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Rahm's Rules: Part 1

First in a series.

"A member of the Lemont-Bromberek District 113A school board was disqualified Tuesday from running for re-election after an electoral board determined her nominating petitions were not fastened together," TribLocal Lemont reported earlier this month in "School Board Candidate Removed From Ballot After Paperclip Debate."

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"Richard Hissong has been knocked off the April 5 ballot while Mario Palacios can continue to run for alderman, the Des Plaines electoral board ruled," TribLocal Des Plaines reported last spring.

"Hissong fell short by one signature of the 41 he needed. He claims one signature was invalidated because it was missing a middle initial.

"'I don't feel it's worth my time and my effort at this point,' Hissong said when asked if he would appeal . . .

"At the hearing, Hissong said he thought he had objected to the finding about the missing initial during the Cook County clerk's review of the signatures, but the electoral board said there is no record of that objection.

"Hissong brought a letter from the voter, claiming she did sign the document. But the electoral said there was nothing it could do now."

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"He's the second candidate kicked off the ballot. The board earlier ruled that Cliff Matthews didn't follow various procedures.

"The objections to the . . . men, who all filed to run against incumbent Mark Walsten, were made by Ted Roediger, chairman for the 'Citizens for Mark Walsten' committee.

"Besides claiming that Palacios didn't have enough valid signatures, Roediger also objected to 10 additional names because residents wrote 'DP' as part of their address instead of 'Des Plaines.' Roediger withdrew his objections when he learned that even if the names were thrown out, Palacios would have enough valid signatures.

"'I'm not going to be here to nitpick stuff,' Palacios said of the abbreviations, adding that taxpayer dollars were being wasted.

"'If you feel this is a waste of your time, you can say you don't want to run,' Moylan responded."

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"A Kane County judge Thursday refused to overturn Elgin's decision to prohibit a city council candidate's name from appearing on the ballot this spring," TribLocal Elgin reported last spring.

"David Koldos, 50, had sought a court order to overrule the city's decision. He filed his nominating paperwork with the city clerk on Nov. 22, which was the deadline. But he failed to include a receipt to show he had filed a statement of financial interest with the Kane County clerk.

"He went to the county clerk's office the following day, filed the financial statement, and then attempted to hand it in at Elgin, but the city rejected his nominating package.

"Koldos said he received conflicting information about the filing requirements from the city and the county. But Thursday, Judge Thomas Mueller rejected Koldos' complaint.

"'You admit that you failed to conform to the requirements,' Mueller said. 'Because they are statutory, the court has no authority to bend the rules. They are what they are.'"

*

"Two weeks ago, Andrea Raila was eagerly gathering signatures to her nominating petitions and talking about cleaning up our rancid property tax system once she got elected Cook County Assessor." Ben Joravsky reported for the Reader in November 2009.

"Today, she withdrew from the race.

"Apparently, she didn't gather enough signatures.

"'I got over 12,000,' she said.

"And?

"'I needed 16,000.'

"Actually, she needed 8,147 signatures to be exact. But rule of thumb is that she needed at least twice as many signatures as the law requires in order to survive a challenge she knew was coming from Joe Berrios, who is, among other things, the chairman of the Cook County Democratic Party, a long-serving commissioner of the property tax board of review, and the front runner in the race to succeed Jim Houlihan as assessor. Houlihan is not running for re-election.

"Soon after Raila submitted her petitions last week they were scrutinized by First Ward Democratic Committeeman Jesse Juarez, a Joe Berrios ally. Raila saw the writing on the wall.

"'I was proud of getting 12,000, but once I saw someone had pulled them I knew they probably wouldn't be enough,' she says. 'I talked to my family and supporters and my lawyer [Richard Means] and I decided that it would be too risky and expensive to go through the challenge.'"

*

Raila was the reformer in the race long before Forrest Claypool jumped in.

So by all means, let's kick people off the ballot for paperclips and middle initials, but Rahm's Emanuel's residency? How dare you subvert democracy!

