Thursday, May 31, 2007

Liberals' worst enemy—the map

In this Telegraph story that assesses the status of al-Qaeda, the author concludes that the U.S. led assault on terrorism worldwide has resulted in a draw at present. The article has lots of good morsels of information and few concrete conclusions.

What drew me was the graphic above. All the colored countries above are targeted for takeover by al-Qaeda. I remember looking at maps as a kid showing the rise and fall of Nazi Germany and other empires. It looks to me like it did to George W. Bush and many others in 2002—Iraq is absolutely crucial territory in the war on terror. We couldn't afford to abandon it to terrorists then and shouldn't now.

I'd like to see a Democratic presidential debate with this map on the overhead and the following question posed: "Just exactly how is it in the long-term strategic interests of the United States to abandon Iraq?"

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The Barack-Hillary divide, unmasked

Funny video on the imagined debate between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton supporters. (Via the Chaser).


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Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Evolution, Illinois style

The law is the law—L-A-W. That was then, this is now.

Despite an ethics act that promised to shine a light on unpaid advisers to statewide officeholders, no one has filed the required paperwork for the last three years, including a close friend of Gov. Rod Blagojevich who helped inspire the law.

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Rudy's winning demeanor

A couple of weeks ago, cable TV talk show host Jeff Berkowitz cajoled me into giving a prediction in the GOP primary for president. I said any of the three—Mitt Romney, Rudy Giuliani or John McCain could win, but my instinct said Rudy. I also said that considering that national polls are showing a 10 to 15 point generic preference for Democrats, and that the GOP front runners are even with the top Democrats in head-to-head trials, it shows that the country believes the GOP candidates are stronger leaders.

Fred Thompson is a strong addition to the race and he could win, also. His entrance might blunt Romney's momentum as the traditional conservative alternative to Giuliani.

Back to Rudy. I told Berkowitz that one of Giuliani's secret weapons was his unique ability to stand toe-to-toe with adversaries in and out of the media and rebut them crisply, while maintaining a likable manner. That's an important attribute for a presidential candidate; not so much in the candidate debates but in the day to day jousting with the press on the campaign trail. Rudy perfected the art with the New York press corps while he was mayor. Below is a video this week of Rudy answering questions from 9/11 conspiracy whack jobs. Notice the smile on his face the entire time. You can find a partial transcript and video of my interview with Berkowitz here.


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Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Hillary squeezes Illinois high schooler

While Barack Obama tries to draw fine lines on who he will accept money from, his presidential opponent Hillary Clinton has shown she has no boundaries whatsover. She is taking it from convicted criminals, accused sexual harassers and privacy pirates. Add Illinois high schoolers to that bottomless list.

According to the Federal Election Commission, Hillary took $4,000 from a Cameron Ramsdell, student, Bannockburn, IL., on Dec. 29, 2003. The FEC lists his address as 1200 Valley Road. In 2003, a Cameron Ramsdell was playing football at Lake Forest Academy, a private high school.

Most high schoolers don't have $4,000 lying around to give away and those who do are not going to give it to a U.S. Senator from another state.

Unless, of course, his mother or other relative is an employee for a company whose top officials have given Hillary more than $150,000 over the last several years and one that could strongly benefit from a Clinton presidency. Valerie Ramsdell has been a top official for Buffalo Grove-based International Profit Associates, a business consulting firm in the cross hairs of state and federal governments for alleged fraud and blatant companywide sexual harassment. Her $4,000 donation to Hillary two weeks prior to Cameron's listed the same 1200 Valley Road address.

The IPA saga is vintage Clinton politics. Six months after the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed the "most egregious" sexual harassment lawsuit ever out of the agency's Chicago office, Bill Clinton was yukking it up with company founder and convicted criminal John Burgess. For that appearance, Bill was paid $125,000. Later, the campaign contributions flowed to Hillary, as well as a trip in the IPA corporate jet. If she is elected president, Hillary could make the lawsuit go away in a hurry. Predictably, the National Organization for Women is silent—enabling its endorsed candidate to keep tainted money earned within the walls of a place where at least 40 women were sexually assaulted, according to the U.S. government. Obama got a small donation from IPA and returned it after news reports about Burgess' past, state fraud investigations and the sexual harassment lawsuit surfaced. So did other politicians across the country.

In that pending sexual harassment lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Chicago, one of the latest pleadings characterizes Valerie Ramsdell as an enabler of the alleged rampant sexual harassment.

We presume but don't know for sure that Cameron is Valerie's son and that the donation was a way to avoid federal election law that limits individual donations to several thousand dollars per year per candidate. It is not unusual for spouses or even siblings of donors to give to a candidate but the Clintons, as usual, are finding new ways to stretch the law to fit their thirst for power. What's next, washing contributions through the hands of babies?

Reporter Mike McIntire of the Times broke the Clinton-IPA story open last year and over the weekend reported on more Bill and Hill campaign finance hijinks.

Your move, Barack. It's time to speak out against this nonsense.

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Thursday, May 24, 2007

Our lazy, lyin' fashion plate governor

My take on the quad-fecta of bad stories today for our beloved governor, Rod Blagojevich:

The stay-at-home governor. Daily Herald's Eric Krol does a front page spread on Rod's absentee style of governing. Rod has done a good job of hiding his laziness over the years. When he first campaigned for governor in 2002, the TV airwaves were filled with Rod running back and forth across the street at community parades, his arms flailing like the inept high school basketball player he was. That, combined with an unprecedented blitz of advertising fueled by his bandit campaign treasury, created an image of Rod as a fast-moving, energetic politician. He does move fast when he moves. The truth is, when it comes to government, he doesn't move that much. He didn't in the state Legislature, in Congress, or the Governor's mansion. According to one source very close to Rod, he curtailed his minimal governmental activity sharply once the federal investigation stories began to appear in 2005. His trips to the downtown governor's office ceased almost completely. He spends most of his time reading books and jogging.

