Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Durbin chooses junket over funeral

Junket king Dick Durbin is among a group of high-ranking Democrats who are declining to postpone a trip to South America to attend the funeral of an American President. Isn't Durbin the guy always lecturing GWBush on not "reaching across the aisle."

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Saturday, December 23, 2006

On Obama, Tribune must lead

The Chicago Tribune today broke another Barack Obama story, this one revealing that one of indicted Tony Rezko's close associates was able to get a son hired as an intern in Obama's Washington office.

Tom Bevan has a point that the story in the pure sense isn't a blockbuster.

Yes, but the Tribune is caught between its own journalistic reputation and a stampeding national media fed by Hillary Clinton hatchet-artists. If national stories appear with new Obama revelations, it will make the Tribune look like the local lap dog paper. So the Trib is in full survivalist mode as evidenced by the assignment of its two top investigative reporters, David Jackson and Ray Gibson, to this story.

To its credit the Tribune so far has made the most important Obama revelation — the simulataneous purchase by Rezko of Obama's adjacent lot. Obama has said the association with Rezko was a mistake and he made a strong statement to the Tribune that never did anything helpful to Rezko, governmentally.

Obama added that he had never "done favors for [Rezko] of any sort. Most of the time, I've never been in a position to do favors for him. I don't control jobs. I don't control contracts. There were no bills that he was pushing when I was in the state legislature that I know of or that he talked to me about. And there were no bills in federal legislation that he was concerned about, so there was no sense of the betrayal of the public trust here."
Obama's spokesman, in attempting to say the above statement was accurate, characterized the hiring as having no value.

Having a connection who can get you kid hired as an intern in a U.S. Senator's office is not a paid trip to a luxury resort, but it's something. Something that helps keep the contributions rolling.

I'll conditionally say Bevan is right in saying the Tribune's coverage of the intern story "borders on being a joke," assuming the press finds no other actions by Obama that contradict his Rezko explanation. I have a suspicion the Tribune has more and that I'll be withdrawing my conditional approval of Bevan's column in the near future.

Meanwhile, the Tribune doesn't have the luxury of hindsight. It must continue to seek and find anti-Obama material and put it into the sunshine so its own reputation doesn't get burned. Over the years, the Tribune has gained the reputation for gathering lots of investigative material that dies on the hard drives of cold-footed editors. In this instance, the Tribune is almost forced to rev up its Obama research and reporting or risk getting run over and judged irrelevent. Ironically, that's same equation Obama is facing — run now or risk becoming irrelevant later.

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Wednesday, December 20, 2006

She's got the far left covered...

Chicago Tribune reporter Michael Higgins always does an admirable job of writing abortion-related stories without a left-wing slant. His story today about DuPage County State's Attorney Joe Birkett (former client) prodding Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan to do her job on the parental notification issue is no exception.

Rich Miller is inviting comments on the Trib story.

An interesting quote from Madigan's spokeswoman notes that Madigan is still researching the issue and has met with two advocacy groups. Both are far, far left on the political spectrum.
They have met with representatives from the ACLU of Illinois, Planned Parenthood and the offices of Birkett and Cook County State's Atty. Richard Devine, (Cara) Smith said. They also have talked to court clerks around the state.
It's fine that Madigan meets with the ACLU and one of her biggest campaign contributors, Planned Parenthood, which has given her more than $150,000 over the years. Those groups, of course, demand unconditional loyalty to the far left position on abortion: no reasonable restrictions allowed. That's fine — every group with interest in the issue should have a say. Wonder if any pro-life groups were consulted?

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Great Kass column

This is textbook good column writing: Get out of the office and find out what's behind the news. Then tell the story in a clear and entertaining way.

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Sunday, December 17, 2006

Do your job, Lisa

For those looking for a demonstration of the news media's double-standard on abortion, look no further than Illinois' parental notification law.

Lisa Madigan, the liberal Attorney General of Illinois, is predictably as far left on the issue of abortion as can be. She has the radical pro-choice stance, meaning she opposes all reasonable restrictions such as parental notification and a ban on partial birth abortion, even though most Illinoisans favor those positions.

It doesn't matter what her personal position is, however. As Attorney General, she's supposed to defend the constitutionality of laws passed by the General Assembly and signed by the Governor presuming they are not on their face, unconstitutional.

Illinois has such a law, parental notification, that awaits the state's chief legal officer to go into federal court and lift a 1995 injunction. The law was was passed decisively in 1995 by pro-life and pro-choice legislators and signed by Jim Edgar, a pro-choice governor. In September, the Illinois Supreme Court paved the way for the injunction to be lifted when it drafted so-called "bypass rules" it had previously balked at writing. The rules set forth the conditions and procedures for a minor child to bypass having to notify their parents of an abortion.

Madigan said in September she is studying the new rules and would make a decision later on how to proceed.

Well, she's done nothing for three months. And, the news media has not asked her why.

