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October 13, 2006 News Clips - Text (1 of 2)
Posted by Diersen on 15-Mar-2007
WHITE HOUSE
Remarks by the President at Roskam for Congress, David Mcsweeney for Congress 2006, and Illinois Congressional Victory Committee 2006 Reception
(DIERSEN: Hosts for this outstanding event included Greg Baise, Judy Biggert, Ed Brenann, Roger Claar, Craig Duchossois, Tyrone Fahner, Ron Gidwitz, Dennis Hastert, Henry Hyde, Tim Johnson, Mark Kirk, Ray LaHood, Don Manzullo, Andy McKenna Jr. & Sr., Pat Ryan, Kathy Salvi, John Shimkus, James Skinner, Jerry Weller.  The many attendees at this outstanding event included Tom Cross, Gene Dawson, Lidia Downs, Jim Economos, Ron Gidwitz, Dick Hawks, Chris Kachiroubas, Don Manzullo, Andy McKenna Jr., Jack Roeser, Pat Ryan, Gary Skoien, and Kevin White.  I had the honor of arranging a conversation between Kevin White, Andy Shaw, and Mary Ann Ahern before President Bush made his remarks.  President Bush mentioned Kevin White and his wife Geraldine at the beginning of his remarks and Mr. White responded.  Larry Bodine (http://republicansforduckworth.typepad.com/blog/) attempted to cover the event as a reporter.  As Jeff Berkowitz and I left the event, protestors on the sidewalk called us pedophiles.) 
THE PRESIDENT: Thanks for coming. I'm proud you're here. Before I liberate the Speaker, so he doesn't have to stand up here for this long speech -- (laughter) -- I want to say this to you: I am proud to be standing with the current Speaker of the House who is going to be the future Speaker. (Applause.)

Speaker Denny Hastert has a long record of accomplishment. You know, he's not one of these Washington politicians who spews a lot of hot air. He just gets the job done. (Applause.) I have worked with him up close. I know what's it like to work with a Speaker who is determined to protect the United States of America, and a Speaker who wants to make sure that everybody who wants a job in America can find one. He has delivered results for the people; this country is better off with Denny Hastert as the Speaker, and it will be better off when he's the Speaker in the next legislative session. (Applause.)

The Speaker has heard me give a lot of talks, so he wants to make sure if there's a chair nearby -- (laughter) -- but I want to thank you all for coming. Your support means a lot.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: We will win.

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, sir. (Applause.) I am also proud to be with two fine candidates, Peter Roskam -- (applause) -- David McSweeney. (Applause.) And I want to thank you for helping them. I have a sense of what it's like to run for office. (Laughter.) I've done it before, and I know how important it is for two candidates who are out day in and day out campaigning to be able to look at an audience this size and realize they're getting fine support. Your support means a lot not only the their campaigns, in the sense that you're helping to fill the hat, but it means a lot to their spirits to realize there's a lot of people pulling for them.

And there's nobody better to pull for a candidate than his family -- in this case, Peter's family, Elizabeth and his children, and in David's case, his wife Margaret. And it's been my honor to be able to see both those families, and I want to thank the families for supporting these good men for running for office, as well. (Applause.)

Speaking about wives -- (laughter) -- I was -- I happened to have my picture taken a while ago with a group of citizens that came through, and one fellow -- I guess I would define him as blunt, said, "You know, I was hoping to have my picture taken with Laura." (Laughter.) I said, "It's not hurting my feelings, man, you got good taste." (Laughter.) She sends her best to the Speaker and to the candidates; she sends her best to you all. I am a lucky man to have Laura Bush as my wife. (Applause.) And our country -- in my non-objective opinion -- is lucky to have her as the First Lady. (Applause.)

I wish Kevin White all the very best in his run for the 5th Congressional Delegation. (Applause.) Thanks for coming, Kevin. Give Geraldine a hug for me.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Right in front of you, right here. (Laughter.)

AUDIENCE MEMBER: I'll do it for you.

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. (Laughter.)

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Give her a hug for me. (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT: That's your responsibility. (Laughter.)

I am proud to be here with Congressman Don Manzullo from the great state of Illinois. (Applause.) My thanks to state Representative Tom Cross, who is the minority leader of the Illinois House. I want to thank all the state and local officials who've joined us. But most of all, thank you all for being here.

I thank my friend Pat Ryan. It's not easy to raise this much money, and I know how much organization it takes, and therefore it takes a strong leader up top, and that's exactly what Pat Ryan is. He's a strong leader and a great American, and I'm proud to be with you, Pat.

I want to thank my friend Andy McKenna, who is the chairman of the Illinois Republican Party. The reason I mention grassroots activists is that you win campaigns by having candidates who can carry a strong message, and we have those candidates. You win a campaign because people are generous with their hard-earned money, and you have been so tonight. And you win campaigns when people get out, and put up the signs, and make the phone calls, go to the community centers and houses of worship and say, support these candidates. So I want to thank you for what you have done, and I encourage you to continue to work to turn out the vote come this November. (Applause.)

We got a lot to do to make sure this country is prosperous and safe. I'm looking forward to working with these two new congressmen as we work to diversify our energy supply. I'm going to tell you why we need to. I'm a little concerned at the price -- the drop in gasoline prices, which I welcome, and I know you do, too. (Laughter.) However -- masks the fact that it is not in our national interest to be dependent on foreign sources of oil. And so I look forward to working with these congressmen to promote alternative energy sources, such as ethanol, and new research and development into new battery technologies that will enable you to drive the first 40 miles on electricity and your car won't have to look like a golf cart. (Laughter and applause.)

We've got an aggressive agenda -- aggressive agenda to diversify our energy sources so that we're not dependent on Middle Eastern oil. It's in our national security interests. (Applause.)

I'm looking forward to working with these members to make sure health care is available and affordable. We don't need the federal government telling doctors how to practice and telling patients who they got to go see. (Applause.)

But we do need the federal government to do something about these junk and frivolous lawsuits that are running good doctors out of practice. (Applause.)

A big issue always facing the Congress is how to make sure that the entrepreneurial spirit remains strong in the United States. And we got a strong record. This administration has got a strong record on the economy, and so does Speaker Denny Hastert.

You might remember the facts. This country has been through a recession, a stock market correction. We've been through a terrorist attack on our nation. We've been at war to defend this country. We've had major hurricanes. For a while we had high energy prices, and yet America is the envy of the industrialized world when it comes to economic growth. (Applause.)

Our national unemployment rate is 4.6 percent. People are working. We've added 6.6 million new jobs since August of 2003. Our farm economy is strong. Productivity is up. Small businesses are on the rise. This economy is in good shape, and we need to keep Denny Hastert and the Republicans in charge of the United States Congress to keep it that way. (Applause.)

And we're in good shape because we cut the taxes on everybody who paid income taxes. (Applause.) We have a philosophy of government that says, if you have more of your own money in your pocket to save, spend or invest, this economy will do well. That stands in stark contrast to our opponents, who believe that they can spend your money better than you can spend your money. And so we cut the taxes -- not once, but twice. We cut the taxes on families with children; we cut the taxes on people who were married; we put the death tax on the road to extinction; we cut the taxes on small business people. As a result of good fiscal policy in Washington, D.C., this economy is strong. And the best way to keep it there is to make the tax cuts we passed permanent. (Applause.)

That's the opposite view of the Democrats. You might remember the debate about the deficit -- they go around the country saying, well, we got to solve the deficit and we need to raise taxes. That's not the way Washington works. If they were to get in charge of the House of Representatives, they would raise your taxes and figure out new ways to spend your money. The best way to balance this budget -- by the way, a couple years ago I stood up and said we can cut the deficit in half by 2009. It's amazing what happens when you cut taxes; the economy grows, you end up with more tax revenues. When you couple that with fiscal discipline in Washington, D.C., which we have exhibited, the deficit gets cut. As a matter of fact, we cut the deficit in half not by 2009, but by three years prior to that.

The best way to keep this economy growing, the best way to make sure we've got a fiscal situation that makes sure the economic growth continues, is to keep taxes low and prioritize how we spend your money. And the number one priority has got to be to protect America and make sure those who wear the uniform have all the support they need to do their job. (Applause.)

Our record on taxes is clear. The Democrats in Washington have a clear record of their own. The trouble is they don't want you to know about it. Recently, the top Democrat leader in the House made an interesting declaration. Here's what she said: "We love tax cuts." Given her record, she must be a secret admirer. (Laughter.)

It's not just the so-called tax cuts for the rich she opposes, when we cut taxes for everybody who pays income taxes, she voted against it. When we reduced the marriage penalty, she voted against it. When we cut taxes on small businesses, she voted against it. When we lowered the taxes for families with children, she voted against it. When we cut the taxes on dividends and capital gains to stimulate investment, she voted against it. When we put the death tax on the road to extinction, she voted against it. Time and again, when she had an opportunity to show her love for tax cuts, she voted, no. If this is the Democrats' idea of love -- (laughter) -- I don't want to see what hate looks like. (Laughter.)

A big issue in this campaign across the United States and here in Illinois with these two congressmen is, who is going to keep your taxes low. When we win, we will keep your taxes low. And make no mistake about it, the Democrats will raise your taxes. It's a fundamental difference in this campaign. And I'm looking forward to leading us to victory to make sure the taxes on the people of the United States remain low and reasonable. (Applause.)

No, there's a lot of big domestic issues. And I'm sure our candidates are out there telling people what's on their mind. But the biggest issue facing this country is who best to protect you. We are a nation at war. You know, I wish I didn't have to say that. I wish I could say everything is fine. But that's not the reality of the world in which we live. The most fundamental job of those of us in government is to protect you, and to do everything in our power to protect the American people. There's an enemy that lurks and plots and plans because they cannot stand -- they can't stand our values and what we believe. They don't believe in the freedoms that we believe in.

They're bound by an ideology. And they're willing to use murder as a tool to achieve that ideology. It's a different kind of war, but it's real -- as we learned on that fateful day of September the 11th, 2001.