Rod is George Ryan. Sun-Times reporters Chris Fusco and Dave McKinney opine in a commentary that Rod is morphing into George Ryan. I'm glad that one is sinking in. When I was helping Jim Ryan in 2002 against Rod, we tried to sell that notion but couldn't get much traction against an opponent who was carpet bombing us with campaign ads. JR called Rod a "blow-dried version of George Ryan." Memo to Illinois reporters for future reference: When a mediocre politician runs the table on campaign contributions and starts picking up improbable endorsements, like from State Police troopers against a career friend of law enforcement, it's OK to surmise that the game is being rigged. A difference between Rod and George is the breadth of the corruption. When you carefully look at the investigations into the Blagojevich administration, it is clear that the scope of conduct being explored is far wider and more systematic than the George Ryan charges.

Rod's word is not golden. The State Journal-Register's Bernie Schoenburg explores the governor's reputation for not keeping his word. This should not be an open question. Rod, in those 2002 campaign commercials, ran on three themes: cleaning up state government, bringing jobs to Illinois and getting the state's finances in order. It was apparent from year one of his administration that he was failing horribly at all three. He is the most investigated governor in the country, Illinois is about 45th in job creation since he's been governor and the state's financial picture is arguably the worst in the nation. If someone needs further proof, watch this video again in its entirety. Any time Rod's word intersects with the truth, it's an accident.

Rod is a clothes horse. Schoenburg also looks at Rod's expensive taste in clothes and rhetoric against those with the same tastes. Rod has made some feeble attempts to malign high-powered lobbyists and their flashy clothes. Bernie points out Rod likes $135 ties. I have been told by another person close to Rod that he wears nothing but custom tailored suits that cost well north of $1,000 each. Of course, he doesn't need as many fine threads these days lounging around the bungalow reading Teddy Roosevelt biographies. And where all these stories are headed, he'll have his clothing needs taken care by our government's finest institutional fashion designers.

Rod and cicadas. Daily Southtown columnist Kristen McQueary said the governor can't hide his problems with silly press releases about bugs and trees. For the record, I beat Kristen by a day with the cheap Rod-cicada comparison, although I give her credit for the double entendre.

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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

IG sham, revisited

We've written before about the absolute sham known as the Illinois Executive Inspector General's office. Today, we see further evidence of its uselessness.

The Chicago Sun-Times' Chris Fusco broke the story about the resignation of a top aide to Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn. Veterans' liaison Eric Schuller resigned after Fusco dug up embarrassing details about his past, including a short term in DuPage County jail for passing a bad check, financial problems, falsifying his military record and soliciting a loan from a military family while employed by Quinn.

Quinn found out about the loan solicitation in 2005 and turned the matter over to the IG's office in August of that year. According to Fusco's story, Quinn didn't get a letter back from the IG until April. For those keeping score at home, that's a 20-month investigation that probably could have been done in a week or so.

Also, we can infer from Fusco's story that the IG did not find the information about Schuller's past that Fusco did, because Quinn said he was unaware of the bad check and his false representations about his military record. Therefore, the only logical conclusion to draw was that the information was not in the IG letter a month ago, which Quinn read. We have to guess about contents of the IG letter because Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich created by statute an IG's office that is forbidden by law to reveal the contents of any of its actions.

So, it looks like the IG did a 20-month investigation and didn't find what Fusco found in a matter of days. This is par for the course for James Wright, the IG Blagojevich plucked from the Illinois Tollway after Blago's first IG resigned when the administration declined to take one of her recommendations. Wright was IG at the tollway at a time when the agency was awash in state and federal corruption investigations.

More business as usual in Illinois.

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The $55 million subpoena

This morning's revelation by Chicago Tribune reporters Jeff Coen and Ray Long that the feds have subpoenaed Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich's campaign records should come as no surprise to anyone following this story closely. Nonetheless, it is a devastating blow to the campaign's future ability to raise money, and thus the governor's remaining sliver of credibility.

Savvy businessmen gave Blagojevich money because they expected a future return. With the feds truly crawling all over campaign records, that's no longer such a wise investment. Anyone who gives Blagojevich a campaign contribution from here on out is essentially paying his legal defense fund.

Without a massive campaign treasury, Blagojevich simply isn't a viable politician. He was only able to overcome his feeble legislative and congressional records with a $55 million fundraising operation that dwarfed all others in Illinois history. That allowed him to defeat three consecutive opponents—Paul Vallas, Jim Ryan and Judy Baar Topinka—who all had accomplished much more in public life than he.

(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)
Even with inflation figured in, these numbers are staggering. It never smelled right—a politician with a mediocre public record who was able to raise rock star-like money. There's only one logical explanation: the fundraising was being fueled by expectations of state contracts and appointments. There's already plenty of evidence in the indictments of Tony Rezko, Stuart Levine and Joe Cari that the promises were being made and the goods delivered. And there's billowing smoke in the archives of newspapers across the state of many more deals.

Finding examples of corruption within Blagojevich's $55 million campaign fund will be like finding cicadas on old trees in metropolitan Chicago—they're everywhere. Unlike the cicadas in Illinois, however, corruption in the governor's office happens every four years, instead of every 17.

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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Sex, fraud and the Clintons

(NOTE: The following post contains graphic language.)

The more I look at the beleaguered Illinois company named International Profit Associates (IPA), the more it becomes a better story: Sex, politics, fraud and the Clintons entwined in all three.

Consider this little chronology:

--SOMEWHERE BETWEEN 1997-2001—Bill Clinton administration investigates IPA for sexual harassment.
--JUNE 2001—New Bush administration's EEOC files federal lawsuit against IPA in what was described by an EEOC lawyer in a May 2006 NY Times story as "...probably the most egregious case of sex harassment that the Chicago district office has seen. The owner of the company (Burgess) engaged in harassment, and that set the tone for the company, on down."

--DECEMBER 8, 2001—Just six months after the federal lawsuit, ex-president Bill Clinton takes $125,000 to speak at IPA event at Hyatt Regency, Chicago. He is introduced by IPA founder John Burgess, a convicted criminal and the key defendant in the suit. "I want to thank John and Dana for being such good friends to Hillary and to me." Illinois Senator Dick Durbin is in attendance, acknowledged by Clinton in his speech.