If the situation was reversed — a conservative Attorney General was balking at enforcing a law favored by abortion rights advocates — the news media would be hounding the AG. I know that is true because there were a few times that it happened when Jim Ryan was AG and I was working for him.

However, unlike Madigan in this case, Jim Ryan bucked his own constituency and his personal position when he refused to defend the constitutionality of the parental notification law in 1995 because of the Illinois Supreme Court refused to write bypass rules. Pro-life groups were mad. I remember them calling our office. Sometimes doing your job correctly is not popular.

Lisa Madigan needs to do the same. She needs to buck the special interest groups who support her — NARAL, Personal Pac, Planned Parenthood — and get the injunction lifted.

The Tribune, Sun-Times and Daily Herald all support the parental notification law as do a decisive majority of Illinoisans. It just makes sense if a 14-year-old girl wants to have an abortion, her parents ought to know about it. Every state in the Midwest has such a law except Illinois.

It's time for the news media to ask Madigan why she remains motionless on this issue.

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Obama's PR fence has holes

If you had a sophisticated enough microscope, you probably could see the fingerprints of Hillary Clinton operatives on the anti-Obama story today in the Washington Post.

The silent-but-deadly Clinton takedown of Obama is a trend we noted here, which we still believe will result in somebody filing a Senate ethics complaint over the Tony Rezko deal.

From a PR standpoint, Obama was smart to admit he showed poor judgement. It has muted some of the criticism. Still, there are two avenues of criticism he hasn't barricaded.

First, it's a bit silly to suggest that he didn't know Tony Rezko was in the crosshairs of newspapers and investigators. Rezko was front page news throughout 2005, even in the early months. It is part of a larger pattern of Obama not speaking out about corruption in his own party. He endorsed the ethically challenged Alexi Giannoulias for state Treasurer and stuck by him after it was revealed he was responsible for bank loans to mobsters. Then he stood silently by at the Illinois State Fair in August, refusing to say a word about nine state and federal corruption investigations of Governor Rod Blagojevich. Then, a few weeks later, he had the Audacity to lecture Kenya about corruption.

The second problem Obama has is his explanation of conversations he and Rezko had before they both purchased the adjacent properties. Obama gives the scantest of explanations and makes it sound as if a couple of casual indirect conversations led to the perfect convergence of transactions.

Much more likely, it seems, is that Obama and Rezko agreed that Rezko would buy the lot and hold it until Obama could afford to buy it. In other words, a gift.

If that's the case, Barack better Hope Rezko's version of events never is made public.

That's why it is in Hillary's best interest to prompt an investigation of some sort.

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Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Why did Barack do it?


It is not even worth asking the question why the national news media is fawning over Barack Obama like a love struck teenager. We intuitively know the answer: The media is hopelessly left-wing and when it sees a promising liberal candidate it discards any pretense of objectivity and becomes a nationwide electronic cheerleader.

The evidence is the lack of commentary today about how/why ESPN-ABC granted Obama a multi-million dollar freebie last night as a lead-in to Monday night football. When bearing gifts to the God, Tony Rezko's side yard looks downright cheap compared to a free 60-second spot (via CapitolFax), complete with fake Oval Office set and professionally written copy slapped onto a teleprompter.

If there was such a thing as a conservative shooting star in the media, can you imagine the outrage today had he or she be given such massive free time to tease and promote a candidacy for president. Is it really such a stretch for someone to ask whether it amounts to a de facto violation of the Senate ethics prohibition on accepting gifts?

My surprise was reserved for why Obama accepted the free time. While it may gain him some short-term exposure, that's the last thing he needs right now. His only obstacle to the presidency is reality: the American people might someday come to its senses about the danger we are facing in the world from Islamic extremists and begin to wonder how someone who casts himself as a popular culture in-joke would be the best commander in chief.

That ESPN spot was the best thing to happen to Hillary Clinton all week.

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Monday, December 11, 2006

Blago courted Obama basher

As we said recently, the race is on between the Barack Obama hype and the efforts by Hillary Clinton surrogates to undermine him.

One of the first people out of the blocks to take a hard shot at Barack was a man Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich once courted.

John Catsimatidis, the supermarket magnate and Clinton loyalist, received a dinner invitation from Mrs. Clinton on Thursday. He didn't waste any time before taking shots at the viability of her potential rival.


"To take Obama seriously at this stage of the game is very naïve," said Mr. Catsimatidis. "He's not ready for prime time. What, do you want to take the weatherman from Boise, Idaho, and put him in New York City? I mean, give me a break."
Blagojevich and his merry band of fundraisers, two who since have been indicted, flew to New York in 2003 on the "Shakedown Shuttle." Check out the first stop on the schedule.

Apparently, the Blagojevich crew didn't impress Catsimatidis. He was one of the only people on the schedule that day who didn't immediately contribute money to Blagojevich.

Maybe the Greek grocery tycoon called Paul Vallas first.

