Monday, December 22, 2008

Plenty of blame to go around

Campaign Contribution Limits: Illinois is one of five states that have no limits at all. Give a grand, fifty grand, a million. Perfectly legal.

Various Limits (38 states + D.C.)
Ban on Corporate Contributions; No Other Limits (4 states)
Limit on Corporate Contributions; No Other Limits (3 states)
Ban on Monetary Contributions by Political Parties; No Other Limits (1 state)
WHITE STATES: No Limits from Any Source (5 states)

Let’s move past cringing in shame and embarrassment over the Blagojevich fiasco and look at how we got here. It’s not enough to blast the “culture of corruption” and wail with John Kass about the “combine.”

It’s structural. It’s also about people – the people who, because they everything to gain by the system as it is, hold hard and fast to the status quo. Who are they? The Dynasties.

Blago is the product of Dick Mell, though they have indeed since had a falling out. Todd Stroger, who has nearly his entire extended family on the county payroll, is the product of John Stroger. Daddy Stroger spawned an ocean of others who were indebted to him as well. Mr. Speaker For Life gave us Lisa. Emil has now provided us with his kid. Comptroller Hynes was created by 19th Ward Committeeman Tom Hynes. And Daley, famously known for saying “what’s the point of political power if you can’t help out your friends and family?” – well, enough said. Dynasties protect and promote their own.

And what have the dynasties created?

No limits on campaign contributions. Illinois is one of five states that allow the unbridled excess of unlimited campaign contributions – be they by political action committees (formed by parties, party leaders or interest groups), corporations, unions or individuals. Who in their right mind just loves some state pol so much that they would give them $25,000 – or hundreds of thousands. I can see it with Obama; there was a lot of love out there. But tell me Blago’s contributors were just loving him up. That’s not love. That’s paying for something in return. The dynasties and those who are indebted to them ensure these laws do not change. That's ****in' golden.

Opacity in government. Illinois does not have freedom of information; we have Guantanamo of information. It’s all locked up and locked down. It isn’t just Blagojevich. How about Todd Stroger’s gag edict on staff? Open meetings? Ha. Ever seen the state budget process? It’s all done (when it used to be done, that is) behind closed doors. Few object. The Dynasties love operating in the shade.

Over-reliance on the feds. Okay, Lisa Madigan deferred to Fitzgerald on the Blagojevich investigation, but there’s lots of corruption to go around. Do she and does the State’s Attorney really have to sit on their hands rather than investigate the stuff going on all around them? In other states, both the AG and state’s attorneys prosecute corruption. It’s not up to one guy – fortuitously nominated by an outsider who knew exactly what he was bequeathing Illinois.

And the people of the State of Illinois?

Is there pride in corruption? The people of Illinois almost giggle when they talk about corruption. The U.S. Attorney’s Office supplies some of the titillating jocularity as it names its investigations like they are B-movies: Operation Greylord, Operation Haunted Hall, Operation Silver Shovel, Operation Safe Roads, and now, Operation Board Games. We compete for the status of “most corrupt.”
Maybe, finally, it doesn’t seem so funny anymore.

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