Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Who Said There's No Such Thing as Bad Press?

We may be at the bottom of the country when it comes to equity in education funding or the sufficiency of our pension funding, but apparently, we're getting national attention for some of the things going on in our government.
A convicted former governor and scandals at Chicago City Hall have earned Illinois the dubious distinction of "petri dish for corruption" at a national meeting of state prosecutors in Chicago today.

The conviction last week of former Gov. George Ryan on federal racketeering and fraud charges is the backdrop for the National Association of Attorneys General's one-day summit. They've gathered to talk about ways to stamp out public corruption.

Illinois Campaign for Political Reform director Cynthia Canary told the group that one reason for corruption in Illinois is that there are no state limits on campaign contributions.

She says that makes it hard for people to tell the difference between a campaign donation and a bribe.
Whatever happened to our system getting rocked?

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Wild Onion

While I am going to take the high road with respect to the Ryan verdict, the Onion is not. Check it out, some pretty funny stuff.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006


Wading through the voluminous coverage in the aftermath of yesterday's verdict, I just wanted to share with you this tidbit from the editorial in today's State Journal-Register. It pretty much butresses what I've been trying to say. (Although not surprisingly, more succinctly):
The optimist in us makes us want to believe there still could be a good end from Ryan’s means. The specter of a former governor spending his final years in federal prison just might give our current leaders the backbone needed to adopt more serious ethics legislation. Following Comptroller Dan Hynes’ lead in putting a wall between state contracts and political contributions would be a good first step. Allowing the state’s inspectors general to inform the public as to what they are doing is another excellent idea. Sunshine is always a good disinfectant. Both of these measures could be accomplished with stronger leadership from our current governor. (Emphasis added)

Monday, April 17, 2006


From a press release issued today:

Fritchey Calls for Immediate Passage of Ethics Bill

Measure would end pay-to-play system in Illinois

Chicago – In the hours following the guilty verdict in the corruption trial of former Governor George Ryan, State Representative John Fritchey (D-Chicago) is calling for the immediate passage of House Bill 4073, legislation that would significantly reduce the corrupting influence of campaign contributions on the awarding of State contracts, commonly referred to as the “pay-to-play” system. An initiative of State Comptroller Dan Hynes, Rep. Fritchey introduced the bill over a year ago with bipartisan support in both chambers of the General Assembly.

Specifically, the bill prohibits those holding contracts over $25,000 from making a political contribution to the officeholder who awarded the contract. The bill further requires, as part of the procurement process, bidders on state contracts worth more than $10,000 to disclose all campaign contributions to the officeholder awarding the contract for the prior two years. The contribution ban would be in effect for the length of the officeholder’s term or for two years past the completion of the contract, whichever is greater.

“Given our unfortunate history, we owe it to the people of the State of Illinois to take whatever steps we can to reassure them that public contracts are awarded on the basis of qualifications and not contributions,” stated Fritchey. “For too long, public outrage about ‘politics as usual’ has fallen on deaf ears. We saw today that shouts for reform are beginning to be heard in the courtroom, and it’s time for Springfield to listen as well and respond in short order.”

Fritchey is joined in his call to action by leading advocates for ethics and good government in Illinois – Cynthia Canary, Director of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, and Jay Stewart, Executive Director of the Better Government Association.

“The verdict in the Ryan trial sends a signal that we can no longer afford to wait,” stated Canary. “Good prosecution is no substitute for good government. It’s imperative that we take these steps immediately to begin to rebuild public trust.”

Fritchey is urging his colleagues in the General Assembly to join him in urging the immediate passage of the legislation, which has been stalled for over eighteen months.


Guilty 22, Not Guilty 0

Wow, did I pick a time to start posting again. Don't even know where to start with this one. (And given that the story is posted everywhere, I won't bother posting links) Let me deal with what I think the fallout is from this one:

1. For those that say that nobody testified that they saw him take any money, remember that he was not charged with accepting bribes, that was the five dozen other people who got caught up in the license for bribes scandal. He was charged with racketeering and various derivative counts.