On that day, I vowed that I would use all of my powers and national assets to protect the American people -- and so did the Speaker. These are folks you can't negotiate with. These are ideologues who have stated clearly their objective is to drive the United States out of the Middle East so they can establish a caliphate based upon their ideology of hate. They have made their plans clear, and it's essential that the President and the United States Congress listen carefully to the words of the enemy.

My view is, is that the best way to defeat this enemy is to stay on the offense and defeat them overseas so we do not have to face them here at home. (Applause.) And so we're keeping steady pressure on a group of people who would want to do America harm.

It's hard to plan and plot when you're on the run. It's hard to plan and plot when you're in a cave. You just got to know there's some incredibly brave Americans working with allies that are keeping the pressure on this enemy to keep you safe.

One of the terrible lessons of September the 11th is that oceans can no longer protect us, and therefore, it is essential that the United States treat threats seriously before they come home to hurt us, before they fully materialize. I saw a threat. Members of both parties in the United States Congress saw a threat. The United Nations saw a threat in Iraq. Removing Saddam Hussein from power was the right decision, and the world is better off for it. (Applause.)

Iraq is a central front in this war on terror. Oh, I know the Democrats say it's a diversion from the war on terror -- some of them say that. But I would ask them to listen to the words of Osama bin Laden or Zawahiri, who is the number two of al Qaeda, who have said clearly their ambitions are to drive us out of Iraq so they can establish a safe haven from which to launch further attacks; to drive us out of Iraq so they can have resources to use to fund their ambitions; to drive us out of Iraq so they can topple moderate governments.

Imagine a world in which there are violent forms of extremists who've crushed the hopes of moderate, decent people because they have this ideology that is so foreign to us. Imagine a world in which they could use oil to blackmail the free world. Imagine that world, as well, with a group of people that don't care for America, with a nuclear weapon. If that were to happen, a generation of Americans would look and say, what happened; what happened to the leaders, how come they couldn't see the threat?

I see the threat. The Speaker sees the threat. We've got a plan for victory in this war on terror, and that includes helping those 12 million people who are desperate for freedom to achieve their dreams of democracy. We've got a goal, a clear goal, which is an Iraq that can defend itself and sustain itself, an Iraq that will be an ally in the war on terror.

We're constantly changing our tactics to meet those of the enemy. We're constantly adjusting. But make no mistake about it, our plan is victory. We will stay in Iraq, we will fight in Iraq, and we will win in Iraq for the security of the United States. (Applause.)

We have to be right a hundred percent of the time to protect the country. The enemy has to be right one time. And therefore it is incumbent upon those of us in government to make sure the professionals on the front lines protecting America have all the tools necessary to protect you. The Speaker understands that. These candidates running for office understand that.

And that is why I worked with the Congress to pass what's called the Patriot Act. It was an act that tore down walls that prevented the intelligence community and the criminal justice community from talking. I know that probably sounds strange that that happened, but it's the reality. You can't defend America unless all elements of government are capable of sharing information so that we can prevent the attack from happening in the first place.

I also believe it was essential -- and by the way, the Speaker led the charge in making sure the House passed the Patriot Act the first time, and then re-authorized it. (Applause.)

Secondly, I believe strongly that if an al Qaeda or al Qaeda affiliate was making a phone call into the United States from outside the country, we need to know why. If the most important job of government is to protect you, we need to understand what the enemy is thinking and what they're planning. I thank the Congress for getting the House of Representatives to endorse the Terrorist Surveillance Program. I thought it was very important that when we captured a leader of the enemy on the battlefield that we detain and question that enemy. I thought it was essential to protect you that we gain information from the leadership of those who would do us harm.

One of the people we captured was Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who our intelligence officers believe was the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks. I thought it was important for this country to gain information from this mastermind in order to be able to say we're doing everything we can to protect you. And we learned a lot of information from those who we have captured, information that our intelligence service believes strongly has prevented attacks on the homeland. And yet we've had a debate on this issue, and the Speaker of the House led the House of Representatives to endorse this vision.

In other words, we've been giving people the tools necessary to protect the homeland, and our Democrat colleagues back in Washington have taken a very different approach to the war on terror. There is a difference of opinion. I'm not questioning anybody's patriotism or love for America. But I am questioning their view of how best to protect you. And this is an issue in this campaign. If the security of the United States is the most important issue, then part of this issue is which party has been willing to step up and give those charged with protecting you the tools necessary to do so.

In each vote a clear pattern has emerged on which party can best protect the American people. More than 75 percent of the House Democrats voted to block the renewal of the Patriot Act. Almost 80 percent of the House Democrats voted against allowing the CIA to continue the interrogation program. Almost 90 percent of the House Democrats voted against continuing to monitor terrorist communications through the Terrorist Surveillance Program. Rarely has a single series of votes summed up the difference between the two political parties so clearly. If the Democrats' Congress had their way, we wouldn't have had the Patriot Act or the interrogation program, or the Terrorist Surveillance Program. They can run from this record, but we're not going to let them hide. (Applause.)

You know, I was -- recently read where the Democrat leader said this. She said, "The midterm elections should not be about national security." I strongly disagree. I want those discerning Democrats and independents and Republicans to hear loud and clear that the person who wants to be Speaker of the House has said that the midterm elections shouldn't be about national security.

I know this election ought to be about national security. I'm briefed every day on the threats this country faces. The United States of America cannot afford to wait and respond to an attack. The United States of America must be on the offense to make sure the attacks don't happen in the first place. (Applause.)

We've got one great asset at our disposal as well, and it's called liberty. I believe in the universality of liberty. I believe there is an Almighty and I believe one of the great gifts of that Almighty is the desire for people to be free. I believe that. I believe that Muslim moms want to be free. (Applause.) I believe that people all across the globe have this great desire and yearning to live in freedom. And I believe that freedom will help us yield the peace we want for our children and grandchildren.

The way to defeat -- the way I like to put it is, we're in an ideological struggle. It's a struggle between extremists, radicals, and reasonable people who simply want to have a better life. And I believe it's incumbent upon the United States of America to stand with those who are reasonable and moderate against the extremists and radicals.

I believe it's our call to do so, and I have great faith in the power of liberty to transform regions of hate to regions of hope and to transform enemies to allies. And the reason I say that to you -- I've had some amazing experience as your President, and perhaps one of the most unusual is my relationship with the Prime Minister of Japan. I must have told this story hundreds of times because it is so ironic that my relationship is so close, and yet my dad, when he was a young man, volunteered to fight the Japanese as a sworn enemy.

You know, recently I invited my friend, the former Prime Minister, he just left office -- to go to Elvis' place. (Laughter.) I'd never been there. (Laughter.) He wanted to go there. See, he's an Elvis fan. But I also wanted to tell a story to the American people about ideological struggles and the faith we should have in liberty -- because on Air Force One, going down to Memphis, Tennessee, the Prime Minister and I talked about keeping the peace. Isn't that interesting? My dad fought the enemy, fought the Japanese as the enemy, and now his son is talking about the peace.

We're talking about North Korea and how it's important for there to be more than one voice at the table when it comes to convincing the leader of North Korea. By the way, it's much better to have China at the table with the United States. It's much better to have Japan and South Korea -- (applause.)

We talked about the fact that Japan had deployed a thousand troops in Iraq, because he understands what I know, the advent of democracy is a huge defeat to the extremists. That's why they're fighting so hard. That's why this is such a brutal battle. And I understand it affects the American people, because the enemy has got a weapon, and they use it, and that's the murder of innocent people. And it gets on our TV screens, and we're a nation of compassionate, decent people who care about human life in all its forms. And yet Prime Minister Koizumi knows what I know, that we will succeed as liberty progresses, and we will succeed by helping people who yearn for a better life, and we will succeed by marginalizing those extremists and radicals and, if need be, bring them to justice before they hurt us again.

Something happened between World War II and when I became the President, talking with this Japanese Prime Minister. And what happened was Japan adopted a Japanese-style democracy. Liberty has got the capacity to transform an enemy into an ally. And some day an American President will be sitting down with elected leaders in the Middle East talking about how to keep the peace, and a generation of Americans will be better off for it.

God bless. (Applause.)

ABC7
Bush gives Hastert a boost in his time of need - John Garcia
President Bush gave Dennis Hastert a glowing endorsement during his Chicago visit Thursday. It comes amid calls for Hastert's resignation over the way he has handled the House page scandal. The president was in Chicago for a fundraiser to help two Illinois congressional candidates.
 
President Bush's approval ratings have suffered because of the Iraq war, and as a result, he has not been in great demand on the campaign circuit. But Thursday in Chicago several hundred Republican supporters paid at least $1,000 each to hear the president and show their support for Dennis Hastert.

They are two of the most powerful men in the world: the president and the Speaker of the House. They work in the same city and belong to the same party but they have not been seen together in public since the congressional page scandal broke.

Dennis Hastert made no comments other than to introduce the president.

"He is the President of the United States, he is our friend, he is our leader, George W. Bush, President of the United States," Hastert said.

Republican supporters paid at least $1,000 apiece to attend. Two congressional candidates, Peter Roskam and David McSweeney, will come away with $500,000 each for their campaigns. But the president's support of Hastert could be even more significant.

"Speaker Denny Hastert has a long record of accomplishment. He's not one of these Washington politicians who spews a lot of hot air. He just gets the job done," said the president.

Across the street from the hotel about 200 protestors opposed to Bush and Hastert held signs and used loudspeakers.

In Geneva Thursday night Dennis Hastert's Democratic opponent was hosting a town hall meeting on Iraq.

"They are raising money to protect their own political power and you're going to see more of the same if Republicans are in charge," said John Laesch, (D)-nominee for Congress.

The president's approval rating is down and the opponents are calling for the speaker to step down because of the House page scandal.

But George Bush is still trying to rally the troops.

"Productivity is up, small businesses are on the rise. This economy is in good shape and we need to keep Dennis Hastert in charge of the United States Congress to keep it that way," said Bush.

One notable Republican who was absent from the fundraiser was gubernatorial candidate Judy Baar Topinka. Her spokesperson says she had previous commitments to be downstate Thursday.

Rezko gave at least $300,000 to campaigns  Donations made to dozens of politicians - Charles Thomas

http://abclocal.go.com/wls/story?section=local&id=4654947 (Includes video clip)

Online searches of campaign finance records indicate Antoin 'Tony' Rezko has donated more than $300,000 in cash and services to the state and local politicians. A top aide to Gov. Blagojevich, Rezko was indicted on fraud charges Wednesday.

