that of the USSRwhy should they?