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The [Blago] Papers

The governor was a no-show at the Chicago Tonight debate last night that he had previously agreed in writing to attend, and for that reason alone he should be turned out of office. His campaign aides assertion that his appearance was predicated on Judy Baar Topinka agreeing to other debates that weren't held is disingenuous. This debate - sponsored by the City Club - was not a bargaining chip to be used to bully Topinka into the 10 debates the governor's campaign wanted, as much as I would have liked to see that (and as much as I wouldn't have wanted that foisted on anyone else).

There are some things you just do in a campaign, and in Illinois, when Chicago Tonight and the City Club schedule a gubernatorial debate as one of the closing campaign events down the stretch, you do it. To not do it is to show contempt for the public.

But then, Gov. Rod Blagojevich's word isn't worth a plug nickel. He is so distrusted among state legislators that they have come to demand "Memorandums of Understanding" to bind in writing the too-often unkept promises that come out of his mouth.

I wish Topinka had a better line prepared last night after host Phil Ponce thanked her for keeping her word than "You just do that," but she's right. You do.

My question to the governor is this: Just where were you last night that was more important than placing yourself before the public in perhaps its most important forum? What were you doing?

"He's 2.6 miles from here, sitting at home," Topinka's running mate, Joe Birkett, said last night.

Until you prove otherwise, we'll stick with that. You were sitting at home, perhaps watching the baseball game, or maybe watching the televised event you wouldn't deign to attend, or maybe working with your lawyers and media team to prepare a response to the explosive guilty plea your dirty state board appointee, Stuart Levine, is scheduled to enter today that will further tarnish your administration.

Or maybe you were plotting the spin on how best to defy the state attorney general's conclusion that federal subpoeanas are public documents and you should fork them over to the news organizations (and Better Government Association) asking for them.

Or maybe you were huddled with your wife, Patti, mapping out the damage control to her suspicious real estate commissions.

Loyal Lieutenant
Funny thing is, Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn wasn't too busy to attend last night's event. Blagojevich's reasoning in not showing up apparently doesn't extend to his running mate.

Still, it was awfully sad seeing Pat Quinn defend his boss. On the debate issue, Quinn said "Topinka kind of ducked and dodged" on the governor's request for 10 debates. Please.

Still, Quinn got off easy; I would have liked to see segment host Elizabeth Brackett ask him where the governor was and maybe suggest he give him a call and have him come on down.

Birkett's performance was more effective, particularly in asking Quinn how he could accuse Topinka of sitting by while the corruption of George Ryan ran rampant while he has sat by for four years as the corruption of the Blagojevich administration has burgeoned.

Seeing Green Party lieutenant governor candidate Julie Samuels, there calm and serious, clean and honest, in the midst of the bickering, was reminiscent of what propelled Jesse Ventura to victory through his inclusion in debates in Minnesota in 1998. Sitting in between the bickering Democrat and Republican, Ventura was able to offer an independent alternative to voters who were fed up.

Green Party gubernatorial candidate Rich Whitney was indeed interviewed after Topinka, but Blagojevich - and perhaps this was the design - denied the public a true three-way debate that would have left voters with the correct impression that Whitney was the adult in the room.

Speaking of adults in the room, Jim Edgar and Dawn Clark Netsch also appeared in a segment, and it was hard not to marvel at the depreciation in candidates we're saddled with now. Either would also make a fine United States Senator. In fact, Netsch would have made an excellent governor, as, I think, Paul Vallas would have, had the Machine not installed Blagojevich, a mediocre backbencher at best as a congressman, as a phony reformer instead.

"It's unfair and completely ridiculous to suggest she should keep track of every client she does business with to see if they have contracts with the state," said Blagojevich spokeswoman Abby Ottenhoff, of Patti Blagojevich's real estate business.


Lawyers vet their cases for conflicts of interest within their firms. Reporters try to be similarly vigilant. Plus, Patti Blagojevich only has a few clients a year. What's ridiculous is that a real estate agent whose husband is the governor wouldn't keep track of whether her clients had contracts with the state. Unless she didn't want to know - or already did.

Follow the Bouncing Blago
Just to diagram the Patti Blagojevich story, as reported by the Tribune, a bit.

"When questioned by a Tribune reporter, Anita Mahajan denied her friendship with the Blagojeviches and said she didn't know who Patricia Blagojevich was until someone brought it up at the first closing."

Mahajan then referred questions to her lawyer, who said, "Why shouldn't she hire Patricia Blagojevich? They've been friends for a long time."

Okay, then.

Of course, the Trib also noted that Anita Mahajan's husband, Amrish, had donated $10,000 to Blagojevich's political campaigns. He has also lent millions of dollars to Tony Rezko, with whom Patti also has done a lucrative chunk of real estate business. I won't rehash the further constellation of conflicting interests here, but I recommend you read the story and ask if Patti's deals even remotely passes the smell test.

Accidental Honesty
"We understand how it may look, that there is a problem with appearances," Amrish Mahajan said Thursday. "But if we had even thought about that, we would have never hired Mrs. Blagojevich."



Posted on October 27, 2006

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BOOKS - How CPL Books Get From Here To There.

PEOPLE PLACES & THINGS - Remembering James Randi: Hero.

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