Sunday, October 15, 2006

Where's the governor's friend? (Blagojevich, Rezko)

Yes, this scandal also touches Doyle as noted by Spivak and Bice.

My Illinois friends are always asking why I do not write about Illinois politics a little me.

I live in Wisconsin, but I work in Illinois. Illinois politics also affects my life to a certain extent.

Here are some questions being asked of Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich by today's Chicago Tribune .

Where's the governor's friend?

Published October 15, 2006

Could everyone take a moment to look for Gov. Rod Blagojevich's friend? No, not the friend who expresses his devotion at $1,500 a crack. We'd like to locate another gubernatorial friend, Antoin "Tony" Rezko. He's under indictment for allegedly scheming to squeeze millions in secret kickbacks from companies that wanted business from the state. Rezko didn't make it to federal court Friday for arraignment. Maybe this week.

If we all pitch in, though, maybe we can help the FBI find him. The alley, the closets, you never know. It's worth the effort, because locating Rezko might resolve matters the governor hasn't.

In fact, Blagojevich hasn't had much at all that's substantive to say about the charges against his pal and fundraiser. Blagojevich has talked mostly about how Rezko's indictment surprised him--as in this exchange Thursday with the editorial board of the Daily Southtown:

Q: "Ever since you became a candidate for governor, you've talked about the old way of doing business and you were going to change that whole thing, and now you're telling us that you were naive and you didn't suspect this guy could be involved in the same kind of stuff you accused your predecessors of doing. I think you're expecting us to be a little naive."

A: "I'll answer that. No, not at all. I trusted someone who, up until yesterday, had never given me any reason to believe in my personal dealings with him that--"

Q: "--despite all the rumors and reports over more than two years?"

A: "Right. That's my point. I don't judge friends by rumors and innuendo. There's a real difference between this and a systemic form of corruption in the [George] Ryan administration where they were not interested in rooting things out and trying to change things and were part of covering those kinds of things up. This is a guy and supporter and friend who, unfortunately, if these allegations are true, deceived me, and more importantly, betrayed the trust of the public and now finds himself facing criminal charges. Am I surprised? Yes. Angry? I haven't really had a chance to get to that point yet because it's a strange sense of betrayal. I think about his family and I care for his family, and this is never something you'd want to see happen to anybody."

So Blagojevich essentially is channeling George Ryan: In case of crime spree, I knew nothing. The problem with this, three weeks shy of an election, is that it forces voters to ask unpleasant questions: Is my governor clueless? Or worse?

There are other questions too. They first appeared on this page Thursday. Illinois voters--and the journalists who represent their interests--should insist that Blagojevich answer:

- Who are the "certain State of Illinois officials" with whom Rezko allegedly had clout to influence appointments to state boards?

- In the early Blagojevich years, who in the governor's office--other than the governor himself, of course--had the authority to suggest formal appointments to state boards whose decisions had huge financial impacts?

- Did any staff member ever express concern to Blagojevich that Rezko was exerting influence over his appointment process?

- Who, if the indictment is correct, preserved a scheme to steer decisions on teacher pension system investments by derailing a proposed consolidation of that fund with two others?

- The indictment describes a pay-to-play plot in which a company was told it had to pay $2 million to Rezko and fellow defendant Stuart Levine via a middleman, or it had to make a $1.5 million political donation to an unnamed public official. Who could that public official be? And was anyone else aware of an extortion plot?

- And, what does this indictment say about your 2002 campaign pledge to end "business as usual" in Illinois if you became governor?

The worst thing about all of this is that Blagojevich will probably win re-election. Why? Because he is a Democrat. It is a simple as that.

Illinois just put a former Republican governor in jail for doing exactly what this Democrat has done.

Republican George Ryan gets 6 years in prison(which he deserves) and Democrat Rod Blagojevich probably wins re-election(which he doesn't).

This is what we call a double standard!

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