Monday, January 31, 2005

Governor Blagojevich raises $10.3-million for campaign

By Andy Shaw, ABC 7 Chicago.

January 31, 2005 — With more than one year before his re-election campaign kicks off Governor Rod Blagojevich has more than $10-million dollars in his campaign war chest. But there are questions about how much of that money was raised in exchange for state contracts. The governor vehemently denies any connection between campaign contributions and the awarding of state contracts, but investigations by the Tribune and the Sun-Times are raising serious questions about the claim, and Blagojevich's own father-in-law, Alderman Dick Mell, made some damaging allegations before backing down a bit.

So, as the governor releases his latest fundraising totals, his claims of reform and no more business-as-usual are under attack.

The governor is still running for exercise, not re-election, at least not officially. But he raised $930-thousand dollars in campaign cash since June, and his political war chest is bulging with a record $10.3 million dollars half way through his first term.

"Illinois says raise as much as you want from whoever you want, as much as you want and the governor has taken the ball and run with it," said Jay Stewart of the Better Government Association.

For the rest of it, click here.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Courtesy of National Review Online's "TKS.," Democratic Underground

TKS is now what was "The Kerry Spot." Democrats Underground is the epi-center of the "Bush is Hitler" universe.

Hard to believe. Wait, then again, it isn't hard to believe. Here it is in it's entirety.


It's hard to resist the urge to look at the most furious of the Bush-haters on a day like today. So I glanced at Democratic Underground.

I should know better. These folks aren't the left-wing equivalent of the Freepers; they're much, much further out there.

Still, it's hard not to wonder if they represent the left-wing, Bush-hating, "anti-war" id, free from any constraints or limits. Anyway, some highlights:
I want peace for the Iraqis, but not at the cost of further empowering the Bush regime.
Our media isn't telling the whole story. Gag order on Iraq. No unhappy stories to mess with the bushites minds.

Reacting to the news that an Iraqi election official said that 72 percent of eligible Iraqi voters had turned out so far nationwide: "I don't know any Iraqis, but I know [balderdash] when I smell it." Another: Anyone who believes this [horsepucky] is seriously ignorant.... We don't even get that kind of turnout in our country.

(They're not saying "balderdash" and "horsepucky", obviously. The original language — in fact, most of the comments — are appropriate for the New Jersey Turnpike.)

This election is an absolute fraud. It does NOT represent ALL the groups like the Sunni and the candidates are mostly US puppets. The people whi voted are either paid off or too stupid to be voting anyway. Sounds like a recent US election to me.

(In a case of supreme irony, many are complaining about insufficient voter ID methods and eagerly pointing to reports of "irregularities" with the vote.)

In response to the report of the British military plane crash: "Like a sandstorm, the flying chads swirled around the atmosphere, making air travel difficult."Hearing comments like that, how can one not feel pity? You see happy faces of Iraqis taking place in the first election of their lifetimes, braving threats to life and limb... and your only reaction is more bitterness? What a dark little world of their own making they live in.

And from the Chicago Sun-Times....more Blago hits

This was just e-mailed to me....bad day for Rod Blagojevich, more hits on his "Mr. Clean" image:

An excerpt:

Donations and deals raise eyebrows, by Chris Fusco:

Contractor Robert C. Blum gave Gov. Blagojevich's campaign $124,000 in cash and a $100,000 loan.

Now he's on the receiving end.

Two construction firms owned by Blum -- a friend and business associate of Blagojevich's fund-raising chief, Christopher G. Kelly -- have been awarded nearly $25 million in state contracts since July. They include a $24.4 million deal to build a Chicago State University convocation center named in honor of state Senate President Emil Jones (D-Chicago), a top Blagojevich ally.

There's nothing illegal about the contributions or the contracts for Blum's companies, Castle Construction Corp. and MBB Construction Group. Castle underbid seven companies for the Chicago State job, beating out its closest competitor by a $185,000 margin.

Both Blum and the governor's office say his friendship and business ties to Kelly in no way could have influenced the bidding. Kelly's commercial roofing company leases part of Blum's construction yard in Markham and, until January, was involved in a joint roofing venture with Blum at O'Hare Airport.

