David John Diersen, GOPUSA Illinois Editor
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July 14, 2006 News Clip - Text
Posted by Diersen on 15-Mar-2007


Hastert Hospitalized With Bacterial Skin Infection  Expected To Remain In Hospital Over The Weekend - Mike Flannery (includes video clip)

House Speaker Dennis Hastert was hospitalized today for treatment of a bacterial skin infection.

Hastert spokesman Ron Bonjean says the Illinois congressman was expected to be treated with intravenous antibiotics at Bethesda Naval Hospital in suburban Maryland through the weekend.

The 64-year-old Yorkville resident discovered the infection on his lower left leg and applied a topical ointment.

After a few days, Hastert's doctor examined the infection at Bethesda and diagnosed it as cellulitis, a skin infection that appears as a swollen, red area that feels hot and tender. The infection can spread rapidly without treatment.

Hastert is a ten-term congressman. He has been speaker since 1999, succeeding Newt Gingrich of Georgia.

Hastert's tenure recently became the longest of any Republican speaker.

Hastert had been expected to attend a political outing in Kendall County Thursday evening.

CBS 2 News spoke to one of his closest allies by telephone as he was driving to the event, which will go on without Hastert. Illinois House Republican Leader Tom Cross (R-Plainfield) predicted a quick exit from the Bethesda Naval Medical Center.

"I'm sure he's climbing the walls, but he also knows you gotta follow a doctor's orders and he'll do what he needs to do and then get back. I know the guys at his office say that he can't wait to get back to work on Monday and will be," Cross said.

Continued Cross: "He'll rally. He has a lot of good people around him that are helping him run campaigns and working on the same issues, so he'll do what he has to do. He always has."

Friends and supporters sang praises for him on Thursday night.

"We're always concerned about Denny's well being. I'm confident that this is not a big problem. But none the less, we pray for him," said friend Dallas Ingemunson.

The hospitalization comes as Hastert is fighting for his Republicans to keep control of the House.

Cellulitis is a potentially serious bacterial infection of the skin. It's usually caused by one of two bugs: streptococcus or staphylococcus. While it can appear anywhere, the most common location is the legs, especially the shins and ankles.

Cellulitis occurs when those bacteria enter through a cut, scratch or abrasion. Most cases are superficial and they clear up in a few days after treatment with oral antibiotics.

But if the infection spreads to tissues beneath the skin, it can enter the lymph nodes and the bloodstream, spreading throughout the body.

Untreated, this infection can spread rapidly and turn into a life-threatening condition. In rare cases, it has triggered the so-called "flesh-eating" disease.

If cellulitis is extensive or there's a high fever, which may be the situation for Hastert, patients need to be hospitalized and receive antibiotics intravenously.

The risk of developing cellulitis increases as we age and our circulatory system slows down. A weakened immune system, diabetes, chronic swelling of the arms and legs, and recurrent fungal infections that cause skin infections can also increase your risk.

More Immigrant Rights Rallies Planned In Chicago  Events Expected To Start Friday - Rafael Romo (includes video clip)

The same coalition of pro-immigrant organizations that organized massive marches before say they're getting ready to do it all over again.

CBS 2's Rafael Romo reports marches, protests and rallies are planned starting Friday.

"They're separating our families. They're deporting people. They're bringing sanctions on the employers," said Ema Lozano with Center Without Borders. "They're not going to change! We need to force their hand. That's why we take the streets."

Organizers say they don't expect any of the marches to be as big as the one that congregated hundreds of thousands of people at the Federal Plaza in March, but they also say they won't stop until they accomplish their goals.

On the other side of the issue, organizers that oppose immigration say they're trying to convince police agencies to round up and deport illegal immigrants.

"They're cracking down on illegal immigration. Illegals are staying away from their town. It can be done when there is a willingness," said Rosanna Pulido with the Illinois Minuteman Project.

The Bush administration has sent a cabinet member to cities across the nation in an effort to push for immigration reform.

"The system needs to be fixed," Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez said.

Gutierrez was in Chicago Thursday speaking to an audience of business leaders.

"We need a temporary worker's permit. That way, we allow people to come out from the shadows to register, to be in the country legally, to be tax-paying workers," he said.

They are workers that Gutierrez says could fill more than 4 million jobs in the service and food industries.

A surprising study coming from the University of Illinois at Chicago found that most people who participated in the previous marches were citizens.


Ex-Illinois agency boss Maynard Crossland sues over political hiring and firing - AP

The former head of Illinois' Historic Preservation Agency alleged Thursday that he was forced out of his job for refusing the Blagojevich administration's order to fire Republican employees.

A lawsuit filed by Maynard Crossland claims aides to Gov. Rod Blagojevich came to his office in 2003 with a chart with red X's over the names of people the governor wanted to fire. Crossland says he was told the employees should be fired because they were Republicans, even though their jobs were protected from political hiring and firing.

In another blow to an administration already under federal investigation, Crossland's lawsuit claims the Democratic governor's office ordered him to create a job for the wife of a state lawmaker, despite questions about whether she had mishandled government money.

Crossland, who spent two years as executive director of the Historic Preservation Agency, accused Blagojevich's chief of staff at the time, Alonzo Monk, of forcing him out of the job for refusing to fire the employees and for alerting the state inspector general to allegations of financial improprieties.

The lawsuit names Monk and various members of the Historic Preservation Agency's board of trustees. Monk is now Blagojevich's campaign manager.

The governor's office did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

Crossland is suing in Sangamon County Circuit Court under the state's whistleblower protection laws. Crossland, who did not immediately return a call from The Associated Press, asks the court for his job back plus twice his back pay, along with interest and legal fees.

His attorney, Carl Draper, said Crossland decided to sue after seeing story after story about allegations of misconduct by the Blagojevich administration.

"He felt like he owed it to everybody else who suffered problems to come forward and tell what he knows," Draper said.

Blagojevich has been rocked by a series of disclosures about the way his administration makes hiring decisions.

The U.S. attorney in Chicago said he is investigating serious allegations of widespread misconduct. A report surfaced in which Blagojevich's own inspector general complained of a "concerted effort" by personnel director Joe Cini to subvert the law.

It also came out that the administration kept lists of job applicants -- one showing their politically influential backers and another showing the names of jobseekers despite Blagojevich's claim that names were not considered in hiring decisions.

Crossland worked at the agency from its creation in 1985 until his resignation in August 2004. He gave no explanation for his departure at the time but later criticized the direction of the agency as more money and attention was devoted to the state's new Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.

Associated Press Political Writer John O'Connor contributed to this report.

Immigration march scheduled for next week

A march for justice on behalf of millions immigrant families throughout the US is less than a week away.


Several Chicago-area groups unveiled details Thursday. The march will begin in Union Park next Wednesday. The groups are calling for a moratorium on immigration raids, arrests deportations and employer sanctions. They say the purpose of the march is to send a message to Congress and President Bush.

"The issue of immigration will not go away without a comprehensive solution, and we're just gonna spend the summer registering people to vote, helping people become citizens, getting out the vote and making sure people come out in November," said Lawrence Benito, Illinois Coalition for Immigration and Refugee Rights.

The immigration march July 19 is set to begin at noon and end at the Federal Plaza on South Dearborn.


NEW POLL: Illinois Governor: Blagojevich Now Up by 11

After trailing earlier in the campaign season, Illinois Governor Rod
Blagojevich (D) now leads Republican State Treasurer Judy
Baar Topinka by 11-points in his bid for re-election. The latest Rasmussen
Reports poll shows Blagojevich with 45% of the vote to 34% for Topinka.

The Blagojevich campaign has run an advertising campaign raising the
question "What is She Thinking?" about Topinka and touching on issues
ranging from the state budget to Iraq. The Blagojevich campaign has also
raised complaints about lease payments by Topinka to a developer who is
also a contributor. A better job performance in the state may also have
something to do with the turnabout.

The governor, too, has had to contend with charges of impropriety, but
that's old news and he has more money to spend on campaign ads. Many
Republicans in the state concede that he has managed to put Topinka on the
defensive lately.

Governor Blagojevich is viewed favorably by 48%, unfavorably by 49%.
Topinka is viewed favorably by 40%, unfavorably by 50%.

Forty-three percent (43%) approve of the job the governor is doing,
56% disapprove.

As in other states, when asked about which party they'd like to see in
the White House in 2008, a plurality (48%) say they prefer a Democrat;
26% say a Republican, 22% say "other."

Nevertheless, Republicans are more competitive when voters consider
match-ups of particular presidential prospects: Al Gore, Hillary
Clinton, John McCain, and Rudy Giuliani. Details about the match-ups
are available to Premium Members. In Massachusetts, it's
McCain 44% Clinton 43%.

Also consistent with the trend, we find that Illinois voters tend to
view the two Republicans more favorably than the Democrats, even as
the Democrats are disliked more intensely. McCain and Giuliani are
each viewed favorably by more than 60% of likely Illinois voters.

Both Clinton and Gore can claim higher "very" favorable ratings than
the Republicans, however.



DuPage GOP taps Gwen Henry for party treasurer post - Kathy Cichon

Gwen Henry is succeeding John Novak as a treasurer in DuPage County – a position similar to one she expects to win later this year.

On Thursday, the Republican candidate for DuPage County treasurer was named treasurer of the DuPage County Republican Party. She succeeds DuPage County Treasurer John Novak, who resigned as party treasurer on Monday.

"Gwen Henry will bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to the position of DuPage County Republican Party Treasurer," said DuPage County Republican Party Chairman Kirk Dillard in a statement. "The party is fortunate to have her in this important role."

Henry, 65, is a partner in the accounting firm of Dugan & Lopatka and also serves as a DuPage County Forest Preserve commissioner. She has also served as the mayor of Wheaton, as a DuPage County Board member and as a member of numerous charitable organizations' boards.

Along with fulfilling the fiscal responsibilities, Henry said Thursday that she wants to work on community outreach to create more opportunities for women and the diverse population of DuPage.

"We have a real diverse county, and we want to make sure we spread the word and get (people) involved," Henry said. "It ties in with what I'm doing in the community."

Henry said she is grateful and honored by the appointment and that she looks forward to working with the party's fiscal matters.

"It's all new and I look forward to participating in decision-making as it pertains to the party," she said.

The current county treasurer, Novak, will retire when his term ends in December. In the March primary Henry ran against County Board member Bob Heap, R-Naperville, for the GOP treasurer spot on the fall ballot. Henry, who is running unopposed in the November election for county treasurer, said that Novak should expect periodic calls from her.

"As DuPage County treasurer and DuPage Count Republican Party treasurer, I intend to build on the solid foundation laid by John Novak," she said. "I look forward to John's continued friendship and counsel as I follow in his footsteps."

William Maio: DuPage water board adds familiar face - Kathy Cichon

The DuPage Water Commission welcomed a new commissioner Thursday, as Itasca resident William Maio was sworn in after county officials approved his appointment earlier in the week.

On Tuesday, the County Board approved the appointment of 61-year-old Maio, a former County Board member who works in the office of the clerk of the circuit court. Maio replaces longtime member Raymond Benson, also an Itasca resident.

