Thursday, September 18, 2008

Will Monday be Ethics Day? UPDATED

The Illinois Senate will return to Springfield to consider major ethics legislation, presumably in time to avoid a constitutional challenge about when an ambiguous 15-day clock expires.

Senate President Emil Jones Jr., who previously said he would not reconvene his chamber until after the November elections, said in a statement that he now is calling his members back to the Capitol to act on ethics reforms “only at the request of my friend Barrack Obama.”

Here’s the statement from the U.S. senator’s campaign: “Sen. Obama called Sen. Jones [Wednesday] to offer his strong support for the ethics reforms pending before the Illinois Senate and urged him to pass them at the earliest possible opportunity.”

Note that the date has not been set for that regular Senate session; however, the chamber will be back — and so will the House — Monday, September 22 because Gov. Rod Blagojevich called a special session to focus on ethics. But the governor’s proclamation requires the General Assembly to focus on Blagojevich’s version of ethics reforms, which the House already defeated last week.

But, as is common in Springfield, some legislative ideas come back from the dead. Rep. Jay Hoffman, a Collinsville Democrat and Blagojevich ally, has introduced another bill, HB 6699, that would do the same thing as the governor’s amendatory veto of HB 824. The governor wants to clarify the process of accepting legislative pay raises so lawmakers had to vote “yes” on public record, stop legislators from “double dipping” by working in another unit of government at the same time they’re serving in the General Assembly and require more detailed disclosure of lobbying work done by legislators or their spouses. See the background in our previous blog posts.

Cindy Davidsmeyer, Jones’ spokeswoman, said the Senate president last week promised Sen. Don Harmon, an Oak Park Democrat, that he could call the unanimously approved HB 824 for a vote to override the governor’s changes. If that happens as expected, then businesses holding state contracts worth more than $50,000 could not donate to the political campaigns of the governor.

But Davidsmeyer said the vote to override the governor’s changes would have to be done in a regular session, which has not yet been set because some Senate members have conflicts with Monday’s special session.

She could only say that the Senate could take up a “variety of issues,” and there’s plenty to choose from. The chamber could consider actions taken by the House last week, including restoring budget cuts so that 11 state parks and 13 historic sites wouldn’t have to close this fall, as well as restoring cuts to human services and state offices that could result in hundreds of layoffs of state employees. The Senate also could consider the governor’s changes to Senate bills, including the another ethics bill, SB 2190. The governor would ban state legislators and officers from accepting political donations from government employees at any level, punishable by as much as a $10,000 fine for each offense.

Obama's campaign followed up with this: "Sen. Obama is pleased that Senator Jones has decided to take immediate steps to move ethics reform forward, and he plans to monitor the bill's progress next week."


Anonymous,  6:40 PM  

There are no ethics in Illinois.

Skinny,  6:52 PM  

How can you have ethics in Illinois when McPier has its IG a mob associate named EGOR or IGOR really named Lou DelMedico that stole money, took bribes and was in jail???!!!!
Also, Lou DelMedico IGOR cut hair for Tony "the Big Tuna" Accardo and is gumba with Joey "the Clown" Lombardo.
You have killers and gangsters at Navy Pier and McCormick Center.

Peter Troy,  10:05 PM  

Who is Anita Alvarez? A wannabee friend of targets of criminal, federal investigations? A friend of Daley, Madigan and Burke? She’s their girl?
Revised significantly on Thursday at 2:50 pm
Yet, Alvarez is saying, no matter what the U. S. Attorney is saying about you, you can contribute to Alvarez and have a willing new friend, personal or not, in the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office. On hearing that, Daley, Madigan and Burke must have breathed a collective sigh of relief and said, “That’s our girl.”
Did taking the Singer money create a conflict of interest for Alvarez?

Another Reporter: Why did you accept a political donation, albeit small, from Bill Singer, who has been publicly identified in a federal trial as a target of a criminal, federal investigations? [See here].

