Category Archives: peter fitzgerald

>REACT: The Illinois old guard can’t stop justice — hooray!

>I noticed that former Speaker Denny Hastert’s name popped up in the trial of influence peddler Anthony Rezko. It was alleged in sworn testimony that Rezko attempted to use his influence with former White House political guru Karl Rove (thumbing his nose at reform) and former House Speaker Denny Hastert (the chubby guy on the right)to get U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald (pictured left) fired. Originally nominated by then Senator Peter Fitzgerald (no relation), prosecutor Fitzgerald wasted no time to being to justice the flagrantly illegal customs of the Illinois political establishment. Rezko could feel the laser sight on his forehead.

Whether the scheme to remove Fitzgerald was ever launched is debatable, but there is some evidence that the plot was real. Despite an amazingly impressive record as a federal prosecutor, Fitzgerald was inexplicably placed on the under achiever list by the Justice Department as part of a mass firing pogrom.

Fitzgerald apparently dodged the bullet because he was investigating the White House at the time, and his firing would have created a seismic public reaction against the President. It would be at least as damaging as Richard Nixon’s firing of Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox in the midst of the Watergate investigation. And, you know how much good that did Nixon.

There is no doubt that the Rove/Hastert combo would have sent Fitzgerald packing if they could. They had repeatedly used their influence to protect the corrupt Republican establishment in Illinois. Ironically, this backroom dealing was beneficial to the Democrats, but a disservice to the President – putting Illinois’ electoral vote beyond his reach politically.

Rove has long been the protector of Robert Kjellander, the insider bipartisan wheeler-dealer, who has made millions from his political friendships and GOP party positions – including a stint as Finance Chairman for the National Republican Committee, courtesy of Rove.

Hastert tried everything he could to derail the Fitzgerald appointment in the first place. There is every reason to believe that he would be more than happy to remove him now. Hastert failed only because he could not overcome the highly protected Senate tradition of having the senator of the president’s party pick the U.S. Attorney. The senate lock stepped behind their colleague and their valued tradition.

Reform will never come to the corruption-ravaged and hapless Illinois GOP until guys like Kjellander and Hastert retire from the scene for good — or are taken out by Fitzgerald, the GOP’s number one reformer.

The good news is that Fitzgerald is virually untouchable now. In the last election, even the democrat cadidates for senate had to promise to keep Fitzgerald, including Barack Obama. Of course, if Obama does make it to the White House, you can bet that protecting his friends in the Chicago Democrat machine will trump any campaign promise. Let’s just hope that Fitzhgerald gets in enough indictments before he is ousted for doing too good of a job.

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>REACT: Denny, we hardly knew ya.

>Illinois Congressman Denny Hastert will step down from Congress before the end of the year. He will leave with the distinction of having served longest in a position he well might never have held — Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. At the time of his ouster in the wake of the 2006 Democrat election tsunami, Hastert was, with only 8 years incumbency, the longest serving Republican Speaker in American history. He also is among the most undistinguished speakers. (Ironically, he beat the record of fellow Illinoisan, Joe Cannon, who many consider to have been the most powerful speaker in American history.)

Hastert was an accidental speaker, gaining the office only after Newt Gingrich’s successor-apparent, Bob Livingston of Louisiana, was forced to admit some adulterous indiscretions in his past – suffering more from the hypocrisy, after having tossed some sizeable stones at President Bill Clinton on the very same subject.

To me, it is remarkable that in Hastert’s history making tenure, one can hardly find a significant accomplishment. While he may have presided over the Republican majority for eight years, he was never much of a leader on the national scene. Having hardly made a ripple in his own time, Hastert is not likely to endure in historic hindsight – his sole accomplishment being longevity.

In his original acceptance speech, Hastert set forth his priorities in what he called the “four big challenges” — Social Security stabilization, Medicare reform, economic security, tax relief, a leaner and more efficient government; stronger national defense, and improved K- 12 education. (Yeah, I know he called them the FOUR challenges, but hey, the guy was a wrestling coach, not a math teacher.) Regardless how you count them, by his own challenge, Hastert failed across the board. In addition, his promise to lead a more congenial Congress was quashed by some of the most acrimonious partisanship since before the Civil War. Under his leadership, Hastert not only lost the speakership, he lost the Congress.

While Hastert was initially considered a philosophic brother of his predecessor, Newt Gingrich, they differed dramatically in style, strategy and intellectual power. Unlike Gingrich, Hastert eschewed the spotlight. He seemed to consider public communication as more of an inconvenience of his office than an opportunity to advance his, or the GOP, agenda. For Gingrich, the speakership was an ideological soap-box to espouse unbending conviction, for Hastert it was a pragmatic position for collegial compromise. Gingrich risked survival for his great causes. Hastert seemed to have no greater cause than survival. Gingrich is known for changing the course of a nation. Hastert is known for staying the course. If Gingrich was Meet the Press, then Hastert was Let’s Make a Deal.

Even in Illinois, Hastert’s reputation as an old-style “good ole boy” leaves little for the home town boosters to cheer about. His most memorable actions were dubious accomplishments. He is remembered for passing over fellow Illinoisan, Phil Crane, from the chairmanship of the all powerful Ways and Means Committee –a disservice to tradition, Phil Crane and the people of Illinois. It was a decision that ultimately cost the Republicans Crane’s seat.

Hastert again proved himself to be the consummate insider when he joined the corrupt Illinois GOP establishment in attempting to derail the appointment of Patrick Fitzgerald as the new U.S. Attorney for the northern district of Illinois. This effort, too, ran against the longstanding tradition of conceding the appointment to the senior senator of the President’s party – in this case Senator Peter Fitzgerald (no relationship to the appointee).