"I worked with Bill Maio for more than 20 years," County Board Chairman Robert Schillerstrom said Tuesday. "There are few people that have served in as many areas as Bill Maio."

When Benson's term expired at the end of June, no one expressed interest in the post, said Schillerstrom, R-Naperville. And Benson didn't indicate that he wanted to stay on the commission.

"I thought it was time to bring some new blood in," he said.

"I've been doing public service things for 32 years and I figured, well, why not? I live in District 1, which has a large unincorporated area," Maio said Wednesday. "I'd like to be able to help those folks if I can."

Maio said he looks forward to a positive experience and that he hopes his experience with will serve his new duties well. Maio was the County Board's vice chairman and most senior member when he resigned in September to become the chief compliance officer for the clerk of the circuit court. He had been on the County Board since 1984 and was chairman of the former Government Efficiency Committee and served many other committees.

"As a long-term goal I'd like to see Lake Michigan water provided to everyone in the county who wants it," Maio said.

The County Board chairman, with the approval of the County Board, appoints the chairman.

While the County Board approved Maio's appointment, board member James Zay, R-Carol Stream, voiced concerns.

"I just thinks this sets a bad precedent by continuing to put county employees on the commission," he said.

Maio said there is no conflict.

"I work for the clerk of the court, not for the County Board," Maio said. "There is a distinction there. Mr. (Chris) Kachiroubas is my boss, not Mr. Schillerstrom."


Immigrant supporters to march again  Protesters hope to rekindle fire for immigration reform - Tara Malone

Retracing the steps that kindled a national push for immigration reform, protesters again will flood Chicago next week hoping to further the immigrant rights movement galvanized this spring.

Their goals, like their route, remain the same: press lawmakers to mend an immigration system they dismiss as broken and enable immigrants living here illegally to become citizens.

“We need to say stop deportations until you finish debating and come up with some sort of legalization reform we can all live with,” said Emma Lozano, director of Centro Sin Fronteras, the group orchestrating a downtown march next Wednesday. “We’re saying, ‘Wake up.’”

Immigration reform also got a plug Thursday from U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez. Speaking at the National Roofing Contractors Association meeting in Chicago, Gutierrez touted a guest worker program, saying workplace enforcement and border security alone will not solve the problem.

Critics of illegal immigration, meanwhile, continue to apply pressure of their own, calling for tighter border security and a crackdown on those who use fake documentation to work and live in America unlawfully.

“People are tired. All of these marches have pushed people over the line, people who never thought there was a problem,” Illinois Minuteman Project Director Rosanna Pulido said. “What they are asking for is anarchy.”

This time around, march organizers said, the numbers likely will be smaller than nationwide rallies May 1 that drew 400,000 to Chicago, 10,000 to Aurora and 2,000 to Elgin.

The springtime rallies were followed by citizenship workshops and voter registration drives across Chicago and suburbs such as Elgin, Aurora and Schaumburg.

“If they are legal permanent residents, we need them to become citizens. If they are citizens, we need them to vote,” said Gabe Gonzalez of the Diez de Marzo group that spearheaded the March 10 and May 1 marches.

A study released Thursday suggests many Latino residents, both immigrants and U.S.-born citizens, agree.

Latinos increasingly feel both discriminated against and politically emboldened, according to an annual survey by the Pew Hispanic Center, the Washington, D.C.-based group that counts more than 11 million immigrants living here illegally. More than half — 56 percent — come from Mexico.

Some 400,000 illegal immigrants live in Illinois.

About two in every three Latinos say immigrant marches earlier this year jumpstarted a movement that shows no sign of ebbing. Efforts to block some 500,000 immigrants who cross illegally into this country every year also remain fervent.

In August, immigrant advocates plan to march from Chicago to U.S. Speaker Dennis Hastert’s office in Batavia.

More mobilizations are in the works for September.

“This perception there is more of a threat out there,” researcher Gabriel Escobar said, “that’s the kind of thing that can bring people not only closer in terms of a more united front, but also provoke some kind of political reaction.”

The Illinois Family Institute — architects of the proposed same-sex marriage ban that remains under review by the state election board — plans a weeklong “truth and love offensive” complete with lectures, debates and street ministry outside a gay-friendly gym and social club in Chicago’s Boystown neighborhood.  “The message is compassion, the message is loving people but not loving homosexuality,” said Peter LaBarbera, executive director of the Glen Ellyn-based group. “This is absolutely an opportunity to present another side.”

Making points at Gay Games  Both sides of gay rights debate see competition as chance to spread message - Tara Malone

Jeff Wedig never missed a vault.

Every time his son Chris took a turn on the parallel bars or competed for a high school gymnastics title, the Round Lake man watched from the stands.

Wedig returns to the bleachers this weekend, watching his now openly gay, 30-year-old son take part in the Gay Games, held for the first time in Chicago at what organizers and opponents alike call a critical — and controversial —  time in the gay-rights movement.

Bans against same-sex marriage have fueled debate and, in some cases, legal action, in Congress and 19 states, including, most recently, Illinois. The mere fact that HIV-positive athletes needed special consideration to get into the country — where immigration law bars entry to any foreigner with HIV — seemed more discrimination than precaution to some health officials.

Such issues take a back seat to the real draw of the Gay Games in Wedig’s eyes: his son, Chris, who will vie for medals in bowling and volleyball.

“It’s important for me to watch my son compete in a sport,” Wedig said. “It’s a thing a dad does whether it’s the Gay Games or not.”

Still, the weeklong event expected to draw 11,500 athletes — homosexual and heterosexual alike — from 65 countries, shoulders a significance beyond any routine athletic tournament or pick-up game.

Like Jackie Robinson in baseball and Billie Jean King in tennis, athletes in the Gay Games hope to shatter biases that dog the gay and lesbian community nearly a quarter century after the games began.

“The fact is racism, sexism and homophobia still exist,” said Tracy Baim, co-vice chair of the Gay Games Chicago board and publisher of Chicago-based Windy City Times. “The stereotype is all lesbians play sports and all gay men don’t. The Gay Games helps break down those stereotypes.”

And the Games help put Chicago on the gay rights map, Baim said, citing a perception of Illinois as a “fly-over state.”

Controversy drove the weeklong games to Chicago. A dispute between the Federation of Gay Games and the city of Montreal, initially named as the host, spurred federation officials to switch host cities two years ago. Montreal responded by deciding to host its own international gay sports event — the Outgames — later this month.

Regardless of the location, both champions and critics of gay rights see the events as an opportunity to spread their beliefs.

For some in the Chicago area, the message is that the games promote immoral behavior, even though the participants themselves deserve love and respect.

The Illinois Family Institute — architects of the proposed same-sex marriage ban that remains under review by the state election board — plans a weeklong “truth and love offensive” complete with lectures, debates and street ministry outside a gay-friendly gym and social club in Chicago’s Boystown neighborhood.

“The message is compassion, the message is loving people but not loving homosexuality,” said Peter LaBarbera, executive director of the Glen Ellyn-based group. “This is absolutely an opportunity to present another side.”

Others cast a different view, sticking to a theme of inclusiveness, of recognizing gay and lesbian athletes who work, compete and play much like everyone else.

“It’s one of the hardest things in this movement … convincing people gay people do things just like normal people. They get up, they go to work, they do their business,” said west suburban resident John Cepek, vice-president of the national Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays organization.

Crystal Lake is likely to see the biggest splash.

Some 70 rowers will compete Sunday in the city, a location that drew the ire of many suburban residents this spring when hundreds packed Crystal Lake park board meetings to weigh in on the local competition.

While a test of strength unfolds on the water, a test of ideological views is expected on shore.

The Rev. Joel Anderson of Crystal Lake’s Harvest Bible Chapel said at the time: “To those who come for the games, it may be hard to accept that Christians who hold closely to the Bible must disagree with them, and yet at the same time can love them with all our hearts.”

Suburban members of the Parents, Friends and Families of Lesbians and Gay group plan to attend in a show of support.

“Like parents everywhere, we will be the first to come to the defense of our children,” said Toni Weaver of McHenry, who joined the parent support group after one of her son’s came out. “When a minority group begins to make inroads, it’s natural to see a backlash, and I think we’re seeing that backlash.”

Some conservative groups are expected to protest what they see as the public celebration of immoral behavior.

Designated free speech areas exist in each of the 33 sport venues across the Chicago area. Same goes for the week’s lineup of concerts and performances.

In a similar vein, the Illinois Family Institute opens its lectures to all those who want to listen. Rabble-rousers, though, are not welcome, LaBarbera said.

Still, organizers say they hope any potential controversy does not cloud the real draw — competition, and a good time.

“At its core, this is a sports competition,” said Kevin Boyer, board co-vice chair for the games. “There’s a lot of opportunity here for people to use this as a teaching moment for their children — something that’s enjoyable, fun and not offensive.”

The Rev. Randolph W.B. Becker views the competition in simpler terms, a view he preaches in his Unitarian Universalist Community Church in Park Forest, whose faith supports diversity and same-sex marriage.

“For us, it’s just an opportunity to see some good athletics,” Becker said. “We’re looking to a day when it’s not seen as difference or as a time of opportunity.”

And for Round Lake’s Wedig, it’s a chance to celebrate his son as an athlete and as a gay man.

“It’s a wonderful show and statement,” Wedig said, “And it’s a pretty neat thing for Chicago.”

DIERSEN HEADLINE: Eric Krol calls the National Rifle Association "politically controversial"

(DIERSEN QUESTION: Would Krol call the National Association of Women "politically controversial?")

Is Roskam stepping into line of fire? - Eric Krol
Sixth Congressional District Republican Peter Roskam will roll the political dice Saturday by campaigning in Addison with the National Rifle Association, a move apparently controversial enough that organizers removed all mentions of his name from the invitation.

Early versions of the electronic invitation to the “Mix n’ Mingle” asked attendees to “help Pro-Gun congressional candidate” Roskam, listing his name no fewer than 11 times. The second version, which remained on the group’s Web site Thursday afternoon, did not mention the Wheaton GOP state senator’s name once.

Roskam campaign manager Ryan McLaughlin said the NRA told him there was only one version of the invitation, which listed Roskam’s name. The Daily Herald provided the Roskam-scrubbed version to McLaughlin Thursday. An NRA spokesman said Roskam’s name was removed due to federal election regulations.

The broader issue is whether Roskam, who is engaged in a nationally targeted House race and trying to woo moderate suburban voters, will be helped or hurt by bringing in a group as politically controversial as the NRA, whose political arm has given $4,950 to Roskam’s campaign fund.

“Local grassroots voters who believe in the Constitution will be supporting Peter Roskam this fall,” said McLaughlin, who declined to make Roskam available for an interview.

A spokeswoman for Roskam’s Democratic opponent, Tammy Duckworth of Hoffman Estates, sought to capitalize on the situation.

“Peter Roskam is clearly trying to hide the fact that he is so closely associated with the national gun lobby groups because he realizes his stance on gun control is out of touch with the mainstream values of this congressional district and his positions are opposed by local law enforcement,” said Christine Glunz, the Duckworth spokeswoman.

