Four years later, a trio of early polls show Republican standard bearer Judy Baar Topinka with a small lead over Blagojevich.
In a state that’s long been trending Democratic, why is Topinka doing so well?
Political analysts and political science professors say it’s because Blagojevich has had more than three years to amass a record and that Topinka’s last name is not spelled R-y-a-n.
“The most important thing is that when you’ve got an incumbent, the election is a referendum on the incumbent,” said Kent Redfield, a political science professor at the University of Illinois at Springfield. “Four years ago, Blagojevich was a fresh face with a clean slate. Since then, there’s been a lot of unhappiness, not just among people who would normally vote Republican.”
Three polls taken since the March 21 primary show Topinka with small leads over Blagojevich that are within the margin of error.
Rasmussen Reports, an independent pollster, showed Topinka with 43 percent compared to 41æpercent for Blagojevich with a margin of error of about 5 percentage points. Another independent pollster, the Glengariff Group, showed Topinka up 44 to 41 percent with a 4-percentage-point error margin. And earlier this month, a private poll conducted by a major Illinois business group showed Topinka with a 4-point advantage.
Contrast that with four years ago, when one media poll showed then-Attorney General Jim Ryan trailing Blagojevich by as much as 52 percent to 34 percent within a week of the primary.
Republican strategist Dan Curry of Wheaton, who served as Jim Ryan’s spokesman, called 2002 “probably the most negative climate for the Republicans (in Illinois) in the modern era. Since right after Watergate.”
Like most political observers, Curry blames then-Gov. George Ryan’s scandals for Jim Ryan’s early poll woes.
“In 2002, Republicans and George were the issue and Rod Blagojevich just had to show up. This time, Rod Blagojevich is the issue,” said Curry, who’s now a strategist for Topinka’s running mate, DuPage County State’s Attorney Joe Birkett. “He’s squandered the ethical high ground he inherited. The voters have seen multiple federal investigations and they understand they’ve been misled.”
Blagojevich political consultant Pete Giangreco attributed the governor’s current standing in the polls to a trend common to neighboring governors of both parties struggling to reach 50 percent approval ratings.
“It’s all over the Midwest, where the Bush recession has hit hard. These places haven’t come all the way back yet,” Giangreco said. “We’ve had a long way to dig with (George) Ryan’s budget deficit. Basically, the message is that if you want to keep Illinois moving forward, re-elect Rod Blagojevich. The alternative is the bad old days.”
Blagojevich also has had to govern the past four years and the political omelets can’t be made every year without breaking some proverbial eggs.
“He’s got continuing questions about state financing, pensions and borrowing,” Redfield said. “Certainly, it’s also a referendum on leadership style. The fighting with the Democrats and the way he’s conducted himself is reflected in his low approval ratings.
“He has been down around 40 percent in terms of approval. It’s really a matter that he’s not nearly as strong a candidate as he was four years ago,” he added.
Giangreco pointed out that Blagojevich’s approval ratings improved 11 percentage points in the past year to 47 percent, according to Survey USA monthly tracking polls.
And Blagojevich campaign spokesman Doug Scofield, who served the same role in 2002, argued the governor’s ability to tell voters about his record of raising education and health care funding and balancing the budget without raising the income or sales tax will be effective in the coming months.
“What’s the same is that the governor is good at connecting with people on issues that are important to them. And talking about priorities that really matter around the state,” he said.
Blagojevich has been doing exactly that, spending several million dollars on TV ads touting his record in positively reviewed commercials.
Still, poll results put Topinka, who has no campaign cash left and has been retooling her organization since the primary, neck-and-neck with him.
Scofield and Giangreco said the ads were more defensive in nature, pointing out Blagojevich emerged from a contested primary of his own and had four Republicans hammering him as well. “You’ve had a lot of mudslinging and negative attacks, especially from Topinka. The ads have been a firewall against that,” Giangreco said.
The expensive ad buy, however, thus far has been unable to put any distance between Blagojevich and Topinka.
“Voters either don’t like Rod Blagojevich or they don’t trust him. And those kind of opinions are not easily changed by a barrage of television ads,” said John McGovern, a Republican strategist. “In a perverse way, those ads just reinforce the negative feelings people already have about Rod Blagojevich.”
The Blagojevich administration faces federal, state and county investigations. But his political aides dismiss them as a drag on his popularity.
“It becomes a bit of a filter that it’s hard to help get your message through, but in the end, people vote on what helps to make their families’ lives better,” Scofield said.
Redfield said Blagojevich is vulnerable, but his $15 million war chest — which will grow richer Wednesday at a major fundraiser at the Field Museum — means he’ll have more campaign cash than Topinka, who’s broke after the primary.
Topinka also doesn’t have a campaign manager and hasn’t been quick to respond to near-daily Blagojevich news releases taking her to task on the issues.
“There clearly is an opportunity here (for Topinka), Redfield said. “If they don’t get their act together, Blagojevich will have the ability to really tear down her and define her. I think there’s a real danger of missing an opportunity.”
The fix really needs to be in for November elections in Illinois - Chuck Goudie
This is especially true in the Great State of Illinois. Over the years, voting assistance here has sometimes been provided by two guys named Smith and Wesson and coffins have been popular polling places.
But the fix will have to be in for the state election in November or we will see a repeat fiasco of the March primary.
Fix as in repair or mend.
As you would imagine, Cook County Clerk David Orr is not using the word fix to describe his plan to ensure that electronic voting equipment works better 6¨ months from tomorrow than it did in the primary.
Clerk Orr used words such as “plan” and “reforms” to describe the fix that is needed for ballots to be counted accurately and quickly when Illinois voters select a governor in the fall.
More than a third of the 1,761 devices that were supposed to transmit Chicago results from precincts to a downtown computer broke down, delaying final tabulations for days. Election officials and executives of the equipment-maker blamed technology snafus and poorly trained (or untrained) precinct judges.
Orr has promised to fix both, and other counties throughout the state will have to make similar changes. Otherwise, voters will face a repeat of the Illinois election night performance by Chicago Congressman Bobby Rush, a Chicago Democrat, who leveled supercharged accusations of stolen votes and rigged equipment.
“This is Chicago. This is Cook County,” Rush reminded reporters who may have forgotten where they were on election night. And then, in what was hopefully historical explanation and not a claim of responsibility, Rush said “we created vote fraud, vote scandal and stealing votes.”
It is now clear that the knee-jerk allegations of Rush and others have not been supported by subsequent investigations in Cook County. Unless of course those investigations were a sham too, as conspiracy nuts have enjoyed fantasizing on the Internet the past few weeks.
Among the election-conspiracy theorists is an unlikely name, Ed Burke, the longtime Chicago alderman, chairman of the city council finance committee and usually a level thinker.
In an allegation that would have been overlooked had it come from eccentric Alderman Burt Natarus, Burke said he was worried that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez was trying to infiltrate and subvert Chicago’s elections. The company that supplied the troubled election equipment, Sequoia Voting Systems, is owned by Venezuelan businessmen whom Burke claimed could be agents of Pres. Chavez, an avowed U.S. critic.
“I don’t know how anybody could hire a company that’s ownership is hidden, and traces its roots to Venezuela, where they’ve been involved with the dictator of Venezuela who Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld says is an enemy of the United States,” said Burke.
Election officials and Sequoia managers said the claim was ridiculous and that Burke’s statements were fueled by a conspiracy-theory Web site known as the American Free Press, which he actually quoted at one point.