Most of the donations -- made to about four dozen politicians -- went to democrats like Governor Rod Blagojevich.

Rezko is one of few private Illinois citizens who can walk past the governor's security detail and whisper in Blagojevich's ear. Rezko had access to Blagojevich and donated at least $49,000 to his campaign fund through personal and corporate names since 2004. Having money and having access to politicians goes hand-in-hand in Illinois, according to Paul Green, Roosevelt University political science professor.

"People like Rezko and others are individuals who simply are buying access. They don't corrupt the government. They just simply have the ability to get what they want on the agenda, on the table directly in front of the elected official," said Green.

An internet search by ABC7 researchers found that in the last decade, Rezko has donated to campaigns under at least five different personal or corporate names, including Antoin Rezko; Tony Rezko; Rezmar, the name of his real estate firm; Chicago Property Management and Chicago Construction Services; and Rezko Foods and Rezko Concessions, the names of his restaurant-related companies. Blagojevich is just one of the politicians who have benefited from the campaign contributions.

Lieutenant Governor Pat Quinn, Secretary Of State Jesse White, House Speaker Mike Madigan, and Senate President Emil Jones have all accepted donations from Rezko. Attorney General Lisa Madigan, the state's top law enforcement officer, received $48,000 from Rezko. Her campaign announced Thursday the same amount would be donated to charity.

The records also list more than a dozen Chicago City Council members, including Alderman Todd Stroger, the democratic candidate for Cook County board president. His opponent, Republican Tony Peraica, has already made the Stroger-Rezko link a campaign issue.

"He's taking that money. He's taking the money from people who have been indicted like Tony Rezko and others," said Peraica.

Stroger acknowledged using Rezko money for his 2003 aldermanic campaign, but said he has not received any donations since then.

Some other names on the Rezko list includes U.S. Senator Barack Obama, U.S. Congressmen Jackson, Kirk, Guiterrez, and Rush. Mayor Richard M. Daley also has Rezko money in his campaign war chest. These politicians have not announced what they plan to do about these donations.

Rezko would cross party lines once in a while and once donated to President Bush during the 2000 campaign.

NBC5

Bush Boosts Hastert During Fundraiser  Fundraiser Nets Approximately $1 Million - Mary Ann Ahern

http://www.nbc5.com/politics/10065862/detail.html (Includes video clip)

President George W. Bush visited Chicago on Thursday to raise money for Illinois' Republican candidates and to show support for embattled House Speaker Dennis J. Hastert.

"I am proud to be standing with the current Speaker of the House, who is going to be the future Speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert," Bush said at the fundraiser, which was expected to bring in approximately $1 million, NBC5's Mary Ann Ahern reported. The fundraiser was held at the Chicago Hilton and Towers on South Michigan Avenue.

People paid $1,000 per person to attend the fundraiser, while $10,000 would allow someone a picture with the president, Ahern reported.

Hastert has been at the center of the congressional page scandal, in which former Florida Rep. Mark Foley has been accused of sending explicit instant messages to the pages, who are teenagers.

Peter Roskam, who is running for the 6th Congressional District seat being vacated by current Rep. Henry Hyde, was at the fundraiser. Also at the fundraiser was Dave McSweeney, who is running for the 8th Congressional District seat, which is currently occupied by Democratic Rep. Melissa Bean.

"I immediately called for a federal investigation, and that is actually what has happened," Roskam said. "So, the speaker, I think wisely, said, 'Let's get the FBI involved; they're going to tell us what the timetable is.'"

A presidential visit can give a boost in the polls, Ahern reported. During his speech, Bush touted the Republicans' accomplishments over the past three years. The president also addressed the Iraq situation and talked about tax cuts.

"We've added 6.6 million new jobs since August 2003," Bush said. "Our farm economy is strong, productivity is up, small businesses are on the rise. This economy is in good shape, and we need to keep Denny Hastert and the Republicans in charge of the United States Congress to keep it that way."
 
Congressional Candidate Duckworth Offers Advice To Opponent Roskam
While President George W. Bush campaigned for Republican congressional candidates David McSweeney and Peter Roskam, Democratic candidate Tammy Duckworth had some advice for what Roskam should do at the fundraiser, which will be held Thursday.

Duckworth and Roskam are both competing for the 6th Congressional District seat, which is being vacated by Rep. Henry Hyde.

"I hope he'll suggest to the president that his policy in Iraq needs adjustment," said Duckworth, a decorated Iraqi war veteran who lost both of her legs in the war. "I hope he'll suggest to (House) Speaker (Dennis) Hastert that there are some things more important than partisan politics -- like protecting our children from sexual predators."
 
Duckworth also criticized the Bush administration for how it's handled North Korea.
 
Governor To Donate Rezko Contributions To Charity  Rezko Donated Thousands To Other Politicians
While Gov. Rod Blagojevich is the biggest beneficiary of Antoin "Tony" Rezko's largesse, he is not the only politician to have taken contributions from the political insider who is under federal indictment.

Blagojevich, who has not been accused of any wrongdoing, announced Wednesday that he would donate Rezko's political contributions to charity.

State Board of Elections records show Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn's campaign returned four $5,000 checks to Rezko-related businesses in spring 2002. Quinn said Thursday night the checks bounced -- the balance of the contributions, he intends to donate to charity.

In all, Rezko, his companies and businesses that share the same address have contributed more than $400,000 to state political campaigns, including a few Republicans, in the past decade.

Rezko also has aided federal campaigns, giving more than $62,000 since 1997, according to the Federal Election Commission. Democratic U.S. Sen. Barack Obama received $11,500, on top of $8,500 from Rezko when he was a state senator.

Rezko, 51, was charged Wednesday with taking part in an elaborate scheme to get millions of dollars from companies wanting to do business with the state Teachers' Retirement System.

Up for re-election Nov. 7, Blagojevich estimated Rezko's generosity at $60,000 to $70,000. But a review of state election records shows that Rezko and companies he's involved with have contributed $91,450 to the Chicago Democrat.

Other politicians faced calls Thursday for them to return money related to the federal indictment. The indictment mentions, but does not identify, several people that prosecutors believe had a role in the kickback scheme.

Republican treasurer candidate Christine Radogno said Democratic opponent Alexi Giannoulias should return $14,000 received from Michael Winter. She cited a newspaper report identifying him as one of the unnamed figures.

Republican congressional candidate Peter Roskam, citing the same report, called on Democrat Tammy Duckworth to return $1,000 from Myron Cherry.
 
CBS2
President Bush In Chicago To Campaign For GOP  Bush Joined By House Speaker Hastert
CHICAGO President Bush stood shoulder-to-shoulder with embattled House Speaker Dennis Hastert on Thursday, offering a powerful boost in his moment of need and declaring the country "better off" with Hastert in power.

"I am proud to be standing with the current speaker of the House who is going to be the future speaker of the House," Bush said as he opened a speech to raise money for two Illinois congressional candidates.

The $1.1 million fundraiser provided the first picture of Bush with Hastert since a scandal broke involving a Republican congressman pursuing underage male pages. Although the president has spoken out in Hastert's defense -- tepidly at first and more directly at a White House news conference on the eve of the fundraiser -- their appearance together was an endorsement of Hastert when nearly half the country says he should resign.

But outside the event protestors were calling for change by drawing attention to the war in Iraq and the president's dismal approval rating.

"It's outrageous that Bush would come to town to basically rescue Hastert's career at a time when this bloody war is continuing," said Any Thayer with the Chicago Coalition Against War and Racism.

Their long-scheduled fundraiser was sponsored by Hastert and came on the same day that the House Ethics Committee questioned ex-Rep. Mark Foley's chief of staff, Kirk Fordham, for five hours. Fordham has said he took complaints about Foley's conduct to Hastert's top aide three or four years ago.

Hastert's office has said it learned of Foley's conduct only last fall, and the speaker has said he first was notified in late September this year.

Bush defended him, without mentioning the Foley case.

"Speaker Denny Hastert has a long record of accomplishment," Bush said. "He's not one of these Washington politicians who spews a lot of hot air. He just gets the job done."

The crowd of Republican donors standing in a downtown Chicago hotel ballroom responded with loud applause.

"I have worked with him up close," Bush continued. "I know what it's like to work with a speaker who is determined to protect the United States of America and a speaker who wants to make sure that everybody who wants a job in America can find one.

"He has delivered results for the people," Bush said. "This country is better off with Denny Hastert as the speaker and it will be better off when he is the speaker the next legislative session."

Whether Hastert and the Republican Party will remain in power in the House next year is in doubt. Democrats need to pick up just 15 seats to win control, and Republican-held seats across the country are in jeopardy in the wake of the Foley case, continuing violence in Iraq and the dissatisfaction with Bush's leadership.

The beneficiaries of the fundraiser -- Republican congressional candidates Peter Roskam and David McSweeney -- spoke differently about the president.

McSweeney noted that although Bush lost Illinois in 2004, he won the district where he is running. "When the president comes to town, it provides good exposure," said McSweeney, who is in an uphill battle to oust freshman Democratic Rep. Melissa Bean.

Roskam said he was thankful for the president's "tremendous fundraising boost" and his leadership on tax cuts and keeping America safe. But Roskam's Democratic opponent, Iraq war veteran Tammy Duckworth, has been criticizing his close ties to the party, and Roskam tried to distance himself from Bush's policies on education, spending and immigration.

"I've been very vocal in my separation and criticism of the administration," he said.

Absent from the meeting was the Republican candidate for governor, Judy Baar Topinka. A spokesperson from her campaign said she had prior fundraising commitments downstate.

However, this summer when the president was here raising money for Topinka it was widely reported that she wanted to distance herself from him because of his low approval rating.

Attendees at the fundraiser had to donate at least $1,000 per person, and the invitation advertised that $10,000 would get a photo with the president, "two people, one click," and 10 reception passes.

Sen. John Kerry tried to use the Bush-Hastert appearance to raise money for Democratic candidates, calling it "a meeting of the no accountability caucus of the Republican Party."