The state's Capital Development Board "awards contracts without discretion based solely on the lowest filed bid," Blagojevich spokeswoman Cheryle Jackson said. All bids "are sealed and then they look at the lowest bid."

Still, disclosure of the Castle-MBB contracts -- part of a Chicago Sun-Times analysis of political contributions and state contracts under the Democratic governor's reign -- is raising new questions from good government advocates and Blagojevich critics who recall his pledge to end "business as usual" in state government.

'Cause for real concern'

They also could draw attention from Attorney General Lisa Madigan and Cook County State's Attorney Richard Devine, who are probing whether Blagojevich's fund-raising operation traded contributions for appointments to state boards and commissions -- an allegation leveled but then recanted by Blagojevich's father-in-law, Chicago Ald. Richard Mell (33rd), under threat of a defamation suit from Kelly.

"These instances are cause for real concern," said Jason Gerwig, spokesman for the Illinois Republican Party. The Castle contract "should send a red flag up to [Madigan and Devine] as they're looking at this."

It's all here.

Tribune Blago Analysis

As hinted at in Saturday's post:

Good read, the whole article is here.

Key excerpts from the article:

"Now, despite two years of massive borrowing and fee increases, sizable budget cuts and an array of fiscal tricks to stave off the need for income- or sales-tax hikes, Blagojevich is back where he started and facing a budget hole as high as $2 billion by some estimates."

And there is this:

"Illinois has learned some things about Blagojevich the man during the first half of his term: his fixation with his thick head of hair, his infatuation with Elvis Presley, his chronic lateness to everything, and his strained relations with a wide array of fellow Democrats, among them his own father-in-law, Ald. Dick Mell (33rd).

But in Springfield, very different images have emerged of Blagojevich the politician and steward of the public purse and trust.Blagojevich sees his record as one of impressive action and accomplishment, holding the line on taxes despite the constant struggle with deficits, trimming the state payroll and imposing higher ethical standards on a government in bad need of a cleansing.

To his critics, the Blagojevich era is highlighted more by grandiose claims, initiatives crafted primarily for the media pop, inattention to detail and a strategy of trying to humiliate those who get in his way."

And more:

"Running a perpetual image campaign, Blagojevich has adopted the tactic of using bogeymen to further his populist causes. He has attacked federal regulators and pharmaceutical makers over his inability to import prescription drugs, launched a drive to outlaw the sale to minors of violent video games and railed against the "Soviet-style" facelessness of the State Board of Education, which he has stripped of its independent advocacy."

And finally:

"The fragility of Blagojevich's relations with the legislature could prove a minefield for him as he struggles to overcome the latest round of deficit problems while ramping up for re-election in 2006 and, many in Springfield think, a possible White House run two years later."

Bush Declares Iraq Election a Success

There was some violence and as of this writing, 44 deaths, but I think the election has been a big success for the Iraqi people.

From Yahoo!

By ANNE GEARAN, AP Diplomatic Writer
WASHINGTON - President Bush called Sunday's elections in Iraq a success and promised the United States will continue trying to prepare Iraqis to secure their own country.

"The world is hearing the voice of freedom from the center of the Middle East," Bush told reporters at the White House on Sunday, four hours after the polls closed. He did not take questions after his three-minute statement.

Bush praised the bravery of Iraqis who turned out to vote despite continuing violence and intimidation. Bush said voters "firmly rejected the antidemocratic ideology" of terrorists.
Iraqis defied threats of violence and calls for a boycott to cast ballots in their first free election in a half-century Sunday.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Sunday's Trib (Metro section) Tough on Blago

While in line at the grocery store, saw the Chicago Tribune Sunday edition. Page one of the Metro Section, an analysis on Gov. Rod Blagojevich. Not very kind to the hairy one. Will post more tomorrow.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Ill. Unable to Sell Its Extra Flu Vaccine

Some Blagojevich grandstanding has blown up in his face....

From AP via Yahoo:

CHICAGO - Illinois has been unable to sell any of the 700,000 doses of flu vaccine that Gov. Rod Blagojevich and other state and city governments agreed to buy from Europe, raising the possibility taxpayers could get stuck paying for unused vaccine.

New York City and Cleveland officials who signed onto the deal now say they don't need their share — and don't want to pay for them.