According to the American Free Press, on election night one of its reporters watched votes being counted on the 5th floor of the Cook County Clerk’s office.
“The so-called counting of the votes is managed by some two dozen employees of Sequoia Voting Systems, a privately held foreign company. These employees, many of whom are not even U.S. citizens, have ‘full access’ to the ‘back room area,’ a sealed-off section of the 5th floor of the county clerk’s office which is called the ‘tally area.’æ”
Burke echoed the AFP article which stated, “In Chicago, the person in charge of the tallying of the votes was a British employee of Sequoia named David Allen from London. Allen, who ran the ‘Sequoia War Room’ in an office next to that of Cook County Clerk David Orr, oversaw the ‘tally room’ team, which included a dozen Venezuelan employees, who operated the hidden computer equipment that counts the votes.”
David Allen, co-author of a book entitled “Black Box Voting: Ballot Tampering in the 21st Century” says he sees more of a threat from high-tech equipment than from partisan election thieves.
“I haven’t seen any evidence of a conspiracy or anyone rigging the elections,” Allen said in a recent interview. “I know what the computers are capable of and I know what they are not capable of. I know mistakes and errors can happen. So, I feel the greatest threat to the vote not being counted correctly would be simple malfunctions.”
But don’t ever accuse the Chicago City Council of being simple.
After Sequoia’s top executive answered questions from council members, Alderman Leslie Hairston (5th Ward) told him “I think that you belong to the secret brotherhood of I don’t know.”
It has all the makings of the next DaVinci Code.
Political pandering trumping rule of law - Steven R. Heuberger
When I went to school, we were taught that ignorance of the law was not a defense. That made perfect sense, since one could say they did not know that it was against the law to commit homicide, and therefore, they were not guilty.
We were also taught that we are a country of laws, not men, and that no man is above the law. That distinguished us from dictatorships, and so it did. The resignation of Richard Nixon confirmed that during my lifetime.
Sadly, that tradition is being ignored because of two misguided and ultimately destructive forces. The first is political correctness, the second is political pandering.
The politically correct groups feel that any accusation against anyone belonging to a minority group is racist or discriminatory. The political panderers are willing to suspend the rule of law for votes from blocs of people who are clearly lawbreakers, but could mean the difference between a politician winning or losing power.
So what’s a mother to do? Well, if it were my mother, she’d vote for the candidate who would enforce the rule of law, for fear that societies without law fail, and create misery for their people.
In conclusion, what we need today in our country are stout-hearted men and women in government who have the backbone to support the rule of law regardless of one’s ethnic, religious, racial, or social status. That is equal justice in my opinion, but then again, I probably would have convicted Ted Kennedy for reckless homicide, and deported all of the illegal aliens.
Since others have already coined the term “PC” for political correctness, perhaps it is time we coined another term, “PP,” for political panderer.
Remember, those who sacrifice their core beliefs never attain the status of statesmen whose goals are in the long-term best interests of the nation.
Why even have immigration laws, if they are not enforced? We can just follow the French model. And, since it’s baseball season, is there any way we can trade Dick Durbin to another country? Perhaps Venezuela would be interested, but only if we get Luis Aparicio back. I’d prefer to trade him to Iran, but they have no ex-Sox players to my knowledge.
Many well-intentioned people motivated by compassion and their sense of fairness are urging our government to convert illegal immigrants into legal guest workers or American citizens. Those good people should consider the probable unintended consequences should their efforts succeed.
We already have in this country a large underclass. Many of those people have never held jobs, or have alternated between menial jobs and welfare. For them to get into mainstream society, they must be able to obtain entry level jobs from which they can learn how to be employed, and then have an opportunity to move on up. Everybody has to start at the bottom.
But those citizens cannot take their first employment steps if illegal immigrants come here and take all the entry level jobs. We only have to look at the European experience to see what might become of our country. The Europeans have created large populations of indigenous citizens permanently on welfare with no prospects or intentions of getting off it. At the same time they have imported foreign guest workers to do the dirty work.
Those foreigners belong to alien cultures and cannot be assimilated. They are unhappy and hostile to their host countries. It is hard to imagine how many Americans in their right minds could wish that situation on us, but that is what some are unwittingly doing.
We still have the ability to prevent our country from making the European mistake, but if we do not act now in the future it will be to late to undo the mess which will have been created.
FAMILY TAXPAYERS NETWORK
Hardly a week goes by when Topinka doesn’t again prove she lacks the temperament for high office. The most recent embarrassment came when syndicated columnist George Will quoted the Topinka campaign admitting they only want to use President Bush for the money, and any appearance in Illinois should be, ''Late at night -- in an undisclosed location.''
Such is the appalling disrespect one would expect from an arrogant Democrat toward our Republican Commander-in-Chief. No wonder Bush lost Illinois by double-digits again in 2004 when Topinka was State Party Chair.
If you didn’t vote for Topinka last month – give yourself another little pat on the back.
Thanks a Lot Governor Edgar
The good news is most Republicans can proudly say they weren’t conned. Sixty-two percent of Republicans did their homework and rejected the embarrassing 25-year incumbent last month.
The combined efforts of a liberal press corps (the same one that also had few problems with George Ryan in 1998), Spoiler Bill Brady, and what’s left of the IL GOP’s Old Guard had to work very hard to get Topinka her 38 percent plurality. And no one worked harder to force-feed Republicans an old-school Democrat than Jim Edgar. The former Governor was plastered on television for weeks trying to prop-up Topinka. You remember the ad – the one where Edgar condemned the bad, bad “attacks” from Judy’s mean-spirited male opponents.
The word “venomous” was plastered across Ron Gidwitz’s face and “phony” over Jim Oberweis’ mug – black and white photos of course – so you knew they were bad men. Oberweis and Gidwitz had dared to warn voters about the train wreck on the horizon. So the solution for Topinka and Edgar – smear Gidwitz and Oberweis for being “attackers,” and do it by attacking them with the basest form of personal insults. Judy apparently came up with “morons” all by herself.
And people wonder why Republican voter turnout in Illinois was down 20 percent from the 2002 Gubernatorial Primary.
Good Luck To You Mr. Edgar
Jim Edgar made this promise to millions of Illinois voters regarding Topinka, "she’ll always tell you the truth.” That promise was repeated countless times as that television ad received heavy play around the state.
Does Edgar honestly believe Topinka can live up to that promise? Here’s the bad news Mr. Edgar - Judy’s current record for speaking before crucifying the truth is around four minutes.
So why would Edgar make such a ridiculous assertion about Topinka’s veracity? Who knows – but we’ll be watching. Oberweis and Gidwitz barely scratched the surface on Topinka’s problems. Blagojevich isn’t going to be so gun-shy.
Smart Republicans are already avoiding Topinka’s campaign like the plague. The Old Guard simply lied about Topinka – she’s our WORST possible candidate going into November. What should have been our strongest issue against Blagojevich – ethics – is completely off the table now.
Topinka’s got serious problems – as she can’t distinguish herself from Blagojevich on ethics, not to mention from her old pal George Ryan. As a candidate Judy’s never run a campaign without relying on her state staff. Topinka’s been living in denial on this issue. The goons have been frequently deployed to try and keep things under wraps – but it’s just a matter of time.
Questions about Topinka’s awarding of contracts and political pay-to-play also aren’t going away. Topinka’s attitude is reflective of one living in a dream world. Her comments during the campaign about not being a millionaire like her opponents – and therefore having to do certain things – reminds one of the scoundrel seeking a last refuge.