Cook County State’s Attorney Candidate Anita Alvarez (D): Okay, I don’t know Mr. Singer, personally, and I’ve accepted a small donation. I don’t believe he’s convicted of anything. As far as I know, he’s not. And, I haven’t violated any ethics ordinance, by doing so.

Jeff Berkowitz: So, if somebody is subject to an investigation by the U. S. attorney, but not convicted of anything, it’s appropriate for you to accept a donation from him? is that right?

Cook County State’s Attorney Candidate Anita Alvarez (D); I am abiding by the County ordinances and I’m abiding, you know, by those rules and I don’t believe I’ve violated any of those.
Press Conference, September 16, 2008, following a debate sponsored by the Public Affairs office of the Union League Club of Chicago between Cook County State’s Attorney Democratic Nominee Anita Alvarez and Republican Nominee Tony Peraica. See here for an overview of the debate and pressers. Watch Alvarez interviewed here and Watch Peraica interviewed here.
Conflicts of interest 101

This reporter used to practice law at a large, loop, law firm, where one of the partners spent considerable time making sure the firm took no new matters where, to do so, would present a conflict of interest for the firm with one of its prior clients. Making such a determination started with a mechanical computerized comparison of the potential new client, and that new client’s adverse and third parties—to existing clients, and adverse and third parties in their matters, and so on and so forth. Once a possible conflict of interest for the firm was spotted, then the partner assigned to deal with conflicts spent considerable time applying complex case law, ethical canons and his judgment and wisdom to the situation at hand.

That conflicts partner would often state that he never met a partner, who stood to benefit directly from the new business, who could see a conflict with a potential new client. Of course, that was a bit of an exaggeration. But, the point was, new clients meant money in the pocket of the partner who brought in the client—and that meant that partner might not be the best person to make the decision about potential conflicts. Indeed, that’s why the firm had a conflict’s partner, who would be at least one step removed, so to speak, from the situation at hand, and therefore could make an objective judgment about whether the firm should accept the new client. Maybe Alvarez needs a conflicts adviser.

Alvarez and targets of criminal investigations

Anita Alvarez, who has never been in a law firm, is kind of like that partner with a new client. Only, for her, the new client is a new contributor, Bill Singer, who was said, for purposes of the question put to Alvarez, to be the target of a federal, criminal investigation. Alvarez raised no objection to the premise of the question put to her.

Alvarez and the Food Chain

Alvarez apparently does not want to turn away new contibutors. Partly, that is because the money enhances her chances of moving up the food chain in her, sort of, law firm, i.e., the Cook County State’s Attorney office. Alvarez has spent twently-two years climbing the ladder in the State’s Attorney office of nine hundred attorneys to No. 3, just behind First Assistant Bob Milan. She is on leave, now, for her run for State’s Attorney, but this is just a technicality. Alvarez’s climb to the top involves getting more votes on Nov. 4 than her opponent, Republican Cook County Commissioner Tony Peraica.

The State’s Attorney office and Torture

Milan is the First Assistant to the twelve year-incumbent State’s Attorney, Dick Devine, who himself was First Assistant, in the early 80s, to then State’s Attorney Richard M. Daley, when certain members of the Chicago Police Department (“CPD”) found torture, a convenient, albeit illegal, tool, to help build their cases. For some reason, Daley and Devine never found the roots, breadth and depth of the torture in the CPD a very compelling topic—not then, not in the middle years and not recently—the topic was investigated to death, so to speak, by others—and finally the statute of limitations for prosecutions had run.

Alvarez—quiet on torture.

When asked about it now, Alvarez says she was just a junior attorney in the mid 80s and kind of the equivalent of a junior partner in the 90s, so never really in a position to ask or do much about the torture near her, or so she says or implies. In short, on torture, Alvarez must have appeared very, very good to Daley. When other Democratic candidates for State’s Attorney were raising concerns about Daley and torture, not a word from Alvarez.

