Come to the State Fair

The Illinois Democratic Network will be having a meet-up and rally on Governor’s Day at the Illinois State Fair. I’ll be there. Hopefully that’s not a disincentive. They are advertising on the right and I highly recommend checking out their site–an excellent resource for Democratic grass roots events.

I’ll also be there on the 18th for Republican Day.

Don’t forget the other advertisers either–the more you visit the sites, the easier it is for me to post.

Month in Review

Most Significant Local Story: Daley Patronage Chief Indicted

Winner: Peter Roskam

Losers: Illinois Farmers

Most Under Reported Story: The continuing mismanagement and scandals under the Blagojevich Administration.

Most Over Reported Story: Cook County GOP’s bounty on the Mayor.

Story to Watch in August: The coming Democratic Primary for Governor

Most Amazing Sports Accomplishment Despite Whining About it by a Chicago Tribune Metro Columnist: Lance Armstrong retires after winning his 7th straight Tour de France.

Month in Review: Story to Watch In August

The coming Democratic Primary for Governor.

I don’t know who it will be, but someone is going to challenge Governor Blagojevich in the primary. Rumors abound about Lou Lang who appears to be making the rounds asking for advice as to whether to run or not. Lang has certainly spent an amount on polling that would suggest statewide ambitions in his most recent campaign finance report. Other rumors include Jeff Berkowitz’s mention in last month’s review of Cook County States Attorney Dick Devine as a possible candidate.

Dissatisfaction amongst party regulars and activists is high with the Governor and someone will likely jump in to challenge him. Blagojevich himself is trying to shore up his base by increasing ties with the African-American community including Jesse Jackson Jr. and reaching out to women voters with initiatives such as the contraceptive rule for pharmacies, increasing general access to contraception, promoting stem cell research, and banning the sale of violent and sexually explicit video games to minors. Some see all of these initiatives as a feint to the left, but it’s mostly a highly targeted effort on issues that have widespread popular support, but especialy hit home for many women. It’s a far more centrist strategy than most realize in terms of a general election and is far craftier than many critics realize. It’s not enough to avoid a primary challenge and can be neutralized in a primary race. It does, however, provide a strong obstacle for Republicans running against him.

Runner Up 1: Strong challenger(s) emerging to Dan Lipinski in IL-03 in the primary. Lipinski was handed his seat by his father and won largely because the Machine made sure no one could effectively challenge him. In a full scale primary, the weaknesses of the Machine will be exposed and anger over nepotism will come to a boil. Lipinski doesn’t see it coming making it all the more fun to watch. Lipinski has anemic fundraising to date and doesn’t appear to have mounted a serious campaign operation other than the remnants left by his father.

Runner Up 2: The race for County Board President is getting crowded with reformers. Stroger may yet be reelected with too much of the vote split between reformers.

Runner Up 3: Dan Rutherford will announce for some statewide office. The reaction from Republicans will be fascinating.

Month In Review: Most Over Reported Story

Cook County GOP’s bounty on the Mayor.

They don’t even have the money in the bank according to their last report to the State Board of Elections. There are a lot of serious issues they could be highlighting relating to John Stroger and his patronage and instead they are pulling a stupid political stunt. Combine this with the move to remove Republican names from supporting a resolution for the Gay Games and you have a County Party proving why it’s becoming increasingly irrelevant.

Runner Up: Something about Aruba–I keep turning the channel whenever the word is mentioned.

Month In Review: Most Under Reported Story

The continuing mismanagement and scandals under the Blagojevich Administration.

While I’m sure Blagojevich partisans see there being too much coverage, State Auditor General Bill Holland identified a large number of issues relating to federal grant dollars being misused by the State of Illinois and Aaron Chambers is one of the few to pick up on the audit. Every newspaper is reporting on management issues and investigations within the administration, but no one is doing a very comprehensive job detailing the depth of the problems.

While some problems are arguable such as the welfare distributions, others such as the lack of oversight for $104 million in workforce development grants demonstrate a profound disregard for best practices in government. For a guy who ran on pledge to change the way Springfield works, he is comprehensively changing state operations for the worse. In addition to the mismanagement, few print sources (the Capitol Fax being the notable exception) between scandals involving the City of Chicago, Cook County Board President John Stroger and the Blagojevich administration.