Topinka’s problems are the same as the IL GOP’s. When you abandon principle and stand for nothing but your own ego and vanity – of course real grassroots volunteers and donors aren’t going to be there for you.
Can Topinka Even Make it to November?
The question remains – why did Jim Edgar do it? After barely lifting a finger to help President Bush as Chairman of the Illinois campaign in 2004, why would he put himself out there for Topinka of all people?
Surely Mr. Edgar knows that he’ll be held to his own Jack Ryan standard. He and Judy said Jack Ryan had to go in 2004 because Jack supposedly wasn’t honest enough about how his divorce file contained something about Jack propositioning his own wife.
So after promising millions that Judy never lies – if and when she does – then surely Jim Edgar will agree that Judy has to go, right?
A Race Driven by Racing Horses?
Jim Edgar’s built a nice life for himself since leaving office, and one major pursuit appears to be raising and racing thoroughbreds. We say good for him – he’s certainly entitled to make a living.
One of the corporate boards Edgar serves on is that of Youbet.com, an online gaming company devoted to horse racing. Youbet.com’s website boasts, “Over $1,000,000,000 Wagered with Safety and Security.”
And if Mr. Edgar wants to go into the horse stable business with the wife of National Committeeman Bob Kjellander as was reported last summer – hey, that’s great. More power to you Mr. Edgar. It’s a free country.
But please tell us Governor that you won’t be looking to Topinka to fulfill your vision of putting horse betting into every home. We only ask the question because we saw this quote from you in Thoroughbred Times – also from last summer:
"With Internet betting, we've seen the money doesn't come from track betting, it comes from OTBs," he continued. "We've got to figure out a way to bring in new fans, but we've got to realize our fan base always is going to be older people. You've got to get young people aware of the sport so that in ten to 15 years when they have a little more free time and a little more disposable income, they'll turn to horse racing.”
"Any way you can get the sport in front of people, you have a chance of building a fan base. You've got to keep up with changes in society. I think if people could bet in the comfort of their own homes [through the Internet], that would be a key." [Emphasis added.]
"With Internet betting, we've seen the money doesn't come from track betting, it comes from OTBs," he continued. "We've got to figure out a way to bring in new fans, but we've got to realize our fan base always is going to be older people. You've got to get young people aware of the sport so that in ten to 15 years when they have a little more free time and a little more disposable income, they'll turn to horse racing.”
"Any way you can get the sport in front of people, you have a chance of building a fan base. You've got to keep up with changes in society. I think if people could bet in the comfort of their own homes [through the Internet], that would be a key." [Emphasis added.]
Wanting to hook young people on horse racing by turning every Illinois living-room into an off-track-betting parlor hardly seems like a statesmanlike vision to us. But what do we know?
Governor Edgar, we’re certain that we’re being ridiculous here. We know that you must have really good reasons for thinking Topinka would be a good Governor for all of Illinois – and not just for you and your pals. Just because that’s the way Illinois has been run by a few for decades – we’re quite sure there must be better reasons this time.
We simply wish we had heard a few of those good reasons during the campaign.
While this is a non-partisan effort – it is quintessentially Republican in spirit. Good people of all political stripes are right now gathering petitions all across Illinois – but we as Republicans should feel a duty.
In every one of the many other states where this Protect Marriage Referendum has already been on the ballot – the State Republican Party was a driving force. Sadly, our own current State GOP leadership turned its back on this effort, even after having made initial commitments.
More tragically, our nominee for Governor, Judy Baar Topinka has even refused to sign the petition which would merely give Illinois voters the opportunity to weigh-in on whether or not they wish to prohibit gay marriage. In no other state have GOP leaders refused to unify with President Bush and the Republican base on such a fundamental plank of our National Republican Platform.
Traditional marriage is under assault, and our state’s liberal Legislature or the Judiciary could change a statute overnight. Additional Constitutional protection is vital. Excuses from some that a state statute is already on the books – are less than honest.
Fortunately, some conservative leaders have stepped-up where others have failed. As you know, Illinois Family Institute (IFI), a fine non-partisan, pro-family organization, is leading this project in Illinois.
Additionally, THINK RED’s sponsor, Family Taxpayers Network (FTN) has also stepped-up. FTN’s President, Jack Roeser, has personally contributed significant financial resources and has underwritten the very sizeable infrastructure needed to professionally accomplish a project of this magnitude. Mr. Roeser has essentially performed the leadership role in Illinois that the State GOP naturally takes in other states. He did so simply because no one else seemed willing, and out of a sense of duty.
We’re almost there. We’ll exceed the minimum petition requirement with hundreds of thousand of signatures to be filed in early May with the State Board of Elections.
But we must be certain to have a sufficient cushion to withstand any petition challenge.
Will you help with the final push? Will your organization commit to gathering at least 1,000 signatures in these final days? We can utilize petitions received as late as May 1st – but that’s truly the latest.
One simple way to help would be to circulate the Protect Marriage Petition at your County Convention on April 19th. Your leadership in encouraging others to gather petitions would also be greatly appreciated.
Enclosed is a copy of the petition and instructions. You can of course make additional copies of this blank petition for distribution. You can also download the petition and learn more about this effort at www.protectmarriageillinois.org. The site is the product of IFI.
With two liberals now competing for Governor, Illinois voters lack a real choice on the top of the November ballot. The Protect Marriage Referendum stands on its own as a crucial effort worthy of our support. However, as Republicans we should also recognize how beneficial this effort can be in motivating Republicans to go to the polls in November – especially in a year where many will see scant reason to otherwise bother.
A lot of people talk about making Illinois a Red State these days. This Protect Marriage Project is actually a way of getting there.
Thank you for all of your help and support to date on this project. And if you haven’t yet been involved, we hope you will help in this final push – it’s never too late. This Petition Drive represents a truly historic effort being led and accomplished by grassroots volunteers – just like you. Every Republican will want to say they did their part.
Has his smile lost its sparkle?
As recently as last fall, Gov. Rod Blagojevich was part of the 2008 presidential buzz. National media and Internet bloggers often included him on the short list of potential White House contenders.
During his first two years in office, he appeared exasperated at times by the "White House ambitions" question, which came with regularity.
But the buzz-o-meter appears to have gone flat for now, including his latest ranking from PoliticalDerby.com, a popular but highly unscientific Web site that measures front-runners for the 2008 presidential race.
Derby creator Jason Wright, of Washington, D.C., slotted Blagojevich at No. 8 in the fall but dropped him last week from the rankings altogether.
"There were some press accounts (last year) that indicated he might be interested. He has a lot of ambition, he's a smooth talker and comes from a state with some pull, so we put him in there," Wright said. "But I was inundated with e-mails, more than any other candidate ever, from people hammering me. They ate me alive."
The likelihood of a Blagojevich presidential run seemed tangible early into Blagojevich's gubernatorial term. He frequented Washington, raised gobs of money and impressed political spectators with his finesse.
But dogged by allegations of pay-to-play politics and facing federal and state inquiries into his campaign fundraising operation, a promotion to the national stage for the 2008 election cycle seems highly unlikely.
He is focusing full time on achieving a second term as governor, facing GOP nominee Judy Baar Topinka in November.
The "political derby" Web site lists Hillary Clinton in the top Democratic slot for the 2008 presidential race, followed by Virginia Gov. Mark Warner, former vice presidential nominee John Edwards and Indiana U.S. Sen. Evan Bayh.
On the GOP side, U.S. Sen. John McCain, of Arizona, takes the top spot, followed by Virginia U.S. Sen. George Allen. Tied for third are Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former New York City Mayor Rudi Guiliani.
