Monday, April 16, 2007

Illinois AG needs to step up

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan started to look into hiring-related corruption in the Rod Blagojevich administration but was waved off last year by U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald.

There are several other investigations she supposedly launched regarding other corruption in the governor's office, but we haven't heard anything for months.

Today, in the Sun-Times, flight records from the Illinois Department of Transportation indicated that Blagojevich was flying around his top fundraisers and campaign people regularly during an election year. Madigan ought to add this one to her investigation list.

Blagojevich, campaign strategists Doug Scofield and Sheila Nix and other supporters rode aboard state planes for political purposes nine times between April and November of last year, state logs show.
The state allows top government elected officials to take state planes for political purposes as long as the cost is reimbursed. The provision was meant to give the governor and other officials the ability to take the state plane on multi-purposed trips. In other words, if the governor travels to three government events and one political events, it would be cumbersome to change modes of transportation mid-trip.

What really is at issue is allowing political people on those flights. Clearly, it violates the spirit if not the letter of the law to allow the campaign staff on taxpayer-paid flights.

Published IDOT rules limit political flights to "the elected constitutional officers of the executive branch and the leaders of the General Assembly" but make no mention of political supporters being allowed aboard.

It has been a "long-term practice" to let officeholders take whomever they choose so long as the state is paid, IDOT spokesman Mike Claffey said. IDOT doesn't plan to alter the policy, Claffey said.
This is a perfect opportunity for the AG to provide clarity.

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