The 6th District, which covers portions of DuPage and Cook counties, is thought to at least be somewhat moderate on gun issues, given that longtime conservative GOP icon Congressman Henry Hyde voted in favor of the 1994 federal assault weapons ban that expired two years ago. Duckworth also favors such a ban, while Roskam opposes it.

Beyond that, Duckworth opposes measures to allow people to carry concealed firearms with a permit. Roskam would have to see how the legislation was phrased before taking a stand, McLaughlin said. Roskam did sponsor a law in the state Senate to allow retired military and police personnel to carry concealed weapons.

McLaughlin said Roskam supports “common-sense gun control provisions” and said Roskam helped push through a law to close a loophole which allowed criminals to buy guns at gun shows without a background check. Roskam’s version also included a controversial provision requiring those records, which are used by police in criminal probes, to be destroyed after 90 days. Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich vetoed Roskam’s measure, allowing the version without the records-destruction provision to become law.

Also Thursday, Duckworth’s campaign reported she had more than $900,000 in her campaign fund after raising $830,000 from April through June. She’s raised a total of $1.9 million since getting into the race last December, one of the top totals in the nation. Roskam’s camp said he will report having $1.3 million on hand through June in the finance reports due Saturday.

Standards in society worth preserving - Michael O’Brien

Maggie Moriarty of Wheaton (Fence Post, July 3) feels those who have problems with gay marriage should keep their opinions to themselves, and I want to thank her for her concise letter exemplifying almost everything I dislike about liberals. She lacks logic, makes misstatements and calls for a double standard, and does it in only a few lines.

“We can not be forced to marry anyone, so why can we be legally forced not to”?

This is like the ’70s poster saying that “Today is the tomorrow you worried about yesterday,” or “I know you think you heard what you thought I said...”

Oh well, you get the point. It is a statement that sounds good at a rally, but doesn’t really make any sense.

Being gay is wrong in the eyes of the church, what about Jesus not judging?

Oh, I see.

I should not have a comment on someone stealing something or lying on their taxes, maybe a murderer. Who am I to judge?

How about all those people who are judging people like Ken Lay?

What Jesus admonished us all for was hypocritically judging others when we had similar or worse issues in our own life.

He did not say that nothing was wrong, but ultimately it is for God to judge.

He called for us to avoid evil and do good. If someone is in love, let him/her be.

OK with me, just don’t try to break down societal norms because you do not want anyone telling you what to do.

I hate to say this to you, but not all behavior is acceptable to a society that really wants to survive.

Study the Roman Empire. Society — that entity that was so hated by the spoiled incompetents of the ’60s — is what keeps our cumulative lives together. Interacting, supporting, promulgating, etc., and paving the way for the continuance of the society.

We have children to continue society and its structure, not for our pleasure.

Finally she hits what everyone should pay attention to: eventually all behavior will be acceptable to society.

There are standards, there are things that work well, and there are reasons for certain structures.

If you want to be gay and have a relationship with a person of the same sex, go ahead. That is not what is being asked for, it is equality to a married couple and that is what is wrong. Next is the access to benefits available to married people, something that will bankrupt the system.

We already put more research dollars to AIDS research than anything else in this country and that is wrong, but politically correct.

Democrat Committeeman Patrick Botterman and Sue Walton: Open up the Stroger replacement process

John Stroger’s recent decision to end his campaign for re-election as president of the Cook County board allows leaders of Cook County’s Democratic Party, including the suburban township committeemen, to select Stroger’s replacement on the ballot for the Nov. 7 general election.

As members of the small group of party leaders who will help name his replacement, we add our voices to those seeking to open the selection process to public review and scrutiny.

We believe the process of reviewing interested candidates and selecting a nominee needs to be as open as possible. Any candidate not willing to declare his or her views on key issues facing the county board should not be named as the Democrats’ nominee.

Those seeking to serve as president of the Cook County board will face many difficult issues in the coming months, if elected.

Those seeking to take John Stroger’s place as the Democrats’ nominee must detail how they will address these issues. Cook County residents deserve to know how these individuals would address a $200 million deficit in the county’s budget.

The public has a right to know how these individuals would manage essential services involving the county’s hospital, jail and courts.

Voters in Cook County and the state are fed up with government by back-room deals. They are tired of patronage and cronyism.

We believe the leaders of Cook County’s Democratic Party can begin restoring public confidence in local government by opening the process of selecting John Stroger’s replacement to the harsh light of public review.

We urge our fellow members of the leadership of Cook County’s Democratic Party to open the selection process and demand that those interested in seeking the nomination for Cook County board president publicly outline their positions on the key issues facing the county board.

DuPage County Finance Committee Chairman Bob Heap warns 46 non-profits about possible funding cuts - Robert Sanchez

(DIERSEN QUESTION: Which DuPage County department heads have received notice of possible funding cuts?)

The head of DuPage County’s finance committee is issuing a blunt warning to 46 local not-for-profit groups: Don’t count on a donation from the county next year.

Because of revenue shortages, finance Chairman Robert Heap said grants to nonprofit community services might be excluded from next year’s county budget.

“If we don’t have the money, this will be one of the first things to go,” Heap said.

DuPage this year awarded $750,000 in grants. Ranging between $5,000 to $50,000, the grants went to such organizations as DuPage PADS, Outreach Community Ministries and Northern Illinois Food Bank.

But in recent months, leaders have been struggling to find fresh sources of revenue for the county, which recently approved its first property-tax increase in a decade.

More revenue dollars are needed before next July — the month the county gets its fifth and final $15 million check from the DuPage Water Commission. The county persuaded state lawmakers to allow it to tap into the commission's revenues, but hasn’t yet decided how to replace the money.

If new revenue can’t be found, cuts must be considered to make up the $15 million gap.

“The bottom line is non-mandated services are all fair game,” Heap said. “And that (grants to not-for-profits) is a non-mandated service.”

But representatives for local not-for-profits say they already are having a hard time raising adequate funds to run their programs. If the grants are cut, some say it would have a devastating effect.

“The consequences are going to be felt by the most vulnerable people in the community — the poorest of the poor,” said Mary Ellen Durbin, executive director of the People’s Resource Center in Wheaton.

Durbin said she is hopeful that county board Chairman Robert Schillerstrom and other county board leaders will work hard to continue the grants.

“They don’t want to do the cuts here,” she said. “They know what this would mean.”

Heap said county leaders are going to do everything they can to ensure there is money budgeted for grants.

Still, he wants to call attention to the county’s financial problems so those groups can plan for the future.

“I think they need to be very careful about building that money into their budgets because it may not be there,” Heap said.

Formento v. Grimston: Defining the issues work in progress  Forest board candidates’ positions evolving four months before Election Day - Marni Pyke

One thing is crystal clear: Michael Formento is a Republican and Tom Grimston is a Democrat.

But when it comes to pressing issues facing the DuPage County Forest Preserve District, the positions of the two candidates are still evolving.

Grimston and Formento both want to occupy the District 4 seat, now held by Commissioner Gwen Henry, who is running for county treasurer.

Grimston, 54, is deputy clerk at the circuit clerk’s office and a member of Wheaton’s environmental improvement commission.

“I want to preserve and protect the land and keep the peace and quiet of the preserves,” he said.

Formento, 72, a local business owner, is a former Glen Ellyn village president who has served on both the county board and forest preserve district commission.

One controversy brewing in District 4 is whether to save two historical buildings at Churchill Woods Forest Preserve in Glen Ellyn. The structures once housed the first headquarters of the forest preserve district and its original superintendent, Robert McKee.

The limestone buildings, constructed in the 1930s, are showing their age and need repairs, estimated at $450,000. Because of the expense, commissioners voted this spring in favor of demolition.

But descendants of Robert McKee and Citizens for Glen Ellyn Preservation are lobbying to spare the structures. As a result, district President Dewey Pierotti is seeking to have an architectural firm give a second opinion on restoration costs.

Formento agrees with taking another look at the issue.

“I’ve been in the (McKee) building numerous times; it’s a very nice facility,” he said. “But we all have to recognize that everything has a cost associated with it.”

Formento also said it’s crucial to decide on uses for the buildings, now empty.

Grimston is still formulating an opinion on the issue but supports getting more information on repairs.

Another problem facing the district is the budget crisis involving James “Pate” Philip State Park. The restored prairie’s financial fate seems to be in constant jeopardy because of inconsistent state funding.

The forest preserve district and Illinois Department of Natural Resources currently are finalizing a plan where both would contribute toward keeping the park operating for the next year. The site was once named Tri-County Park because it’s located in DuPage, Kane and Cook counties.

Grimston called the preserve “beautiful” but objected to DuPage dollars being poured into a state park.

“Why can’t Cook and Kane counties contribute?” he asked. “It doesn’t make sense. I feel we’re disproportionately involved.”

His rival shared a similar view.

“Without support from the two other counties or the state, it’s very difficult for the forest preserve,” Formento said. “I’d hate to see something with such potential go down the tubes.”

One major question the commission still needs to settle is whether to hold a referendum this fall on buying more open space.

Grimston said he needs more information on the open space question before opining on it.

“My concern is preserving and protecting opens lands and making them better,” he said.

Formento said if land “needs to be acquired and if it is contiguous with existing forest preserves, we have to take a hard look at it.”


Republicans blast Emanuel for coffin pictures - Jill Zuckman,1,4139312.story

WASHINGTON -- More than a dozen Republicans angrily denounced Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.) Thursday for his decision to air video of flag-draped coffins of American troops as part of a fundraising appeal for Democratic House candidates.

"For the Democrats, everything is about politics," said Rep. Tom Reynolds (R-N.Y.), chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee. "But this crosses the line."

The ad, which is available on the Internet Web site for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (, displays a montage of grim images. They include pictures of the war in Iraq, high gas prices, the coffins and a fake mug shot of former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Texas.

"Washington Republicans have sold Americans out," the ad says. "American families are paying the price."

Emanuel, who is chairman of the Democratic committee, has frequently stood in the well of the House reading aloud the names of soldiers who have died in Iraq, an act that has angered and embarrassed Republicans.

"It takes a galling level of smug self-righteousness for Rahm Emanuel to invoke our honored dead one day and put their coffins in an ad the next," fumed Reynolds.

An array of House Republicans, many facing competitive races this year, demanded that Emanuel remove the ad and apologize to the families of those serving in the military.

Republicans were using the video to try to ratchet up criticism of Democrats in targeted congressional races nationwide, including Illinois.

Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Steve Buyer (R-Ind.) complained that Democrats were cheapening the service and sacrifice of military members for political gain.

"To Rahm Emanuel, to remove the shame you made by your mistake, the first thing you do is stop the rhetoric, shut your mouth, you clean up the mistake and then you apologize to the military families in this country," Buyer said.

Attempts to reach Emanuel for comment were not successful.