The rankings are subjective, based on news stories, water-cooler conversation, Internet bloggers and polls, Wright said.
It's a Web site frequented by political junkies, but it doesn't take itself too seriously. Former Vice President Al Gore, for example, makes the list of potential Democratic contenders because he's "like a pesky fungus (whose) name keeps reappearing," Wright says on the site.
U.S. Sen. Barack Obama makes the cut as a possible vice presidential candidate; Obama ruled out a presidential run months ago and said he intends to finish his freshman term in the Senate.
Topinka v. Blagojevich: How about a 'timeout,' kids? - Kristen McQueary
(NOTE: Your GOPUSA Illinois Editor has not received any press releases from the Topinka campaign -- why is that?)
Last week, the back-and-forth sniping and faxing between the campaigns of Gov. Rod Blagojevich and Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka resembled a playground shoving match. The stack of news releases piled up quicker than candy wrappers on Halloween.
April 7: Blagojevich links Topinka to policies of Bush administration.
April 9: Lt. Gov. candidate Joe Birkett criticizes Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn for silence on corruption.
April 10: Blagojevich questions Topinka's lack of health care plans.
April 11: Topinka criticizes Blagojevich for overtime Legislature.
April 12: Quinn calls on Topinka to release bank list.
April 12: Topinka labels Blagojevich "absentee governor."
The issues they raise — particularly Blagojevich — are about posturing, not policy. It's spin; 10 percent truth, 90 percent rubbish.
We're seven months from Election Day, and they're lunging like cobras.
Here's an idea: How about focusing on running state government for a bit? No one, especially voters, wants a seven-month blood bath.
Castrogiovanni v. Skoien: Speaking of bickering - Kristen McQueary
Berwyn Township GOP committeeman Anthony Castrogiovanni says he will run for Cook County GOP chairman at next week's convention. He'll face incumbent chairman Gary Skoien.
The city and township committeemen vote for chairman based on a weighted formula from the March primary. Ruth O'Connell, of Wheeling Township, carries the heaviest weighted vote, followed by Skoien in Palatine Township.
Castrogiovanni says he has the support of Worth Township committeeman Maureen Murphy and Orland Township committeewoman Elizabeth Doody Gorman.
The county GOP group couldn't be more dysfunctional right now: Accusations of Republicans helping Democrats, and Republicans working against fellow Republicans, abound. Wound-licking aside, the party won't stand a chance against board President John Stroger if it doesn't unite.
Giannoulias v. Radogno: Damaged goods? - Kristen McQueary
Illinois Democratic Party chairman Michael Madigan worked hard for his state treasurer candidate, Knox County State's Attorney Paul Mangieri, during last month's primary election.
Mangieri lost to Democrat Alexi Giannoulias, a young banker, who scored big time with Barack Obama's endorsement.
But now Giannoulias is limping toward November. Madigan's opposition-research team manhandled Giannoulias at every turn, uncovering questionable loans from Giannoulias' family bank. To make matters worse, Giannoulias has contradicted himself while answering the charges.
So the Dems have a baby-faced candidate with baggage facing a formidable challenger in Christine Radogno. There is plenty of time for Giannoulias to pull himself together, but he'll need Madigan's help. Will he get it?
8th District Illinois Candidate David McSweeney Calls for 24 Township Debates to discuss the issues: Calls on Bean to state her position on Bush Tax Cuts
Barrington Township: David McSweeney, candidate for Congress in Illinois’ 8th Congressional District, is calling on incumbent Mellissa Bean to agree to 24 debates, one in each of the 24 townships that comprise the district. McSweeney also called on Congresswoman Bean to state her position on the Bush tax cuts, specifically whether or not she will support making the cuts permanent.
“I support the tax cuts that George Bush put forth and the Congress made into law. The tax cuts have kept our economy out of recession and have been a boon to small business. If we do not make the tax cuts permanent it will morph into the largest tax increase in history and it will fall especially hard on small businesses. Small business is the heart of our economy and job creation,” said McSweeney.
“Tax day, April 15th has just passed once again and the American people have cracked open their check books once again. Many family budgets are stressed this time of the year and without the tax cuts they would be stressed even further. The question to Congresswoman Bean is simple: Tell the people of the 8th Congressional District whether or not you will support making those tax cuts permanent,” said McSweeney.
“In the Primary election I spoke of my support for the tax cuts as part of a detailed economic plan. I have also offered specific proposals for cutting spending and reigning in the growth of the Federal government. We should start with Congress’ own budget and I have called for cutting that body’s budget by 25%,” said McSweeney.
“I think the people of the 8th District would like to know where Congresswoman Bean and I stand on these important issues and I believe that 24 debates in each of the Townships would offer the citizens the opportunity to judge for themselves. Congresswoman Bean complained about her predecessor’s unwillingness to debate the issues and I hope that she will continue that spirit,” said McSweeney.
David McSweeney resides in Barrington Township within the 8th Congressional District with his wife Margaret and their two daughters.
WBBM Newsradio 780 Political Editor Craig Dellimore reports right now, the protracted budget negotiations involve only Governor Blagojevich and the Democratic leaders, House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President Emil Jones. House Republican leader Tom Cross says he doesn't mind being shut out so much, but he is concerned about where those talks may lead.
Cross says he expects the Democrats to increase state spending by about a billion dollars over last year.And the Oswego Republican says that is money the state of Illinois doesn't have.
Illinois House Republican Leader Tom Cross is the guest on At Issue and you can hear more of his comments at 9:30 Sunday morning and/evening.
Legislature Still Trying To Agree On New Illinois Budget - APhttp://www.wbbm780.com/pages/25627.php
Democrats trying to craft a new state budget say an agreement is being held up by a series of little hurdles rather than one big stumbling block.
Negotiators say many of Gov. Rod Blagojevich's proposals to end tax breaks are out because they lack enough support to pass. House Democrats have suggested taking more money out of special- purpose funds than Blagojevich has proposed.
Lawmakers also might turn down the governor's plan to spend $100 million on stem cell research over five years because of ideological differences. And they're looking at modifying Blagojevich's ideas for a tuition tax credit and expanded preschool.
But insiders say the framework of a $55 billion spending plan for next year is largely in place.
"I think there is still some uncertainty on the periphery, but at the core I think we're on the same page, which is nice," said Rep. John Fritchey, D-Chicago.
After blowing past their scheduled April 7 finale, lawmakers went home last week without a budget. Religious holidays and previously scheduled vacations will mean further delays. House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, said he does not expect to wrap up until early May.
Republicans, shut out of budget negotiations, argue that Democrats are proving they can't govern. Blagojevich's election opponent, Judy Baar Topinka, accuses him of failing to provide leadership on the budget.
Democrats, however, insist they share the same basic goals and are moving closer to achieving them.
"I suppose if it was a budget that didn't do anything for anyone, it would be easier," said Deputy Gov. Bradley Tusk. "When you take on big projects, they take time to achieve."
Democratic leaders had hoped that putting together this year's budget would be simple. That's because last time around, they approved a two-year plan to cut payments to government pension systems, freeing up scarce dollars to spend elsewhere.
But the governor asked lawmakers to approve about $1 billion in new spending on politically popular programs such as universal preschool and college scholarships for good students.
He proposed paying for the programs by closing more corporate tax "loopholes," diverting more money from special government funds and selling off part of the state's student loan portfolio.
That mix of spending and revenue didn't satisfy some Democrats - a dangerous situation when Democrats are determined to pass the budget without Republican support and will need virtually every lawmaker they have.