--1999-2007—While politicians across the country returned campaign contributions from IPA and its top officials, Hillary raked in more than $150,000 and apparently kept it all, according to disclosure reports. Her presidential campaign as recently as March 31 took $4,600 (husband-wife) from IPA lawyer Myron "Mike" Cherry, also known as "Individual H" in the federal corruption racketeering indictment of Tony Rezko.
We wonder whether IPA donated to the Clinton Library. An entreprising reporter might want to ask that question. It would help explain, not justify, why Hillary refuses to return IPA money despite the company history of not only sexual harassment allegations, but accusations of fraud. The Illinois Attorney General's office is investigating the company, the Better Business Bureau says IPA has an "unsatisfactory record" with 425 complaints over three years and civil lawsuits have been flying since the company began in 1991, including a pending civil racketeering lawsuit in U.S. District Court, Chicago.

Again, this is not your garden variety sexual harassment lawsuit. Here is the opening paragraph from a 2006 EEOC filing on the pending case:

Since at least 1997, International Profit Association ("IPA") has tolerated a pattern or practice of sex discrimination by allowing a hostile working environment for women. At least 40 women have described sexual assaults, at least 50 were propositioned for sex, women were routinely subjected to the most insulting and degrading anti-female language imaginable: described as "cunt," "fucking bitch," "pussy," "whore" and "fat ass," and insulted with obscene suggestions: "you must know how to suck a good dick," "I bet she'd give a good blow job," and worse. The harassment emanated from the top: the owner and Managing Director, John Burgess, is accused of sexual harassment by at least 10 different women. Not surprisingly, top managers, Directors and Zone managers, were frequent offenders. Women who complained were told that nothing could be done.
At least 40 women have described sexual assaults? For Bill, no problem. He'll take the $125,000 speaking fee. For Hillary, no problem. She'll ride the IPA corporate jet and take another $150,000. The company is happy too, because it uses speeches like Clinton's as a marketing tool to attract new clients.

Yes, it's true that George Bush Sr. was paid to speak at an IPA event in 1999. Yet, that was before the sexual harassment lawsuit was filed and it was not followed by massive campaign contributions to his son. IPA gave a few thousand to GWB and it was returned. Among this year's presidential candidates, Barack Obama returned a similar small donation. John Edwards has taken $6,000 from IPA and not returned it. In all, IPA and its executives have given politicians about $1 million over the past several years.

We wonder whether Hillary will continue her cozy relationship with IPA and Cherry as she continues to raise money in Illinois for her presidential campaign.

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Monday, May 21, 2007

The Barack trap

Barack Obama is setting a trap for himself with his attempt to play holier-than-thou on campaign financing. He wrote an op-ed this morning in the Chicago Tribune saying there's needs to be more disclosure of the bundling of campaign contributions.

Then, a few hours later, a story moved about an Obama fundraiser in Connecticut where he netted $750,000 at a billionaire's home with radical leftist George Soros in attendance.

As usual, Obama is trying to straddle an issue. He's trying to say he would remove some of the influence of money from politics while at the same time he is accepting money from perhaps the biggest symbol in America of all that's wrong with politics—Soros, who has sneakily pumped millions into elective politics through various far left entities. It's like when Obama decries the tone of our politics and walks hand in hand with Dick Durbin, the Senate's shrillest partisan.

Obama might try to say he was a reformer when he was in the Illinois Legislature, but despite passing "reform" legislation, the state's governor of his own party, Rod Blagojevich, has managed to create the largest pay-to-play operation ever seen in the Land of Lincoln. When the indictments start flying at a faster clip, the Obama legislation is going to be more starkly revealed as ineffective.

Back to the backfire theory. Hillary Clinton and her slash-and-burn minions are churning up the Obama stories behind the scenes. Because Obama has tried to appear above politics with op-eds like today's, the bar has been lowered by the news media as to what constitutes a fair hit on the Illinois senator. Meanwhile, Obama's staffers are constrained by the candidate's admonition not to play dirty politics under the radar. They ought to be all over this story but aren't pushing it because of the self-imposed wing-clipping.

The battlefield has been laid for an Obama massacre in the media, if necessary, at the hands of the Clintonites. Any slight benefit by the op-ed will be many times erased by the guerilla political tactics of his opponents.

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Thursday, May 17, 2007

Hillary flies ‘friendly' skies of IPA


When I was a teenager, my mother told me to be careful who I got in a car with. She wouldn't have approved if I took a ride from a convicted criminal, or a company being sued by the federal government in a massive sexual harassment lawsuit.

The admonitions worked: I never did either. Maybe my mother should have talked to Hillary Clinton.

Hillary apparently had no qualms climbing into the undoubtedly plush confines of a corporate jet owned or leased by International Profit Associates, Buffalo Grove, Il., a business consulting firm/defendant in the largest sexual harassment lawsuit ever filed by the Chicago office of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The Washington Post had the airplane nugget buried in a larger story earlier this year. I just dug out the FEC report and found the IPA travel disbursement on page 621 of a filing in 2004. The relevant part of the document is shown above.

Hillary, as we reported earlier, has been endorsed by the National Organization for Women (NOW) so you'd think she might be a little sensitive about a matter like this. Apparently not, because there's no evidence she's returned the $150,000 or so that IPA or its executives have given her over the past several years, making the company one of her largest donors.

Here's what EEOC lawyer Diane Smason said about the case in a May 2006 story in the New York Times.