Illinois put the doses on the market in December after New York City asked the state to resell the 200,000 flu vaccine doses it had agreed to buy for $10 each. Cleveland officials said they told Illinois earlier this month they no longer wanted the 4,500 doses they requested at a price of about $11 each.

However, Blagojevich spokeswoman Abby Ottenhoff said anyone that signed onto the deal is responsible for paying their share of the more than $6 million price for the vaccines.
On Thursday, the government all but dropped its flu vaccine restrictions, encouraging states with ample supplies to offer shots to anyone who wants one. More than half the states have already dropped all their restrictions.

After last fall's vaccine shortage, the government had said flu shots should be reserved for elderly people, babies and those with chronic medical conditions.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Kerry, Shrum, Living in a Fantasy World

Uh, guys, get over it, you lost!

From the Rothenberg Political Report:

Living in a Fantasy WorldOn the eve of Inauguration, John Kerry campaign manager Bob Shrum told the New York Daily News, "How am I feeling? Disappointed. Right now, I'm waiting for a camera crew from CNN to interview me about Karl Rove. Just think, a switch of 55,000 votes in Ohio, and I wouldn't have been doing this interview. But you've got to be gracious." Shrum is not alone."

Teresa said, 'What do you want for your birthday?' I said, '55,000 votes in Ohio,' " Kerry told a group of supporters in a post-election trip to Des Moines. Cong. Charlie Rangel (D) of New York agreed, stating on CNN's Late Edition the day after Christmas, "A shift of 60,000 votes in Ohio and John Kerry would be president."

And Democratic strategist Steve McMahon was very much on message. "If 50,000 votes or so had gone the other way, we'd have a different president." (Crossfire, January 12). "The fact is, if 50,000 votes now in Ohio had gone the other way, there wouldn't have been a George Bush second term, there would have been a Kerry term." (Fox News Channel, December 17)

But if Democrats want to play the "What If..." game, they have to play it both ways. In the real world, George W. Bush defeated John Kerry in the Electoral College 286-251, with 270 needed to win. (One elector in Minnesota cast his vote for John Edwards.) Yes, if Ohio had gone for Kerry, he would have totaled 272 electoral votes, and would be thawing out from his parade walk down Pennsylvania Avenue.

But while 60,000 votes would have made the difference in favor of Kerry, just 45,000 votes the other way paints a completely different picture. If 5,000 voters had switched in New Hampshire, Bush would have carried the state. If 6,000 voters had switched in Wisconsin, Bush would have carried that state. And if 34,000 voters had switched in Oregon, Bush would have carried it also.

So, in this backward hypothetical world, Bush wins reelection with a considerable 307 electoral votes. In addition, Bush could have lost Ohio and still won reelection if only a few thousand voters in New Hampshire or Wisconsin had magically decided to change their minds. The fact of the matter is, the voters voted and Bush won. And playing "What if..." is left for the loser.

For the rest...

Rice Confirmed, Durbin Votes Against

And what were those mistatements???

From the WBBM News Radio 78 website

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin was among the 13 senators voting Wednesday against the confirmation of Condoleeza Rice. Durbin said in a statement, "In the end I could not excuse Dr. Rice's repeated misstatements about the war in Iraq and her opposition to my amendment unequivocally condemning the use of torture. America has lost a voice of moderation with the retirement of Colin Powell. We can only hope that the responsibility of leadership will inspire Rice to follow his example.”

U.S. Sen. Barak Obama voted for the confirmation of Rice.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

More election mischief in Wisconsin

Perhaps it was sloppy record keeping by Wisconsin election officials, or incompetence. Or worse. Still, the folks who scream Bush "stole" Ohio will probably not scream and yell about this story, or the prior one from Wisconsin.

From the Milwauke Journal Sentinel:

The number is a result of a detailed computer analysis by the Journal Sentinel of the city’s voter records and represents about 0.4% of the 277,535 ballots cast in the city in the hard-fought election. Some of the problems may be due to flawed record keeping, such as transposed digits or incorrect street names. Many others, however, cannot easily be explained.

The newspaper’s review, the most extensive analysis done so far of the election, revealed 1,242 votes coming from a total of 1,135 invalid addresses. That is, in some cases more than one person is listed as voting from the address. Of the 1,242 voters with invalid addresses, 75% registered on site on election day, according to city records.