Runner Up: The endorsement of Jim Oberweis by Jack Roeser, Renew Illinois and the Family Taxpayer Network. Bernard Schoenburg covers it today and lays out in a very fair way the right wing document Oberweis signed on to to receive support of the Roeser and Renew Illinois. Not only is this important in relation to Oberweis, but it tells us two things about the Republican primary. First, Roeser backed out of supporting Steve Rauschenberger evidently because he was too liberal and Oberweis would drink all of the kool-aid. Second, even if Jim Edgar does get into the race, one has to assume he’ll face a primary with Oberweis given Roeser himself challenged Edgar in 1994 and the platform of Renew Illinois is virtually the opposite of Edgar’s views.

Month In Review: Loser

Illinois Farmers

Getting killed by a drought that even if it breaks this summer, the rain will be too late.

Runner Up 1: Officer who swore and pulled a gun on Senator Meeks.

Doesn’t matter whether people got out of the car or not, but it’s a CLM–career limiting move–to hassle a State Lege Member. As Yellow Dog Democrat commented on Rich Miller’s Capitol Fax Blog

I thought the whole purpose of legislative and low-digit plates was to make racial profiling idiot-proof?

While Meeks wasn’t in his own car, it doesn’t matter who was right because in the end, The Senator is. For the rest of us, keep your hands at 10 and 2.

Runner Up 2: Chicago Hockey Fans. The good news, The Blackhawks will play this season. The bad news, Bill Wirtz still owns them.

Month In Review: Winner

Peter Roskam

Roskam raised nearly $400,000 for his Congressional Campaign in Illinois’ 6th District, but that’s not directly why he is the winner. Roskam is proud and loud social conservative who faced two more moderate opponents in the Republican primary. While he was likely to win with strong establishment support, the danger to him was that in a bruising primary he would be painted as a far right extremist by his opponents. Whomever the Democratic candidate ended up being, the words of Roskam’s primary opponents could be used against him to paint him as extreme. With Pankau and Carney bowing out of the race, Roskam avoids that bloodbath and gets to set the agenda for the general election on his own while the Democratic Primary continues.

Runner Up 1: Melissa Bean. Huge fundraising quarter with $460,000 raised and $735,000 Cash on hand putting her third amongst House Freshman and first for Democratic Freshman. Even better, while the field was cleared in IL-06, IL-08 has a three way primary on the Republican side that is likely to be ugly and result in hurt feelings between the moderate and conservative wings of the party.

Runner Up 2: John Pavich. Who? The guy who raised $100,000 in his first quarter as a candidate in IL-11. He’ll be running against Jerry Weller and has already raised 1/3 of the amount Weller’s last opponent, Tari Renner, raised. It’ll be a tough race, but he’s established himself as a legitimate contender in Democratic donor circles.

Month In Review: Most Significant Local Story

Daley Patronage Chief Indicted

While it’s one of the most reported stories, it’s one of the most important. Even if the legal case doesn’t reach the Mayor, the political fallout already has.

Most importantly, it opens up serious enforcement of the Shakman decree. Michael Shakman’s call for the Mayor to be held in contempt isn’t as outlandish as many people think. Connecting the Mayor to specific decisions concerning patronage hiring is a lot harder than demonstrating the City has largely bypassed the decree and not enforced rigorously the conditions leaves Daley and the City Government open to sanctions.

Even if Daley and his staff attempt to only put a show on in terms of reforming hiring and promotions, greater scrutiny from the Federal Court is almost assured. That will force changes further reducing the power that comes along with patronage.

Prompted by a criminal probe of City Hall hiring, the man who for years has fought to free city jobs from politics asked Tuesday that Mayor Richard Daley’s administration be held in contempt of federal court orders against patronage.

Attorney Michael Shakman asked a federal court in Chicago to impose “substantial” civil fines on Daley and other city officials for what he described as “systemic, widespread violations” of court orders that Shakman won decades ago.

Shakman also asked the court in a document filed Tuesday to put at the top of the list for new openings “hundreds and perhaps thousands” of qualified job-seekers who were passed over for city jobs or promotions in favor of politically connected candidates.

He also requested an independent expert to investigate alleged abuses and recommend how to clean up hiring.