"This is probably the most egregious case of sex harassment that the Chicago district office has seen. The owner of the company (John Burgess) engaged in harassment, and that set the tone for the company, on down."
And later last year, in a EEOC filing, the agency added:

IPA's management, led by John Burgess, created a culture at IPA where sexual harassment flourished. IPA's senior managers harassed women with impunity, sending a signal to lower-level managers and employees that they could do the same. Given the tone set by IPA's senior management, it is not surprising that sexual harassment at IPA was rampant in all departments and at all levels of the company. Women at IPA routinely had to endure a gauntlet of abuse, ranging from sexual solicitations and physical harassment, to sexual comments and offensive sexual materials. Based on the extensive record of harassment presented in this case, IPA is not entitled to a finding that as a matter of law, the sexual harassment that occurred at the company was insufficiently severe or pervasive to survive summary judgment.
This case was filed in 2001, so Hillary doesn't have the excuse she didn't know about the allegations. She could have watched the two-part series here and here on the alleged sexual harassment on Chicago's NBC 5 the same month she was taking the corporate jet ride from IPA.

As we reported earlier, company founder John Burgess is a convicted criminal, the Better Business Bureau says IPA has an "unsatisfactory record," the Illinois Attorney General's office is investigating the company for fraud and more than 125 individual lawsuits have been filed against IPA, including a federal racketeering suit pending in U.S. District Court in Chicago.

Politicians across the country have given money back to IPA after learning about its problems, including Barack Obama, who took and returned $2,000. John Edwards took $6,000 from IPA and its executives and, like Hillary, there's no record he returned the money.

Hillary also takes money from IPA's lawyer, Myron "Mike" Cherry, who admitted he is the conduit between the Clintons and IPA in the New York Times article. Cherry has another nickname besides "Mike." In Illinois, he's also known as "Individual H" in the indictment of insider Tony Rezko. According to the indictment, Cherry's name was listed as the recipient of a bogus $250,000 finder's fee before it was squelched by a pension agency. Cherry's denies knowledge of the commission and says he's cooperating with the feds. Cherry got a consolation, a fat no-bid contract from Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich to investigate insurance fraud even though critics said Cherry had no experience on the topic.

I haven't seen this many red flags since the old Red Square days in the Soviet Union. Hillary is either color blind or doesn't care about IPA's problems. She'd rather take the money and run—or in this case, fly.

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Slippery Planned Parenthood


State Rep. John Fritchey of Chicago is sponsoring legislation to gut the state's parental notification law. Fortunately, it was narrowly defeated in the Illinois state House. Let's hope it doesn't come back. The video above is the reason why. Planned Parenthood "counselors," a way around parents in Fritchey's bill, are crime enablers.

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The W factor

D.J. Drummond has one of the best commentaries on the GOP race for president I've read in some time. It's perfect reverse spin; he says Republicans ought to quit absurdly comparing themselves to Ronald Reagan and instead embrace George W. Bush. He's right.

Drummond notes that while Bush's popularity has sagged, the underlying reasons he was elected twice remain. He also pierces the media fog and puts GWB's tenure in perspective.

The next reason for would-be Presidents to consider Dubya, is the accomplishments he has made. I know it's quite the fashion to tab Bush as a "failed" President somehow, but in reality his work has been effective. His tax cuts unquestionably eased the 2001 recession which followed the 9/11 attacks, his Supreme Court and Federal Judiciary nominations have been superb from the perspective of judicial reform (rolling back the tide of activist judges who ignore the Constitution), his National Security doctrine has prevented another major terrorist attack on U.S. soil, and has severely damaged the capabilities of Al Qaeda and other Islamofascist organizations (far too many people judge the war in Iraq and Afghanistan on the peculiar assumption that terrorists would have stayed home and been peaceful, rather than grown in ambition and violence, if we had just let Saddam go on in his murderous ways). And yeah, Dubya has done a pretty good job of helping Americans understand the signature differences between a Republican President and a Democrat President.
Drummond then makes the point that likeability matters greatly, a point that GWBush understood well. I agree. By his reasoning, the most likely next president will come from among these three: Giuliani, Romney or Obama. Not a bad theory.

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Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Rudy, Romney and Fox

In that order, the winners tonight at the second GOP presidential debate. Halfway through, I thought John McCain was having a great night but was disturbed by his last answer that he wouldn't waterboard a terrorist if he knew the terrorist had direct knowledge of an imminent mass murder of Americans.

McCain is a great patriot who understands torture firsthand but he needs to do a better job explaining his position to Americans like me. Sure, we are against torturing a prisoner for no good reason, like he was tortured. But moderator Brit Hume described the situation as one where the terrorist had knowledge that could save millions of American lives if extracted quickly. McCain said it was more important to stand on principle than to save their lives. Sorry, ain't buying it. Overall, other than that answer, McCain's performance was sharp.

Rudy Giuliani's leadership qualities stood out this evening. All the candidates heard Ron Paul's absurd answer about America deserving the 9/11 attack. Rudy stepped to the plate first to rebut it. He also scored big by turning his attack on Democrats like Hillary Clinton instead of wallowing in a discussion of who truly is most conservative. More of the Republicans on the stage should be following his lead. If any of the second tier candidates want to distinguish themselves they are committing political suicide by going after a frontrunner. They ought to go after Hillary, Barack Obama or John Edwards.

Mitt Romney, again, showed he is the most articulate and knowledgeable candidate of either party. His big picture answer of how Iraq fits into our strategic interest was said perfectly.

Mike Huckabee, among the also-rans, has the best demeanor and the line of the night about Congress spending money like John Edwards in a beauty shop.

Thompson, Paul, Tancredo, Brownback and Gilmore can go home now. We've seen enough.

Fox News also was a big winner. The questions this evening were light years better than the ones posed by MSNBC and tougher, too. MSNBC was trying to poke at the Republican candidates and Fox was trying to inform us. Big difference. Brit Hume is by far the best anchorman on television and Chris Wallace may be the best questioner. They were much tougher on Republicans than MSNBC was on Democrats.

Democrats say they won't appear on a Fox debate because of the network's "partisanship." I think it's because they are not used to answering real questions from non-liberal journalists.

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Monday, May 14, 2007

John Cox, discovered

A Weekly Standard senior editor meets Republican presidential candidate John Cox in Chicago and travels with him to California as he tries to get a microphone at the recent debate.

He settles for a mock performance in a hotel room answering the same questions as the other candidates.