While the number is not enough to have determined the outcome of the statewide presidential contest, the revelation prompted renewed criticism Monday by state Republicans and raised concerns at City Hall about how well records were kept on and after a frenzied election day.

Read here for the rest of the story:

Monday, January 24, 2005

Suspects Charged With Election Day Tire Slashing

This just speaks for itself...from Fox News...

Monday, January 24, 2005

MILWAUKEE — The son of first-term U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Wis., was among five Democratic activists charged Monday with slashing the tires of vans rented by Republicans to drive voters and election monitors to the polls last November.

Sowande Omokunde and four others were charged with criminal damage to property, a felony that carries a maximum punishment of 31/2 years in prison and $10,000 in fine upon conviction.

Michael Pratt, the son of former Milwaukee acting mayor Marvin Pratt, also was among the five charged with flattening the tires on 25 vehicles rented by the state Republican Party to get out the vote and deliver poll watchers Nov. 2.
Also charged were Lewis Caldwell, Lavelle Mohammad, both from Milwaukee, and Justin Howell of Racine.
The GOP rented more than 100 vehicles that were parked in a lot adjacent to a Bush campaign office. The party planned to drive poll watchers to polling places by 7 a.m. Election Day and deliver any voters who didn't have a ride.

For more, click here.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Vote Fraud for Sure: Dominic Longo

The Blagojevich-Mell feud has a new theater of operation: Dominic Longo. He's part of Richard Mell's 33rd ward organization, and he's threatening a defamation lawsuit against the governor. The Daily Herald has a pretty good summary of it here.

The Illinois Leader somehow got a copy of the letter, in which Dominic states his case against Blagojevich. Gov. Rod, according to Longo's attorney, "committed to making Dominic Longo a rich man." Longo, incidentally, is an officer for an alleged Mell front group, the oddly named Coalition for Better Government.

Better for whom?

Longo has a vote fraud conviction on his record. Yet as you'll see in Rich Miller's Capitolfax blog, this hasn't prevented Longo moving from one public sector job to another. Many private sector companies, such as Wal-Mart, do routine background checks before making a hire. It's pretty safe to assume that Dominic's ballot box stuffing past will prevent anyone from seeing him as a Wal-Mart greeter. But goverment agencies keeps hiring him. Despite, according to Miller, his "leaving one job after reports that he did personal chores on city time."

You'll currently find Dominic Longo with the Cook County Water Reclamation District.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Officials Indicted in East St. Louis--Vote Fraud??

Several officials in East St. Louis, a Democratic stronghold, were indicted today. The chief of police is among them. Details are still a bit sketchy, but a vote fraud investigation has been going on for a few months now.

Will the throngs of people who have been claiming that Bush "stole" the election protest the suspected East St. Louis cheaters???

Just wondering.

Judge Reschedules George Ryan's Trial

Former Ill. Governor George Ryan's trial has been seems to be a matter of a scheduling conflict in regards to his attorney, Dan Webb. So instead of a March trial, looks like the trial will begin in late September.

Read about that here.

On a related note, I picked this up from Eric Zorn's blog. George Ryan has again been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. Look it up among the Jan. 17 entries. Free registration required.

Eric writes: I'm expecting the usual round of seething and snarling about this news from conservatives who will point to Ryan's upcoming corruption trial as evidence that he doesn't deserve the honor of this nomination.

Yeah, I'm sure Eric's inbox was full of protests (which is kind of silly, since Eric didn't do the nominating). Still, in the back of my mind, I can't shake the nagging suspicion that our disgraced former governor only emptied out Illinois' death row so he could influence the pool of jurors here.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Bush Starts New Term, Seeks End to Tyranny

And some good news...

By TERENCE HUNT, AP White House Correspondent

WASHINGTON - George W. Bush embarked on an ambitious second term as president Thursday, telling a world anxious about war and terrorism that the United States would not shrink from new confrontations in pursuit of "the great objective of ending tyranny."

Four minutes before noon, Bush placed his left hand on a family Bible and recited 39 tradition-hallowed words that every president since George Washington has uttered.