Democratic leaders stuck up for Emanuel, noting that President Bush used graphic images of the Sept. 11 attacks in his television ads for re-election during the 2004 campaign. One of those ads showed a firefighter carrying a flag-draped body out of the rubble of the World Trade Center.

"It was despicable when the Republicans used the photos of 9/11 for political purposes. Was that despicable?" House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Thursday. "I think it is despicable that young people's lives are being lost. ... Republicans are in denial about that. Yet they talk about politicizing war."

In the Senate, Democratic leaders said Republicans were complaining about the ad because they have nothing else to talk about.

"Republicans are looking for an excuse to divert attention from the main issue that they don't have a plan in Iraq," said Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. "They're not doing a good job in Iraq and the American people overwhelmingly agree with us."

Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid of Nevada called the coffins "a fact of life."

Of the Republican complaints, he said, "It's totally a diversionary tactic. Totally."

But at least one Democrat asked Emanuel to remove the offending images. Rep. John Spratt Jr. (D-S.C.) sent Emanuel a letter noting that he would not have shown photos of the flag-draped caskets or of a soldier standing at the grave of a fallen comrade.

"I strongly recommend that you pull this ad and delete both of these clips before running it again," Spratt said.

Meanwhile, Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) tempered his criticism of Emanuel and resisted the heated denunciations employed by his colleagues.

Noting that "I work with Rahm a lot," Kirk said he believed the ad must have been put together by a staff member and somehow got past the chairman.

"I know he's running a big organization," Kirk said. "Some media consultants crossed the boundary there."

Still, Kirk called the ad "distasteful" and "inappropriate."


Candidates spar over debates  Roskam, Duckworth to begin negotiating - John Biemer,1,7346815.story?coll=chi-newslocalwest-hed

The two candidates vying to succeed retiring U.S. Rep. Henry Hyde in the west suburban district that the Republican lawmaker has held for more than three decades began engaging Wednesday in a political tradition in highly contested races: the debate about debates.

Republican state Sen. Peter Roskam said he planned on Thursday to challenge Democrat Tammy Duckworth to a series of debates in front of voters across the 6th Congressional District, community by community.

Duckworth of Hoffman Estates announced Wednesday that she has accepted invitations from organizers of four debates: the College of DuPage, WTTW-Channel 11, WBEZ radio and WBBM radio.

Dates have not been set, but three of the four will be broadcast.

Duckworth, an Iraq War veteran, did not respond immediately to Roskam's challenge for debates.

"The debates that we have currently agreed to offer the opportunities for voters in every single community across the district to listen or see the debates for themselves and find out about how the candidates fall on the issues," said Duckworth spokeswoman Christine Glunz.

Roskam spokesman Ryan McLaughlin said the Wheaton attorney and floor leader for Republicans in the state Senate had accepted invitations to debate on WTTW and WBBM but had not heard yet from WBEZ.

He said he did not know the status of the College of DuPage offer but that Roskam had agreed to an invitation the Addison mayor extended to both candidates to discuss local issues together.

"Our focus is local debates in front of voters who are going to decide this election, and more rather than less," McLaughlin said.

"And all these debates [agreed to by Duckworth] are toward the end of the campaign, and we think this is a cynical view," he said.


Roskam, Duckworth building war chests  Hopefuls seek to succeed Hyde in Congress - John Biemer,1,7649343.story?coll=chi-newslocalnorthwest-hed

After winning the March Democratic primary in the race to succeed U.S. Rep. Henry Hyde in the west suburban 6th Congressional District, Iraq War veteran Tammy Duckworth raised more than $830,000 in campaign funds over the next three months, her campaign announced Thursday.

But Duckworth's total of about $900,000 in cash on hand by the end of June still falls short of her Republican opponent, state Sen. Peter Roskam, a Wheaton attorney, who has more than $1.3 million in available campaign cash, according to his campaign.

The two campaigns released tallies a couple of days before filing official reports to the Federal Election Commission by the Saturday deadline that account for contributions through the end of June.

Roskam started campaigning shortly after Hyde announced his retirement in April 2005. With a boost from national Democratic leaders, Duckworth of Hoffman Estates jumped into the race in December--creating one of the most hotly contested congressional contests in the country in what has traditionally been a Republican stronghold.

Since entering the race, Duckworth has raised almost $1.9 million in all, her campaign reported, although she had to spend a lot more than Roskam, who benefited from an uncontested Republican primary. As of the end of March, Roskam had reported just short of $1.1 million in cash on hand, after raising almost $1.5 million total.

Duckworth's campaign noted that she had received contributions from more than 240 district residents. It appeared to address her opponents' frequent criticism that most of her support comes from outside the district.

Roskam spokesman Ryan McLaughlin pointed out Thursday that more than 1,000 district residents have contributed to his campaign.



Hardball: Chris Matthews probes Sweet about Bob Novak

I was a guest on MSNBC's ``Hardball'' hosted by Chris Matthews to discuss Bob Novak finally breaking his silence on his role in the CIA leak case. Matthews wanted to know if I thought Novak was the ``prince of darkness.''

The transcript of the Wednesday panel (click at the bottom ) shows my reply.

For those who have never seen Blogger Sweet in action, check out
to see a clip from the Hardball show.

to read the whole transcript of the Wednesday show go to
Here's the part of the show where I appeared.

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Columnist Bob Novak breaks his silence in the CIA leak case. Does his story square with Karl Rove‘s? What does the leak case tell us about how the administration defended its controversial war in Iraq?

Plus HARDBALL does politics, of course. Bill Clinton gets set to stump in Tennessee for Harold Ford, who‘s running for the Senate down there and Rudy Giuliani hits the country for ‘06 and I think for ‘08.

Let‘s dig into all of it with the Capitol Hill‘s newspaper, “The Hill.” The newspaper‘s called, A.B. Stoddard writes for it, Chris Cillizza‘s great. “Washington Times” columnist John McCaslin writes about us sometimes. And Lynn Sweet of the “Chicago Sun-Times” covers nice folks out there like Bob Novak. Let‘s start with Lynn Sweet. Your colleague, Bob Novak, what do you make of his breaking of his silence—what do you make of his silence for three years on the leak case?

Gay Games a coup for athletes and the city - Lucio Guerrero

In early 1999, Chicago's gay leaders got together to talk about bringing one of the community's biggest events to Chicago -- the Gay Games.

More than seven years later -- and countless hours of preparation and planning -- Chicago is set to host an international athletic festival that is expected to attract nearly 100,000 people, generate as much $80 million for the local economy, and serve as a test run for how the city can potentially handle the 2016 Summer Olympics.

"I think Chicago has got the fever of the Gay Games," said Kevin Boyer, spokesman for the Games and a board member who helped bring the Games to Chicago.

The 2006 edition of the Gay Games marks the return of the event to North America for the first time in 12 years. Events will take place throughout the city -- with the opening ceremony Saturday night at Soldier Field, the closing ceremony on July 22 at Wrigley Field (both pre-ticketed events), and cultural and arts programming at Millennium Park. Athletes, gay and straight, will take part in 30 sports.


The Gay Games was the brainchild of late Olympic decathlete Thomas Waddell. He founded the event in 1982 in San Francisco to highlight the athleticism of gay athletes, break stereotypes and provide an event where "doing one's personal best should be the paramount goal in any athletic endeavor."

The games started with a small opening ceremony and included a week of competition in 17 sports featuring nearly 1,350 athletes from 12 countries.

Since then the games have grown -- with one of the largest gatherings taking place in New York in 1994. Those games were held in June to coincide with the 25th anniversary of the famous Stonewall Riots, a series of violent clashes between gays and police in New York City. Since their inception, the games have traveled around the globe, stopping in Sydney, Amsterdam and Vancouver.

The Chicago games are on track to being the biggest to date. There are close to 12,000 athletes from more than 65 countries in 30 events that are committed to participating.

Economic boon

Along with providing athletic opportunities for Chicago area athletes -- both gay and straight -- the games are also expected to be an economic boon to the area.

As many as 40,000 visitors are expected to join the nearly 60,000 Chicago area residents who will participate in or watch the events live. Organizers see the Games as a good opportunity to showcase Chicago as a gay-friendly destination.

"This is a chance for us to establish the city as a long-term tourism destination," Boyer said. "The city has always been a destination, but it's a much more competitive market now. To have a large-scale event like this helps set us apart."

The state's tourism board also realized the benefit of all that buying power, and awarded the Games a $125,000 matching grant for the promotion of Gay Games VII in other markets.

"We are always looking for innovative ways to grow our economy and attract even more tourists to experience all that Chicago and our state has to offer. This is an important investment that will pay impressive dividends as we continue to target the lucrative gay and lesbian market," Illinois Bureau of Tourism Deputy Director Jan Kostner said.

Mayor Daley has also been a major advocate of the Gay Games.

"Chicago has a long history of having great sporting events, and we look forward to being the host city for the 2006 Gay Games," Daley said. "Gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Chicagoans have contributed substantially to the development of Chicago. The city is committed to the success of the 2006 Gay Games, and we look forward to welcoming the world to Chicago."

Athletic events

There are no qualifying events or requirements to be a participant in the games. Everyone is welcome.

"The whole mission of the Gay Games is one of inclusion," Boyer said. "Although the title of the games has the word 'gay' in it, it's open to everyone and it makes sense that people who enjoy competition and sport will enjoy it."

But don't be fooled by the "open to all" mentality. There is a strong competitive element to the games. Some of America's top athletes are expected to participate in the Games. Former pro athletes -- such as former NFL nose tackle Esera Tuaolo (flag football) and United States track 50-mile national record holder Donna Perkins -- to weekend warriors are expected to compete.

Perkins is taking part in the games to keep her competitive juices flowing while she heals from some injuries.

"After many years competing in ultramarathons and other athletic events I am allowing myself recovery time from knee surgery and stress fractures," she said. "I just plan to have fun with it all and hope to finish everything without any problems."

Organizers also made sure to create an Olympic-like atmosphere around the games by holding events throughout the city and a couple of suburbs.

Let's party

Yes, it's an athletic competition, but the Games also has a large entertainment component connected to it.

Dozens of parties and events are being held throughout the city in conjunction with the games. The opening and closing ceremonies will be all-star galas.

The opening ceremony at Soldier Field will include performances by comedian Margaret Cho, the godfather of "House" music Frankie Knuckles, and native Chicagoan Jody Watley. The closing ceremony at Wrigley Field will be highlighted with performances by Cyndi Lauper and R&B artist Ari Gold.

"For the opening ceremony, it helps get the people excited for what's coming up and for the closing ceremony it's a good way to celebrate the week we just had," Boyer said.

Preview of things to come

The Gay Games, which will have a worldwide television and radio audience, could also help the city when it comes to gauging how other multinational events might play in the city. Chicago has hosted other major events with national and international exposure -- such as the World Cup, the Democratic National Convention and baseball's World Series -- but it's hoping to attract the biggest prize: the 2016 Summer Olympics.

Some see the Gay Games as a test run on a much smaller scale. Boyer said the experience of the Gay Games could ultimately help with large-scale events down the road.