Sen. Donne Trotter said some lawmakers felt that if Blagojevich could find money for programs important to him, there should be money for their priorities, such as basic education, Medicaid and cost-of-living increases for people caring for the elderly or disabled.
"That's what our members are looking at - ensuring that existing programs don't suffer because you want to start new programs," Trotter said.
Democratic negotiators and leaders will say little about the details of budget discussions, fearing leaks could jeopardize any final deal.
"Nothing's agreed to until everything's agreed to," said Rep. Gary Hannig, D-Litchfield. "Even though you might have a part of it, like education, where you're making some progress, that whole thing could still fall apart."
The unknown centers on how to fill the gap between what Blagojevich proposed and what House and Senate leaders see as politically palatable.
His $48 million proposal to impose a sales tax on certain computer software purchased by large companies has been deemed unacceptable, insiders said. So has a $10 million tax increase on cigars and tobacco.
Trotter said negotiators are considering placing an income limit, perhaps $100,000, on Blagojevich's proposal to offer tax credits for college tuition. That would shave $25 million off the plan's $90 million price, and the savings could be spent on college grants for needy students.
He said officials also think they've found ways to cut the administrative costs for college loans, saving perhaps $100 million.
House and Senate leaders are making their own demands for programs and projects that lawmakers want before agreeing to support a budget. Rank-and-file members say the leaders are receptive to their ideas.
"Democratic members feel very good about what they're able to take home," Rep. Willie Delgado, D-Chicago, said without elaborating.
NEW YORK TIMES
Going After Migrants, but Not Employers - Steven Greenhouse
AS they fanned into the Vidalia onion fields of Georgia, the 45 federal agents were doing exactly what they thought they were supposed to do. It was 1998, and they had just arrested 21 illegal immigrant farm workers and were about to round up hundreds more.
But the raid met with a stinging rebuke from what might have seemed a surprising source: two powerful Republicans from Georgia's Congressional delegation.
Saxby Chambliss, then a representative and now a senator, accused immigration officials of using "bullying tactics," while Senator Paul Coverdell denounced "a moonshine raid" against "honest farmers who are simply trying to get their products from the field to the marketplace." The Immigration and Naturalization Service backed down, granting temporary amnesty to illegal onion pickers in 19 Georgia counties.
Today, Mr. Chambliss, as the chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, is leading efforts to pass tougher measures than many of his Senate colleagues favor to rein in illegal immigration.
So why did he fight a crackdown in his own backyard? Asserting that he has always supported enforcement against employers, Mr. Chambliss said he protested the 1998 raid because he considered it too heavy-handed, with agents wearing camouflage and waving .357's. Moreover, he said, arresting immigrants in a few onion fields would result in other immigrants replacing them and would do nothing to deter the flow.
"Going into one field or plant and arresting 30 or 40 people is not a solution to the problem," Mr. Chambliss said.
But Doris Meissner, who was immigration commissioner under President Bill Clinton, had a different explanation: members of Congress, particularly Republicans, do not want to antagonize business.
"There was hypocrisy," Ms. Meissner said. "On one hand, you say you want enforcement, and then you see it's not so easy to live with the consequences in your own district."
Indeed, the lack of vigorous enforcement against employers who hire illegal workers has been widely viewed as the main reason that 850,000 immigrants cross the border illegally each year. Facing little in the way of penalties, employers feel few qualms about hiring them for meatpacking, construction, agriculture and janitorial work.
"You had a lack of political will to carry out the enforcement component, and that was in part because of the demands of certain interests to enjoy cheap foreign labor," said Representative Lamar Smith, a Texas Republican who has long supported strict limits on immigration. "We are paying the price today for a lack of enforcement for the last 20 years."
But is the political climate finally ripe for more vigorous work-site enforcement? Though the Senate did not pass a bill before its recess, and though whatever bill it approves will differ from the tough legislation passed by the House, both houses are more in sync on workplace enforcement. Both would stiffen fines on employers who hire illegal immigrants, and the Bush administration has recommended increasing the number of work-site investigators.
The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 did little to prevent employers from hiring illegal immigrants. As a result many foreigners knew that if they sneaked across the border, jobs would be waiting for them. All they needed was a forged green card.
The 1986 act set fines up to $11,000 for hiring illegal workers. But the employer penalties had a fatal weakness: employers could be fined only if the government found that they knowingly hired someone illegally. To elude penalties, employers need only assert a good-faith belief that the work documents immigrants showed them were legitimate. Employers often insisted that they could not tell whether the papers were false.
"Employer sanctions can be a very efficient tool if enforced," said George Borjas, an economics professor at Harvard University. "The problem is the way the law reads, it's basically a joke. It basically gives employers a huge loophole to walk through."
Not only business but also organized labor opposed raids like those in Georgia, asserting that employers often invited in federal agents when workers wanted to unionize. "It's not fair to punish employers when it's often impossible for them to tell whether the documents a worker shows them are real or counterfeit," said John W. Wilhelm, president of the hospitality division of Unite Here, a union representing hotel, restaurant and apparel workers.
The number of federal immigration agents who focus on work-site enforcement plunged to 65 nationwide in 2004, from 240 in 1999, according to the Government Accountability Office. Moreover, the government reduced the number of notices of intent to fine employers who hired illegal immigrants to just 3 in 2004 from 417 in 1999.
But recently the agency responsible for policing workplaces, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, has pursued more criminal actions against employers. Last year, its work-site efforts resulted in 140 indictments, 127 convictions and 165 criminal arrests on top of 980 civil arrests.
Both the Senate compromise and the House bill call for a new nationwide electronic verification system. Whenever they hire workers, employers would be required to e-mail the government to find out whether the workers' Social Security numbers are valid. If a worker's number is not valid according to a government database, the employer would not hire that worker, although it might be hard to identify workers who use stolen Social Security numbers.
Some see other problems. Immigration officials acknowledge gaps in the databases, and they might be overwhelmed by having to check millions of names each year.
With many businesses unhappy about the current muddle, the United States Chamber of Commerce supports an electronic verification program. "We recognize that the current system is subject to abuse with fraudulent documentation," said Randel Johnson, the chamber's vice president for labor, immigration and employee benefits.
Many lawmakers want to require a fraud-proof national ID card — perhaps a new Social Security card with a photo and fingerprint for all citizens and legal immigrants.
"We're trying to replace a nudge-nudge, wink-wink system of unrealistic laws that don't get enforced with realistic laws that can be enforced," said Tamar Jacoby, an immigration expert with the Manhattan Institute. "It's like trying to go from Prohibition to a system of liquor licenses."
Eduardo Porter Argues That The Cost of Illegal Immigration May Be Less Than Meets the Eye
CALIFORNIA may seem the best place to study the impact of illegal immigration on the prospects of American workers. Hordes of immigrants rushed into the state in the last 25 years, competing for jobs with the least educated among the native population. The wages of high school dropouts in California fell 17 percent from 1980 to 2004.
But before concluding that immigrants are undercutting the wages of the least fortunate Americans, perhaps one should consider Ohio. Unlike California, Ohio remains mostly free of illegal immigrants. And what happened to the wages of Ohio's high school dropouts from 1980 to 2004? They fell 31 percent.
As Congress debates an overhaul of the nation's immigration laws, several economists and news media pundits have sounded the alarm, contending that illegal immigrants are causing harm to Americans in the competition for jobs.
