Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Will Pat Quinn explode?

Pat Quinn has a choice to make in this race: He can try to defend the indefensible corruption in the Blagojevich administration or he can try to salvage his reputation on ethics by distancing himself from his running mate.

It doesn't look like he's made up his mind yet. On Chicago Tonight last night, he looked tentative and uncomfortable defending the multiple federal investigations of Rod Blagojevich. He should have been basking in his prescient warnings about George Ryan years ago, but he can't push that button too hard without looking like a phony because he's buttoned his lip since serving as Lt. Governor under Rod.

Rich Miller first noted the trend when Rod was rolling over for SBC and Bill Daley on anti-consumer legislation and appointments. Old Pat would have been the first to the podium to denounce the capitulation.

In defiance of all expectations, he's been "Silent Pat" for two years.

Quinn the consumer advocate didn't utter a peep when the governor packed the Illinois Commerce Commission with pro-utility hacks and cut deals with major utility companies to pass controversial legislation.

The longtime campaign-ethics reformer has remained mum as some of the governor's closest advisers have raised millions of dollars from people and companies that do business with the state or want something from the governor's office.

And the environmental advocate kept his trap shut when the governor worked to site a high-sulfur coal-fired power plant in the already heavily polluted Chicago metropolitan area.

Phil Kadner noticed it too, but was uncharacteristically soft on Pat, saying he is miscast as Lt. Gov. I'd say it's not the office, it's the person he is serving under.

I used to cover Pat when he was an aggressive critic of the Illinois Tollway. He used to show up there and call press conferences to denounce the no-bid bond contracts given by Republican administrations to political allies. He said the state needed competitive bidding of bond work. Yet, now that Democrats control the entire state, you hear barely a whisper from Pat on the subject. He did slide a letter to the Tollway about competitive bidding back in 2004, but nobody knew about it.

On Chicago Tonight this week, he barely mentioned Rod Blagojevich, instead throwing in Barack Obama's name about five times when talking about state ethics legislation.

Pat has done good work standing up for our veterans. And he generally has been an honest and sincere public official. He's throwing away that reputation by remaining silent about his partner, "Public Official A." He has the next seven months to decide whether to preserve his legacy or tarnish it.

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