Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
June 26, 2008
POLITICS: "I didn't go around wielding a bunch of clout."

...and the entire city of Chicago goes under the bus, along with the whole Illinois Democratic Party. Barack Obama never really knew you:

"You will recall that for my entire political career here, I was not the the endorsed candidate of any political organization here," the Democratic presidential hopeful said at the Westin Hotel downtown. "I didn't go around wielding a bunch of clout. My reputation in Springfield was as an independent. There is no doubt I had friends and continue to have friends who come out of the more traditional school of Chicago politics but that's not what launched my political career and that's not what I've ever depended on to get elected, and I would challenge any Chicago reporter to dispute that basic fact."

Well, so much for Obama touting his experience as a significant player in the state legislature. Of course, Obama's managed to make his records as a State Senator disappear, and aside from his war speech and his first book, it's awfully hard to find any evidence of his public statements before 2004. Presumably, his Illinois record on guns will be next down the memory hole.

Aside from his own record, it's not hard to see why Obama wants nothing to do with his old friends and allies, now that even Illinois Democrats are talking about impeaching their own governor (more here), among the many scandals and fiascoes surrounding the Illinois Democrats. (Maybe the socialist New Party will still have him). Of course, the Chicago Sun-Times isn't fooled enough to avoid mentioning this:

Obama friend Tony Rezko was convicted of corrupting state government, but Obama was never implicated and has returned contributions Rezko made to his Senate campaign. Obama did run as an independent Democrat but worked closely with state Senate President Emil Jones, an old-school organization Democrat. Obama runs for president with the full blessing of Mayor Daley.

"Worked closely" is, I guess, a euphemism for Jones basically creating most of Obama's legislative record by adding Obama's name on other people's bills, and bringing home a whole lot of Obama-directed pork ever since. As Jones once said, "I'm gonna make me a U.S. Senator":

Jones appointed Obama sponsor of virtually every high-profile piece of legislation, angering many rank-and-file state legislators who had more seniority than Obama and had spent years championing the bills. ...

During his seventh and final year in the state Senate, Obama's stats soared. He sponsored a whopping 26 bills passed into law -- including many he now cites in his presidential campaign when attacked as inexperienced.

It was a stunning achievement that started him on the path of national politics -- and he couldn't have done it without Jones.

(A pattern Obama has continued in Washington). This would be the same Emil Jones currently under fire for dipping into his campaign fund, apparently for personal expenses:

Before championing a big legislative pay increase, Illinois Senate President Emil Jones provided himself with tens of thousands of dollars in interest-free loans from his campaign fund.

Under Illinois' relatively loose campaign-finance laws, there's nothing illegal about politicians dipping into their campaign funds that way. But it's highly unusual.

Since 1989, the South Side Democrat has taken out $120,528 in personal loans from his political fund and repaid $96,900 of that amount -- leaving nearly $25,000 unaccounted for.

Just last year, Jones withdrew $5,800 from his fund in 20 separate loans of $200 or $300 each between July and December.

In October alone, he had eight disbursements of $300 apiece over a 23-day period.

Last week, Jones sparked criticism when he proclaimed, "I need a pay raise." That was in support of a pending 12 percent legislative pay raise set to take effect unless legislators took steps to block it. Jones stands to see his salary rise from $91,824 to $102,547.

A government watchdog group questioned whether Jones is using his campaign for personal expenses rather than political ones, under a loophole in a 1998 law that was supposed to ban the personal use of campaign funds.

"It absolutely looks like a slush fund," says Cindi Canary, director of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform. "He is living under a whole set of rules that no one else in the public is."

Jones' camp declined repeated requests from the Chicago Sun-Times for comment on how he has spent the money from his interest-free loans. A top aide would say only that some of the money was spent on gasoline. Campaign records don't appear to show what the loans were for. Nor is there anything in the public record stating the terms of the loans.

As chairman of his political fund, Jones decides the loan terms -- and whether the loans ever need to be repaid.

"It's the kind of open-ended float you would not get if you went to a commercial bank and asked for a loan," says Kent Redfield, a University of Illinois at Springfield political scientist who studied Jones' records for Canary's group. "It's 'other people's money.' [Campaign contributors] don't give you money to help you out with your lifestyle. They give you money to help you out with your campaign. If you rely on your fund to augment your lifestyle, that's a conflict of interest."

Emil Jones, the City of Chicago and the Illinois Democratic party, come on down and join the crowd:


Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:28 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (9) | TrackBack (0)

Wow....thanks Chicago...for such a wonderful presidential hopeful. The rest of us in the US really appreciate what you have done for us..........NOT!

Posted by: Sparky at June 26, 2008 11:15 PM

I was not the the endorsed candidate of any political organization here," the Democratic presidential hopeful said at the Westin Hotel downtown. "I didn't go around wielding a bunch of clout. My reputation in Springfield was as an independent.

OMG, I just puked! King Daley endorced him for the US Senate!! The Machine managed to get his opponent's sealed divorce papers opened--ruining his campaign and life!!! Emil Jones the long standing IL Sen leader is his political Daddy that tossed him soft ball legislation to make him look like he has done something!!!! This is so disgusting.

Posted by: joe from chi at June 27, 2008 8:05 AM

I'm not an Obama fan at all so I'm certainly biased.

But..this is utterly unbelievable. How does he say this without laughing or getting a red face?

Posted by: alex at June 27, 2008 8:30 AM

Having grown up in the Quad-Cities, I have to say that anyone within a 300 mile radius of Chicago knows about the Chicago Machine.

Anyone who knows this Machine and thinks transplanting it within the Beltway is a good idea needs their heads checked out. Seriously.

Sad that people think undefined 'change' is something to support. This guy isn't anything but politics as usual, and perhaps even worse than the average Machine stooge. Hopefully, more and more people will wake up.

Posted by: dahozho at June 27, 2008 9:21 AM

I am shocked, shocked I tell you, that a politician coming out of Chicago is tainted by corruption! Next thing you'll tell me is that all politician from New Orleans are on the take as well.

Posted by: Tom at June 27, 2008 12:29 PM

I wonder what kinds of ties Jindal is going to have coming out of the country's other prominent political cesspool - Louisiana - that will be a liability to him when he's the GOP's wunderkind in a few years.

I'm not saying that Obama's clean - there's some evidence here that's more substantial than guilt by association. If his already thin legislative record is basically as a rubber stamp on other folks' hard work, that's a real problem.

But I'm resistant to the idea that a politician from a crooked political system is necessarily tainted by that system. If that's true, it's bad news for one of the GOP's best hopes for the future.

Posted by: Joel B. at June 27, 2008 1:35 PM

Jindal will take a few dents to the armor. He's in a tight spot right now because the legislature wants a pay raise and the voters oppose it - but if he fights them on the pay raise, they can kill the rest of his agenda.

That said, he'll have an advantage because he's actually doing something to clean the place up, and coming in when voters are so thoroughly sick of corrupt, incompetent state & local government there post-Katrina that they will back him to the hilt. You can survive working in a machine jurisdiction if you actually fight to clean the place up, as Obama never did.

Posted by: The Crank at June 27, 2008 1:53 PM

Agreed, Crank. I just hope we don't start painting this with too broad a brush...

Posted by: Joel B. at June 27, 2008 2:00 PM

Truman had similar problems with his association with the Pendergast political machine.

Posted by: wd at June 28, 2008 5:24 PM
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