Yet a more careful examination of the economic data suggests that the argument is, at the very least, overstated. There is scant evidence that illegal immigrants have caused any significant damage to the wages of American workers.
The number that has been getting the most attention lately was produced by George J. Borjas and Lawrence F. Katz, two Harvard economists, in a paper published last year. They estimated that the wave of illegal Mexican immigrants who arrived from 1980 to 2000 had reduced the wages of high school dropouts in the United States by 8.2 percent. But the economists acknowledge that the number does not consider other economic forces, such as the fact that certain businesses would not exist in the United States without cheap immigrant labor. If it had accounted for such things, immigration's impact would be likely to look less than half as big.
Mr. Katz was somewhat taken aback by the attention the study has received. "This was not intended," he said.
At first blush, the preoccupation over immigration seems reasonable. Since 1980, eight million illegal immigrants have entered the work force. Two-thirds of them never completed high school. It is sensible to expect that, because they were willing to work for low wages, they would undercut the position in the labor market of American high school dropouts.
This common sense, however, ignores half the picture. Over the last quarter-century, the number of people without any college education, including high school dropouts, has fallen sharply. This has reduced the pool of workers who are most vulnerable to competition from illegal immigrants.
In addition, as businesses and other economic agents have adjusted to immigration, they have made changes that have muted much of immigration's impact on American workers.
For instance, the availability of foreign workers at low wages in the Nebraska poultry industry made companies realize that they had the personnel to expand. So they invested in new equipment, generating jobs that would not otherwise be there. In California's strawberry patches, illegal immigrants are not competing against native workers; they are competing against pickers in Michoacán, Mexico. If the immigrant pickers did not come north across the border, the strawberries would.
"Immigrants come in and the industries that use this type of labor grow," said David Card, an economist at the University of California, Berkeley. "Taking all into account, the effects of immigration are much, much lower."
In a study published last year that compared cities that have lots of less educated immigrants with cities that have very few, Mr. Card found no wage differences that could be attributed to the presence of immigrants.
Other research has also cast doubt on illegal immigration's supposed damage to the nation's disadvantaged. A study published earlier this year by three economists — David H. Autor of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Mr. Katz of Harvard and Melissa S. Kearney of the Brookings Institution — observed that income inequality in the bottom half of the wage scale has not grown since around the mid-1980's.
Even economists striving hardest to find evidence of immigration's effect on domestic workers are finding that, at most, the surge of illegal immigrants probably had only a small impact on wages of the least-educated Americans — an effect that was likely swamped by all the other things that hit the economy, from the revolution in technology to the erosion of the minimum wage's buying power.
When Mr. Borjas and Mr. Katz assumed that businesses reacted to the extra workers with a corresponding increase in investment — as has happened in Nebraska — their estimate of the decline in wages of high school dropouts attributed to illegal immigrants was shaved to 4.8 percent. And they have since downgraded that number, acknowledging that the original analysis used some statistically flimsy data.
Assuming a jump in capital investment, they found that the surge in illegal immigration reduced the wages of high school dropouts by just 3.6 percent. Across the entire labor force, the effect of illegal immigrants was zero, because the presence of uneducated immigrants actually increased the earnings of more educated workers, including high school graduates. For instance, higher-skilled workers could hire foreigners at low wages to mow their lawns and care for their children, freeing time for these workers to earn more. And businesses that exist because of the availability of cheap labor might also need to employ managers.
Mr. Borjas said that while the numbers were not large, the impact at the bottom end of the skill range was significant. "It is not a big deal for the whole economy, but that hides a big distributional impact," he said.
OTHERS disagree. "If you're a native high school dropout in this economy, you've got a slew of problems of which immigrant competition is but one, and a lesser one at that," said Jared Bernstein of the Economic Policy Institute, a liberal research group.
Mr. Katz agreed that the impact was modest, and it might fall further if changes in trade flows were taken into account — specifically, that without illegal immigrants, some products now made in the United States would likely be imported. "Illegal immigration had a little bit of a role reinforcing adverse trends for the least advantaged," he said, "but there are much stronger forces operating over the last 25 years."
Karl Rove: Looking to Win in November, With a 2-Year-Old Playbook - Adam Nagourney
IN 2004, Karl Rove declared that President Bush would win re-election if Republicans turned out millions of religious and other conservative voters who had stayed home in 2000. And they did just that, with the help of voter outreach campaigns, a network of church appeals and state initiatives that would ban gay marriage.
In 2006, with both the House and Senate in the balance, the Republican Party faces much the same challenge in this election. This time, though, party leaders say the conservative base seems enervated by administration missteps and unfulfilled expectations, and recent polls have reflected this.
"There is reason for them to be concerned," said Tony Perkins, president of the Christian conservative Family Research Council.
The question for Republicans, then, is how to draw this crucial group to the polls and keep them voting for the party's candidates. The short answer is that some of what may have worked last time — like anti-gay-marriage initiatives — is on the runway, ready to go. But 2006 is nothing like 2004; and the get-out-the-vote tools wielded last time do not seem quite as formidable this year.
True, the Senate majority leader, Bill Frist of Tennessee, is planning to bring a constitutional amendment prohibiting gay marriage to a vote in June. So far, seven states have amendments against gay marriage on the ballot this November: South Dakota, Idaho, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, Wisconsin and Colorado, according to the Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights group, compared with 11 states in 2004. And there is talk in some states, including Ohio, of a measure that bars adoption by same-sex couples.
Republicans said the initiatives could prove significant in Senate races in Tennessee, where there is an open seat because of the retirement of Mr. Frist, and in Virginia, where George Allen is up for re-election. In South Carolina, the existence of such an initiative has fed Republican hopes that Representative John M. Spratt Jr., a 12-term Democrat, could be upset.
Yet there is a strong sense among Republicans that the gay rights issue is not as powerful as it once was, particularly when it comes to state initiatives like the one in Ohio that helped Mr. Bush carry the state in 2004. Republicans are running out of contested states where such a ballot could qualify and pass, and gay rights groups have been more aggressive in fighting these initiatives as they appear.
"Gay marriage is not the magic bullet to get us out of our situation," said Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina.
Beyond that, Republican officials said candidates in culturally conservative parts of the country would try to fight efforts to allow stem cell research. "That is an issue of great importance that has moved to the side, but I think will come back strong in the next few months," said Colin A. Hanna, founder of the conservative advocacy group Let Freedom Ring.
Yet some Republicans say they fear that the issue could help the Democrats, because polls show widespread public support for the research. In Missouri, a proposed initiative would put the right to stem cell research in the State Constitution. Senator Jim Talent, a Republican facing a tough challenge, has declined to take a position on the initiative, and has also abandoned his support for a federal ban supported by many Senate Republicans; his Democratic opponent, Claire McCaskill, the state auditor, supports the Missouri initiative.
Republican strategists said they hoped to remind voters of what they regard as the single clearest accomplishment with this White House: Creating a decidedly more conservative judiciary.
Yet party officials acknowledged that this issue had more sway two years ago, before Mr. Bush succeeded in putting John G. Roberts Jr. and Samuel A. Alito Jr. on the Supreme Court. "We were able to confirm two conservative justices and that's a huge deal and one of the top issues for conservatives," said Brian Nicks, the communications director for the National Republican Senate Campaign Committee. "We have to communicate that to our base."
There are related state initiatives circulating this year that analysts said could prove more effective in moving conservatives: in particular, efforts to limit the Supreme Court ruling on eminent domain, and prevent the government's taking of private property, a hot issue with many conservatives. There are now signatures being gathered to put an initiative like that on the ballot in California, Colorado, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon and Washington, according to the Ballot Initiative Strategy Center.