Cox will have his debate one way or another. So we go back to our hotel on Santa Monica beach. A good fiscal conservative, Herren's sought out a cheap wedding videographer instead of an expensive LA film crew to show up with a camera. Since the hotel room doesn't get MSNBC, Cox's wife mans the live Internet debate feed, waiting for questions to be asked, then hitting the mute button, so Cox can answer for the benefit of the videocamera and eventually a YouTube audience. He wants to show America what they missed. He rips for 90 minutes straight, taking all questions, sometimes taking them twice, when the same question is batted around to multiple candidates who are actually at the debate.

His isn't a performance for the ages, but it's surprisingly good. I expected a clown show. But there are no gaffes. He is fluid and calm, optimistic without seeming Pollyannaish, critical without seeming a crank, at ease with all issues--a man who knows his own mind and isn't afraid to speak it. After his one-man debate, as he sits down at a desk, he seems reinvigorated.
Cox ought to have a seat at the early debates. He has a coherent, conservative philosophy that he understands and articulates well. I've talked to him a few times over the years and played golf with him at the GOP convention in Philadelphia in 2000. He's a gutsy guy who deserves more attention than he's getting.

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Abner does it again

Former Bill Clinton White House counsel Abner Mikva is at it again, defending the ethics of Democrats on the pages of the Chicago Sun-Times. Today, he comes to the aid of Barack Obama because of a story about campaign contributions.

Before anyone gets overly impressed with the nice op-ed, Mikva made a similar defense of scandal-plagued Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich's ethics in a Sun-Times op-ed less than a year ago.

Both Obama and Blagojevich share indicted businessman Tony Rezko as a close friend. Maybe Mikva can do a Rezko op-ed next.

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Obama's self-proclaimed courage

Journalists, mostly, are putting a gauzy lens on Barack Obama's anti-war stand in 2002. Yes, it was not a popular position in the country. But in Illinois, in the Democratic primary, where his main rival was a conservative Democrat, it was prudent politics.

Obama told George Stephanopoulos on Sunday that it was courageous to be against the war then. Lynn Sweet called him on it this morning.

Obama told Stephanopoulos it was "political suicide" for him to be against the Iraq war in 2003. However, antiwar sentiment in Illinois was higher than in the rest of the country. In the March 2004 Illinois primary, Obama was helped by being the only antiwar contender.
Barack is granted superlatives by most of the media, most of the time, whether he deserves them or not. Not satisfied with that good fortune, he now is assigning fake superlatives to himself.

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Sunday, May 13, 2007

Did the wire really trip up Eddie?

The consummate prosecutor versus the consummate wheeler-dealer. That's the showdown shaping up by last week's indictment of Fast Eddie Vrdolyak by U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald.

Some are predicting that south side Eddie will beat the indictment. If you are only reading the rather bland recitation of the indictment, it would appear that is possible. But, acccording to press accounts, Fitzgerald's wild card is a series of personal conversations between indicted insider Stuart Levine and Vrdolyak in which Levine was wearing a wire. The indictment does not give us many clues to the existence or extent of those conversations. Instead, we are relying on press leaks.

However, previous articles indicate that those conversations may not be as pivotal as is being portrayed. The timeline doesn't fit logically. The wired conversations started approximately September 2005 and ended in August 2006, according to Chicago Sun-Times columnist Michael Sneed. But Levine already had been indicted by then and it would have a major mistake for Eddie to speak candidly to Levine at that time, if he indeed had something to hide. Here is a previous timeline of Levine's actions, with the Vrdolyak scheme inserted in bold type according to the indictment.

2002—Levine, Vrdolyak scheme is hatched.

JANUARY-JUNE 2003—Deal by Levine's hospital board is cemented to sell downtown parcel to Vrdolyak connected firm.

FALL 2003 — Rod Blagojevich, Democratic fundraiser Joe Cari and Levine fly together on a private jet to a fundraiser in New York. Cari and Levine would later be indicted.

JULY 2004 — News breaks that Levine is under suspicion of extortion at the Health Facilities Planning board.

NOVEMBER 2004—Sale of hospital property to Vrdolyak connected firm is consummated.


MAY 2005 — Levine is indicted by feds for health board schemes.

JULY 2005 — News breaks that feds are investigating Levine and Cari schemes at pension board.

AUGUST 2005 — Levine, Cari and others are indicted in pension board schemes.

SEPTEMBER 2005 — Feds release Cari plea agreement where he says Levine told him Public Official A and his two close associates are operating a scheme to trade pension fees and contracts to companies and individuals that contribute to Public Official A's campaign fund. The media has reported that Public Official A is Blagojevich and the two close associates are Chris Kelly and Tony Rezko.

JUNE 2006—Last conversation between Levine and Vrdolyak about hospital property and commissions.

Although this is complete conjecture on my part, it seems more logical that if Eddie was tripped up by conversations with Levine, it might have happened earlier than November 2005. What may be pivotal are taped phone calls of conversations from Levine's home phone between January and May 2005. Levine was known to have preferred to talk via hardline phones. At that time, Levine was under suspicion of wrongdoing but had not been indicted. I wonder if Vrdolyak is on the receiving end of at least one of those 1,600 calls.

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Thursday, May 10, 2007

Cheney, logic & Democrats

Our vice president is not well liked by the media establishment, or the public. He doesn't try to pander to anyone, most noticeably the Washington press corps. I remember how giddy they all were when John Kerry picked John Edwards as his running mate in 2004. More than a few harumpffed how Edwards was going to clean Dick Cheney's clock in a debate. As usual, the pundits were wrong. Cheney whipped the whipper-snapper trial lawyer, but good.

Today, Cheney captured the essence of why Democrats are dead wrong on Iraq. This is part of a transcript of an interview he gave Fox News (via the Tribune's Swamp website).

But I also have strong feelings about the cost if we don't act, about the cost if we allow the United States to be run out of town, so to speak, by al Qaeda. We saw what happened on 9/11. 9/11 had a lasting significance in my mind because it was a watershed event where what was going on in a country thousands of miles away in Afghanistan, where training camps had been established in the late ‘90s, where al Qaeda had been trained, put together the attack that came to New York and Washington on 9/11 and killed 3,000 of our fellow citizens armed with airline tickets and box cutters.

