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The [Wednesday] Papers

By Steve Rhodes

I can tell you that the political grapevine was buzzing on Tuesday when the Sun-Times reported - based on sources including at least one family member - that Mayor Richard M. Daley has just been positively broken up for two years about his nephew's dubious involvement in city pension funds.

It's just been tearing him apart.


But Mark Brown tries to come to the rescue today of his colleague Fran Spielman, who by all appearances was fed the swill and then retailed it to her reading public under the guise of a scoop.

My guess is that brother Bill did the deed, but who knows for sure what channels the family uses to send its messages.

When receiving information like this, reporters are often better off reporting the fact that someone is trying to shape a story rather than feeling obligated to do the source's bidding.

Or Spielman could have just as easily told her source to go on-the-record or shut up.

Would anything have really been lost if she had done so?

But under Brown's theory, people like me are kooks taking time off from rooting around Area 51 to come up with outrageous ideas about how the Daley administration operates.

"When the story of the anonymous sources dumping on Vanecko was later melded with the late-breaking news of his planned withdrawal from the pension deal, the conspiracy theorists suggested the newspaper was going soft on the mayor," Brown writes today. "Not so."

But isn't tagging those who recognize the Daley game as "conspiracy theorists" just another way of, um, going soft on the mayor?

Brown actually makes the conspiracy case quite well. By cataloguing the mayor's persistent denials about his nephew's dealings to show they are in conflict with a mayor tormented by two years of those very dealings, Brown effectively puts the lie on Daley.

And he writes that "you shouldn't doubt for a minute that it was the mayor's brain trust that uncharacteristically chose to go after Vanecko."

Isn't that what the "conspiracy theorists" are saying? The mayor's brain trust decided Vanecko had gotten too hot; it was time to cut him off at the knees.

And what better way to do that than by feeding a story to Fran Spielman about Richie's misery?

"Let's give Mayor Richard Daley a big, gushy get-well wish, so he recovers quickly from the flu," John Kass writes this morning.

"Because I bet you can't wait to hear him tell you how shocked he is that his nephew Robert Vanecko, now under federal investigation, made a fortune after receiving almost $70 million in city pension-fund money to invest. And how Vanecko did it all without Daley's knowledge.

"He'll expect you to believe it, since he figures you're a bunch of chumbolones, and that, like so many times before, you'll take a slap in the mouth and then ask, 'Please, sir, may I have another?'"

I mean, really.

"My favorite deal," Kass continues, "involves a site on South Pulaski Road that Vanecko and Davis bought with pension funds. Now, they're leasing part of the property back to City Hall for a hefty fee. Soon, the collected rent will be more than the entire property is worth.

"Is there anybody in the world dumb enough to believe Vanecko could get his hands on almost $70 million in city funds without Daley's approval?"

I'm reminded of John Callaway's interview of Ron Huberman a couple months back. Huberman was once Daley's chief of staff, as well as the former president of the CTA and the current chief executive of CPS. Huberman marveled that Daley's intricate knowledge of city departments and city business seemed to go beyond those charged with managing those departments and that business.

Combined with the "tight-knit clan" of the Daley family described by Brown himself, it's beyond the outer limits of reason to believe that Daley simultaneously knew nothing about Vanecko's deals, yet was tormented by them and tried for two years to get him to beg off without success. Daley could order a leaf to turn over in this city and it would comply.

Meanwhile, Carol Marin reminds us today that the pension boards in question, which include city officials, refused to respond to subpoeanas delivered by inspector general David Hoffman, who in turn brought in the feds.

Daley may be broken up by all of this, but it's not because he's spent two years trying to rein in his nephew. It's because the jig is up.

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Don't Be A Dick
Our Life at Work feature is back!

First it was J. Bird reporting from inside a Chicago law firm.

Then it was Maude Perkins reporting from behind the counter of a large, publicly-owned corporate coffee chain with a green logo.

Now it's Patty Hunter reporting from behind the server lines at a local pizza palace.

"Yes, your food came out awesome," Hunter writes today. But chances are, the cook that night is a cokehead, the busser was hungover, your server hated your guts and the host warned everyone about what a pain you were. We're half actors and half prostitutes in the serving industry."

Fantasy Fix
Best baseball prospect ever?


The Beachwood Tip Line: Just like Aldo Nova.


Posted on June 10, 2009

MUSIC - Millions Of New Guitar Players.
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POLITICS - When Wall Street Came To My Mobile Home Park.
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BOOKS - China Holding Swedish Publisher.


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