Immigration is also a tempting target for Republican strategists because it is such an urgent concern. There is considerable support for the kind of tough bill passed by House Republicans. "The grassroots base of the conservative Republican Party is very keenly interested in securing our borders," said Morton C. Blackwell, the president the Leadership Institute, a conservative grassroots training organization. But the risks of using that issue, and alienating Hispanic voters, became clear in the last few weeks with the mass demonstrations of immigrants in American cities.
Even an issue like the Republicans' record on federal spending is cutting across the usual lines differentiating the fiscal conservatives and religious conservatives. While they are seen as two separate wings of the movement, there is considerable overlap between the two groups, according to Republican leaders.
And Senator Graham said that he thought recent government spending, more than any other issue, accounted for the demoralization that should keep Republican leaders worried.
"It's not very good news for Republicans to hear that the Republican-controlled Congress has tripled earmarks on our watch," said Senator Graham, referring to widely criticized special-interest spending by Congress.
One of the best tools Republicans had to turn out conservatives in 2004, and in 2002 for that matter, was Mr. Bush himself; he was welcome wherever he went. Now that is not the case.
A Pew poll in March showed that Mr. Bush's approval ratings among conservatives had dropped from 94 percent to a still lofty 78 percent in January. But his support among evangelical Christians had dropped more substantially. As of last month, 54 percent of white evangelicals approved of the president's job in office, while 36 percent disapproved.
His support also dropped among people who attend church each week or more frequently. According to post-election exit polls conducted by the National Election Pool, these voters backed Mr. Bush over John Kerry by a 61 percent to 38 percent. But now more disapprove (46 percent) than approve (42 percent) of his performance. Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew Research Center, said that his organization's polling had found no evidence of a similar turn against the Republican Party, but said that the view of the party's standard-bearer could reduce turnout.
The Republican Party swamped the Democrats on turnout two years ago in no small part because it pioneered sophisticated voter identification and communication efforts.
This time, though, officials in both parties say the parties are more evenly matched. And Ken Mehlman, the Republican National Committee chairman, said that such election tools, no matter how sophisticated, would not be enough to carry the Republicans to victory, though he said he was less pessimistic than others about a depressed Republican turnout.
"Ultimately, I believe it comes down to ideas more than tactics," Mr. Mehlman said. "What I think ultimately is going to turn out people is reminding them that there is a choice: Reminding them what we are for and what they are."
Still, it seems telling that in conversations last week, many Republicans looking for a way out of this said they were looking not to their party but to the Democrats. "Our ace in the hole may well eventually be some goofy idea pushed by the Democrats that makes people want to run," Senator Graham said. "But if that doesn't happen, we are in trouble."
Evangelicals Debate the Meaning of 'Evangelical' - Michael Luo
TODAY, on Easter, evangelical Christians can celebrate knowing that they are part of a movement that has never been so powerful or so large. But like any dominating force, evangelicalism is not monolithic, and it seems that now, at a time of heightened power, old fissures are widening, and new theological and political splits are developing.
Perhaps it's not surprising that these conflicts are occurring as many of evangelicalism's elder statesmen — most notably, the Rev. Billy Graham — are retiring, and a new generation of leaders is vying to define its center.
"When he leaves the scene, there will be some deep fractures that come out into the open and become wider," said Roger E. Olson, a theology professor at Baylor University's Truett Theological Seminary. "It will be harder for anyone to talk about evangelicalism as a movement with any unity."
Evangelical leaders have clashed recently over a range of issues, including whether the movement should get involved in the debates over global warming and immigration. A tug of war is also unfolding behind the scenes over theology — should evangelicalism be a big tent, open to more divergent views, or a smaller, purer theology?
To a certain extent, divisions are to be expected, because the evangelical movement has become increasingly diverse as it has grown, making it harder to define, or for any one person to serve as even its symbolic head, as Mr. Graham did.
"There are many people today who call themselves evangelical whom no person would call an evangelical 40 years ago," said Donald A. Carson, research professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Ill.
John C. Green, a senior fellow at the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, used polling data to separate evangelicals into three camps, traditionalist, centrist and modernist. The traditionalists, characterized by high affinity for orthodox religious beliefs and little inclination to adapt them to a changing world, bear the closest resemblance to what has been labeled the Christian right, whose most visible spokesmen have been figures like the Rev. Jerry Falwell and the television evangelist Pat Robertson, Dr. Green said.
Centrists, he said, might be represented by the Rev. Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church in Orange County, Calif., and author of the best-selling book, "The Purpose Driven Life." Mr. Warren is theologically and socially conservative, but has mostly avoided politics and recently turned much of his focus to fighting poverty and AIDS in Africa.
According to Dr. Green's findings from a survey taken in 2004, the traditionalist and centrist segments are roughly the same size within evangelicalism, each accounting for approximately 40 to 50 percent of the movement's adherents. Modernist evangelicals, who have much more diversity in their beliefs and lower levels of church attendance, are a small minority. Fissures between the traditionalist and centrist camps of evangelicalism have begun to emerge much more prominently in recent months in the political realm.
Earlier this year, more than 80 evangelical leaders, many of them pastors who would likely be classified as centrists, including Mr. Warren and the Rev. Leith Anderson, pastor of a megachurch outside of Minneapolis and a former president of the National Association of Evangelicals, signed an evangelical call to action on global warming.
Meanwhile many of the more conservative leaders in the movement, including Dr. James Dobson, the head of Focus on the Family, Mr. Falwell and Mr. Robertson, were conspicuously absent.
"It's a tension that exists between the traditionalists and the centrists," said the Rev. Richard Cizik, vice president for governmental affairs for the National Association of Evangelicals, which did not sign the statement after pressure from Dr. Dobson, Mr. Falwell and others. "The centrists want to deal with these issues. The traditionalists are saying, 'Hey now, I thought we understood the issues.' "
In its public statements, Focus on the Family said Dr. Dobson chose not to sign on because the group questioned the validity of the theory and believed that it put plants and animals above humans. "For us, we have to focus on some core issues that are connected to our principles," said Paul L. Hetrick, a spokesman for the group. "One of our core principles is the value or sanctity of human life."
Mr. Hetrick criticized other evangelicals like Mr. Cizik and the Rev. Jim Wallis, a prominent, politically liberal evangelical, who have been active on climate change and, more recently, immigration issues, for neglecting core concerns like abortion and gay marriage.
"What's interesting is many times these folks can't get worked up in a lather about 45 million babies killed," he said.
There is also a growing conflict over theology, or specifically the orthodoxy of the "emerging church" movement.
ALTHOUGH much of the attention on the emerging church movement has been on changes that its leaders have made in worship — bringing back liturgy and ancient practices like meditation and chanting — the movement has also sought to introduce theological innovations.
It emphasizes reading the Bible as a narrative, perfect in its purposes but not necessarily inerrant; de-emphasizing individual salvation in favor of a more holistic mission in serving the world; even making evangelicals less absolutist on whether people from other religions might find their way to heaven.
All of this has made many evangelical leaders nervous. They worry that the "emerging church" will water down the theology.
"It's over the question of the nature of truth," said R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., whose appointment in 1993 helped seal what many critics saw as a conservative takeover of the Southern Baptist Convention, evangelicalism's largest denomination.
But Brian D. McLaren, founding pastor of Cedar Ridge Community Church outside of Baltimore and a chief apostle of the emerging church, argues that he is not promoting relativism; rather, he believes the evangelical movement has been hijacked theologically, as well as politically, by its more fundamentalist elements, something he is trying to correct.
