Thursday, June 1, 2006

Blagojevich spokeswoman's dizzying spin


Look, it's not easy being Rod Blagojevich's spokesperson. How in the heck does Abby Ottenhoff keep straight a dozen state and federal investigations, for example?

Not that I have much sympathy for anyone who chooses to defend a governor, who, by the time all the indictments are harvested, will have made George Ryan's collective corruption look like a parking ticket.

Ironic, isn't it, that when that day comes, George Ryan finally will get a gift from Rod Blagojevich -- a governor so bad that ol' George might not look quite so bad in the history books.

Anyway, back to Abby. In less than 24 hours, she has been backpedaling every several hours as Associated Press reporter John O'Connor, a former colleague of mine years ago, broke new ground with a pair of revelations about hiring practices in the Blagojevich administration, already the subject of state and federal probes.

O'Connor revealed yesterday afternoon that the administration kept a massive list of civil service hires and that the Governor's office OK'd them by name even though the hires are supposed to based solely on merit, not politics. Here was Abby's first response.

Blagojevich spokeswoman Abby Ottenhoff said it appears the lists were created before the administration began a new personnel-approval system that ensured names of individuals weren't included.

Ottenhoff said the administration no longer keeps such lists.

``That isn't the case now and wasn't the case once we got a system running, which was pretty early,'' she said. She could not immediately provide further comment.
Then, a few hours later, she pulled out the George Ryan card, saying:

Blagojevich spokeswoman Abby Ottenhoff said the lists were in the format used by the previous governor and only were used until the new administration could set up a system that didn't include identities. Hiring decisions made from the lists were not made based on names, she said.
Then, a further backpedal:

Spokeswoman Abby Ottenhoff said the lists were used temporarily and that, while names are listed, they did not factor into hiring decisions.
Again, more clarification:
Spokeswoman Abby Ottenhoff said Wednesday the lists, which were obtained by The Associated Press, were in the format used by Blagojevich's predecessor and were quickly replaced by a new system for filling state jobs _ one that excluded candidate names.
The only problem was that O'Connor stayed on the story, and on Thursday, 24 hours after the original story, he found the new hiring forms and blew Abby's last answer out of the water. The lists DID have places to put names.

Undaunted by the contradiction, Abby kept spinning:

Blagojevich spokeswoman Abby Ottenhoff said on jobs covered by the rules, names were not included on the new forms, and they also are excluded from the administration's current electronic system.
And she wasn't done yet:

Blagojevich spokeswoman Abby Ottenhoff said state agencies using the new forms did not fill in the box for names when requesting to fill jobs protected from political decisions, although she acknowledged some early forms submitted might have included names erroneously. Names also are excluded from the administration's current electronic system, she said.
It might be easier to give a straight answer the first time but maybe her pay is based on the number of answers she gives.

I wonder what O'Connor has in store for her today.

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