Daley, Madigan and Burke for Alvarez

Putting aside the leave, Alvarez is still No. 3 in the State’s Attorney office. And, in a sense, she is No. 1. That is, the Mayor may not have officially supported Alvarez in the February, 2008, Democratic Primary. But, she won the 11th Ward, (Daley’s home ward), the 13th Ward (Speaker Mike Madigan’s home ward) and the 14th Ward (Ald. and Chicago City Council Finance Committee Chairman Ed Burke’s home ward).

So, it might appear that in the hearts of Daley, Madigan and Burke, Alvarez is the object of their affection. Alvarez claims not to be “one of the boys." But the “boys,” seem to like her, notwithstanding Devine’s official endorsement of Milan, who finished a distant fifth of six candidates.

Alvarez: not a lot of intellectual curiosity

The important thing for Daley, Madigan and Burke is to have a State’s Attorney who is not too intellectually curious when it comes to history, whether it be torture, patronage or public corruption. All of that public corruption stuff, like the activities of Sorich, Tomczak, Hired Truck, etc., that has kept U. S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald busy, has never had much appeal for Devine, or any of his underlings, like Alvarez.

The amount of the contribution discussed above from Bill Singer is apparently small stuff ($500). Much more important is that Alvarez stated publicly that she sees nothing wrong with taking money from someone who is the target of a federal criminal investigation. Daley not doubt saw that and said, “That’s my girl.”

Obama-Rezko, a conflict of interest?

Think about it. Barack Obama said it was a “boneheaded move,” for him to involve himself in a housing transaction with a person, Tony Rezko, rumored at the time to be under investigation by the feds, when arguably Obama was receiving a favor from Rezko. As a U. S. Senator (not to mention as a President) Obama could have a substantial say in whether the U. S. Attorney was kept, or not—and who would replace him—something that might be of great interest to a person being investigated by that U. S. Attorney. A boneheaded move? I’ll say. At least, Obama regretted it.

Alvarez-Singer, a conflict of Interest?

Think about it. Anita Alvarez says there is no conflict of interest for her to knowingly accept money from a person “publicly identified in a federal trial as a target of a criminal, federal investigation.” Yes, what she said was
she had not “violated any ethics ordinance, by doing so.” But, then this reporter asked if, “it’s appropriate for you to accept [such] a donation.”
Yes, Alvarez answered in a narrow way: “I am abiding by the County ordinances and I’m abiding, you know, by those rules and I don’t believe I’ve violated any of those.” But, clearly, Alvarez implied that there was no conflict of interest.

However, there is one. Yes, it is doubtful Anita Alvarez would engage in such a conflict for a small sum of money. Even the most money hungry law firm partner wouldn’t take a case with a conflict to increase his income by, say, five hundred dollars. So, why did Alvarez accept the money from Singer? Maybe, she is “one of the boys.” That is, she won’t abandon her friends until they are convicted. You know, everyone is innocent until proven guilty.

Why does it become an issue for people potentially involved as government investigatory authorities to associate with people "under investigation." Because the odds that they may be called upon to exercise judgment about that investigation go up significantly when that person, such as Bill Singer, is identified in a trial as under investigation. If Anita Alvarez returns to the State's Attorney office as the State's Attorney, she might be called upon to decide how to pursue or follow-up on evidence pointing toward Singer in the matter the U. S. Attorney is pursuing. The U. S. Attorney might ask her office for help in the matter. How she responds could present a conflict of interest, if she has an association with Singer.

Yet, Alvarez is saying, no matter what the U. S. Attorney is saying about you, you can contribute to Alvarez and have a willing new friend, personal or not, in the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office. On hearing that, Daley, Madigan and Burke must have breathed a collective sigh of relief and said, “that’s our girl.”

Anonymous,  3:22 PM  

Alvarez is part of the status qou and being supported by corrupt 19the ward operatives.

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