The Chicago Way
Ballot challenges are such an ingrained aspect of Chicago (and Illinois) political life that the Chicago News Cooperative recently promoted its subscriber-only coverage of the filings thusly:

"Monday at 9:00 am is the opening of ballot petition filing in Chicago. Early And Often will be there to cover the news as it breaks. Our petition filing coverage will be free to the public: We're opening this coverage to non-subscribers because Chicago's 'election before the election' is too important for anyone to miss."

And, of course, our ersatz reformer hometown president won his first elected office in Illinois by knocking all of his four Democratic opponents off the ballot - right after completing his work expanding voter registration.

"A close examination of Obama's first campaign clouds the image he has cultivated throughout his political career: The man now running for president on a message of giving a voice to the voiceless first entered public office not by leveling the playing field, but by clearing it," the Tribune reported in its "Making of a Candidate" series.

"To my mind, we were just abiding by the rules that had been set up," Obama told the Tribune then.

The incumbent at the time, state Sen. Alice Palmer, decided she didn't have the resources to fight back.

Another candidate was left 69 signatures short of those needed to stay on the ballot because he used polling sheets of registered voters that had just gone through a massive purge.

So it's a bit rich for the media - and Rahm's campaign - to suddenly summon up a rather large dose of outrage over the current proceedings. Where has everybody been?

Protecting the status quo.

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"They apparently start 'em out early in the North Side's 5th Congressional District," Greg Hinz reported for Crain's two years ago. "A pair of unknown but connected college kids there have hired a high-powered lawyer and are busy trying to knock candidates off the ballot in the district's race for Congress by challenging their nominating petitions.

"The duo - Rudolph J. Trejo III and Mary Katerine Scala - haven't responded to phone messages or a request for comment left with their lawyer, Thomas Jaconetty, who in his day job works for Cook County Democratic Chairman Joseph Berrios. Mr. Jaconetty won't say who's paying his fee, which is likely to be at least a couple of grand.

"But one of the other candidates in the race to succeed Rahm Emanuel in Congress, Dr. Paul Bryar, admits that the pair is connected to his campaign.

"The good doctor - who says on his web site that he will be 'a new voice' and 'will change business as usual' in Congress - referred all other questions to his campaign manager, Joe Woodward.

"Mr. Woodward said both of the challengers are students and volunteers for the Bryar campaign. He argued that such challenges are normal operating practice in Chicago politics, and noted that a former state senator named Barack Obama got to Springfield by knocking the incumbent senator, Alice Palmer, off the ballot in a petition challenge."

That Thomas Jaconetty would be this one:

via Capitol Fax

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Meanwhile, real ballot fraud is considered a part of the local flavor.

"House Speaker Michael Madigan usually takes no chances when it comes to his district," Rich Miller reported on his Capitol Fax Blog. "Madigan's Republican opponents are generally friendlies that can be counted on to safely disappear.

"This year's self-sacrificing victim is Patrick John Ryan, whom the Republicans say 'is a 30-year old resident of Chicago's 13th Ward who voted in Democratic primaries until this year.' He has no campaign committee, which means he hasn't raised any real money."

Ryan was so elusive that local Republicans sent out a search party Ryan and tried to hold a fundraiser for their erstwhile friend. No dice.

Ha ha ha ha!

But it's not funny.

Michael Madigan's favorite election lawyer is Michael Kasper.

Here are some of the newspaper citations Kasper himself uses on the website of his law firm:

"As anyone who know anything about the arcane world of election law will tell you, Michael Kasper is one of Michael Madigan's favorite weapons. When the house speaker and state Democratic chieftain wants to bounce some nettlesome challenger from the ballot, generally to protect the incumbency of a legislative loyalist, he tends to bring in Kasper, who know the intricacies of the election law like the back of his hand."

- Chicago Reader, March 8, 2007

"[U]nfortunately for [the candidate], he's up against one of the masters of the election law game in Kasper, who generally plies his trade knocking off independents challenging legislative allies of house speaker Michael Madigan."

- Chicago Reader, January 17, 2007

"[H]is campaign has so much clout it's been able to use the services of Michael Kasper, an election-law expert who rarely takes on clients unless they're recommended by [Mayor Richard] Daley or Illinois house speaker Michael Madigan."

- Chicago Reader, February 14, 2003

Guess who is Rahm's election lawyer? Mike Kasper.

Let the people decide!