"The large number of corporate sponsors shows that the community can produce something of this size and scale," Boyer said. "And the large number of volunteers helps expand the infrastructure and gives us the ability to handle any other large projects in the future."

-- Gov using kids' health-care plan for political gain - Rich Miller

If your application for the state's new "All Kids" health care plan is rejected, here's the computer-generated letter you'll get: "Your application for the All Kids health insurance program has been denied."

Simple. Straightforward. Right to the point. You may have thought you qualified for the new program, which is supposed to cover working families who can't afford health insurance, but you're out of luck.

If you're accepted into the plan, however, this is the letter you'll get:

"Your application for Governor Blagojevich's All Kids health insurance program has been approved. Thank you for your application. Governor Blagojevich believes there is nothing more important than making sure your family has access to the health care they need."

45,000 kids signed up?

Notice the slight difference?

It's been obvious from the beginning that Gov. Blagojevich has intended to use his new All Kids health insurance program for every ounce of political gain he can squeeze out of it.

He kicked off the program with a huge rally at the same location that he launched his first gubernatorial campaign, the steel plant where his father worked. Press conference after press conference has been held to promote the program. Millions of dollars in TV ads have aired -- often right next to the governor's own campaign ads.

It looks as if they even padded the rolls upfront to make the program look more successful than it really is.

The governor's people loudly trumpeted the fact that 45,000 children have already been enrolled in the health plan, which officially kicked off July 1. Eventually, they finally admitted that only 5,000 of those children are in families who didn't already qualify for state assistance.

In other words almost 90 percent of the children enrolled would have been eligible for a pre-existing state insurance program, with or without All Kids. Only 11 percent come from the middle class families that the program was supposedly designed to serve.

Is it a good thing that 45,000 kids now have health insurance? You bet it is, even with all the problems associated with any new Medicaid plan. Doctors and hospitals are wary of doing any sort of business with the notoriously slow-paying state, but insuring children is a relatively cheap proposition and because half of all kids who don't have health insurance come from families who make far more than poverty wages, something had to be done.

But as with everything else that comes out of his administration, hype rules all. It would have been embarrassing -- or at least not impressive -- to admit that only 5,000 children from working and middle class families had been signed up, so the numbers were boosted.

Hype machine in overdrive

Remember the prescription drug program from a couple of years ago? The guv spent millions of dollars to import cheap drugs from Europe and the idea fell flat on its face when nobody took advantage of it.

No way could this be allowed to happen again, especially not in an election year. So the hype machine has been put into overdrive.

Every politician tries to get his or her name out to their constituents as much as possible. Mayor Daley's name is displayed prominently at O'Hare Airport, for example. But this is the same governor who led the charge to stop politicians from putting their names on state-paid TV ads and publications. It's very probable that his original ethics proposal wouldn't have allowed him to plaster his name all over those letters to new All Kids families. It's a certainty that the Toll Highway Authority couldn't have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to write the governor's name large over every I-Pass checkpoint.

Did I mention that the state is issuing new Medicaid ID cards? One change was made. A new graphic with the phrase "Governor Blagojevich's Healthcare Programs for Families" was added.


Bean more Cash on Hand; McSweeney more Cash Inflow this Quarter - Jeff Berkowitz

Things are starting to pop in the 8th Cong. District race, a district whose voters fall into three areas north or northwest of Chicago: Northwest Cook County, 35%, West Lake County, 50% and McHenry County, 15%. Today, the buzz was in large part about “money,” or more precisely—as Milton Friedman, the most influential and perhaps the best economist of the 20th Century would say-- “campaign income and campaign cash.”

Professor Friedman, Nobel Laureate in Economics and the father and the most articulate proponent of the concept of school vouchers-school choice, always emphasized as one of his basic themes in his graduate economics course on "Money," at the University of Chicago the important distinction in economics between a flow item, e.g., income and a stock item, e.g., cash or assets . Much confusion in economics stems from a failure to understand that difference and its significance for economic analysis. More on this topic in a subsequent blog post, perhaps.

The Eighth Cong. District is thought to be one of the Top 20 competitive races in the country. The Democrats have the advantage of incumbency. On the other hand, it is a Republican district, with President Bush beating his challenger, Senator Kerry, 56% to 44% in 2004. The pundits are fairly evenly split, with some calling the 8th CD a toss-up, others labelling it as leaning for Bean and still others calling it as leaning for McSweeney [See here].

First term Congresswoman Melissa Bean [D-Barrington] reported this afternoon that she had almost $2.17 million in cash on hand [a stock item], giving her a $1.7 million advantage in the size of her campaign bank account over her Republican challenger, David McSweeney [R-Barrington Hills]. McSweeney won a hotly contested six person primary in March, but was left with a depleted campaign bank account.

McSweeney outraised Cong. Bean in this last quarter by more than fifty thousand dollars, but the Bean campaign emphasized that was with the help of major Republican fundraisers VP Cheney, House Speaker Hastert and potential presidential candidate and former NYC mayor Rudy Giuliani. [Watch McSweeney-Giuliani June 18 Public Affairs episode . On the other hand, although McSweeney had, as of June 30, only about $470,000 in his campaign bank account, his personal assets range from about two to eight million dollars, quite a bit higher than Bean’s and that personal wealth could allow McSweeney to narrow, if not eliminate, the 8th CD incumbent’s financial advantage, should that be necessary.

Candidate McSweeney [ Watch McSweeney on the Issues: June 4th and March 26, 2006 Public Afffairs Episodes ], a former investment banker, exhibited little concern today, in a telephone interview, about Bean’s cash on hand advantage, saying, “I am going to have the resources necessary to run a winning campaign.” McSweeney noted that Senator and potential presidential candidate John McCain [R-AZ] is being featured at a fundraiser expected to raise about $125,000 for the 8th CD Republican Nominee this Saturday night at the Barrington Hills home of Tom Fitzgerald, brother of former U. S. Senator Peter Fitzgerald [R-IL]. Senator Fitzgerald, a big booster of McSweeney’s candidacy, is flying in to attend the McSweeney funder and will join about one hundred other McSweeney supporters at the event.

McSweeney and his campaign manager, Jim Thacker, were pleased with the last quarter’s $600,000, or so, total contributions [a flow item]. McSweeney was also pleased to be celebrating his younger daughter Melissa’s 13th birthday tonight with a family dinner at the Cheesecake Factory.

The McSweeney campaign report will show $200,000 to $300,000 in accounts payable to vendors and such, but neither McSweeney nor campaign manager Thacker viewed that as an excessively high figure that would detract from the McSweeney campaign effort. Thacker said that the last two quarters in a campaign [July- Nov. 7] are usually the strongest for a challenger and he emphasized that McSweeney has already raised over 1.2 million dollars if you include both the pre and post-primary effort. Bean campaign spokesman Brian Herman’s response, in a telephone interview this afternoon, was that the strength of the Bean campaign’s fundraising speaks for itself.

A perhaps more important bit of factual history that Thacker raised is that McSweeney contributed almost two million dollars to his primary campaign and that, along with the money he raised, allowed him to spend one million dollars on broadcast TV. Campaign Manager Jim Thacker’s point is that TV advertising raised McSweeney’s name recognition substantially, helping him win the primary.

More importantly for this race, Thacker asserted that David McSweeney’s name identification, as a result of all that previous broadcast TV advertising and other efforts by McSweeney before and after the primary, is now on a par with incumbent Congresswoman Melissa Bean. Bean campaign spokesman Brian Herman declined to comment on Jim Thacker’s statement about the name ID of Bean and McSweeney. However, Herman said he was quite pleased with the $548,000 that Congresswoman Bean raised during the last quarter.

When asked about Bean’s cash on hand advantage, Thacker noted that Cong. Bean heads into this campaign without the universal labor union support that she had in 2004. Thacker argued that’s what happens “when a candidate goes back on her word,” referring to Congresswoman’s decision to support CAFTA. Bean campaign spokesman Brian Herman responded, “Cong. Bean never said that she would vote against CAFTA-- before, during or after her election.” [See here for a partial transcript of and link to a January 29 episode in which Cong. Bean discusses her CAFTA vote and other issues].

McSweeney Campaign Manager Jim Thacker also argued that having third party candidate Bill Scheurer on the ballot is another challenge for Cong. Bean. Thacker argued that much of the union support that Cong. Bean is losing is migrating over to Bill Scheurer, who while not a single issue or two issue candidate, has criticized Bean sharply for her views that generally support the war in Iraq and her vote in support of CAFTA. Bean campaign spokesman Herman responded that Cong. Bean has broad support in the community that includes organized labor, business owners, parents, students, and seniors. And, Herman argues, that support only keeps growing.

Although Scheurer is running on the “Moderate Party,” ticket this time around, he ran in the Democratic Primary against Melissa Bean in 2004, and lost with about quarter of the vote. The conventional wisdom posits that Scheurer, because of his Democratic Party roots, stance on the issues and prior run against Bean, will draw more from Cong. Bean’s support than McSweeney’s.

However, Scheurer believes that his base is made up of independent voters, which he thinks constitute 40% of the 8th CD, and he thinks he can attract Republicans as well as Democrats. [See here]. Candidate Scheurer said that because he had to focus on obtaining almost 14,000 signatures to get on the ballot as a third party and because he faced a potential challenge from the Illinois Democratic Party to his nominating petitions, he has only just begun to engage in fundraising. [See here]

Thacker also argues that McSweeney has a substantial grass roots advantage over Cong. Bean. When I reminded Thacker that Bean works her district hard, too [Bean started running essentially in 01-02, which was her first run against then 33 year incumbent Cong. Crane and then kept going after her loss until she beat him 52% to 48% in 2004], Thacker argued that at parades and other events in the District, McSweeney has two to four times the participation rate of Bean supporters. Herman offered no response to that statement.

McSweeney continues to blast Bean for not responding to his repeated requests for twenty-four debates [one in each District township], noting on a telephone press conference this morning that Scheurer and he are taping a “Public Affairs,” episode this Sunday and that Bean could be there [since it is not a session day], but she will not be.

When I stated at this morning's McSweeney press conference that Cong. Bean's campaign spokesman Brian Herman indicated he would get back to me soon as to Bean’s availability for debates in August, September and October, McSweeney said that Bean has to stop hiding behind spokespeople and start participating in forums and debates, as McSweeney is. Bean campaign spokesman Brian Herman offered no response to that, other than to state that he advised me previously that Cong. Bean would not be available for a potential appearance or debate on my show until Congress recessed in August.



At Moline campaign stop, Topinka vows to bring jobs to Illinois - Kurt Allemeier

MOLINE -- Republican gubernatorial candidate Judy Baar Topinka touted her jobs and economic development plan and threw jabs at Gov. Rod Blagojevich at a campaign stop here Thursday.

Ms. Topinka, the state treasurer, met about 20 supporters as well as employees of Moline Forge at an event following her speech.

In her speech, Ms. Topinka said Gov. Blagojevich's term has been filled with "promises made and broken," pledged to live in the governor's mansion in Springfield, and called on a reorganization of the state's economic development agency, the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.