"In many, many areas, I'm looking at polarization, " he said, "and I'm looking at a third way."
These disputes are nothing new for evangelicalism. The evangelical movement as it is known today emerged in the 1940's and 50's as a middle way between what many Christian leaders perceived as theological liberalism in the mainline Protestant denominations and the cultural separatism of the fundamentalist movement.
Today, with the term, "evangelical," often equated with "fundamentalist," many in the movement are even discussing whether the label evangelical should be jettisoned completely, said David Neff, editor of Christianity Today, an evangelical magazine.
"I did sit in a room with a number of key leaders, some Christian college presidents, some representatives of major college ministries," he said. "They were seriously discussing whether the word evangelical should be used anymore, or should we call ourselves classic Christians or historic orthodox Christians."
That fight has been waged in other states and countries in recent years—Massachusetts, Vermont, Connecticut, California, Canada, Spain, England and elsewhere—and has encompassed battles for full marriage equality as well as civil unions and civil partnerships.
But aside from a few noisy protests, there’s been little visible movement on the issue in Illinois. Some legislators and advocates hope that’s about to change—perhaps next spring.
“I was ready to push it this year,” says Ill. state Rep. Sara Feigenholtz (D-Chicago). “I don’t think it would have passed. ÉBut I believe that we have to continue pushing forward.”
Feigenholtz and other Chicago-area Democratic state legislators, including Sens. John Cullerton and Carol Ronen and Reps. Julie Hamos and Larry McKeon, have been meeting regularly with advocates from Equality Illinois, Lambda Legal and the American Civil Liberties Union to craft legislation that would grant gay and lesbian couples in Illinois some or all of the rights accorded to married couples.
“There’s been a lot of work and a lot of meetings and drafting of legislation, particularly around hospital visitation and medical decision-making,” Feigenholtz says.
She and other members of the ad hoc group agreed to hold off after getting a bill passed last year to ban discrimination against GLBTs, an effort that began in the 1970s.
“This being an election year, we knew that the General Assembly wasn’t inclined to take on anything they didn’t have to,” says Rick Garcia, political director of Equality Illinois. “There was a general consensus that we had just passed a big bill, so let’s get through an election cycle first.”
The effort taking shape may go forward one step at a time—first granting couples hospital visitation rights and giving partners decision-making powers if their partners are incapacitated, then moving on to matters such as inheritance and other rights. Depending on the composition and atmosphere of the Legislature, the effort could move more quickly.
“There may be individual pieces of legislation, and there may also be a huge partners bill,” Garcia says.
While Vermont’s legislature was ordered by its state’s highest court to implement civil unions, Connecticut’s legislature approved civil unions on its own, and last September California’s assembly voted for gay and lesbian marriage, though not by enough of a margin to override GOP Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s subsequent veto.
With Illinois being one of the bluest of the so-called “Blue States”—a state where Democrats control both U.S. Senate seats, the Legislature, the governor’s mansion and all but one statewide office—how hard could it be to pass civil unions or even full marriage equality?
“I think it’s going to take some time,” says McKeon, the state’s only openly gay legislator. “Public opinion is changing in our favor. Just as it took some time for public opinion to shift in our favor on human rights, I think we’re seeing it shift in our favor on marriage, and I think it’s shifting much faster than it did on human rights.”
On the opposite side of the issue, Illinois has been a difficult place for right-wing groups to pass a statewide constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. McKeon and Garcia credit Illinois’ moderate leaders for thwarting those efforts.
Just how “blue” Illinois remains after the November general election could impact how far the state goes on gay and lesbian partners’ rights when the Legislature re-convenes next year.
“It depends on how the election goes, on who wins in different districts,” says Ronen, a top Senate Democrat. “If the Democrats win the constitutional offices again, if the governor’s reelected, if we can pick up some legislative seats, then we stand a chance of moving forward next year.”
If that happens, Feigenholtz says she’ll be looking to Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) for leadership on the issue.
“There are a lot of people in the General Assermbly who, in their tenure there, want to see things move forward,” she says. “I’m hoping that our governor, as he has in the past, will understand the LGBT community, and make a bold step.”
Immigration 'Solutions': Part IV - Thomas Sowellhttp://www.gopusa.com/commentary/tsowell/2006/ts_04171.shtml
Shaky political arguments for going easy on illegal immigrants are sometimes backed up by equally shaky economic arguments.
There is, of course, the perennial favorite that we "need" immigrants to "do work that Americans won't do." But what is the basis for this claim?
What specific jobs in this country are performed exclusively by immigrants? Indeed, in what jobs are immigrants an absolute majority? Those who make this sweeping claim seldom offer a speck of evidence to support it.
In some particular places, such as California, agricultural jobs seem to be almost exclusively filled by immigrants. But, in a country with huge agricultural surpluses costing the taxpayers billions in subsidies and storage costs, why is there a "need" for more workers to increase the surpluses and the costs?
One editorial cartoon pictured consumers confronted with $20 lettuce because immigrants no longer grew or picked it for low wages. But it is our agricultural subsidy laws which drive up the price of fruits and vegetables by taking vast amounts of this produce off the market, in order to keep prices artificially high.
If this surplus produce is not grown in the first place, that just saves subsidy and storage costs. The price of the fruits and vegetables sold in the market need be no higher than right now.
Even in fields like engineering or science, where particular immigrants bring particular skills much in demand, that is no argument for tolerating illegal immigration. Tolerating illegality means that the immigrants determine what kinds of people enter our country and become part of the U.S. population, whether or not their skills, attitudes or behavior are wanted by Americans.
A broader economic claim is that immigrants add to the national output, benefiting us all as consumers. Plausible as this might sound, its logic will not stand up under scrutiny.
If more immigrants are a good thing, where do we stop -- and why? Why not fling the doors open to all the people who want to immigrate here from Haiti or Cuba or anywhere else?
Even if every one of those immigrants added to the national output, that does not mean that today's American population would be economically better off after this unchecked influx from around the world.
After all, people not only produce, they consume -- and some consume more than they produce, courtesy of the American taxpayers.
Nor are our schools or our neighborhoods improved by becoming a tower of babel or scenes of clashing standards of behavior, noise, or violence. We need to count all costs, not just money costs.
Why is this a far more prosperous country than the countries from which most of our immigrants come? Many of those countries are well endowed with natural resources but are lacking an economic and political culture that would allow those resources to be used to produce better results than the poverty which drives their people to other countries.
When you import people, you import cultures. Those cultures no longer give way to the American culture when "multiculturalism" is a dogma and its apostles and activists make it necessary for American laws, language, and culture to give way, or at least accommodate growing alien enclaves in our midst.
A nation is more than a collection of whatever population happens to reside within its borders. Something has to unite those people if the country is not to degenerate into the kind of unending internal strife brought on by Balkanization in many countries around the world, not just in the Balkans.
It can be a matter of national life and death whether a country is or is not united against its external enemies. Internal disunity contributed to the decline and fall of the Roman Empire over a period of centuries and to the much faster collapse of France, which surrendered after just six weeks of fighting in 1940.
A generation earlier, a united France had fought on for four long years, despite far higher casualties than in 1940.
Unity and patriotism are not luxuries. Survival in an international jungle depends on them. What are dangerous luxuries are the open borders which erode national solidarity. The fact that we are already at each other's throats over the immigration issue is an ominous sign.
Paid for by David John Diersen