The real threat we face today is the possibility of an al Qaeda cell in the midst of one of our cities armed with a nuclear weapon, and if they ever were to achieve that, and we know they're trying, but if they were ever to pull that off and detonate a nuclear weapon in one of our major cities, it would rival all the casualties we've suffered in all the wars in over 200 years of American history. So this question of saying, you know, we're suffering casualties, isn't the cost too high, I don't think it is when you lay it over against what it is we need to prevent.

And one of the lessons we learned on 9/11 was that we can't hide behind our oceans and ignore what's going on in the Middle East and be safe and secure; we have to be actively and aggressively involved there. We've got to go after the terrorists. We've got to go after states that sponsor terror. We've got to go after people that can provide them with that kind of deadly capability.

Right now, Iraq is the centerpiece in that global war on terror. Al Qaeda has made it that way. Osama bin Laden has said that. That's where, in fact, we're operating now against al Qaeda on a consistent basis. It's not the only issue that's involved in Iraq by any means, but we need to get it right in Iraq. We need not to fold our tent and go home. If we do that, all we do is validate the al Qaeda strategy.
Dick Cheney ain't pretty like Edwards, hopeful like Barack Obama, or well-coached like Hillary Clinton. But his logic in the above four paragraphs far exceeds the cumulative logic the Democratic trio have exuded in months on the campaign trail when it comes to national security.

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Rod's former boss indicted

"Fast Eddie" Vrdolyak has been indicted.

Edward R. Vrdolyak, the former powerful Chicago alderman and polarizing politician who has been under federal scrutiny in connection with a multimillion-dollar real estate deal, has been indicted by a federal grand jury on fraud and bribery charges, authorities announced today.

The U.S. Attorney's Office announced Vrdolyak was indicted "for allegedly scheming with cooperating businessman Stuart Levine to obtain a kickback for Levine from the sale of a building in Chicago's Gold Coast neighborhood for a condominium development," the office said in a statement.

"The alleged scheme was intended to defraud a north suburban medical school of money and property and of the honest services of Levine, who served on the medical school's board of trustees."

The lawyer, one-time Cook County Democratic chairman and mayoral candidate known as "Fast Eddie" has been linked to indicted Republican insider Levine, who is cooperating with authorities in his own corruption cases that stemmed from "Operation Board Games."
I'm sure Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, as is his custom, is heading for the deep bunker to avoid the media this afternoon. If somebody finds him today, they can ask him about his attempt to get Vrdolyak elected Chicago major in 1987, a fact he doesn't advertise.

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Durbin's future war

Democrats like Dick Durbin only want to score short-term political points and refuse to look at the disastrous consequences of their actions. Over the course of the Iraq War, their talking points have collided enough times to power a nuclear reactor.

Most recently, experts such as General Petraeus and pulitizer prize author Lawrence Wright, author of the definitive history of al-Qaeda, The Looming Tower, have said that Iraq is now the focal point of al-Qaeda's operation. Think back a few years and it was the Durbin liberals who were screaming we were fighting the wrong enemy in Iraq. What say you now, Dick? Chicago journalist Jeff Berkowitz asked him this week and Dick Durbin became Duck Durbin.

Jeff Berkowitz: If Al Qaeda were to establish, after the U. S. left Iraq, a safe haven for terrorist camps, as existed in Afghanistan [in 2001], would you then recommend that the U. S. go in and do what they did in Afghanistan?

Senator Durbin: I am not going to get involved in conjecture about potential invasions in the future. We have seen one invasion that was made over four years ago that has gone terribly bad. We have lost over three thousand, three hundred American soldiers, spent over five hundred billion dollars, have many injured soldiers coming home and many still in the field. This war is far from over. That was an invasion that was supposed to be quick. In the words of this Administration, they were going to greet us like liberators, with flowers in the street. Before we start talking about the next invasion, the next circumstance, we ought to step back and see if there is an alternative—short of military force—to bring real security to America.
What Durbin and his colleagues aren't saying in their poll-driven rhetoric is that retreating from al-Qaeda will not make our enemies go away. It will strengthen them. They will attack us again in America and we will go right back to the Middle East to fight them. Next time, the casualty counts will be much higher.

If we had known a few years ago that we had a chance to fight al-Qaeda in one place, in a foreign land, we would have welcomed it. That was then. Since, politics has overwhelmed common sense.

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Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Video store owner foils plot

According to an FBI affadavit, the terrorist plot to invade a New Jersey military base was foiled by an alert video store owner, who called the feds after copying a jihadist-inspired training tape to DVD. The call may have saved hundreds of lives.

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It is apparent that I need to retract my previous praise for Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan after reading this Chicago Tribune story (via Illinois Review). She is doing more to protect the position of the ACLU than the rights of parents in Illinois, who deserve to have duly approved state laws put in place without foot dragging, specifically one that tells them when their 14-year-old daughters are having abortions.

Again, reporter Michael Higgins of the Trib deserves credit for covering the abortion debate from a center, rather than far left perspective—a rarity among journalists. If the Illinois Supreme Court was writing a letter goading a pro-life Attorney General to stop manufacturing roadblocks to enforcing a state law favorable to the pro-choice side, the editorials and columns would be flying. It's the other way around and the silence is defeaning.

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Illinois governors not riding high

The Land of Lincoln has produced recent governors, who, according to many, were, to put it charitably, un Abe-like. Commentators from the right and left, Tom Roeser and Eric Zorn, take aim at Jim Thompson and Rod Blagojevich, respectively.

