Saturday, May 13, 2006

Floodgates about to open on Blago

Governor Rod Blagojevich's transparent attempt to get in front of the hiring scandal story was a failure and it shows he is almost defenseless against the corruption investigations engulfing his administration.

He wanted to avoid a big Sunday story in the Sun-Times and instead his hastily called press conference Friday bought him front page stories Saturday in both the Sun-Times and Tribune. And his cutesy little game of publicly announcing an Inspector General referral to the feds didn't fool anybody -- it just alerted the news media to coming attractions.

For one thing, he's never publicly announced a referral before. For another, it is a matter of public record that the feds already are investigating virtually every agency in his administration.

The real game is not the Springfield office of Central Management Services, it is the governor's office in Chicago and his patronage chief Joe Cini. The feds already have seized Cini's computer and files and it quite clear from the stories so far that all hiring decisions went through him. The real question is who was Cini getting his orders from.

Blagojevich said when news broke about allegations of hiring irregularities at City Hall, he asked Cini about it "just to make sure that we're not operating that way."

"I called up our patronage ..." the governor said, catching himself as he used the common title for the head of the state's hiring operation. "He's not even that, he's intergovernmental affairs director, we even changed the name, and just to get some reassurance ... and his answer kind of summed it up: Of course, we don't do those things."

Rich Miller was right on when he said the hiring scandal already has eerily evoked flashbacks to the George Ryan scandal. Trash a couple of scapegoats, try to use a feeble IG's office as a defense, and load up on former federal prosecutors to defend against a widening U.S. Attorney's office probe.

George Ryan did essentially the same thing wheen the feds started nosing around the secretary of state's office. His parallel investigation helped him keep tabs on what the G was up to.

This promises to be a bad week for Blagojevich. Expect some new revelations. And a hearing is scheduled Wednesday in Springfield before the state Civil Service Commission where the scapegoats Blagojevich just fired get a chance to tell their side of the story.

Blagojevich is going to need a dramatic subject changer soon but unfortunately for him George Ryan already played the moratorium card.

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