"Denny Hastert has been the longest-running Republican speaker in history," Kerry wrote in an e-mail to supporters. "But in 25 days, we can take the gavel out of his hands -- and the smirk off George W. Bush's face."
 
Feds Believe Blago Fundraiser Out Of Country  Rezko Likely Will Not Appear At Arraignment Friday - Mike Flannery
CBS 2 News has learned that federal agents now believe Gov. Rod Blagojevich's top fundraiser is out of the country and will not show up in court tomorrow for his scheduled arraignment on corruption charges.

That would make Tony Rezko a fugitive.

As CBS 2 Political Editor Mike Flannery reports, Rezko has also stopped paying taxes on his North Shore mansion.

The house is one of the largest homes in one of the most desirable sections of Wilmette -- not the sort of place to have more than $25,000 in unpaid property taxes. But the Cook County Treasurer's Web site shows it's nearly six weeks overdue.

Some insiders see it as one more sign that Antoin "Tony" Rezko may not be planning a quick return to the United States. A native of Syria, Rezko has reportedly been on a lengthy visit to the Middle East.

At Blagojevich's last inauguration, Rezko was in the front row, a VIP as a friend and top fundraiser for the governor, and as a long-time business partner who sent as much as $38,000 a year in real estate commissions to first lady Patti Blagojevich.

The governor won't give details, but said there were other gifts, as well.

Now that Rezko has been indicted on 24 criminal counts, Republicans say it's time for the governor to provide more details.

This is not the first time Rezko's been late paying his huge property tax bill. He was 16 days late last March.
 
DAILY HERALD
Hastert gets a presidential seal of approval  Bush has Hastert's back as he stumps to keep him speaker - Eric Krol
Appearing together on a stage for the first time since the congressional page scandal surfaced, President Bush gave embattled Speaker Dennis Hastert a hearty endorsement Thursday night.

"This country is better off with Denny Hastert as the speaker and it will be better off when he's the speaker the next legislative session," said Bush, who moments earlier said the Plano Republican is "not one of these Washington politicians who spews a lot of hot air. He just gets the job done."

Bush spoke at a Chicago fundraiser that reportedly raised $1.1 million for suburban Republican congressional candidates Peter Roskam and David McSweeney, each of whom is engaged in tough races.

Hastert, however, did not speak other than to introduce the president. The longest-serving Republican speaker in the nation's history is awaiting the results of FBI and House ethics probes into whether any wrongdoing occurred in the handling of complaints about former Florida Rep. Mark Foley's advances on young male pages.

Bush did not make any references to Hastert's woes, instead saying Hastert is "determined to protect the United States of America" and is "a speaker who wants to make sure that everybody who wants a job in America can find one."

With the national debate focused on the scandal, Bush tried to change the dialogue to national security and put the Democrats back on the defensive.

"The security of the United States is the most important issue," Bush said in his 27-minute speech. "The heart of this issue is which party has been willing to step up and give those charged with protecting you the tools necessary to do so."

As for Iraq, Bush reiterated he's not pulling out any time soon. "We will stay in Iraq, we will fight in Iraq and we will win in Iraq," he said.

The event posed a political challenge for Roskam and McSweeney: to get the cash windfall, they had to appear with Bush and Hastert, two leaders with lagging public approval ratings.

For Roskam, it meant standing briefly on stage with Bush and then leaving for a debate with Democratic foe Tammy Duckworth at the College of DuPage. Before he left, Roskam mostly avoided saying the president's name while talking to reporters and spoke about his criticisms of the Bush administration without much prompting. Roskam said he's been "very vocal" in differing with Bush on federal spending, the No Child Left Behind education act and illegal immigration.

"From my campaign's point of view, this is helping to raise funds so that we can make sure we get our message on television," Roskam said when asked if Hastert's recent controversy overshadowed the event.

Duckworth criticized Roskam for not standing up to GOP leadership enough. "He says he supports the president's policy in Iraq, even though that policy is failing," she said. "The (voters) want an independent voice, not a partisan rubber stamp."

For McSweeney, the challenge meant he praised Bush and was more distant from Hastert.

"I'm proud to have the president here," said McSweeney, a Barrington Hills investment banker. "The president is right on the war on terror. I support his call for lower taxes. We're having a good day from a fund-raising perspective and I'm always proud to stand with the president."

McSweeney said he wants a full and thorough investigation of the page scandal, but he did call Hastert a "man of integrity."

Democratic U.S. Rep. Melissa Bean of Barrington declined to take any shots at Bush, saying "there are plenty of other people doing that right now," but discounted his visit's boost to her foe's campaign.

"It doesn't change the fact that his extreme positions" aren't right for the 8th Congressional District, she said.

Bean and Duckworth hope to get a similar bounty when former President Clinton comes to town for an Oct. 23 fundraiser.

McSweeney goes after Bean on security - 
http://www.dailyherald.com/news/cookstory.asp?id=238059&cc=c&tc=&t=

Buoyed by a campaign appearance alongside President Bush, Republican David McSweeney went on the offensive Thursday with a new TV ad that tries to paint his opponent, freshman U.S. Rep. Melissa Bean, as soft on national security.

The debut of McSweeney’s first broadcast TV spot since the 8th Congressional District’s Republican primary comes one week after Bean unleashed ads criticizing McSweeney over his opposition to abortion and embryonic stem cell research.

McSweeney’s commercial calls the Bean ad “a gross misrepresentation” of his views, and criticizes Bean for a May vote against stationing the U.S. military along the Mexican border.

Bean campaign spokesman Brian Herman defended Bean’s record on border security, citing her votes in favor of hiring 8,000 new border patrol agents and building hundreds of miles of new fencing along the border.

Bean opposes using the military to secure the border because military resources are “already strained,” Herman said.

“Bean has been a consistent supporter of homeland defense,” he said.

McSweeney’s new ads hit the airwaves on the same day the former investment banker from Barrington Hills appeared alongside Bush and fellow GOP congressional candidate Peter Roskam at a $1 million downtown Chicago fundraiser.

McSweeney is one of only a few Republicans nationwide seen as having a chance to pick up a Democratic seat in Congress. Wounded most recently by the Mark Foley congressional page scandal, the GOP is largely focusing on fending off Democratic challenges to several vulnerable Republicans.

The 8th District stretches north from the Schaumburg area into western Lake and eastern McHenry counties.

DIERSEN HEADLINE: Marni Pyke reports on the Roskam-Duckworth debate from the perspective of a Duckworth supporter

http://www.dailyherald.com/story.asp?id=237693

http://www.dailyherald.com/news/dupagestory.asp?id=238067&cc=d&tc=&t=

(DIERSEN: Republican attendees included Lori Carlson, Sal Falbo, Rhonda Graff, Bob Graham, Amy Grant, Jeanna Ives, and Gwen Henry.  The Democrat Party succeeded in getting many Duckworth supporters to attend the debate, but how many of them are registered to vote in U.S. Congressional District 6?  Many of the Duckworth supporters were rude.)

Duckworth, Roskam go at each other in debate - Marni Pyke 

Democrat Tammy Duckworth and Republican Peter Roskam agreed on one thing at the conclusion of Thursday's College of DuPage debate - the other's mean-spiritedness.

The going got nasty quickly in the Glen Ellyn event sponsored by the League of Women Voters, which featured the two candidates vying for the 6th congressional seat held by retiring U.S. Rep. Henry Hyde.

"The longer this campaign goes, the more it's clear my opponent is committed to politics as usual. Over and over again he's embraced the status quo," said Duckworth, an Iraq war veteran from Hoffman Estates.

Roskam retorted with, "thanks for the kind introduction."

The Wheaton state senator stated, "Unlike my opponent, I'm not a recruited candidate. I'm a candidate who has spent hours and hours serving in the district."

Political scandals from other campaigns filtered into the fracas frequently.

Duckworth chastised Roskam for attending a fundraiser with President Bush and House Speaker Dennis Hastert. Hastert has taken heat for whether he knew anything about the scandal involving lurid e-mails sent to congressional pages from former U.S. Rep. Mark Foley.

"Mr. Roskam, if you are not willing to hold our leaders accountable for protecting the children in their care, when will you hold them accountable?" she asked.

Later, Roskam slammed Duckworth for a $100,000 campaign contribution from Myron Cherry, an attorney whose name is mentioned in this week's federal corruption indictment of Antoin Rezko, a close supporter of Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

She retaliated by asking Roskam if he questioned Bush about returning a $5,000 contribution from Rezko.

Roskam criticized Duckworth for taking direction from other Democrats.

"My opponent in her name calling has called me a rubber stamp. Let me know one issue where she differs from Rahm Emanuel?" Roskam said, referring to the Chicago Democrat who supports Duckworth's candidacy.

Both hold claim to the middle ground on issues such as taxes, the environment and abortion.

"He doesn't trust adult women who are victims of rape to make decisions about their own bodies. He's too extreme," Duckworth said.

"She says abortion should be legal at any time. She's outrageously out of step," Roskam said.

Duckworth greeted Josh Bowler, a quadriplegic from Glen Ellyn, and faulted Roskam for failing to support embryonic stem cell research, which scientists hope can improve spinal injuries.

"Can you look Josh in the eye?" she demanded.

"My grandmother suffered from dementia. I know the ravages of disease," said Roskam, who opposes abortion and endorses using adult stem cells for research.

More than 800 people packed the debate with at least 200 who had to be seated outside the auditorium.

Afterward, Roskam said he was "disappointed with the mean-spiritedness of Duckworth's responses."

Duckworth's spokeswoman Christine Glunz responded that Duckworth was "just laying out the facts as they stand."

DIERSEN HEADLINE:

http://www.dailyherald.com/news/dupagestory.asp?id=238068&cc=d&tc=&t=

It should have been a cakewalk; Loyal group of admirers aims to send Roskam to Washington, keep district in GOP hands - 

Peter Roskam has a simple philosophy on campaigning.

 “You can walk when it’s really cold, you can walk when it’s really hot, you can walk when it’s nice, you can walk when it’s snowing,” he says, striding through a Carol Stream neighborhood.

“But if you walk when it’s raining — people think you’re an idiot.”