On Thompson, Roeser writes:

Disillusionment and mysterious abandonment of a goal that he had set early on for himself-the presidency-led to disillusionment that precipitated excess, a love of influence and trappings that have soiled a once brilliant career. If there is any idealism remaining from a once illustrious career, it is hard to visualize. I am sure in Jim Thompson's private thoughts he feels his potential has been wasted by either unavoidable circumstances or his inability to change them. The mystery of why he abandoned thought of high office which led to his sad denouement is unanswered and will always be so.
Zorn, on Blago:

He uses his bully pulpit to propose giving babies one free book a month, stopping minors from getting tattoos, banning violent video games or importing pharmaceuticals and vaccines. But he runs and hides from one of the main challenges of his office -- issuing timely rulings on clemency and pardon petitions -- and he's been inept, at best, at policing corruption in hiring and contracts.
And we haven't even brought convicted felon George Ryan into the conversation.

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Monday, May 7, 2007

Dems clueless on our enemy

From Barack Obama on down, Democrats are in deep denial/clueless about our true enemies. At a recent presidential debate, the Democrats only uttered the phrase al-Qaeda twice in 90 minutes. Now, a suburban Chicago Democrat weakly tries to take Mitt Romney to task for this answer in last week's debate. Here's what Romney said:

This is about Shi'a and Sunni. This is about Hezbollah and Hamas and al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood. This is the worldwide jihadist effort to try and cause the collapse of all moderate Islamic governments and replace them with a caliphate.
That answer is perfectly stated. Yet local Democrat Hiram Wurf says Romney is stretching the threat by including the Muslim Brotherhood in that group. Nobody with serious credentials believes the Muslim Brotherhood is anything but a jihadist organization.

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Sunday, May 6, 2007

Media disguise of the day

Christi Parsons of the Chicago Tribune is a talented writer and a nice person. But she is guilty of gross mislabeling today in her story about Rush Limbaugh's use of a parody song to mock Barack Obama.

In labeling a critic of Limbaugh's, she put a mask on the known liberal disinformation group Media Matters for America.

"We take these things seriously because there's a consistent pattern of them making their way into the mainstream media and then the mainstream consciousness," said Karl Frisch, a spokesman for Media Matters, a non-profit media watchdog group that has been monitoring the broadcasts. "It's important to shoot these things down."
Calling Media Matters "non-profit" is a way to make it sound neutral. Of course many non-profit groups are fiercely partisan. And "watchdog" also is a favorable label.

The truth is that Media Matters is an organization that derives its funding from organizations affiliated with far left smear merchant George Soros. Its roster of spokespeople and researchers are all openly partisan liberals. Its stated purpose is to correct "conservative misinformation."

If the news media quotes this group, it ought to be told its true nature.

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Friday, May 4, 2007

Mystery deepens on Blago family income

Rod Blagojevich's newly filed state "economic interest" statement strongly suggests that he has a deep and growing problem with the federal investigation into his personal finances.

The story was first broken by the Daily Herald's Eric Krol on Thursday and advanced today by AP's John O'Connor.

Just like George Ryan, the indicted governor before him, Blagojevich continues to add and modify names to the disclosure form, which requires an annual accounting of gift givers and family income.

Rod says in his new disclosure that for the first time, in 2006, he received a gift of at least $500 from campaign contributors Amrish and Anita Mahajan. The wife was indicted last month by a Cook County grand jury for billing the state $2.1 million for work her drug firm did not perform. Previous press reports have revealed that the Mahajans also were involved in real estate deals that netted $113,000 in broker commissions for Patti Blagojevich, Rod's wife.

When asked what the gift was, Rod's spokeswoman refused to say, other than telling the Daily Herald it was for "food." Although there is no legal requirement to reveal the exact nature of the gifts of $500 or more, previous governors Jim Thompson and Jim Edgar did so. George Ryan and Rod both refuse. Draw your own conclusions there.

Of course Rod's "gifts" first burst onto the news scene last year when he amended a previous year's disclosure form one month after being interviewed by the feds. He added the names of friends Beverly and Mike Ascaridis. In September 2006 the Chicago Tribune revealed that the Ascaridis' had written Rod and Patti's seven-year-old daughter a mysterious $1,500 check in 2003 just days after Beverly Ascaridis got a state job under possibly illegal circumstances. That matter is under federal investigation.

Previous stories have stated that the Blagojevichs have known the Amrishs since 2001 so it will be interesting to see if the governor amends previous years' statements to reflect previous gifts or just says the gift giving started in 2006.

Another change in the statement from previous years might be even more ominous for the Blagojevichs. On a question about family income, the Blagojevichs added a new firm in 2006, Appraisal Research Counselors, Chicago, as a source of Patti's income. In the AP story, the administration concedes that the couple failed to declare the income previously and would amend previous state forms since he became governor in 2003.

Blagojevich spokeswoman Abby Ottenhoff said the first lady is a real estate appraiser and has worked for the company "on a limited basis" since 1999. Past ethics statements will be updated to show her previous payments, Ottenhoff said.
This is a big admission. The administration's claim that it is just erring on the side of caution is hollow because it said the same thing about some of the previous gift amendments. It suggests strongly that something has emerged in the federal investigation that revealed the income. Here's the state disclosure question, which is not confusing:
List the name of any entity doing business in the State of Illinois from which income in excess of $1,200 was derived during the preceding calendar year other than for professional services and the title or description of any position held in that entity. (In the case of real estate, location thereof shall be listed by street address, or if none, then by legal description.) No time or demand deposit in a financial institution nor any debt instrument need to be listed.
These are important clues to where the feds are going and not likely to be innocent little accounting mistakes as the Blagojevichs are contending. The governor should clear the air on this. Every one of his wife's real estate clients, it appears, are contributors to her husband's campaign and recipients of state business. The smell from the NW side of Chicago is getting more pungent.

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Thursday, May 3, 2007

Romney won, MSNBC lost

Mitt Romney was the winner by a large margin in the GOP presidential debate tonight on MSNBC. Not only did he give the most coherent answers, his presentation was superior to other candidates. And, he probably is less familiar to voters than John McCain or Rudy Giuliani, so I'm sure some people were seeing him for the first time.

McCain was good at times, but started out overcompensating for his bland delivery by almost whipping himself into a seizure. Giuliani gave what I thought was best answer of the night—his defense of President Bush's war on terror and how history will judge it kindly. Overall, however, Rudy had to spend most of his time answering social questions, where he is on shakier ground with the base.