Comptroller says state has $1.5 billion in unpaid bills

Well, "Governor Image" has been in office for two years. To be fair, George Ryan left him a mess, but I'm not sure what Blago has done to fix it.

From the Decatur Herald & Review:

By MATT ADRIAN - H&R Springfield Bureau Writer

SPRINGFIELD - The state's backlog of unpaid bills is over the $1.5 billion mark according to a report issued by Illinois Comptroller Dan Hynes.Hynes' estimate comes halfway through the current budget year as the General Assembly and Gov. Rod Blagojevich begin discussing next year's budget.

Hynes reports in the January issue of the Illinois State Comptroller's Quarterly: "Without a dramatic improvement in revenues, the state is likely to continue to hold a significant amount of General Fund bills at the end of this fiscal year."

The comptroller suggests that this backlog could continue to grow and cause problems with the fiscal year 2006 budget. House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, said that legislators will have to close a $2.1 billion shortfall in next year's budget."We need to find $2.1 billion. That will require difficult decision-making. It will require all of us to tell some people 'No,' " said Madigan last week during General Assembly inaugural ceremonies

Read more here:

Mell Withdraws Blagojevich Allegations

I'm sure the soap opera will continue...From AP

Jan 20, 2005 2:15 pm US/CentralCHICAGO (AP) With the threat of a defamation lawsuit looming, powerful Chicago Alderman Richard Mell on Thursday recanted allegations that the chief fund-raiser for his son-in-law, Gov. Rod Blagojevich, traded government appointments for campaign contributions.

"When I said that you, as the governor's chief fund-raiser, traded appointments to commissions and state boards for $50,000 donations I knew that to be inaccurate," Mell wrote in a letter to Christopher Kelly, who had been Blagojevich's campaign finance director. "My comments were based upon my misreading of earlier published reports and were an exaggerated extrapolation made by me in the heat of the moment."

Mell's attorney, Paul Levy, said Kelly signed a legal document that prevents him from suing Mell over the issue. Mell, the father of Blagojevich's wife, Patti, made his accusations during a public argument with Blagojevich after the governor closed a landfill run by a distant cousin of his wife. Mell accused Blagojevich of shutting down the landfill to punish him for criticizing the governor in the past and to polish his public image.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Dave Matthews Band Driver Charged With Dumping Human Waste

So far, only a big story in the Chicago area. DMB was part of the anti-Bush "Vote for Change" tour last fall. They're known for their commitment to environmental causes.

CHICAGO -- The driver of a tour bus belonging to the Dave Matthews Band was charged this week after he allegedly dumped human waste on a Chicago River tour boat last summer.

He was charged with reckless conduct and discharge of contaminants to cause water pollution in the Aug. 8, 2004, incident, according to Cook County State's Attorney Richard Devine, who spoke at a news conference Wednesday afternoon.

Wohl was the bus driver for Dave Matthews Band violinist Boyd Tinsley, Devine said. Each bus had its own driver.
Wohl was accused of pushing a toggle switch over the Kinzie Street Bridge and dumping out 800 pounds of human waste, according to the state's attorney.

The waste landed on an architectural tour boat that was crossing under the bridge below, splashing people on the boat, Devine said.

Wohl turned himself in at the Belmont Area Headquarters and was released on a $1,000 personal recognizance bond.

The defendant did not make any statement about his involvement in the incident when he turned himself in to police, according to Officer Michael Chasen.

The charges against Wohl were the result of an investigation conducted by Chicago Police and the state's attorney's office, and took a long time to complete because of the time it took to contact many of the people on the tour bus "from Maine to Las Vegas," Assistant State's Attorney Robert Egan said.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Bizarre: Sharpton becoming "mainstream"

At one point, if my memory is correct, "Mainstream" Al Sharpton somehow got the IRA implicated in the Tawana Brawley "rape" case. Would Eliot Spitzer like to comment on that?

From NY1 in New York:

MLK Event Shows Growth Of Sharpton's Political Influence

JANUARY 18TH, 2005
For those who recall the Tawana Brawley fiasco of the late 1980s or Al Sharpton's role in the racial tensions of the early 1990s, what a difference a decade or two make. Political candidates once worried about being photographed with him. Not anymore.