On this particular fall day, the sun is shining on the Republican candidate for the 6th Congressional District.

It’s a nice break in an election that’s turning into a dogfight.

Roskam should have had it easy.

The state senator from Wheaton has the blessing of incumbent U.S. Rep. Henry Hyde. Primary opponents couldn’t get out of his way fast enough. The 6th District is a traditional GOP stronghold.

Yet here he is, barbarians hammering at the gate in the form of a bona fide challenge from Democrat and Iraq war veteran Tammy Duckworth of Hoffman Estates.

Roskam is an experienced lawmaker and polished speaker blessed with a photogenic family. But Duckworth, who lost both legs in combat, has a compelling story, a resume of her own and backing from powerful Democrats eager to win back the U.S. House.

That’s why the conservative Republican is pounding the pavement.

“This keeps you lean, mean and hungry,” he says.

The home team

If Martha Stewart designed an election headquarters, this would be it.

Roskam’s nerve center is a picturesque, vintage frame house in downtown Wheaton. There’s a floral wreath on the door, stained wood floors and Victorian-era color schemes in the rooms.

Downstairs, office manager Annette Bramsen is multi-tasking.

“It’s a campaign, so it’s really fluid,” says Bramsen, who brings a den-mother manner to work.

“Today, I’m working on getting volunteers in to make calls; there’s a bunch of data entry and some research, I’m trying to get people to staff some events we’re having this weekend.”

Volunteer Sarah Phillips of Wheaton donates her baking and computer skills to the effort.

“I’ve known Peter for a number of years, and I really respect his integrity,” she says.

As they talk, Jeff McElheney pops in to pick up a camera he lent the campaign.

“I am at their disposal whenever they need something,” said McElheney, whose daughter attended preschool with Roskam’s oldest child. “This weekend, my wife and I will knock on doors in what’s supposed to be a tough area in Hanover Park. It’s very pro-Democrat or pro-Duckworth.”

He’s not political, McElheney says. “We wouldn’t be in this if it wasn’t for Peter.”

The hired gun

As you move upstairs in the headquarters, the atmosphere is less small-town America and more big-time politics.

At a pristine desk, campaign director Jason Roe is reading e-mails and making fundraising calls.

“It’s helped me going through life having a clutter-free desk,” he says.

On loan from U.S. Rep. Tom Feeney of Florida, Roe has numerous campaign notches on his belt, some successful and some not: Tom DeLay for Congress in 2004. Bob Dole for president in 1996. Dan Lungren for California governor in 1998.

He’s in his element now.

“I’m reading Duckworth’s humorous press releases; she seems to want to talk about everything but issues. I keep e-mailing her campaign manager, but he never responds,” Roe deadpans.

Campaign manager Ryan McLaughlin’s office is dominated by a desk strewn with folders, letters, memos, e-mails, cough drops, mugs, keys and the centerpiece, a countdown clock with the days, hours, minutes and seconds left until Nov. 7, Election Day. “You can do it!” is inscribed on its face.

On a shelf, a Henry Hyde bobblehead doll bobs benignly.

McLaughlin’s worked on congressional, gubernatorial and state races. But this is the first time the world’s come calling.

“It’s interesting when a German paper calls you or the BBC calls you; that’s the new wrinkle,” he says.

Tale of two factories

In a lunchroom overlooking the manufacturing floor at DuPage Machine Products in Bloomingdale, Roskam chats with Melanie Bassett, executive director of the Great Lakes Region U.S. Chamber of Commerce, who asks how she should introduce him.

“Hello, handsome,” Roskam suggests.

The event is intended to plug Roskam’s endorsement by the chamber to the media but the audience is pretty much limited to blue- and white-collar workers.

Speaking without notes, Roskam talks about tax relief and the free marketplace.

“We have a serious problem in Illinois. We lost over 180,000 manufacturing jobs — we can’t just let that happen,” he says.

The speech over, Roskam works the crowd.

“What can I do as an individual?” asks quality director Ted Rourk.

“The global marketplace isn’t going to change, and if you look at protectionist policies, they don’t work,” replies Roskam, who manages to maintain eye contact, make his point and eat a sandwich simultaneously.

“What we have to do is create an environment where American companies are as competitive.”

“What can I do specifically?” Rourk asks.

“You can help me win this election,” Roskam replies.

Magnetic personality

An hour or so later, and Roskam’s at another factory, this time in Carol Stream.

Magnet Street is a family-owned business started by Neville Baird, a friend of Roskam’s. The company makes magnets, and their wares are displayed throughout the store. Beer magnets. Church magnets. Flag magnets. Insurance company magnet. Just-married magnets and pizza magnets adorn walls, cubicles and machinery.

Baird hires some of his workers through World Relief, an international church organization that aids refugees. As Roskam makes his pitch, he’s surrounded by a sea of international faces from Somalia, Kosovo, Bosnia, Ethiopia, Somalia, Burma and Iran, to name a few.

He encourages everyone to vote, saying “there’s no repercussions, everyone has the freedom of their conscience and convictions.”

Immigration has been a bitter topic in the election, with the National Republican Congressional Committee targeting Duckworth with a slew of negative mailers on the issue.

Roskam favors a House bill focused on border security and penalties for people here illegally.

Duckworth supports a Senate bill that would allow citizenship after a period of years if certain requirements and fees are met.

Outside in the parking lot, Roskam comes up against a real-life immigration crisis.

A Magnet Street employee from Kosovo is trying to bring her young son to America and asks him for help.

“I’m going to get contact information and we’ll contact Congressman Hyde,” Roskam says. “He’ll do everything he can to help, but it’s hard.”

Sales pitch

After a change of clothes from his gray suit to a pullover and slacks, Roskam is charging up and down Mohican Drive in Carol Stream.

Unfazed by the occupational hazards of barking dogs and closed doors, he bounds up steps, rings bells and does his thing with effortless charm.

“Hi, I’m state Senator Peter Roskam, I’m running for Congress, I just want to say hi, this will tell you more about me than you ever want to know,” Roskam says handing out a brochure.

He’s quick to pick up clues to find a connection with potential supporters.

“How long have you lived here? And where did you live before? Did you grow up here?”

At the McFarlane house, he’s preaching to the choir. Mom Anita McFarlane is a supporter and wants a yard sign.

“Thanks for the encouragement,” Roskam says and makes nice with kids Karissa, 8, Micah, 6, and Garrett, 1.”

“Are you in gymnastics?” he asks Karissa. “I used to be in gymnastics. Look what happened to me — my hair fell out!”

Coffee break 

There’s a hubbub of conversation coming from the Rivadeneiras Elmhurst home.

It’s the last event of the day for Roskam, a coffee hosted by supporters Rafael and Karyn Rivadeneira.

“I liked his record, I heard he was running for Congress and I wanted to be a part of that,” Rafael says.

In between walking precincts and the coffee, Roskam dashed home for a quick dinner with his family. He returns to the fray, accompanied by his wife, Elizabeth.

“He’s been running since 1992; it’s part of our life now,” Elizabeth Roskam says before introducing her husband to 20 or so neighbors gathered in the living room.

Her marriage has “been the best 18 years of my life,” she tells the audience.

Roskam speaks easily, incorporating the factory visits into his talk.

“Companies like that are the bread and butter of the 6th Congressional District, they are the fiber that make our district great,” he says.

He turns to the anniversary of Sept. 11, speaks of the fears that caused. People look at each other and nod.

“These are serious times, and I think the leadership of Congress on that issue has been outstanding,” he says.

Earlier in the evening, Roskam surveyed the full house with satisfaction.

“It’s the grassroots stuff,” he says. “It’s the grassroots that wins.”

Roskam v. Duckworth: The Giving Season - 

http://www.dailyherald.com/special/election/animalfarm.asp

In the wake of a federal indictment of Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s top political fundraiser, Republican congressional hopeful Peter Roskam called on Tammy Duckworth, his Democratic rival in the 6th District, to return a $1,000 contribution her campaign received from Myron Cherry, a prominent fundraiser and lawyer.

The Daily Herald reported Thursday that Cherry is the unidentified “Individual H” who appears in the federal indictment of Blagojevich fundraiser Tony Rezko. According to federal investigators, Rezko planned to send a kickback through a business associate but decided the person initially chosen was too close to him. Instead, Cherry’s name was substituted. Cherry was not accused of any wrongdoing in the indictment.

In response, Duckworth’s campaign suggested that President Bush’s fundraising appearance in Chicago would be a good time for Roskam to ask the president to give back a $5,000 donation Bush received from Rezko, who actually has been accused of doing something wrong.

Fitzgerald offers no pronouncement, but gives clues - Eric Krol

(Not posted as of 6:00 AM)

Democrats shed money tied to Blagojevich fundraiser - John Patterson

http://www.dailyherald.com/story.asp?id=237688

http://www.dailyherald.com/news/cookstory.asp?id=238079&cc=c&tc=&t=

SPRINGFIELD - Several high-profile Illinois Democrats began shedding financial connections to indicted political fundraiser Tony Rezko a day after federal prosecutors accused him of using his clout within Gov. Rod Blagojevich's administration to leverage kickbacks from those doing business with the state.

Blagojevich, Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn, Attorney General Lisa Madigan, Secretary of State Jesse White, Comptroller Dan Hynes and U.S. Sen. Barack Obama were among those announcing Thursday they'd make donations to charities equal to what their campaigns had received from Rezko and his affiliated businesses in recent years.

"We of course are donating that to charity," said Joe Enright, Hynes' campaign manager, of the $10,000 in past contributions from Rezko.

Blagojevich's campaign said more than $65,000 in past contributions directly tied to Rezko would be split between charities benefiting juvenile diabetes research and breast cancer research. Madigan's campaign planned to make donations totaling $48,000. Obama's donations would total $11,500. White planned to donate $6,500. Quinn was traveling Thursday and had not tallied his Rezko donations, but state campaign finance reports show he'd collected more than $17,000 from Rezko or his affiliates since 1998.

The key political figure, however, is Blagojevich, who's relied on Rezko, 51, of Wilmette, to help him raise record-setting amounts of campaign cash and pick key members of his administration. After the indictments Wednesday, Blagojevich said if the allegations are true, he feels personally betrayed by Rezko but claims he knew nothing about the elaborate pay-to-play shakedowns federal authorities detailed in the indictment.