Reform For Rahm
Now that Rahm is in trouble, a number of pundits and instant experts have taken a sudden interest in ballot restrictions. Welcome!

Typical, though: The powers-that-be are only interested in reform when it the current system is used against them. Then adjustments must be made.

Some of us, however, are not late to this party.

Here's what I wrote in 2002:

"When Daley was first elected mayor, it took about 4,400 petition signatures to get on the ballot. Now it takes 25,000. By contrast, it takes 1,000 signatures to get on the ballot for mayor in Los Angeles and 7,500 in New York City. [The late Sun-Times political columnist] Neal called the signature requirement 'a lifetime lease on the mayor's office.'

"How did this come to be? When the General Assembly passed legislation in 1995 making the mayoral race nonpartisan, the law didn't include a signature requirement. So lawyers for the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners set the level at an absurdly high number for new party candidates and independents. It's hard to find anybody who likes the onerous requirement. The Chicago Tribune editorial page says, 'The rules of the game are stacked to deny Chicagoans a choice on Election Day.' Even the Daley-friendly Sun-Times editorial page says: "We do not believe the democratic process should be skewed to serve him."

The process, though, should be skewed to serve Rahm, according to each paper's current editorial position.

In November 2009, I wrote "Change The Balloting Rules: Arcane Rules Are Absurd":

"It will be up to the lawyers now to determine whether state Rep. Deb Mell stays on the ballot despite not using her current address on nominating petitions.

"But should it be?

"If she violated the rules, she violated the rules. Daddy Mell has gotten candidates kicked off ballots for years; even Barack Obama used petition challenges to knock off his opponents in his first run for state senate.

"But is this really any way to run an election?

"Sure, petitions shouldn't be fraudulent, but the arcane rules that knock candidates out of races really seem designed to protect incumbents with staffers and lawyers at the ready and the wealthy challengers who can afford to play the perverted game.

"What about the little guy?

"This year's poster case is that of Andrea Raila, the independent Cook County Assessor candidate who dropped out rather than fight a challenge from the chairman of the Cook County Democratic Party. Raila needed 8,147 signatures to get on the ballot. She turned in more than 12,000. But candidates generally need at least twice as many signatures - if not more - to survive a rigorous challenge because so many names turn out to be invalid.

"That's not to excuse invalid signatures, but to point out how hard it can be for independents and/or challengers to meet the requirements necessary to mount a run. And that's before paying a lawyer to defend your petitions.

"And when a candidacy can depend on whether your petitions are "properly bound," to name one rule, something's not right.

"I don't like Deb Mell. I'm not here to defend her. And the rules shouldn't be changed for her. Maybe she used an old address for some devious reason. But maybe in the future we shouldn't kick someone out of a race for public office if they honestly make that sort of mistake."

*

I still mean that. Change the rules, first. Second, interpret the spirit of the rules, not the absurdities that highly paid lawyers can dredge up out of the darkness of their souls.

That would be real election reform, and that's where our focus should be going forward, because this shouldn't be about Rahm.

In fact, Rahm doesn't deserve to mentioned in the same breath as the injustices described here that no one seems to care about.

The residency requirement is not an absurdity, but one of the most basic requirements we have. You have to live here - reside, if you will - for a year before the election in order to run. This isn't about paperclips or missing middle initials, though Rahm's lawyers and media agents have ginned up a campaign to make you think so.

The rules are the rules. Rahm and his cohort have spent a political lifetime establishing the rules, twisting the rules to their will, bludgeoning others with the rules - whatever it takes to win when you can outlawyer anyone who may challenge you. Now, if there is any justice in Illinois, a dubious proposition I know, Rahm will have to live the rules of his own making.

Because there can be no other valid reading of the law - despite what Rahm's courtiers in the media are telling you - than the one that was just made by the Illinois Appellate Court.

And for those trying to argue that common sense says otherwise, just consider where Rahm has lived for the last two years: In Washington, D.C. Then consider where Rahm is living now: in a home he had to rent from a friend because he had nowhere else to stay.

The law is a little more technical than that, of course. But not by much. As we shall see in the next installment.

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Comments welcome.




Permalink

Posted on January 27, 2011


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