“I'm not going to pass judgment on the tactics of who's influential and who isn't,” said state Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, who is running for governor. “I'll leave that to you folks in the media. What I will say is that there are many issues where he has spoken out wisely and thoughtfully and has been a constructive voice, and that is important.”

Read more....

Ald. Mell Strives To Clarify Recent Comments

Ald. Mell Strives To Clarify Recent Comments

Mell can't seem to get his clarification, uh, well, clarified. From CBS 2 Chicago and Jay Levine:

.Jan 17, 2005 9:04 pm US/CentralCHICAGO (CBS 2) Chicago Alderman Richard Mell, still facing a threatened lawsuit, says that there's still "no deal" to settle the dispute about recent comments he made about the governor's office. Mell says he's suggested several ways of clarifying what he said about a Blagojevich fundraiser trading appointments for campaign contributions. But so far, none has been acceptable.

The landfill which triggered the family feud is back in business today. The state seal lifted at 6AM Monday morning. Meanwhile, the governor is using the issue for speech material. Monday, Blagojevich made reference to his family that brought idle laughter from the audience.

“All of us who have prominent members of our family, know what it is like,” said the governor, “congressman Jesse Jackson has his father, Reverend Jesse Jackson. I've got my family” For the governor's wife's cousin, landfill operator Frank Schmidt, it’s no laughing matter.

Read more here:

Monday, January 17, 2005

Two-year gov does nothing quietly

And this is from the Associated Press (via the Daily Southtown)

Monday, January 17, 2005, By Christopher WillsThe Associated Press

SPRINGFIELD — Rod Blagojevich's two years as governor have been a series of crusades.
He rode to war against lawmakers he accused of spending "like drunken sailors." He challenged the "Soviet-style" bureaucracy at the State Board of Education. He battled government corruption, expensive prescription drugs, even violent video games.

Scorning the idea of quietly building consensus, Blagojevich prefers to launch his crusades with maximum publicity — news conferences, rallies, executive orders, statewide tours.
Springfield insiders can't block change if the public is demanding action, he says. The approach has helped him limit government spending while still providing more money for schools and health care, increase his control of the State Board of Education and strengthen the state's weak ethics laws.

It also has helped his popularity despite the state's massive budget deficits.
Polls conducted in September found that more than half of voters approved of the governor's performance. In one poll, 67 percent applauded his efforts to import cheaper medicine from abroad.

"I don't believe we could have come anywhere near the achievements we've made in the first two years had it not been in such a public fashion, had I not used the bully pulpit as I have," the Democratic governor said.

Blagojevich calls it open government. Skeptics — from Republicans to fellow Democrats to his own father-in-law — call it chasing headlines.

Family killed because of chat room arguments?

Pretty frightening story if this turns out to be true: A family of four killed because of what the father posted online. This story is getting little play outside metro New York (although Fox News has run stories on it).


January 16, 2005 -- The father of a murdered New Jersey family was threatened for making anti-Muslim remarks online — and the gruesome quadruple slaying may have been the hateful retaliation, sources told The Post yesterday.

Hossam Armanious, 47, who along with his wife and two daughters was found stabbed to death in his Jersey City home early Friday, would regularly debate religion in a Middle Eastern chat room, one source said.

Armanious, an Egyptian Christian, was well known for expressing his Coptic beliefs and engaging in fiery back-and-forth with Muslims on the Web site

He "had the reputation for being one of the most outspoken Egyptian Christians," said the source, who had close ties to the family.

The source, who had knowledge of the investigation, refused to specify the anti-Muslim statement. But he said cops told him they were looking into the exchanges as a possible motive.
The married father of two had recently been threatened by Muslim members of the Web site, said a fellow Copt and store clerk who uses the chat room.

More can be found here:

Saturday, January 15, 2005

State GOP Chooses New Chairman

Hey, a local guy (lives in Glenview, works in Morton Grove) is the new chairman of the Illinois Republican party.

Jan 15, 2005 3:06 pm US/CentralSPRINGFIELD (CBS/AP) Illinois' new Republican Party chairman pledged Saturday to win back GOP power by raising money but also energizing the party on the streets. The state central committee elected Andy McKenna Saturday as the party works to stop a downward spiral that has sapped the GOP's power statewide.