If elected, she said DCEO would be re-named the Illinois Jobs Partnership and would be re-organized with a board appointed by the governor that be operated like "a responsive business, not like a tired bureaucracy."

Styled that way, the state agency would be "nimble, creative, and aggressive" on chasing leads on creating jobs.

The agency would be shaped like ones in Florida where they had "12 times more jobs than Illinois" since the Democratic governor entered office, and Indiana where the state recently landed a Honda auto plant. Illinois was in the running for the plant.

Ms. Topinka also called for creating manufacturing jobs tax credit for companies that retain existing jobs or create new ones. Illinois needs to improve its business climate and not hand out new taxes, fees and regulations on companies.

"All the new jobs in border states should'a, could'a, would'a been ours, but they were taxed out of Illinois," she said. "This is a great state, we cannot accept mediocrity."

Her economic development plan includes a statewide manufacturing enterprise zone that would make electricity used in manufacturing exempt from utility tax, among other advantages.

Afterward, Ms. Topinka spoke about the momentum her campaign has gained in recent weeks with high profile visits by President George W. Bush and former New York City mayor Rudolph Giuliani, and a planned visit this weekend by U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.

"It says something when you have major Republicans coming to help me," she said. "You feel something in the air."

She said internal polls show her nearly even with Mr. Blagojevich, though a poll by Rasmussen Reports, a national polling firm, puts the incumbent ahead by a 45-34 percent margin in a poll conducted July 6.

Ms. Topinka is undeterred, referring to her campaign's polling numbers. "It is almost a dead heat, even with (Mr. Blagojevich) heaping on $5 million in ads."


Topinka touts tools in Rockford - Chuck Sweeny

Revitalizing Illinois’ manufacturing industry is key to creating good jobs in the state, Judy Baar Topinka, the Republican nominee for governor, said today at a Forest City metal fabricating company.

“Yours is the kind of business we want to attract to Illinois because these are good jobs that have benefits and give people a good standard of life, and on top of it you get a good boss,” Topinka said with a nod toward Larry Johnson, president of LJ Fabricators, 944 Research Parkway. Johnson’s firm hosted the Topinka news conference.

Topinka, the state treasurer, announced a plan to create a tax credit for companies adding manufacturing jobs to the work force. She vowed to set up a statewide enterprise zone for manufacturing jobs and to host a manufacturing summit at the governor’s mansion in Springfield. Topinka also said she would revamp the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, making it into a public-private partnership whose focus would be solely on job creation.

Topinka also pledged to roll back some of the 300 fee and tax increases enacted by Gov. Rod Blagojevich, her Democratic opponent on Nov. 7. And, she promised to enact a capital spending plan. But Topinka declined to say whether she would propose a tax increase to pay for capital projects.

Topinka lashed out at Gov. Rod Blagojevich, her Democratic opponent, saying he’s responsible for Illinois, the fifth most populous state, being “49th or 50th” in job creation since 2003, when Blagojevich became governor.

“The Governor of Illinois cannot complain that manufacturing jobs are not coming back. That sends the wrong signal. I will be different than Rod Blagojevich on this issue, because I want manufacturers to know I mean business. I know Illinois has the work force, we just need a leader with new ideas and the work ethic to get the job done,” Topinka said.

Sheila Nix, campaign spokeswoman for Blagojevich, trashed Topinka’s plan, saying in a statement that it includes no new jobs and is “dismally void of details given that her job creation record is full of failures and extreme exaggerations.”

Nix said Blagojevich “already offers tax incentives to help create jobs.”


Don’t Mess With Mama?

Well, excuse me: Tugboat Annie still hasn’t elevated the gubernatorial debate. She’s not up to it. Her slogan, announced the day Giuliani came here to campaign for her, “Don’t mess with Mama”-what’s that supposed to mean?

Thank you for all this, Bill.

She couldn’t have done it without you.


Hastert admitted to hospital - Jackie Kucinich

Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) was hospitalized today for a skin infection, according to a release from his office.

Hastert will remain at Bethesda Naval Hospital over the weekend to receive treatment for cellulitis, a bacterial infection, and must remain off his feet for at least 72 hours.

Cellulitis appears as "a swollen red area that feels hot and tender," according to the release. The condition is commonly treated with antibiotics, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Hastert is diabetic, which is a risk factor for cellulitis, as are skin wounds and a history of peripheral vascular disease.


Hastert hospitalized with bacterial skin infection - AP

House Speaker Dennis Hastert was hospitalized Thursday for treatment of a bacterial skin infection.

Hastert was expected to be treated with intravenous antibiotics at Bethesda Naval Hospital in suburban Maryland through the weekend, according to his spokesman Ron Bonjean.

Hastert, 64, discovered the infection on his lower left leg and applied a topical ointment. After a few days, Hastert's doctor examined the infection at Bethesda and diagnosed it as cellulitis, a skin infection that appears as a swollen, red area that feels hot and tender, and that can spread rapidly without treatment, the spokesman said.

Hastert is a 10-term congressman from Yorkville, Ill., in Chicago's suburbs. He has been speaker since 1999, succeeding Newt Gingrich of Georgia, who was the first Republican speaker in four decades. Recently, Hastert's tenure became the longest of any Republican speaker.

Blagojevich proposal to reduce medical mistakes - AP

Gov. Rod Blagojevich on Thursday proposed a set of measures designed to reduce medical mistakes, a year after he and legislators approved limits on malpractice lawsuits stemming from such errors.

Blagojevich proposed a voluntary computer prescription program and more focus on medical practices to cut down on the more than 4,000 Illinoisans who die each year from medical errors.

He wants all health care providers to use computerized prescriptions within five years to avoid pharmacy mix-ups. The state also is creating a new patient safety division to standardize medication practices and reduce mistakes.

"Knowing that the medicine we receive is the right one, and knowing that we've addressed the common causes of medical errors means peace of mind for doctors, for nurses, for pharmacists, for hospitals, and most importantly, it means peace of mind, and better care, for all of us," Blagojevich said in a statement.

The proposal drew widespread praise for its intent, but some warned it's not a panacea.

"While laudable, nothing in this mitigates the rights that we're taking away in the malpractice legislation," said Rep. John Fritchey, a Chicago Democrat who called the plan "somewhat bittersweet."

The governor's plan comes after a yearlong public policy silence in the highly charged medical malpractice debate.

Lawmakers and Blagojevich approved a plan that combined better state oversight of doctors and insurers and limiting how much money injured patients could receive in court through jury awards. That law still is expected to be challenged in court.

Both critics and supporters of the law said Thursday that Blagojevich's initiative tackles an important but side issue that isn't likely to restart the debate.

The ideas Blagojevich presented Thursday all came up after the malpractice law was approved and aren't designed to appease critics of lawsuit caps, spokeswoman Rebecca Rausch said. The changes will be made administratively and won't need legislative action, she said.

National medical experts have estimated computer prescriptions reduce errors by 80%, which is key with more than 750 medications that sound and look alike, Blagojevich said. He plans to ask lawmakers for more money to help speed up the switch to computer prescriptions.

The governor also wants the state to develop medical record databases, expand broadband technology for rural health care facilities and improve Internet databases so patients know more about their doctors and nursing homes.

The Illinois State Medical Society, which represents thousands of doctors, said in a statement it has had no conversations with Blagojevich about his plan and was unfamiliar with its specifics.

Judy Cates, president of Illinois Trial Lawyers Association, said the group welcomes anything that might prevent incidents that end up in court battles.

Gay Games expected to generate $33.4 million - Lorene Yue

The Gay Games Chicago, an Olympic-style event kicking off Saturday at Soldier Field, is expected to generate $33.4 million in economic benefits during its eight-day run.

That figure, generated by the Chicago Convention and Tourism Bureau, is based on roughly 12,000 participants spending an average of $348 on lodging, meals and transportation on each of the eight days.

It’s lower than that $70 million to $80 million economic contribution that Gay Games Chicago organizers are expecting to see, but they are counting on dollars from roughly 100,000 anticipated spectators.

By comparison, the Taste of Chicago generated an economic impact of $100 million last year and drew roughly 3.6 million people to the 11-day event, said Cindy Gatziolis, spokeswoman for the Mayor’s office of special events. The amount is based on all spending, she said, including travel, hotel stays and meals outside of the Taste of Chicago event.

The Gay Games are a quadrennial-sporting competition conceived in 1982 to help promote self-esteem in the gay community. Athletes from more than 70 countries are expected to participate and more than 150 corporate sponsors are backing the event.

Chicago, one of the original bidders for the 2006 games, became the host city when negotiations to hold the event in Montreal fell apart last year.


Birkett's former advisor sentenced - The Topinka Tattler

Yesterday, Michael Tristano, the one-time Chief of Staff to former Republican House Leader Lee Daniels and former advisor to Joe Birkett, was sentenced in federal court to a year and a day in prison for assigning legislative staffers to do campaign work on state time.

Tristano pled guilty in March to a fraud charge and admitted that his work to steer state resources to Republican candidates cost Illinois taxpayers up to $200,000.

Tristano’s long-time friend, former State Representative Roger “The Hog” Stanley pled guilty in May of 2003 to money laundering and mail fraud as part of the Operation Safe Road federal corruption probe.  Among other things, Stanley admitted he concealed commissions he paid to high ranking campaign officials.  The payments were intended to help steer direct mail work to his company.

Stanley’s company, Unistat, provided direct mail services for political campaigns and governmental entities - including Daniels’ House Republican Campaign Committee (HRCC).  As Daniels' top aide, Tristano helped steer $340,000 in HRCC contracts to Unistat.

Shortly after Tristano was indicted in May of 2005, discussions among Illinois politicos about the past connection between Tristano and Birkett heated up.  The main theme was what did Birkett know and when did he know it?

Birkett spokesman Dan Curry finally admitted on the Capitol Fax blog in June of last year that Tristano was an informal, unpaid advisor on Birkett’s 2002 campaign for Attorney General.  But Curry tried to distance Birkett from Tristano by saying that once it became known that Tristano was under federal investigation, Birkett stopped utilizing Tristano. 

But when exactly was that?  And what about Birkett’s relationship to Roger Stanley and Unistat, both of whom remained close to Tristano?

Clueless Joe

Capitol Fax’s Rich Miller posted his understanding about the Tristano/Birkett relationship on his blog in June of last year.  Miller wrote that he “personally warned Birkett about Tristano in the spring of '02, as did others.”  In describing Birkett’s reaction to his advice, Miller wrote last year, “What I recall about the conversation is that he didn't seem too concerned.”

We can think of only two possible scenarios to explain Birkett’s reported lack of “concern” about Tristano’s involvement in his prior campaign.  The first is that Birkett was in fact clueless about Tristano’s activities with Daniels and Unistat.  The second would be that Birkett understood what was going on and made the conscious choice to turn a blind eye to a growing corruption scandal.  If Birkett has a different explanation, we would like to hear it. 

But in order for us to accept the “clueless” excuse, it would have been necessary for Birkett to have been living in a hermetically sealed chamber in 2002. 