The Daley administration’s top lawyer, Mara Georges, said that the city would challenge any attempt to find it in contempt. She denied widespread problems with hiring and repeated the mayor’s assertion that he had no knowledge of wrongdoing.
Although Shakman did not allege that the mayor had been aware of specific abuses, he blamed Daley for a “culture of disregard for the law and disrespect for court orders” that fostered the hiring violations. As a “hands-on administrator,” Daley should have known of the problems, according to Shakman’s court filing.

“The mayor is the chief executive officer of the city of Chicago and as such he obviously has responsibility for what his subordinates did,” Shakman said at a news conference at his office.

Shakman may not get exactly what he wants, but he will bring greater scrutiny on city hiring which will be a tremendous change in how politics operates in the City of Chicago.

The Many Layers of Patrick Fitzgerald

While most who focus on the national aspects of Patrick Fitzgerald’c current role as an independent prosecutor, the primary problems Hastert has with Fitzgerald are local in origin.

Remember this fight is quite old and mixed in with funding for the Lincoln Library. Upon Bush’s election to the Presidency, by custom, the senior Senator of the President’s party gets to make the US Attorney selection. Hastert expected to be consulted on the decision and at one time appeared to be going around Peter to veto someone from outside Illinois. Peter refused to budge and got all three of his choices. Patrick Fitzgerald was a culture change from Scott Lasser who was a decent prosecutor, but not nearly as dogged in rooting out corruption.

What offended many was that Peter went outside of Illinois to find a tough prosecutor instead of hiring someone from Illinois. Peter knew exactly what he was doing though because he surmised that anyone with the political connections to be considered from Illinois would be compromised by those same connections. Either they wouldn’t pursue corruption very strongly, or they would pursue it unevenly against the other party. Peter went outside of Illinois to a prosecutor known for being tough with a record of terrorism and corruption investigations. Patrick Fitzgerald even claims that he never really had a partisan affiliation until his last few years in as a Prosecutor, and presumably he had to choose one because he wanted to advance to be a US Attorney.

Complicating the matter was that at the same time there was a high profile fight over funding for the Lincoln Library between Peter on one hand and Hastert and George Ryan on the other. Lynn Sweet describe it thusly on February 4, 2001

Fitzgerald first clashed with Hastert last fall over the Lincoln Library. He accused Hastert of blocking his attempt to attach federal procurement rules to legislation approving up to $ 50 million for the library. Fitzgerald feared loopholes in state bidding laws would let Ryan give contracts to his cronies. He inflamed Hastert when he said at the time that Hastert’s actions were “morally and ethically wrong.”

Hastert said, “I have no fight with Peter,” even though he challenged Fitzgerald’s integrity.

“We needed a senator in our Republican Party over there (in the Senate) to help us get things done. I would welcome that. I would hope we could work with him. My door is open. But I took with some umbrage when he tried to pull me into some kind of contrived plan on the problems in Illinois,” he said.

While the public fireworks were between Hastert and Fitzgerald, it’s important to note that Daley, despite his brother’s relationship as Gore campaign manager, had a good relationship with Bush and the clubbiness of both parties in Illinois meant that Daley could exert pressure over the hiring as well with Daley essentially being another supporter for Hastert’s case to Bush to force Peter to compromise. Neither party wanted a pesky prosecutor looking for corruption in both parties and were quite happy to have someone like Lasser who went after the small fish such as relatively low rung Alderman or blatant problems like Loren Maltese.

It’s that clubby relationship that John Kass calls the Combine in Illinois–a center party that isn’t based on ideology, but members of both parties that primarily work to further their own fortunes and careers. We’ve seen key elements of the Combine come down over the last few years.

George Ryan, the clubbiest of them all is under indictment, Lee Daniels is under investigation, Pate Philip might well be given his performance in one trial. Many people in the orbit of Daley have been caught up in investigations now leading up to his patronage chief Sorich. All of these people were safe under the unexciting and relatively non-aggressive Scott Lasser. Now, no one is safe and a lot of people would like to see that change.

Peter is paranoid to a degree, but not without reason. Most of the Combine was, in fact, out to drive him from office with the hope of getting someone who could play ball on pork and someone who would move towards another US Attorney.