However, a leading good-government group said Blagojevich's $65,000 in charitable giving should be only the beginning if Blagojevich truly wants to remove any Rezko taint.

"There's more money to it than that," said David Morrison, deputy director of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, referring to the hundreds of thousands Rezko is credited with steering Blagojevich's way.

Blagojevich campaign spokeswoman Sheila Nix said only the money coming directly from Rezko or his business affiliates was being given to charity.

And not all Democrats were willing to part with Rezko's cash.

Senate President Emil Jones Jr., a Chicago Democrat, has no plans to make similar donations, a spokeswoman said Thursday. As recently as April, Jones accepted a $2,000 contribution from a business enterprise co-owned by Rezko.

It was uncertain what House Speaker Michael Madigan, a Chicago Democrat and head of the state party, planned to do with past donations. Steve Brown, Madigan's spokesman, said he'd not spoken to Madigan, who's also co-chairing Blagojevich's re-election bid.

In March 2005, as reports grew about Blagojevich accepting large campaign donations from people and firms doing business with the state, Madigan offered the governor some advice. "Give the money back," he said at the time.

Meanwhile, many suburban Democrats walked a fine political line Thursday, voicing their disgust at the latest allegations of corruption in Illinois government while trying not to condemn their party's governor.

"I certainly am not in a position to judge what went on with the governor or any of the other people," said state Rep. Kathy Ryg, a Vernon Hills Democrat. "I do believe in the governor's agenda. I disagree with the process, obviously."

Kirk v. Seals: Congressional race hits basics: taxes and budget - 

http://www.dailyherald.com/news/cookstory.asp?id=238054&cc=c&tc=&t=

Republican U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk of Highland Park backs all of President Bush’s tax cuts, and says the president should get line-item veto power to help curb spending.

Democrat Dan Seals of Wilmette disagrees with some of the cuts, and wants instead to withdraw troops from Iraq to save money.

The 10th Congressional District candidates differ on several key tax cuts and how best to rein in spending, giving voters a choice on an issue that’s traditionally important in the district.

Seals criticizes Kirk for voting for Bush’s budgets, and for not talking about spending and taxes together. He says every tax cut must be met with an equal reduction in spending.

“We have to marry the two,” he said.

Kirk has been named a “Hero of the Taxpayer” by Americans for Tax Reform, and prides himself on his opposition to the “bridge to nowhere” project, a proposal to build a bridge between two islands in Alaska.

He wants to repeal the estate tax, which affects inheritances above $1.5 million. While some have suggested altering the limit, Kirk disagrees.

“Zero is a good number,” he said.

At $1.5 million, Seals says, the tax doesn’t affect many estates in Illinois.

“It’s not a big priority of mine to roll that back,” he said.

The candidates also differ on the alternative minimum tax —AMT — a policy from the late 1960s intended to prevent wealthy families from getting out of paying income taxes. That tax could begin affecting families making $75,000 to $100,000 a year.

Seals wants to repeal the AMT completely, but Kirk says it should be reformed.

Kirk says a family making $90,000 shouldn’t be considered wealthy, but when asked what the income threshold should be, he said he’d have to look at it.

Despite the differences, both agree on the expanded child tax credit, which gives parents an income tax break on their returns, and relief from the so-called marriage penalty.

On the spending side, Seals says a timely exit of troops from Iraq would save billions, as would a provision to allow the Medicare program to buy drugs in bulk.

But Seals doesn’t want to give the president line-item veto power, a provision Kirk thinks is important.

“I want future presidents to have the power to control that spending,” Kirk said.

He and Seals agree to institute pay-as-you-go rules and earmark reforms to help curb Congressional spending.

Rezko sued for $1 million loan by Giannoulias' bank - 
http://www.dailyherald.com/news/cookstory.asp?id=237993&cc=c&tc=&t=

In the wake of federal indictments and political blacklisting, Antoin Rezko is now being sued for allegedly skipping out on a $1 million loan from a bank run by Democratic state treasurer candidate Alexi Giannoulias.

Semir Sirazi filed a Cook County civil suit against Rezko Thursday, claiming he is owed more than $10 million and a 12æpercent stake in Rezko’s Panda Express food chain business.

Sirazi put up a $1 million certificate of deposit so that Rezko could borrow $1 million from Broadway Bank in September 2002. Rezko needed the money to keep his food chain business running, the suit said.

But the loan was never paid off, the suit said.

Broadway Bank extended the original 4½-month loan about four years to January 2006, and then Rezko stopped making payments, leaving Sirazi liable for the balance, the suit said.

Broadway Bank in Chicago was founded by Giannoulias’ father. The statewide candidate is now the bank’s vice president and senior loan officer.

Campaign spokesman Scott Burnham said Rezko “didn’t have any criminal issues” back at the time of the loan. Burnham said Rezko has never donated to Giannoulias or held fundraisers for him. He declined further comment.

Neither the bank nor Giannoulias are named as defendants in the suit.

Sirazi’s attorney declined comment. Little is known about Sirazi, but Gov. Rod Blagojevich reported a $5,000 campaign contribution from a Wilmette management consultant with the same name in 2002.

Sirazi specifically backed the loan for a Rezko company that at one point owned 150 Midwest Panda Express and Papa John Pizza outlets. The company has since lost its Papa John’s franchise license.

The lawsuit said an agreement with Rezko stipulated a payment calendar to Sirazi if the loan was not paid off by certain dates. It also provided for Sirazi to secure up to a 12 percent stake in Rezko’s company, the suit said. In all, Sirazi is owed that stake and $10,053,256.71, the suit said.

Rezko’s attorney could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Bassi v. Ketelsen: Candidates for 54th District  divided on tollway leasing - 

http://www.dailyherald.com/news/cookstory.asp?id=237959&cc=c&tc=&t=

While neither candidate for state representative of the 54th District is strongly supporting a proposal to lease the tollway, one is dead-set against it while the other is still considering.

Democratic challenger Jeffry Ketelsen of Palatine believes the plan would be a detriment to the residents of his district.

Republican incumbent Suzie Bassi of Palatine is still weighing the pros and cons of what’s being proposed but is adamant that any implementation of the plan should keep the revenue in the immediate six-county area.

The potential deal could net the state anywhere from $9 billion to $24 billion for a lease to a private firm for up to 75 years.

The amount of money the state would receive would be determined by the authority given the lessee to raise tolls.

Ketelsen, who opposes the deal and would vote against it if elected, said he does understand the appeal of a quick influx of cash for the state given its current financial woes.

But he feels the drivers of the Northwest suburbs, whose toll money built the system, would be the big losers in the end. They would face higher and higher tolls over the coming decades while residents of the entire state benefited from the quick cash from the deal.

Ketelsen said he’s particularly turned off by the way officials in far southern Carbondale are already making plans for their share of the money.

“I believe it’s a dead-on-arrival issue,” Ketelsen said. “I would hope that all political leaders of the Northwest suburbs, Democratic or Republican, would band together for the benefit of the majority of citizens who use that system.”

Ketelsen said his own preferred use of the tollway would be to stringently earmark all revenues that exceed costs to help retire the state’s debts. As soon as that’s accomplished, he’d abolish the tollway and promote spending practices to keep Illinois out of debt.

Bassi said she’s still willing to look at the leasing proposal, but feels strongly that only the six-county area that largely supports the tollway today should be the beneficiary of the money made on the deal.

Her potential support of the plan is also being hurt by the level of uncertainty still attached to the amount of money to be made, she said. She doesn’t understand why figures so widely separated as $9 billion and $24 billion are on the table.

“The discrepancy is all over the board,” Bassi said. “If we don’t know how much it’s for and where it’s going, they shouldn’t be bringing it to us.”

One local transportation issue both Bassi and Ketelsen agree on is the benefit to their district in reducing congestion on Lake-Cook and Rand roads if Route 53 were extended north from that point.

But Bassi said both a lack of funding and the continuing opposition of residents in the Long Grove area will likely keep this from being an immediate solution in the eyes of Illinois Department of Transportation officials.

DIERSEN HEADLINE: Hastert protestors wear pink

http://www.dailyherald.com/news/kanestory.asp?id=237969&cc=k&tc=&t=

A political protest in pink - 

If anything, they deserved points for creativity.

And points for braving snow flurries and an October windchill.

But the biggest point a dozen or so women clad in various shades of pink and protesting outside House Speaker Dennis Hastert’s office Thursday wanted to make was that it was time to clean house.

“The overall aim is to air Hastert’s dirty laundry and ask him to resign as speaker because we need a fresh start,” said Geneva protester Siobhan Kolar.

The protest was coordinated by the Chicago Area CodePINK group, Fox Valley Citizens for Peace and Justice, and DeKalb Interfaith Network for Peace and Justice

The protest contained a short skit of sorts in which one member ironed fabric that said “Pressing Problems Are Ignored” while one woman raised questions about the war in Iraq, Hastert’s Kane County land deals, President Bush’s domestic wiretapping program and most recently, the Congressional page scandal.

Another held a pink broom, sweeping it all under a rug.

A large banner also was hung from the second floor of a nearby parking deck, saying “Clean the House, Dump Denny.”

“For the whole time he’s been Speaker, there’s been no oversight,” said Robin Schirmer, a coordinator at the Chicago area CodePINK.

The colorful protest was just one of many in recent months and paled in scope to demonstrations about immigration that drew thousands.

“It was great political theater. They clearly put a lot of work into it,” said Brad Hahn, Hastert spokesman. “But we’re still not clear what they’re protesting — the booming economy, the declining deficit or the record-high stock market.”

Carpentersville mayor relents  on his ultimatum  Sarto ‘keeping the peace’ in illegal immigration struggle -

http://www.dailyherald.com/news/mchenrystory.asp?id=237953&cc=m&tc=&t=

The Carpentersville trustees at the center of the illegal immigrant-related firestorm will retain their committee posts.

Four days after Village President Bill Sarto issued trustees Paul Humpfer and Judy Sigwalt an ultimatum to either remove their proposed anti-illegal immigration ordinance or face removal from the audit and finance commission, Sarto rescinded part of the request.