McKenna will serve until April 2006, completing the term of Judy Baar Topinka, the state treasurer who agreed to take the job temporarily. Despite landslide Democratic victories in Illinois for national offices last fall, McKenna pointed to Republican gains in the General Assembly and Supreme Court as momentum builders for 2006. Still, he acknowledged, change will be slow and must start at the grass roots.

Read more:

Blagojevich denies "Flip flop" on violent video came stance

Governor finally gets what he needs: a weekend
By Eric Krol and Rob Olmstead Daily Herald Staff Writer

The first topic was a Daily Herald story that showed Blagojevich voted in 1999 as a congressman against a measure that would have banned the sale of violent video games to minors. Despite that vote, the governor last month started a push to do just that.

Blagojevich said he voted against the 1999 measure, which was sponsored by Republican Congressman Henry Hyde of Wood Dale, "because it was a Trojan horse, it was phony reform" that "let the video game industry off the hook."

When asked why, Blagojevich initially stammered and invited Deputy Gov. Bradley Tusk to the podium to explain. Tusk said the Hyde measure, which among other things would have slapped store clerks that sold violent video games to minors younger than 18 with a five-year prison term, didn't provide any method of enforcement.

Doesn't make too much sense to me, but read the entire article, maybe you'll have better luck:

IL MEDIA UNSPUN: The President came to Illinois? When?

My note: Madison County, in the Metro East part of the state, (Illinois side of the St. Louis suburbs), has been called a "judicial hellhole" by tort reform supporters.

From the Illinois Leader:

IL MEDIA UNSPUN: The President came to Illinois? When? Friday, January 14, 2005
By Arlen Williams

OPINION - In his first official trip of 2005, President Bush made a special visit to Illinois, to deliver an address on critical healthcare legislation. Did the Illinois media let you know? Just checking.

On Wednesday the 5th of this month and for the first time in history, a sitting President visited Collinsville. He came to address the area of the country singled out as the most egregious example of physicians being either driven out of business or away from their patients due to outrageously excessive medical malpractice suits and the extremely high liability insurance that doctors must pay as a result.

On the political side, this will become perhaps the first major test of the ability of President Bush, Senate Majority Leader Frist, and Illinois' own Speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert, to enact major legislation in support of common sense and compassionate conservatism, in the new Congress.

The Chicago Tribune deigned to publish an article about the event -- on page nine. Sometimes, it's not what you say but where you say it.

Oh, you may have read that page nine, or even caught the event on page one in some downstate newspapers. You may have even seen thirty seconds of TV news coverage, sometime between 10:10 and 10:18, that evening.

Blagojevich at the halfway point: "More concerned with garnering national attention"

From the Daily Herald, January 15, 2005

An excerpt:

But state contracts continue to flow to major Blagojevich campaign donors, just as they did under Republican governors, including one who is facing a federal racketeering trial next month. And a few key Blagojevich advisers who happen to double as lobbyists or top campaign fund rainmakers have secured appointments for their people or generated lucrative lobbying fees via their insider access. Starting March 14, ex-Gov. George Ryan and a cast of colorful characters are scheduled to tell tales of such access allegedly gone wrong.

Beyond those two key questions, though, there's another emerging story line that's fast becoming accepted as conventional wisdom in the media, which in turn could shape the public's perception of Blagojevich. Here it is: The governor is more concerned with garnering national attention for jumping on phony issues than in solving the state's most pressing problems.
Three's a trend among reporters, and Blagojevich's trio is flu shots, lower-cost Canadian prescription drugs and banning the sale of violent video games to minors.

All three got Blagojevich national media play and all three either failed to pan out (flu shots fizzled with no federal approval and a relative few seniors signed up for his Canadian drug plan) or likely will fail to pan out (video game sale bans have been thrown out as unconstitutional).
So while the governor is appearing on "Good Morning America" and gracing the Los Angeles Times in a boost to his presidential aspirations, about three-fourths of Illinois school districts are on the financial watch list, his critics argue.

And for more...

Friday, January 14, 2005

Blagojevich controlled State Board of Ed hires 24 year-old van driver to be chief of staff

From the Chicago Tribune (an excerpt) via Eric Zorn's blog

Since its creation in 1970, the state board had been an unavoidable and independent voice for public schools. But since Blagojevich pushed through legislation allowing him to appoint a majority of the board's members, the agency has devoted itself to doing his bidding.