This was not the only time Hastert had crossed swords with the reform minded young senator on behalf of the boys in the back (nee smoke-filled) rooms – led by the criminal administration of Governor George Ryan. Over Fitzgerald’s attempt as fiscal responsibility, Hastert served up sizzling “pork” for Ryan massive Build Illinois rape of the taxpayers. He tried to shut down Fitzgerald’s efforts to bring accountability to the third airport fiasco. He attempted to thwart Fitzgerald’s effort to prevent Ryan from making the new Lincoln library and museum another cesspool of political cronyism.

Hastert also discovered that his throw-back concept of insider leadership was a relic with little relevance for the modern political game when he botched the handling of the Mark Foley “boys are toys” scandal. He mixed collegiality with Pontius Pilate-like washing of the hands to avoid addressing the issue at the time it was brought to his attention.

Most people do not know of Hastert’s record breaking tenure. His loss of the speakership is largely unnoticed because his presence there was largely unnoticed. He will now retire from Congress with most of America never having known he was even there. Hastert’s only enduring image may be his rotund Nast cartoon physique.

When the inevitable book is written about the career of Denny Hastert, it will be a short tome – lots of pictures and don’t wait for the movie. After noting that he was the accidental Speaker, who stayed a relatively a long time, what more can be said?

>REACT: Latter day Ryan earned prison

>It appears after years of delaying tactics, former Illinois Governor George Ryan is heading to the hoosegow. It is a long sad story.

During most of my adult life, I have been aware of George Ryan – sometimes dealing with him personally.

There are really two George Ryans. The first was the up and coming legislator. That George Ryan was an idealist, conservative and guy as good as his word. He reached conservative hero status when he engineered the defeat of the so-called Equal Right Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. In denying the ERA Illinois’ ratification vote, Ryan gave the coup d’gras to the feminists’ effort to tweak the Constitution.

The early Ryan was a man of principle.

When and why the latter day Ryan emerged is not at all clear. There was no reported seminal event. Rather a gradual, often imperceptible, erosion. The latter day Ryan is a cynical man, lead by power and greed over principle. He abandoned conservative positions and personal ethics simultaneously – some say an inevitable pairing. Many early friends and supporters either separated in disappointment or were brutally cast aside as irrelevant to his lust for power and money. Those who stood in the way suffered even more.

His big sins were well laid out along the evidential trail by the federal prosecutors. Like the tip of the iceberg, however, the larger mass of his misdeeds never surfaced. Virtually all of us in the political arena around Ryan have personal stories of his political brutality.

One of my own experiences came through my friendship and working relationship with Bill and Carol Dart, among Springfield’s most prominent players. He was chief lobbyist for the then powerful Illinois Manufacturer’s Association. She was among the most respected and effective independent lobbyists in the state capital.

Ryan owed his early success in large measure to Bill, who had single-handedly engineered the deal that put the Kankakee Republican in the Senate presidency. Year’s later, Ryan would engineer Bill’s ouster from the IMA as part of a Ryan insider take over.

Around that same time, Carol and I were working for the same client on a piece of legislation. One day the client called me to ask what to do about Carol – and if I would take over the relationship alone, if necessary. My contact said they were astonished when Ryan called them in to tell them they would get nowhere unless they “fired that cunt” and hire a lobbyist he recommended. They assured me that the c-word was an exact quote. Having seen the latter day Ryan, I was NOT astonished. This was who he became.

To the credit of the client, they decided to defy the Governor, and keep Carol as the principle lobbyist. In the spirit that good things happen to good people, our client came out okay when Senate President Pate Philip defied the Governor on the legislation.

Because we knew the latter day Ryan extremely well, from this and many other incidences, Bill, Carol and I broke life-long traditions of supporting Republican governors and endorsed and openly supported Ryan’s Democrat opponent, Glenn Poshard. We knew then what the public would only discover years later. The latter day George was a crook.

Glenn called Ryan out on his corruption, but the protective press denied Poshard the credibility his charges deserved. It was only after Ryan’s election, and the dedicated work of a truly independent prosecutor, that the public was finally able to see the real George Ryan, of the latter day. With Ryan’s election, the atmosphere in Springfield became so hostile that the Darts left the state. I remained to occasionally suffer the sling and arrows or Ryan’s revenge. He cost me a few clients along the way.

Many wondered if the cadre of political thugs that formed his inner circle had unduly influenced the once respected public official, or if they merely were an extension of his own metamorphous from the well intention Dr. Jekyll to the evil Mr. Hyde. There are those who believed Ryan’s power and money crazed actions we committed by his aides, and that he was mostly unaware of them. Some of that excuse was found in his trial defense – and ultimately repudiated by the weight of evidence. The buck stopped at the Ryan’s desk – every buck he could get his hands on, in fact.

Some say his release of the death row reprobates was and act of conscience, others say a crass exploitation to create public sympathy going into his trial. I cannot say if it was about pre-trial sympathy, but I am pretty damn sure it was not about conscience. Not many, friend or foe, ever saw much of a conscience in the latter day George Ryan.

Perhaps the most tragically eloquent example of the cost of corruption was the 1994 deaths of the six Willis children, caused by an unqualified truck driver who obtained a license through bribes to Ryan’s campaign fund when he was Illinois Secretary of State.

The latter day Ryan is old, but has not lost any of his survival skills. He has not repented. He fights prison with all the cunning and guile he exhibited throughout his carrier. It is sad, to be sure. But, do not pity George Ryan, he has gotten no more than he deserves – and maybe not even as much.