“For the sake of keeping peace and to end this nightmare, I have decided not to remove them,” Sarto said. “My hope is that they understand that this is not good for the community. I submit one more request for them to withdraw their ordinance.”

The proposed ordinance has sharply divided both sides and the village of more than 37,000, whose population is more than 40 percent Hispanic.

“The real issue is what is best for this community,” Sarto said. “It is still my opinion that this ordinance is ill-advised and not handled properly.”

Despite the animosity that has built up over the past few weeks, Humpfer said the outcome is in the best interest of the village.

“I understand he has some issues with the ordinance,” Humpfer said. “But this is good for the people of Carpentersville. There is nothing wrong with compromise.”

Removing the ordinance, though, is out of the question, Sigwalt said.

“Three-quarters of the residents have voiced their opinion and want us to move forward on this,” Sigwalt said. “I work for the residents. I don’t work for any other trustee or for the president. I work for the residents.”

Furthermore, Sigwalt said Sarto’s move was a sign of weakness.

“He is backpedaling,” Sigwalt said. “This is definitely a win because he realized he couldn’t do anything to remove us.”

But Sarto fervently rejected this claim.

“I don’t care how they see it. I can remove them at another time,” Sarto said. “I am taking the higher ground. I want to continue the peaceful dialogue that we have had since I became president.”

Last month Humpfer and Sigwalt introduced a measure that would penalize and fine business owners and landlords who knowingly hire or rent to undocumented residents.

The ordinance would also recognize English as the official language of the village.

The debate sparked a massive demonstration outside village hall earlier this month. More than 3,000 people converged on village hall to protest the measure. The huge turnout forced village officials to table a discussion until a larger venue was found to accommodate the hundreds of people denied entry into the board room.

Village officials have yet to announce a location and date of the special board meeting.

Rezko indictment raises new questions - Editorial

http://www.dailyherald.com/opinion/index.asp

Federal prosecutors’ indictment of Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s top fundraiser sends shock waves through the Illinois political landscape and creates questions that the governor and voters must face between now and the Nov. 7 election.

Not that the indictment of Antoin Rezko is shocking in and of itself. U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald’s interest in the Blagojevich administration’s fundraising and hiring practices was made public and obvious months ago.

No, what’s startling is the scope of greed and the brazenness of the schemes alleged by Fitzpatrick and his lieutenants. If prosecutors are correct, Rezko and previously indicted Stuart Levine made no little plans; they stood to rake in more than $8 million by boldly shaking down contractors and investors looking to have hospital construction and state pension business steered in their direction.

As for questions facing Blagojevich and voters, it’s unlikely that Wednesday’s indictments mark the end of this probe. The governor has tough questions to answer regarding his relationship with Rezko and his reappointment of Levine to the Illinois Health Facilities Planning and Teachers Retirement System boards — from which the Rezko indictment stems. Voters, for their part, must try to ascertain where the governor might fit in this picture and what this means for a governor elected four years ago on a pledge to change “business as usual” — meaning, to clean up the culture of corruption in Illinois government.

Blagojevich has been accused of nothing; that's key to remember. And he did revamp the Health Facilities Planning Board two years ago, in response to concerns about the panel making politically motivated decisions. At the same time, Rezko is very much the governor’s guy. Rezko has donated almost $50,000 to Blagojevich’s campaigns and is widely credited with raising millions more for the governor. He has a real-estate business relationship with the governor’s wife that dates back almost a decade.

Beyond that, prosecutors say that Rezko’s influence with “certain public officials” was sufficient to keep his chosen members — Levine and two others — on the boards from where they allegedly ran what Fitzgerald dubs a “pay-to-play scheme on steroids.” Prosecutors say these board members worked overtime to steer hospital construction contracts and pension investment business to those willing to cough up large sums.

Who, it is fair to ask the governor, does he think those public officials are with whom Rezko enjoyed that kind of influence? In addition, the governor needs to try to explain how and why he re-appointed Levine to these two boards. He says he doesn’t recall much about some of his appointments; that would be understandable under normal circumstances, but the indictments create a sense of urgency for the governor to try and shed some light on those appointment decisions.

There’s no point in anyone suggesting political motivation in the timing; Fitzgerald has well established that he doesn’t much care about timing or political affiliation when it comes to following a chain of evidence and issuing indictments. The indictments are what they are; the questions are on the table to be answered.

CHICAGO SUN-TIMES

Bush: I am proud to be standing with Hastert - Dave Newbart
http://www.suntimes.com/news/politics/95315,CST-NWS-PREZ13.article

President Bush underscored his support for embattled U.S. House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert in Chicago on Thursday, standing with him and calling him "friend."

Bush was the headline draw for the million-dollar fund-raiser to benefit Republicans Peter Roskam and David McSweeney, with the outcome possibly determining which party controls the House.

But the long-planned event took on major political significance because it took place as Hastert is in the fight of his political life amid calls he step down for the way he and his top staff handled the congressional page scandal involving former U.S. Rep Mark Foley.

"I am proud to be standing with the current speaker of the House, who is going to be the future speaker of the House,'' said Bush in his half-hour speech. "Speaker Denny Hastert has a long record of accomplishment.''

Bush said, "This country is better off with Denny Hastert as the speaker, and it will be better off when he is the speaker the next legislative session.''

Bush's praise for Hastert was greeted with enthusiastic applause from the 400 people who paid at least $1,000 a head to attend the fund-raiser at the Hilton Chicago.

Neither Roskam, of Wheaton, nor McSweeney, of Barrington Hills, shied away from appearing on stage with Bush or Hastert. McSweeney, battling Iraq war veteran Tammy Duckworth in the 6th District, sat next to Hastert while Bush spoke, though Roskam left after the introductions to attend a debate with Duckworth at the College of DuPage.

McSweeney, who is seeking to unseat U.S. Rep. Melissa Bean in the 8th District, said later that "Hastert is a man of integrity'' who "admitted that mistakes were made'' in the Foley case.

'He did the right thing'

Democrats wasted no time linking Hastert's problems to their opponents. At the debate later in the evening, Duckworth said Roskam would be a "rubber stamp'' for Republican leadership.

"His position was to defend the speaker'' even though he put politics ahead of protecting children, she said.

Roskam said he believes Hastert acted properly by quickly backing an outside investigation of the House page scandal.

"In my opinion, he did the right thing by calling for the federal investigation immediately," Roskam said of Hastert.

Across the street from the hotel where Bush appeared, about 150 protesters gathered in Grant Park. "Clean the House, Dump Hastert,'' read one banner. Although most were there in opposition to the war in Iraq, Helen Boothe, 76, of Dune Acres, Ind., said the Republicans will "probably be kicked out of office because of Foley's indiscretions.''

Panel to hear Shimkus today

Kirk Fordham, Foley's onetime aide, testified for five hours before the House ethics committee Thursday. He didn't waver from his contention that he told Hastert's chief of staff, Scott Palmer, about Foley's approaching male pages at least three years ago, Fordham's lawyer said. Palmer has challenged Fordham's description of events.

Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.), the head of the page board, will meet today with the ethics committee to discuss his confrontation with Foley last November, after the parents of a former page expressed concerns about messages Foley sent their son. Shimkus has said he believed Foley would change his behavior.

Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee, used the occasion to raise funds for Hastert's Democratic opponent, John Laesch. "Too late now, Denny. We've had enough,'' Kerry said in an e-mail to 3 million supporters.

Bush: Gives verbal hug to embattled Hastert in Chicago  Plugs Emanuel challenger Kevin White - Lynn Sweet

http://blogs.suntimes.com/sweet/2006/10/bush_gives_verbal_hug_to_embat.html

President Bush, in Chicago to raise money for two GOP House candidates, delivered a strong show of support for embattled House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.). Whether Hastert and Bush have any coattails for the contenders whose elections may determine whether the GOP keeps control of the House- remains to be seen.

While Hastert has scratched a full October campaign schedule because of the fallout from the Mark Foley cyberspace page sex scandal--cancelling dates to headline fundraisers for House candidates--and with Bush's own approval ratings low--Bush and Hastert stood together to lend support in the two biggest House races in Illinois.

It's not clear yet if getting such a public boost from Bush and Hastert will yield votes for Republicans Peter Roskam, running against Democrat Tammy Duckworth in the 6th CD or David McSweeney, challenging Rep. Melissa Bean (R-Ill.) in the 8th--or if there will be a backlash from the independents in the suburban districts being courted by all four campaigns. The event raised about $1 million for Roskam and McSweeney campaigns.

Bush singled out one and only one Republican candidate running for one of the seats in the Chicago House districts, all safe Democratic territory. Bush made a surgical insertion when he gave a nod to the unknown Kevin White. White is running against Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.) the boss of the Democratic House political operation. Bush's speech comes at a time when, if the election were held today--polls and pundits predict the Democrats would retake the House for the first time since 1994.

Said Bush, ``I wish Kevin White all the very best in his run for the 5th Congressional Delegation. Thanks for coming, Kevin.''

In plugging Hastert, Bush went a step further than he had to go. He called for Hastert to be retained as Speaker if the Republicans hold the House. Hastert himself said he wanted to stay on as speaker in the new Congress even as he is deflecting calls to step down because of the Foley scandal. That Bush called for Hastert to stay on--seems to be a point the Hastert team wanted made--probably to quell dissent in the ranks. Hastert agreed to seek another term and be on the November ballot in part because Bush asked him.

``Speaker Denny Hastert has a long record of accomplishment,'' Bush said. ``You know, he's not one of these Washington politicians who spews a lot of hot air. He just gets the job done. I have worked with him up close. I know what's it like to work with a Speaker who is determined to protect the United States of America, and a Speaker who wants to make sure that everybody who wants a job in America can find one. He has delivered results for the people; this country is better off with Denny Hastert as the Speaker, and it will be better off when he's the Speaker in the next legislative session.''

Meanwhile. just to make life more difficult for Hastert, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) the Democratic 2004 presidential candiate, mounted a fund raising appeal Thursday for Hastert's Democratic rival, former Naval Intelligence Officer John Lasch.