The new board hired a 24-year-old chief of staff who previously had driven Blagojevich's press van through rural Illinois. It approved a Downstate charter school at the governor's urging, even though the previous board had denied it four times.

Read more (Free registration required),1,4924440.story?

More State Police Problems for Blagojevich

The Changing of the Guards by Chuck Goudie
January 13, 2005 — There are new charges of political favoritism against Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich and the Illinois State Police. Official complaints were lodged by some state police officers in the wake of the I-Teams "Changing of the Guards" reports the past few months.

Dozens of Illinois State Police officers are alleging that Governor Rod Blagojevich put politics ahead of police protection. Two former top officials of the governor's bodyguard unit filed discrimination complaints for what they say happened when Blagojevich came into office.
"I was part of the housecleaning for an incoming Democratic administration and we were part of the old regime, as some people viewed us, and although we had nothing to do with politics, we were given the boot simply because of who we were affiliated with," said Jim Drozdz.

Jim Drozdz was the administrative officer for Governor George Ryan's security detail. He holds advanced college degrees in police administration; a law degree and a doctorate in education and maintained a spotless work record. He was stunned two years ago when, under the newly-elected Rod Blagojevich, he was involuntarily transferred from the state executive protection

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Flasback: Blagojevich Nov 22, 2004: Blagojevech and his security detail

The Changing Of The Guards by Chuck Goudie
ABC7's I-Team has documented accidents, negligence and misconduct by some state police officers who guard Governor Rod Blagojevich and Illinois' First Family.

Tonight the I-Team takes you inside what amounts to Illinois' secret service. It supposed to be an elite, well-oiled force of specially-trained, highly disciplined state police agents willing to take a bullet for the boss.

But since Governor Blagojevich was elected, there has been a changing of the guards who protect him. Not only have the commanders been replaced, so have most of the three dozen officers. Critics claim the squad is mismanaged and overrun by mistakes.
Over the past three months, the ABC7 I-Team watched the governor and his troopers travel around Illinois and across the country. From Calumet City to California, whether by car, by plane or by helicopter, whether walking in public or brushing his hair before going out, Governor Rod Blagojevich and his family are constantly surrounded by Illinois State Police vehicles and armed guards.

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Family feud heats up for Blagojevich, Mell

Accusations could lead to court battle

By Andy Shaw. January 14, 2005 — The family feud between Governor Blagojevich and his father-in-law, Alderman Dick Mell, could end up in court. The governor and his chief fundraiser are fighting back against allegations by Mell that state appointments were handed out in exchange for contributions to the governor's campaign.

The governor is trying to keep a dark cloud of scandal and corruption from drenching his carefully-crafted reform image by putting the squeeze on his father-in-law even though it is likely to exacerbate a family feud that is already a 10 on the nasty scale. In the latest development, Blagojevich's chief fundraiser threatening to sue Mell with the help of a powerful lawyer, who is also one of the governor's biggest contributors

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And so it continues.

Blagojevich says no subpoenas in investigation of employees

Rough week for Governor Rod Blagojevich:

Blagojevich says no subpoenas in investigation of employees
Friday January 14, 2005

By NATHANIEL HERNANDEZ, Associated Press Writer

CHICAGO (AP) Gov. Rod Blagojevich publicly defended his administration's ethics Friday and said his office had not received any subpoenas from state and county investigators pursuing allegations that an adviser steered state jobs to campaign donors.

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Latest on poll-driven Governor Blagojevich

In addition to his problems with his father-in-law, Dick Mell, charges of political donations for jobs, and using Illinois State Police as valets and bodyguards, Governor Blagojevich has credibility issues as well:

From today's Daily Herald:

Governor's changing tune on video games
By Mike Riopell Daily Herald Staff Writer
Posted Friday, January 14, 2005

Associated PressSPRINGFIELD - For the past month, Gov. Rod Blagojevich has garnered national attention for his plans to ban the sale of violent or sexually explicit video games to children.

But in 1999, while serving in the U.S. House, Blagojevich voted against legislation that would have prohibited children's access to the very materials he now finds objectionable.

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Thursday, January 13, 2005