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The [Thursday] Papers

The regulars at the Beachwood Inn - the bar at Beach and Wood that inspired this site - don't much like change, but I'm pleased to report that the 'Wood is now serving Leinenkugel's, the pride of Chippewa Falls. In fact, Leinie's is now the Thursday night special - $2.50 a pop. Just say, "I'll have a Leinie's please!" and tip your bartender well.


Recent jukebox additions of note: "The Millennium Sampler," produced by Bob Beachwood with no apparent theme in mind, and "The Essential Kenny Loggins." Apparently there is such a thing. I played "This Is It" last night. Don't stray too much further from that one or we might have to bar you out.

UPDATE: It's a real album: "The Best of Various Artists," ha ha. (Tim Willette)

And now, on to the news.

Tony Rezko's name came up in the first presidential Democratic debate last week, and local bookmakers are now setting odds on how much longer until Emil Jones's name surfaces in the campaign. The Over/Under is one week.



* The Sun-Times reports in a front-page investigation that "Illinois Senate President Emil Jones' stepson, John Sterling, just got a $45 million no-bid contract from City Colleges of Chicago. Jones' wife and another son work for the state too. But that's just the half of it. Sterling's firm also is employed by the parent company of ComEd - the utility Jones has backed in its fight against lower electricity rates."

* The Tribune reports today on Obama's tenure in the General Assembly, including his tutelage at the feet of . . . Emil Jones. Aside from a fascinating review of Obama's not-so-noble time in Springfield, which I hope as always to address more fully in Obamathon, the Trib recounts the way Jones put Obama in front of legislation favorable to his driving political ambitions, culminating with the conversation in which Obama told Jones that Jones had the power to make him a United States senator.

The article ends with Jones recalling how hard it was get legislators Obama had alienated, such as Ricky Hendon and Donne Trotter, onboard the Obama train. But Jones did get Hendon and Trotter to go along.

"[Obama] asked Jones how he pulled it off," the Trib account says.

"I made them an offer," Jones recalled telling Obama. "And you don't want to know."

Oh, do tell. Tell us how you bought off their support for your guy. I'm sure it's a fascinating story.

Ad Preview
"Barack Obama says he has two political godfathers. One is Tony Rezko, a Chicago Machine insider indicted on charges of pay-to-play politics. The other is Emil Jones, a Chicago Machine insider and Illinois legislator known for how many of his relatives have state jobs and contracts. This is a 'new kind of politics' America doesn't need."

Paid for by the Republican National Committee.

Jay Master Jay
Today was a field day for Jay Stewart, executive director of the Better Government Association.

While the Sun-Times reports that "Jones vehemently denied ever helping his stepson get government work, Stewart says "It's amazing how well those who are related to the powerful do with government contracts."

Stewart isn't quoted on the Cook County Board's hiring of Todd Stroger's cousin, Donna Dunnings, as chief financial officer, but the local papers could probably improve their efficiency by inviting Stewart to their daily news meetings to issue quotes on all their pieces.

("Asked what she would tell naysayers who have raised concerns about nepotism," the Tribune reports, "Dunnings said, 'Off the cuff, get a life.'" Well played, Donna. Well played.)

In a story about Ald. Ed Burke's "37 law clients that did business with the city or other local government agencies" last year, Stewart says, "It's the annual Ed Burke story . . . A lot of the companies he represents get payments from the city. He's representing them on one hand and chairman of the very committee that approves these expenditures on the other hand."

Burke follows the ethics guidelines that cleverly require disclosure of conflicts of interest rather than banning conflicts of interest. Kind of like Big Jim Thompson's practice as governor to accept all the gifts he wanted; he just kept a "Gift Book" which disclosed who was trying to curry favor, and how. Transparency without ethics, what a concept.

Big Skim Thompson
Funny how all these items fit together. The Tribune played the second day of Thompson's testimony in the Conrad Black trial - not unreasonably - atop its front page today.

While the evidence presented thus far in the trial had been nothing but bad news for Black, the defense has scored big with Thompson, showing that at least some of the alleged financial improprieties involved - huge management and non-compete fees in complicated sales that went to Black and deputy David Radler instead of the company - were seemingly approved by the board of directors if only out of sheer laziness in the back-slapping bonhomie of a board that included such pillars of integrity as Richard Perle and Hank Kissinger.

That doesn't let Black off the hook, but rather increases the culpability of Thompson, chairman of the audit committee, and his board pals.

Defense lawyer Ronald Safer put it this way: "Without having a single piece of paper of support, without consulting a single outside expert, you approved $216.7 million in management fees?"

Thompson has said, in effect, that he presumed Black and Radler were acting on the company's behalf so stridently that the audit committee need not audit - though I don't recall him therefore proposing the committee to be disbanded. He had to get paid for something, after all, even if it was just for playing the role of audit committee chairman (though I think in that case Fred Thompson would have been a better casting choice).

"[Defense lawyer Edward] Greenspan walked Thompson through 11 various deal disclosures, leaving Thompson to testify again and again that he only skimmed the documents and missed the relevant passages," the Tribune reports.

"Hollinger International didn't pay you $60,000 a year to go to board meetings and skim transaction documents?" Greenspan asked.

"No, they paid me for other things," Thompson replied.

Huh? What other things? A paper route?

You don't have to be a conspiracy theorist to believe it's an insider's game, where mutual backs are washed among amoral players with no regard for the public interest. Jim Thompson, David Radler, Emil Jones, Ed Burke, even the diminutive Todd Stroger - all are cut from the same cloth. And while Barack Obama's rhetoric chastises the cynicism that this insider's game has spun, it comes from the mouth of an insider himself, one content to use the system to propel his ambitions rather than challenge the system by deed and example. Then, even as he endorses Machine candidate after Machine candidate and raises money from the Rezkos of the world even as he pretends otherwise, he blames citizens for feeling disgusted about their government - and the civic leaders who enable them. I just can't wait for Big Jim's first big fundraiser for Barack. That'll be a hoot.

* Thompson also revealed that he only "skimmed" the Sun-Times while he was on its board of directors.

* From Los Angeles: "Top Cop Regrets Tactics At Rally." He'll reget them next time, and the time after that, too.

* "Personally," Stella Foster writes today, "I challenge poets (that's what hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons called the gangsta rappers) to use substitute words such as 'party girl' in place of 'ho,' Negro for 'niggaz,' and 'switches' insetad of b----hs. Yeah, I said it!"

Can the lawyers please ask Thompson today where he was when Foster's compensation package was approved?

Yeah, I said it!

The Beachwood Tip Line: Party girls welcome.


Posted on May 3, 2007

MUSIC - December In Chicago Drill.
TV - Don't Weaken Media Ownership Limits.
POLITICS - Another SRO Crisis.
SPORTS - TrackNotes: Mom.

BOOKS - How Stereo Was Sold To A Skeptical Public.

PEOPLE PLACES & THINGS - Chicago Footwork King's Bail Battle.

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