I suspect that much of the country is watching the roiling, boiling, criminal malfeasance of our latest Governor, Rod Blagojevich (D) with disbelief. The only disbelief Illinois residents experienced was that Hot Rod had actually ACCELERATED his greedy piggery after being placed under investigation and under the spotlight over three years ago by no less than Federal Prosecutor exemplar, Peter Fitzgerald.
We have a long bipartisan history of corruption in our statehouse and governor's mansion (not that Blagojevich actually spent much time there). In time Blago will achieve the distinction of being our second consecutive governor sent to prison, following grumpy George Ryan (R) to the big house. Blagojevich will likely become the fourth of the last eight Illinois governors to be convicted of corruption. A fifth Governor William Strattan (R) escaped conviction after indictment and trial.
Illinois politics reads like a list of comic book crooks, miscreants like Secretary of State Paul Powell whose Springfield apartment was found to contain shoe boxes stuffed with money, discovered after he suddenly died in office, or Ryan's cast of henchmen like Rodger (The Hog) Stanley, or the pasty puffball and Caribbean bon viant, Scott Fawell who was persuaded to drop a dime on his former boss to spare his fiancee jail time.
Judy Barr Topinka, the last Republican gubernatorial candidate to run against Blagojevich, was up to her eyeballs in a political cesspool filled to overflowing by Republican patronage chief Big Bill Cellini. The biggest stinker in that cesspool was the taxpayer funded sweetheart deal to refurbish the Abraham Lincoln Hotel in downtown Springfield. A state funded loan was herded through the legislature that only requires that the "connected" investors pay back the loan in years the hotel manages to turn a profit, not terms generally available on the open market. In spite of these generous terms Topinka had at one point pushed legislation to absolve 75% of the loan's principle on this boondoggle, leaving the taxpayers of Illinois holding the bag.
In a more personal example of how things work in Illinois, I had, in the early 1990's turned over internal United Parcel Service company documents in a class action lawsuit that was brought against the corporation because of tactics that forced many of its employees to work through their "unpaid," lunch hour, a direct violation of the "Fair Labor Standards Practice Act."
These documents established that UPS was not only aware of the practice but were actually tracking the percentage of drivers that were forced to work thru all or part of their lunch-time. UPS, upon learning of the uncovering of this document, responded by dispatching a lobbyist to Springfield and succeeded in having the law modified to exempt them, -and only them- from legal culpability in this matter. Incredibly, in a separate vote, UPS came within one vote of getting a "retroactive exemption," for their violation of this law.
Afterwards attorney David Mark of Seattle, Washington, phoned me and sputtered in amazement that he was flabbergasted at how politics worked in Illinois. Attorney Mark told me it was like being witness to a scene out of the "Wild West," and that the UPS lobbyist was all but handing money out on the floor of the Illinois House and Senate.
Not much has changed in Illinois politics since then, only the names and faces.
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