2. In essence, the clean sweep verdict means that the jury did not buy into ANY of the defense theories, and that they felt that this was a clear deviation from politics as it is supposed to be done.

3. Webb and Ryan quickly vowed that there will be an appeal, but as I have previously stated, I think that business considerations are going to play a big role in that decision. There are a number of Winston & Strawn laywers who are unhappy with the millions of dollars worth of free legal work that has gone into the case thus far. The prospect of millions more going into an appeal is not going to sit well with a lot of them.

4. I do think that it was very interesting that Webb based his comments about the appeal on the post-trial jury issues rather than anything that occurred during the trial proceedings themselves. Seems to be a rather flimsy hook to hang your hat on, but he's pretty damn good at what he does, so we'll see what shakes out.

5. Sentencing is scheduled for August 4th, and I believe that Ryan is going to be staring down at some real time. Among the considerations set forth in the federal sentencing guidelines are enhanced sentencing for violating the public trust. What that means is that Ryan could face a much bigger sentence than that faced by a private citizen.

6. I just got done doing a radio interview about who benefits from this verdict come November, Rod or Judy. My answer is that neither candidate is poised to seize the mantle of righteousness as the result of today's proceedings. Judy will be unavoidably linked to George and past Republican misdoings. Rod will be plastered with the allegations of pay to play that have dogged his entire tenure.

7. The upside of this mess? Maybe now there will be a sufficient impetus to pass HB4073, a Dan Hynes initiative which I introduced last year that would effectively end pay to play in Illinois. AllKids showed that legislation can move with blinding speed when there is the political will to do so, I would think that 22 guilty counts would give birth to that type of political will.

I'll post more later, but that gives you my thoughts as of now.

UPDATE - I was listening to the comments of the prosecutor, and thought they were the most fascinating moment yet. He said (a few different ways) that nothing makes them work harder than being lied to or finding out that documents were destroyed. These comments were delivered in such a way that they were not so much a reflection on the Ryan trial as they were a LOUD warning to anybody out there that is or may be the subject of a visit by the Feds. From the sound of the message, people better consider themselves warned.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

I'm Baaaack

I guess it's nice that people have noticed that I haven't been blogging of late, and while I'm sure there are some who are happy or ambivalent by my absence, I've gotten some nice comments about getting back to it.

I've been dealing with loads of work and other assorted distractions that have resulted in a complete dearth of blogging for quite a while now. That was further exacerbated by the fact that some of the things that I wanted to get into aren't fair game for public disclosure yet.

But what better day than Easter than resurrect the posting? :) There are a number of things that I've been asked to chime in on, and I'll try to get to them in due course. Among the topics I'll try to get to, in no particular order, are: Meeks, Alexi, pensions, and budget negotiations, as well as anything else that may pop into the news. (Like the real interesting article in the Sunday Trib sports section of all places, about how the Conservation Forum blasted the Administration for gutting conservation programs and the IDNR.)

In any event, for those who have still been checking in, thanks, and I'll try to make it worth your while. Stay tuned.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Tea Leaves

Two predictions for the price of none today.

First off, despite having some of the best lawyers in the game on both sides, it almost seems like there's been more drama in the George Ryan/Larry Warner trial since the case went to the jury then there was during the case itself.

Piecing together the various snippets of coverage, and assessing where the jury was/is with respect to deliberations, I believe that we are getting very close to the climax of this story, or at least this part of it.

Although I have nothing but downside in venturing a prediction at this point, and without injecting any judgment into this statement (no pun intended), my gut feel is that we will see a verdict within 24-48 hours, and I think that there will be a *** verdict on most counts. (Update - in the earlier version of this post, I set forth what I believe the verdict will be. On reflection, I'm not sure that it's in good form. So, form your own opinions and we'll leave my statement at I think a verdict is swiftly upon us.)

Obviously, I'm out on a limb on this one, but it just feels like this one's just about done.

Predicition number two - Take Florida, giving up the points (point and a half actually). I don't care what UCLA did to LSU, I just don't see them matching up with Florida under the glass.

Odds of me being right on both of the first two picks - probably not great, but we'll see.