None of the lesser candidates emerged forcefully. Most of them ought to go home now.

Big loser of the evening was MSNBC. Host Chris Matthews and reporters asked questions that mostly came from left wing talking points, or were inane, like the one about single mothers in prison. A few partisan questions are OK, but not 80 percent. It was clear the journalists wanted to steer them off ground they believed Republicans are strong—war on terror—and onto social questions that divide the party.

This was a sharp contrast to last week's Democratic debate where MSNBC asked mostly questions aimed at bashing Bush. The analysis afterwards was hard to take seriously with a panel of absolute demogogues like Keith Olbermann trying to pretend they are objective. MSNBC is far more biased than Fox, yet Democrats won't appear on a Fox-sponsored debate. If Brit Hume and Chris Wallace were asking the questions tonight, we all would have learned a lot more.

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Dems afraid of even saying al-Qaeda

If you think it's an overstatement to say top national Democrats are afraid of saying al-Qaeda, check the transcript (MSNBC used the spelling Al Qaida) for last week's 90-minute debate on MSNBC.

Shockingly, only two candidates even mentioned the name of our top enemy. Hillary Clinton and Dennis Kucinich—each only once—muttered the name of those who killed almost 3,000 Americans on 9/11 and who are our number enemy in Iraq.

If you can't even bring yourself to talk about your enemy directly and forcefully, how are you going to defeat them? Tonight, look for GOP presidential candidates in California to ring the al-Qaeda bell quite a few more times.

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Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Durbin ready to celebrate tainted money


Politicians across the country have been running for the hills to return campaign contributions from the suburban Chicago business consulting company International Profit Associates and its founder John Burgess. Except, apparently, Hillary Clinton. And Dick Durbin, who is knee-deep in IPA-related money and has its lawyer (pictured above) on his finance committee for a big Chicago fundraiser on Friday.

There are several reasons for the returned contributions: the sordid past of Burgess—he's a disbarred lawyer and convicted felon who has pleaded guilty to both attempted larceny and soliciting a 16-year-old prostitute, according to the New York Times. Also, the 1,800 employee company has been drawing a steady stream of fraud complaints since it opened its doors in 1991. The Better Business Bureau says it has an "unsatisfactory record" with more than 400 complaints the last three years, the Illinois Attorney General's office has an open fraud investigation and a private RICO fraud lawsuit is pending in Chicago, among other lawsuits.

(For a complete chronicling of the company's modus operandi, this 2000 article in Inc. magazine is superb. And don't forgot to check out the still active message board at the bottom of the online story for a flavor of public sentiment about the company).

If this isn't enough reason to steer clear of IPA, how about the largest sexual harassment lawsuit ever filed by the Chicago office of Equal Employment Opportunity Commission? The lawsuit, pending in U.S. District Court in Chicago, alleges companywide abuse led by Burgess. This is from a recent court filing by EEOC:
IPA's management, led by John Burgess, created a culture at IPA where sexual harassment flourished. IPA's senior managers harassed women with impunity, sending a signal to lower-level managers and employees that they could do the same. Given the tone set by IPA's senior management, it is not surprising that sexual harassment at IPA was rampant in all departments and at all levels of the company. Women at IPA routinely had to endure a gauntlet of abuse, ranging from sexual solicitations and physical harassment, to sexual comments and offensive sexual materials. Based on the extensive record of harassment presented in this case, IPA is not entitled to a finding that as a matter of law, the sexual harassment that occurred at the company was insufficiently severe or pervasive to survive summary judgment.
For the record, IPA officials deny the sexual harassment charges and the fraud allegations. The man making many of the denials is Chicago attorney Myron "Mike" Cherry, who is listed on the finance committee of Durbin's fundraiser on Friday at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in downtown Chicago. The "Spring Leadership Dinner" is hosted by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

Cherry is no ordinary lawyer purely interested in protecting the rights of his clients. He's a major Democratic fundraiser. And it appears he helped steer hundreds of thousands of IPA dollars to top Democrats. In the New York Times story last year, Cherry conceded he was the conduit for IPA donations to Hillary Clinton, which total about $150,000. In the scathing article, Clinton said she's wasn't aware of Burgess' and IPA's history and was "reviewing" whether to return the money. There's no evidence it has been returned.

Durbin has taken $2,750 from IPA executives and another $13,150 from Cherry, according to online databases. IPA executives have given another $86,000 to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and $32,500 to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. IPA executives have given tens of thousands more to individual Democratic senators, including John Kerry and Ted Kennedy. And Cherry has given nearly $10,000 to the DSCC and DCCC.

Cherry also is a major donor to Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich, who has returned more than $100,000 in IPA money. Although he hasn't been charged, Cherry was implicated in the recent corruption indictment of Illinois insider Tony Rezko. He has been identified by the news media as "individual H" in the indictment. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, Cherry was listed as a recipient of a no-work $250,000 finder's fee on a state pension deal before the deal was quashed by the pension agency. The indictment says Individual H was substituted for another person to conceal the fee and is silent on whether Cherry was aware of the substitution. Cherry says he's been told by the feds he's neither the target or subject of prosecution, according to the Chicago Tribune. Soon after that incident, Cherry was given a controversial no-bid state contract by the Blagojevich administration to investigate insurance fraud in Illinois even though critics pointed out he had no expertise in the matter. Cherry billed more than $900,000 in six months and the state refused to release details of those billings.

Cutting through all the numbers, here's what we have. Hillary Clinton, Durbin and others are wallowing in IPA related money. The articles are all out there about the very real possibility that IPA is scamming small and medium sized business owners across the country and, in the course of those operations, sexually harassing women. Hillary, Durbin and others don't seem to care. Other politicians, including Barack Obama, returned IPA money. I wonder how the alleged fraud and sexual harassment victims feel about this?

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Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Teflon Durbin

Missed this video on our treacherous senior senator, Dick Durbin. Thanks to Backyard Conservative. It would be nice, just once, if the Illinois news media would ask him a tough question. Like how he explains this recent floor statement.


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