In the mean time, however, Patrick Fitzgerald has become a folk hero to many activists on the left and right who have wanted to diminish the power of Combine forces that maintain the status quo. Especially amongst social conservatives who see the Combine figures as morally and legally bankrupt on many different levels, Patrick Fitzgerald is a hero. Amongst liberals, Fitzgerald is seen as the guy who took down GOP corruption and is at least checking the Combine elements of the Democrats. Supporters of Jesse Jackson Jr. see his investigations as the way to return a progressive African-American to the Mayor’s office. Firing him would have been very difficult given the grass roots outcry if Hastert had pulled it off.

Now, though, it’s simply impossible. The Washington Press is already angry about being lied to concerning the Rove scandal and not reappointing Fitzgerald would simply look like vindictiveness and woudl create a press outcry and even sympathy for the guy who jailed one of their own.

The irony is that Hastert might have had a shot at taking Patrick out before the Rove Scandal heated up. In a quiet move the administration could have asked Patrick to step down voluntarily and moved on to a new appointment controlled by Hastert that would have paralyzed the office for several months and then slowly the office would have become less aggressive on corruption cases. By being the guy at the center of the Rove scandal, Fitzgerald is almost certain to be reappointed now because the White House can’t send him a quiet request to step down and they certainly aren’t stupid enough to fire him.

The people who have the most to lose from the Rove scandal could yet by Illinois politicians not even involved in the issue, but those who are targets of investigations by Fitzgerald who now don’t have any hope he’ll be dismissed.

What does Patrick Fitzgerald think of all this? Probably not much. He’s kinda busy.

Fitzgerald May Not be Reappointed as USAG Northern Illinois?

Whoa, that’s out of left field given everyone else is supporting him including the two Democratic Senators. John Chase’s article is somewhat strange because Hastert’s people aren’t openly opposing the reappointment, but Peter Fitzgerald’s concern is hard to figure as whether it’s paranoia or based on something real.

And for the record, t would be a horrible idea to not reappoint him.

Manzullo’s Cluelessness

Don Manzulo jumped on the bandwagon criticizing Governor Blagojevich regarding the pharmacy rule to dispense contraceptives that the pharmacy carries.

In a moment of brilliance Manzullo says:

?You can?t bring in another pharmacist in a small town,? he said. ?You?ve got to put them on call and it costs a lot of money to carry a beeper on them.?

It costs a lot of money to carry a beeper on them? Yeah, if this was the 1970s, but that isn’t even the point. Pharmacies that don’t wish to stock a particular contraceptive are not required to dispense the contraceptive.

The pharmacist in question appears to be unable to understand the very basic point. Given he owns four pharmacies, it’s hard to figure how he believes that he has to dispense the contraceptives in questions–if he doesn’t want to dispense them, he has the choice not to order them.

Pharmacist Luke D. Vander Bleek, who owns four pharmacies in Whiteside and DeKalb counties, told the committee he would not own a pharmacy or practice in Illinois if he is forced to be involved in what he considers the destruction of human life.

I hope Vander Bleek had a nice trip out to DC, but the reality is that all he has to do is not order contraceptives he doesn’t want to dispense.

The Governor should send Manzullo a nice bouquet though, since the Governor’s position has 80% support in national opinion polls. The more social conservatives complain, the more Rod gets good publicity.

Adding to the level of bizarreness is that Vander Bleek says he’s a strong Roman Catholic and chooses to sell oral contraceptives. Beyond the strange disconnect there, oral contraceptives taken prior to intercourse can still result in a fertilized egg that is then discharged–thus being the same thing as Plan B. For a guy saying he understands the science, he doesn’t seem to grasp the problem he’s created for himself.

Funny, but not for the reasons Skoien thinks

Gary Skoien of the Cook County Republicans is offering $10,000 for the conviction of Richard Daley.

The irony? The $500 bucks that would presumably go towards that reward from Don Stephens.

Criticizing Daley is fair game and certainly if Fitzgerald can nail him, bully for him, but no one has clean hands in Illinois–trying to act superior when you are taking money from a guy the Feds claim is mobbed up makes it a bit hard to take seriously.

It might also help if the Cook County Republican Central Committee had $10,000 to contribute

COH: $3,854.36 (last report–not the most recent reporting period)