As early as 2001, rumors were circulating that subpoenas had been delivered to “The Hog” and his company, Unistat.  And by May of 2002, Unistat had become a major issue in the judicial campaign of Tristano’s wife, Sandra.  It was reported that nearly 20 percent of the $40,000 raised for that campaign had come from companies and associates of Stanley.

Birkett Employed Unistat

Unistat was a major vendor performing direct mail services for Birkett’s 2002 campaign for Attorney General. 

According to the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, Birkett paid Unistat a combined total of $259,407 – of which $204,407 was paid during Birkett’s Primary campaign.  But Birkett continued to pay Unistat well into the General Election season.  On August 15th, just two weeks prior to Stanley’s indictment, the campaign paid $55,000 to Unistat.

Incredibly, Birkett even continued to pay Unistat long after Stanley’s indictment.  Campaign finance disclosures filed with the Illinois State Board of Elections show that Birkett made a payment of $12,000 to Unistat on November 1, 2003.

These facts would appear to completely destroy any notion that Birkett had in fact distanced himself from Stanley and Unistat once he learned of a criminal investigation.

We also note the curious fact that Birkett’s campaign reported no salary or consulting payments to Tristano in 2001 or 2002 – despite Tristano’s substantive role on the campaign for Attorney General.  Given this fact, combined with Roger Stanley’s own admission that his company concealed commissions in the case of other clients – we think it’s a fair question to ask whether Tristano might have been compensated directly by Stanley or Unistat for work on Birkett’s campaign.  

We want to be clear that we aren’t alleging any wrongdoing or impropriety – we just think it’s a fair question for Birkett whether Tristano might have been paid for work on his campaign by Stanley or an affiliated entity.  Again, just asking.  Neither Birkett nor his campaign has been accused of any wrongdoing.

“Going along” results in a year and a day

According to the Chicago Sun-Times, Tristano apologized in court Wednesday but indicated that he and others acted with the instructions of those above him, saying he and his staff violated the law "out of loyalty to House Republican leadership."  That means the problems for the IL GOP have hardly “been put behind us” – as Topinka and her Old Guard pals would like to dream.

In fact, the federal prosecutor acknowledged on Wednesday that Tristano had helped “with a number of ongoing investigations.”  So anyone who assumes the next federal indictment in Illinois will be of a Democrat probably needs to lay off the hard stuff.

"Frankly, I compromised my conscience to fit in and go along," Tristano said Wednesday at his sentencing.

That’s still what Illinois’ corrupt political culture demands, and Topinka and Birkett have done nothing to change it.  (Blagojevich also has done nothing, but our responsibility isn’t to see our Party be as feckless as the Democrats.)  We at FTN will never be excited about the Topinka/Birkett ticket and we will never endorse it.  There are too many concerns and unanswered questions, and we frankly have zero trust in the people who would be providing the answers in any case.

Despite everything that our Party has been through in Illinois, it’s remarkable that there are still people out there preaching blind loyalty and mindless unity.  That’s fine.  The new Sheriff in town, U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, seems perfectly willing to order more orange jump suits.


Topinka calls for more creative approaches for luring business, jobs - Kurt Erickson

JACKSONVILLE - Illinois' failed effort to lure a Honda auto plant to a site near Danville was slow-footed and an example of why the state needs a new economic development plan, state Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka said Wednesday.

Topinka, the Republican candidate for governor, said the state entered the Honda sweepstakes at the "last minute" and watched from the sidelines as Indiana snapped up the $400 million factory and its 1,500 jobs.


"We don't want to lose the Hondas of the world," she said.

Topinka's comments came as she unveiled her plan to boost job creation in the state.

Against the backdrop of a trucking company in Jacksonville, Topinka said a key piece of her plan is a tax credit for manufacturers that pledge to keep existing jobs for at least five years or create new ones. The reward: A tax break worth 5 percent of the wages associated with those jobs.

Although a press release issued by her campaign said Topinka wants to "disband" the state’s economic development agency as part of her plan, she later said she would only change how the 480-employee Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity is administered.

Rather than keeping it a cabinet-level agency, she said she would appoint a more "nimble" board of business leaders to lead the state’s job creation efforts.

 The move is patterned after what is in place in Indiana.

"In this partnership, the leaders will be focused on creating jobs, not keeping their own jobs.

They will not be accountable to other bureaucrats," Topinka said.

"We’re not going to be like Honda was," said Topinka, calling Blagojevich’s job creation efforts "really kind of tired."

Honda officials did not say why they did not choose Illinois or other states that were bidding for the plant.

In her announcement, Topinka would not identify how many jobs she hopes are created in her first year in office, if she is elected.

When asked, she said, "As many as I can get."

The two sides continue to bicker over how many jobs have been created since Blagojevich, a Chicago Democrat, took office in 2003, with each citing different statistics in order to bolster their claims.

Blagojevich campaign spokeswoman Sheila Nix said Topinka’s proposal was vague.

"I’m not surprised that Treasurer Topinka’s so-called ‘plan’ doesn’t include any new ideas and is dismally void of details given that her job creation record is full of failures and extreme exaggerations," Nix said.

Blagojevich’s job creation efforts have stumbled.

 He unveiled a proposal in 2003 to create different economic development regions throughout the state, but was never fully able to implement that plan.

His efforts to convince Republicans to support a statewide construction plan for roads and schools also have faltered.



GOP leader Frank Watson: Toll bridge worth a look  Few other Illinoisans open to the idea - Mike Fitzgerald

The Illinois Senate's top Republican called for a closer look at Missouri's plans to pay for a new eight-lane Interstate 70 bridge across the Mississippi River by making it a tollway.

Sen. Frank Watson, R-Greenville, the Senate minority leader, said Wednesday the idea of seeking bids from private firms to build and operate the bridge as a tollway is "something that may be considered."

Watson's willingness to consider such a proposal stands in stark contrast to positions claimed by the metro-east's Democratic lawmakers, who have vehemently rejected the tollway concept as unfair to Illinois commuters.

Their views line up with anti-toll positions staked out by U.S. Rep. Jerry Costello, D-Belleville, and Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who two weeks ago during a visit to Collinsville declared the toll bridge idea "was out of the question."

Blagojevich also pushed for building a four-lane westbound bridge, while the 55-year-old Martin Luther King Bridge would channel I-70's eastbound traffic. So far, Missouri officials have rejected that idea.

Watson attended a meeting Tuesday of the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission in suburban St. Louis. Pete Rahn, Missouri's highway director, used the occasion to promote his plan for building the $910 million bridge by 2013 and paying for it with a $2-per-car toll.

"I'm not saying I'm for it," Watson said. "But it ought to be explored."

The proposed bridge would be built more than a mile north of the Poplar Street Bridge, which would remain free under the scenario Watson envisions, along with the other existing bridges.

Watson said llinoisans would use the Poplar Street, Martin Luther King, Eads and I-270 bridges. "We wouldn't necessarily use the I-70 bridge," he said.

Rahn, during the Missouri highway commission meeting, presented a $7.1 billion transportation plan for the Show Me state that does not include any money for a new Mississippi River bridge.

Rahn, like other Missouri leaders, has said the state lacks the money to put up more than a fraction of what's needed to pay for the bridge.

In contrast, Illinois has already pledged $210 million for the project, while the federal government has earmarked $239 million.

The plan stems from legislation that Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt signed nearly two weeks ago. It opens the door for a "public-private" partnership to sell bonds to raise money to build the bridge and then pay off the money through tolls.

During the signing ceremony, Blunt indicated that he was willing to meet with Blagojevich to work out a compromise.

"Smart people can come together and figure out a way to get this done," Blunt said. "There's a lot of options on the table."

So far no meeting has been scheduled between the two governors, said Matt Vanover, a spokesman for the Illinois Department of Transportation.

Time is running out, according to Costello, who has said that federal highway officials have set a Sept. 1 deadline for both states to present funding and management plans for the bridge, or risk losing $239 million in federal funds earmarked for the project.

Ron Capek, the interim executive director of the Southwestern Illinois Leadership Council in Edwardsville, said he believed a new bridge will be built. After all, Illinois and Missouri successfully cooperated to build the MetroLink light-rail system that connects the two states, he said.

"The only way I see resolution is for our elected officials to hammer out an agreement," he said. "Only the elected officials really can make this happen."


Topinka lays out economic plan  Republican candidate proposes tax credits for new jobs, changes at commerce department - Bernard Schoenburg

Republican gubernatorial candidate Judy Baar Topinka on Wednesday announced an economic development plan that would include tax credits for newly created jobs and replacing the leadership of the existing state commerce department.

The campaign of her Nov. 7 opponent, Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich, criticized Topinka's plan for recycling ideas and lacking detail.

Topinka, the state treasurer, said she'd create an "Illinois jobs partnership" modeled after efforts in other states, including Indiana and Florida. The partnership would be a 15-member, nonsalaried board to oversee job creation. It would include, she said, representatives of large and small businesses, organized labor and economic-development professionals, and their appointments would be subject to Senate approval.

Appearing at Landes Trucking Inc., Topinka said Blagojevich's policies have not been good for business. During his term, she said, Illinois has been 45th among states in job growth.

"Rod Blagojevich promised 250,000 jobs would be created in his administration," Topinka said, and "hasn't even come close."

She said she would "disband" the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, which she called "the state's current failed economic agency." But she told reporters that the nearly 500 people working there would remain on the job.

"The folks that are there will still be there, and they will fall under this group," Topinka said of the 15-member partnership.

"This is not going to be a complete change in employment," she said. "We're trying to make it work like a business, so that indeed it does bring the professionalism to the existing staff. ... But we will continue with the programs there."

Topinka campaign spokesman John McGovern said later only the parts of DCEO dedicated to job creation, job retention and economic development would remain under the newly focused partnership board.

"Currently, DCEO includes a number of extraneous programs and missions that are unrelated to job creation," McGovern said. "We would expect that those functions will be reassigned to the appropriate agency or commission. ... Certainly, those economic development professionals currently at DCEO very well may be part of this new structure."

Asked for examples of programs that would not meet the new focus, McGovern said they would include "energy conservation, recycling and the many pork-barrel projects designed to placate political allies and members of the legislature."

Doug Whitley of Batavia, president of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce, which has endorsed Topinka, said his group had input into the Republican's plan. He said by telephone that Topinka recognizes that "the old way of doing things is not acceptable," where "the big issues are bureaucracy and patronage and politics."

Placing job-seeking under an agency with business professionals at its head, Whitley said, changes the focus. "You still have an economic development agency, but the accountability of that agency is not just to do the bidding of the governor, and that's a very dynamic change," he said.

Topinka noted that Indiana, one of the states she wants to use as a model, recently landed a commitment for a new Honda automobile plant that Illinois also sought.

One Topinka proposal would be a five-year tax credit equal to 5 percent of wages associated with new manufacturing jobs. A second would be for a "New Jobs Now" tax credit, which would apply to employment in "multiple business sectors," according to her plan. The value of the credit would have 50 percent of Illinois payroll taxes paid per job, and that percentage would increase to 75 percent for jobs that provide health care, retirement and other benefits.