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Quinn's selective populism


The great partisan populist has struck again.

Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn rails about utility executives' salary and says nothing when the governor he stands next to takes $15,000 in utility money to help Pat get re-elected.

Now Pat's after ATM fees. The first question he ought to ask is what are the fees charged at the ATMs at tollway rest stops. Those ATMs were installed after the Blagojevich administration, without bids, gave the exclusive contract to a bank that employed the governor's brother.

But I don't expect our Lt. Gov. to be asking about Rod's brother. The not-so-mighty Quinn already has indicated he believes the governor is clean and that, in essence, therefore, that U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald is wasting his time with his multiple investigations of corruption in the Blagojevich administration, including at the tollway.

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Didn't know about Foley, Rahm?


Now that the election is over, the press is largely uninterested in the Mark Foley "scandal" because it is not serving any purpose, such as getting Democrats elected. That work is done.

Therefore it is not surprising that the Illinois media is ignoring the revelation in the Foley report that says Rahm Emanuel was very likely baldly lying when he said on national television he didn't know about Foley's problems before they reached the press.

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Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Blago brags about study from connected vendor

I'm not surprised anymore by the audacity of the Blagojevich administration. I expect it.

Even so, I almost reached to scratch my head on this one.

The governor's office sent out a statewide press release yesterday touting a new "study" that showed Illinois had the greatest improvement in health care of all states.
"Illinois has steadily improved in the overall health of the population since 2002," said Archello Georgiou, Medical Advisory for United Health Foundation. "One of the most significant improvements in Illinois is the prevalence of smoking, down to 19.9 percent from 22.2 percent in 2005 and down from 28.7 percent in 1990."
Whose study was it? Just happens to be completely funded by UnitedHealthGroup, a huge no-bid vendor of Illinois.' Not just any no-bid vendor. Part of a joint venture that included Pacificare, which since merged with United. One of Pacificare's top employees was Nancy Monk, sister of Blagojevich's former chief of staff and campaign manager.

Eric Krol of the Daily Herald broke the story earlier this year. He quoted Lon Monk as saying he was unaware that his sister's firm got the $100 million contract before it was awarded and quoted administration officials saying they had to truncate the process for seeking proposals because of the urgency of the prescription drug contract.

No other firms applied. Par for the course. Democrat Jack Franks called for an investigation. Not sure if Attorney General Lisa Madigan followed up.

Reminds me of the Fifth Third ATM contract that went to a firm that employed Blagojevich's brother, Robert.

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The $55 million man

Many words were uttered and quickly forgotten during the recently concluded governor's race in Illinois about the fundraising prowess of Rod Blagojevich (and all the federal investigations spawned by that harvest).

When you look at some historical perspective, the numbers are truly staggering.

(Total fundraising with number of active years in parentheses)

Blagojevich -- $55,329,366 (6)

George Ryan -- $24,438,469 (29)

Jim Ryan -- $21,113,264 (13)

Judy B. Topinka -- $15,442,485 (27)

Jim Edgar -- $9,158,286 (22)

Glenn Poshard -- $5,134,728 (2)

Dawn Netsch -- $2,416,184 (20)

When looked at on a per-year basis, the fundraising edge Blagojevich has over every other candidate for governor in recent Illinois history is even more shocking.

Blagojevich -- $9,221,561

Glenn Poshard -- $2,567,364

Jim Ryan -- $1,624,097

George Ryan -- $842,705

Judy B. Topinka -- $571,943

Jim Edgar -- $416,285

Dawn Netsch -- $120,809

These numbers are not perfect -- they are not adjusted for inflation or the offices the candidates were seeking. Still, even with those adjustments, Blagojevich would still have an enormous edge over all the politicians.

I remember when pundits were describing George Ryan as a fundraising machine. His was a rickety wagon compared to the Blagojevich Lamborghini.

How he got the Lamborghini is another question. One that U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald is exploring in great detail.

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Monday, December 4, 2006

William Howell mystery deepens

One of the men Governor Rod Blagojevich was scheduled to meet with in October 2003 on his Shakedown Shuttle airplane trip to New Jersey/New York was East Coast pay-to-play figure William Howell, we previously reported here.

That same William Howell gave Blagojevich $10,000 in late 2003 and another $10,000 in early 2004. Then, curiously, Blagojevich amended his campaign disclosure earlier this year to change the company name on Howell's first donation. He removed the name of a company affiliated with scandals in Pennsylvania and Puerto Rico and replaced it with another company name not connected to the scandals. Never before has Blagojevich amended his disclosure forms three years after the fact.

Why? It's not clear yet, but my guess is that Blagojevich's lawyers know the feds are looking at Howell's company and they are making a belated disclosure of some type.

Less than three weeks ago, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported the FBI raided the offices of the company Howell is affiliated with.

As we said before, William Howell is a name to watch in future months on the fertile Illinois corruption landscape.

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