Topinka did not say how many jobs her plan is designed to create.

"As many as I can get," she said.

The Blagojevich campaign issued a statement saying that Topinka's plan is full of "empty promises" and includes provisions already in place to create and retain jobs.

"I'm not surprised that Treasurer Topinka's so-called plan doesn't include any new ideas and is dismally void of details given that her job creation record is full of failures," Blagojevich spokeswoman Sheila Nix said in the statement. Nix said Topinka should know that Blagojevich "already offers tax incentives to help create jobs."

Rusty Landes, president of the Jacksonville firm that hosted Topinka's announcement, said taxes and fees put on business since Blagojevich took office have taken a toll, and his fleet of trucks have sometimes had to work much farther from Illinois than before to keep productive. He said some of his trucks are now based in Keokuk, Iowa, while the Illinois locations are Jacksonville, Quincy, Decatur and Champaign. He started his company of tankers that haul food products such as vegetable oil and sweeteners in 1977 with one truck, and he now has 85 trucks and 106 employees.

"I hope she would do better," Landes said of Topinka. "It's pretty obvious we need to do something. ... I just think she's more in tune with our industry."


Make All Voters Present a Photo ID "Hyde’s Federal Election Integrity Act of 2006 (H.R. 4844) would require anyone wishing to vote in a federal election to provide a valid photo ID" - Editorial

Dead people, felons and illegal aliens were given the go-ahead to vote in next Tuesday’s Georgia primary election after two disappointing court rulings yesterday invalidated the state’s new voter-identification law.

Georgia’s law, which required voters to show a photo ID, is just one example of a national movement to make sure non-citizens don’t commit voter fraud.  But as was the case yesterday in Georgia, Democrats, the ACLU and the NAACP have banded together to oppose these sensible measures.

At issue before U.S. District Judge Harold Murphy yesterday in Georgia was the ACLU’s argument that the new photo-ID law amounted to a poll tax on the poor and minorities. Murphy, who had previously ruled in favor of the ACLU and its allies, sided with them again, saying it was “sad” that the legislature had passed a law “tightening up access to the ballot.”

But contrary to Murphy’s ruling, Georgia lawmakers took into account the poll-tax argument by offering citizens without a driver’s license or passport a free Georgia voter-ID card.  However, that still didn’t pass Murphy’s test. (Georgia’s law also allowed voters to present a federal or state-issued ID card, a military ID card or a tribal ID card. No longer allowed were utility bills or bank statements.)

With states like Georgia and Arizona -- where a similar case will be heard next week -- grappling with the issue of photo-ID cards for voters, and facing possible reversal of their policies by activist liberal judges, Rep. Henry Hyde (R.-Ill.) has come up with a solution.

Hyde’s Federal Election Integrity Act of 2006 (H.R. 4844) would require anyone wishing to vote in a federal election to provide a valid photo ID.  Hyde’s bill was the subject a hearing before the House Administration Committee last month.

At the hearing, Chairman Vernon Ehlers (R.-Mich.) explained the need to require photo IDs from voters: “In most states, the process amounts to an honor system, failing to recognize that we cannot rely on the honor of those among us who are inclined to commit fraud. Especially in cases where the law has already been broken by individuals who choose to say in the United States illegally.”

Ehlers is right. As the number of illegal aliens in our country grows (it is already estimated to be between 11 million and 20 million), there is no justification for dithering on this issue.  For the sake of our democracy -- and to make sure our elections are fraud-free -- Congress should enact Henry Hyde’s bill and require voters show a photo ID when they cast their votes.


8th District Illinois Candidate David McSweeney says Bean's votes mean continuing high gas prices and foreign dependence  Calls on Bean to provide solutions to high gas prices - Jim Thacker

Barrington Township: David McSweeney, candidate for Congress in Illinois' 8th Congressional District is calling on Congresswoman Melissa Bean to provide specific solutions to high gas prices. McSweeney has offered his own proposal to help bring down gasoline prices and encourage alternative fuels while Melissa Bean has voted against measures designed to positively affect the supply and demand of gasoline.

"Melissa Bean has voted against several pieces of legislation designed to lower gas prices and reduce our dependency on foreign oil. The high price of gasoline has a ripple effect throughout our economy. Small businesses in particular are impacted by fuel prices and the commute to work adds an additional financial burden on every family," said David McSweeney.

"Melissa Bean has voted against safe drilling in the Artic National Wildlife Refuge (HR 5429) 5/25/06, voted against legislation that would streamline the process for building new refineries (HR 3893) 10/7/05, and voted against a bill to prudently modify the federal moratorium on Atlantic and Pacific ocean off-shore oil drilling (HR 4761) 6/29/06. Melissa Bean has offered no specific solutions to high gas prices and added insult to injury by offering an amendment to spend our hard earned tax dollars to study ways to increase automobile fuel efficiency standards. We need action, not more time consuming federal studies," said McSweeney.

"I have been offering solutions to high gas prices since the beginning of my campaign.  We need a long-term energy policy in this country that is centered around developing new sources of energy and reducing our dependence on foreign oil.  Specifically, I favor safely developing nuclear power, encouraging wind and solar power by offering permanent tax credits and doubling the tax credit for hybrid cars and lifting the artificially low number of hybrid cars eligible for the tax credit.  Also, we should pursue a joint private-public Apollo type of mission to quickly develop hydrogen cars so that we can dramatically reduce our dependence on foreign oil," said McSweeney.

"In the short-term, we need to take additional steps to bring down gasoline prices.  For example, I favor replacing the archaic system of regional refined gasoline standards with one national standard.  I also favor the legislation that Melissa Bean voted against that would streamline the process for building new refineries and allow safe drilling in specific areas," said McSweeney.

"Melissa Bean voted no on offshore drilling, drilling in the ANWR, and streamlining the process for building new refineries. You cannot address the issue of high gas prices and the issue of foreign dependence on oil by voting against measures designed to solve those problems. Melissa Bean needs to tell the people of the 8th District what her plan is instead of just voting no," said McSweeney.

David McSweeney resides in Barrington Township within the 8th Congressional District with his wife Margaret and their two daughters.


DIERSEN HEADLINE: Emily Fleischman of Glen Ellyn calls DuPage County Board pay raise a "theft"

County Board raises 'a theft' from taxpayers - Emily Fleischman

Apparently the raise voted for themselves at taxpayers' expense by the DuPage County Board in their May 22 meeting passed by only one vote. I have seen nothing of this story in the Glen Ellyn News except for Richard H. Dunn's letter a few weeks ago.

You would do your community a great service if you would print the names of the public-spirited legislators who voted against this theft, and also of the greedy ones who allowed it to pass.

Their actions should be remembered in the next elections.

DIERSEN HEADLINE: Helen and Don Westlake of Wheaton are envious of the support that Roskam has

Roskam's presence in Wheaton parade questioned

Coincident events on our nation's birthday were meant to be intimidating: The long-range-missile launch by North Korea, and the unofficial renaming of the Wheaton parade route: Roskam Way.

As a participant in the parade, I am no more deterred by intimidation than were the Christians in the Roman Coliseum.

Helen Westlake, Wheaton

I guess it's back to the drawing board for the Wheaton Jaycees.

They limited the number of parade marchers to accompany each political candidate, so one candidate turned the entire parade route into Roskam Way.

Donald Westlake, Wheaton


"The Race" Schools: Your Tax Dollars At Work - Michelle Malkin

Top White House adviser Karl Rove traveled to Los Angeles this week to pay homage to the anti-immigration enforcement lobbying group for Latinos: the National Council of La Raza.

"La Raza" is Spanish for "The Race."

It's bad enough the White House lent its prestige to The Race's annual conference. But did you know the Bush administration has forked over millions of federal tax dollars directly to The Race?

According to GOP Rep. Charlie Norwood of Georgia, The Race snapped up $15.2 million in federal grants last year alone and more than $30 million since 1996. Undisclosed amounts went to get-out-the-vote efforts supporting La Raza political positions. The U.S. Department of Education funneled nearly $8 million in taxpayer grants to the group for a nationwide charter schools initiative.

Among The Race's most infamous government-funded charter schools is La Academia Semillas del Pueblo, the Los Angeles public school that teaches "Aztec math" (ancient dot math is the new math) and the Mexican indigenous language of "Nahuatl." The ethnic separatist principal of the school, Marcos Aguilar, told a sympathetic UCLA interviewer:

"We don't want to drink from a White water fountain, we have our own wells and our natural reservoirs and our way of collecting rain in our aqueducts. We don't need a White water fountain. . . . We are not interested in what they have because we have so much more and because the world is so much larger. And ultimately the White way, the American way, the neo liberal, capitalist way of life will eventually lead to our own destruction."

That's the tip of the iceberg. I found dozens of other publicly subsidized charter schools sponsored by The Race and funded with our money, including:

-- Aztlan Academy in Tucson, Ariz. According to The Race, the school's success rests on "Aztlan's ability to integrate a meaningful Chicano Studies program into their lives, language, and academics, as a means of developing their intellects as well as their pride and self-esteem." The school's name -- a reference to a mythical swath of the vast Southwestern U.S. expanse, which Latino activists claim is their rightful homeland and which they seek to reconquer for Mexico -- says it all.

-- Mexicayotl Academy in Nogales, Ariz. Who needs the three R's? At Mexicayotl, it's all about the three M's: me, me, me! The school's program is "structured and developed around the concepts of identity, culture, and language." Second mission: supporting local ethnic lobbying efforts "to right social injustices by educating the community and helping create social change." Under "greatest achievements," the school's website lists its participation in a "Peace & Dignity Run"; its visit from Rigoberta Menchu (the Marxist academic fraud from Guatemala who lied her way to a Nobel Peace Prize); and its sponsorship of the local annual Dia de los Muertos (the Mexican holiday).

-- The Dolores Huerta Preparatory High School in Pueblo, Colo. It's named after the far-Left Latina labor union activist who recently railed that "Republicans hate Latinos," praised illegal alien marchers and screeched that "We didn't cross the borders, the borders crossed us" in a hate-filled tirade before Arizona students.

-- Academia Cesar Chavez Charter School in St. Paul, Minn. Board of Directors member Louis Mendoza, an activist Chicano Studies professor, pushed the school to lobby for the federal DREAM Act (providing in-state tuition discounts to illegal alien students not available to legal non-residents). The school's website features one flag on its front page: the Mexican flag.

The White House will tell you that the National Council of The Race is a "moderate," mainstream civil rights group. But there's nothing "moderate" about The Race's advocacy of driver's licenses and in-state tuition discounts for illegal aliens. Or its opposition to strengthening security for identity documents and improving cooperation on immigration enforcement between state, local and federal enforcement immigration officials. Or its all-out war on the House GOP's border security and enforcement-first bill passed last December.

President Bush pays lip service to immigration enforcement and assimilation, while the White House sends Karl Rove to make nice with the separatist leaders of The Race and the Bush Education Department showers our tax dollars on radical Reconquista schools. It doesn't add up.

Unless, of course, you're using Aztec math.

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