Roskam, McSweeney, and Shimkus: The Bush beat . . . - Michael Sneed

http://www.suntimes.com/news/sneed/95203,CST-NWS-sneed13.article

President Bush hit town Thursday to attend a Republican fund-raiser and stress his support for beleaguered House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, who has been hit hard by the Mark Foley congressional page scandal.
 
Backstory: Sneed hears top national GOPers met Wednesday morning to assess the Foley fallout and any damage to Illinois GOP candidates as a result of Hastert's role in the scandal. They came to the conclusion that congressional candidates Peter Roskam and David McSweeney -- whom Bush was in town to bolster -- are going to have a hard go, but U.S. Rep. John Shimkus, who chairs the House Page Board, "will do just fine in southern Illinois," according to a top Sneed source.
 
Are we getting down to crooks of the matter? - Rich Miller 
http://www.suntimes.com/news/miller/94959,CST-EDT-miller13.article
Once again, Illinoisans are forced to wonder whether their governor is an idiot or a crook or an idiotic crook. You've no doubt heard that Gov. Blagojevich's buddy Tony Rezko was indicted by the feds this week for numerous public corruption capers.

Rezko was the ultimate Rod Blagojevich insider. He raised millions of dollars for Blagojevich's campaign fund. After the election, Rezko recommended tons of people for big-time state jobs. He got people appointed to state boards and commissions, including some who "coincidentally" contributed large sums of money to Blagojevich's campaign right around the time of their appointments. There have been many such "coincidences" in the last four years.

But Rezko was more than just a political pal. Much more. Rezko was one of the governor's most trusted friends. Rezko had an eight-year business partnership with the governor's wife. They attended personal and family events together.

Rezko also appears on the governor's gift disclosure report. Actually, Rezko wasn't listed on the report until Blagojevich was visited by his friendly neighborhood FBI agents, and then suddenly the form was amended.

The governor won't say what Rezko gave him except that the gifts may have been presents for his daughter. We went down that road last month, remember, when we found out that a city worker friend gave the governor $1,500 after the worker's wife got a state job. Blagojevich claims that the $1,500 went into his daughter's college fund. One can't help but wonder how much the fabulously wealthy Tony Rezko might have contributed to that same college fund.

If Rezko was just a guy who raised a few bucks for the campaign and got a friend a job inspecting bridges for IDOT, then I can see how the governor could be excused for not knowing anything about this mess. But no matter how hard they spin things, he at least should have known something was amiss.

Accusations have swirled around Rezko since 2004, when it was alleged that he was part of a group that was shaking down hospitals and also that he may have sold seats on a state hospital oversight board for $25,000 contributions to the governor's campaign fund.

And it's not just Rezko.

Rezko was half of the gruesome twosome that helped the governor create his administration from the ground up. The other half was Chris Kelly, a roofing construction magnate who also raised millions of dollars for Blagojevich's campaign fund. Blagojevich has called Kelly "one of my closest friends." Kelly often described himself as "chairman of the governor's political organization."

Kelly is not mentioned by name in Rezko's indictment, but everyone's reporting that he is "Individual B." Individual B is alleged to have participated in a crooked scheme with Rezko and others to make sure that the Teachers Retirement System used investors and lawyers that he and Rezko recommended. According to a guilty plea by another player involved in this corrupt cabal, those investors and lawyers were then to be shaken down on behalf of Blagojevich's campaign fund.

The governor has spent millions of dollars on TV ads depicting his opponent Judy Baar Topinka as a "George Ryan Republican," but the most ironic part of this scandal is that the governor's guys were allegedly teamed up with some of the most entrenched Republican players in Illinois. Stu Levine was the ringleader and Bill Cellini is alleged to have been a facilitator. Levine has been a player for years. Cellini is the founding father of pinstripe patronage.

So, instead of sweeping out the "culture of corruption" as he promised four years ago, Blagojevich's closest advisers were allegedly frolicking up to their eyeballs in illegal muck with a bunch of old guard Republicans.

Meanwhile, the governor didn't see a thing and is totally clean. Or so he says. I'm not so sure.

Gov can't duck questions raised by Rezko charges - Editorial

http://www.suntimes.com/news/commentary/94956,CST-EDT-edits13a.article

No doubt about it: A lightning bolt hit the governor's office Wednesday. The dark clouds shadowing his administration over alleged "pay-for-play" tactics opened up with the leveling of extortion charges on Tony Rezko, one of his chief fund-raisers and closest advisers. Whether the political storm rages enough to threaten Rod Blagojevich at the polls with less than a month to go may depend on how fully voters accept his word that he was ignorant of his friend's activities.

The culture of corruption is so pervasive in Illinois -- a former governor is headed to prison, federal investigators have peppered City Hall with indictments and the feds are taking aim at Cook County government -- it would be easy, but wrong, to rush to judgment and assume Blagojevich knew what Rezko was up to in allegedly pulling off kickback schemes aimed at collecting millions of dollars from firms wanting to do business with the state. Blagojevich's Republican opponent, Judy Baar Topinka, jumped on the express train of blame in seizing on the indictments as proof he was corrupt.

Declaring he would feel a "tremendous sense of betrayal" if the charges against Rezko were proved, Blagojevich denied that he had ever authorized any shakedowns by Rezko and previously indicted co-conspirator Stuart Levine, the former Teachers Retirement System board member who is cooperating with U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald's investigation. Blagojevich said his wife was innocent of wrongdoing in real estate business deals with Rezko.

But when he first heard scuttlebutt about Rezko's activities, how could the governor, who has made an issue of wiping out corruption-as-usual in government, have accepted Rezko's assurance of being aboveboard without having aides look into the matter? We're not suggesting he should have launched a full-scale investigation, only that he should have asked a few more questions than he obviously did.

This indictment, like so many other of the Illinois corruption cases, shines a harsh light on political fund-raising. The high-flying Rezko, let us not forget, has pumped money into the campaign coffers of Cook County Board President John Stroger and Sen. Barack Obama (who stopped accepting money when suspicions about Rezko surfaced), other prominent Democrats and President Bush as well.

At a time when a political campaign requires such massive amounts of money, a candidate may be more susceptible to the mere appearance of improper conduct in lining up funding sources. But if the indictment in the Rezko case is proved, the problem for Blagojevich clearly is beyond appearances.

Illinoisans headed to the polls will be all ears for further explanations from the governor about Rezko's role in his administration.

More trouble for Rezko: Business partner sues - Steve Patterson 

http://www.suntimes.com/news/metro/95536,CST-NWS-rezside13.article

One day after political insider Tony Rezko was indicted on federal corruption charges, a friend and business partner filed suit against him, alleging the multimillionaire bilked him out of millions of dollars in a loan arrangement.

Semir Sirazi says he helped Rezko secure a $1 million loan in September 2002 to give him "working capital" for two of his companies -- Rezko Enterprises and Rezko Concessions.

And according to the loan agreement attached to the lawsuit, Rezko promised Sirazi that if he failed to promptly pay back the loan, Sirazi would be entitled to ownership shares of those companies.

$1 million CD as collateral

Sirazi's suit, filed Thursday in Cook County Circuit Court, says Rezko hasn't paid on the loan since January 2003 -- kicking in those penalty clauses.

Sirazi, of Wilmette, says he posted a $1 million certificate of deposit as collateral for the loan given to Rezko by Broadway Bank -- the Chicago bank owned by the family of Democratic state treasurer nominee Alexi Giannoulias.

Neither Broadway Bank nor Giannoulias is named in the lawsuit, and there is no record of Rezko -- a major donor to Gov. Blagojevich and other politicians -- having been a Giannoulias campaign supporter.

Sirazi wants a judge to order Rezko to pay back the loan to Broadway Bank, thereby releasing his $1 million CD still being held by the bank.

He also wants the 12 percent ownership in Rezko Enterprises that allegedly was promised in their deal, as well as a 20 percent stake in Rezko Concessions that Rezko also allegedly promised to Sirazi if the loan ever fell into default.

Campaign finance records show Sirazi, a technology consultant who like Rezko graduated from the Illinois Institute of Technology, made a $5,000 contribution to Blagojevich in November 2002.

Sirazi and Rezko could not be reached.

Channel 5 appoints Marin political editor - Robert Feder 
http://www.suntimes.com/business/feder/94994,CST-FIN-feder13.article

As if she weren't already busy enough, Sun-Times columnist Carol Marin has been named political editor of WMAQ-Channel 5. Frank Whittaker, vice president of news at the NBC-owned station, announced Thursday that Marin will "provide insight and analysis as well as report on the big political stories" and play a major role in planning Channel 5's political coverage.

The former news anchor who most recently has been an investigative reporter at Channel 5 will continue to write columns for the Sun-Times, appear regularly on public television WTTW-Channel 11's "Chicago Tonight," and produce free-lance documentaries with Don Moseley.

At Channel 5, Marin assumes the title of political editor previously held by Dick Kay, who retired last June after 38 years at the station. Kay's day-to-day coverage of the political beat was taken over by reporter Mary Ann Ahern.

Marin said she welcomes her new role, which "combines the best of all worlds -- allowing me to spend time behind the scenes and in front of the camera, working with the newsroom to devise our political coverage."

She praised Ahern as a "great partner" with whom she has worked closely in the past.

"Doing it this way allows me to keep all the other things I love to do -- chief among them being the political columnist for the Sun-Times as well as doing work for 'Chicago Tonight,' " she said.

CHICAGO TRIBUNE

Bush backs Hastert  President `proud' to stand with speaker during visit - Mark Silva, Rick Pearson, and Mike Dorning

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/chi-0610130145oct13,1,2314175.story?coll=chi-news-hed

President Bush delivered an in-person show of support for House Speaker Dennis Hastert on Thursday and professed optimism for Republicans in next month's elections, but a new Tribune/WGN-TV poll shows a majority of Illinois voters disapprove of the president's job performance and nearly 60 percent are unhappy with the GOP-led Congress.

The survey also shows nearly half of voters disapprove of the way Hastert, of far west suburban Plano, has handled the congressional page controversy that led to Rep. Mark Foley's resignation. Reflecting a potential parochial bias toward a native son, a narrow plurality of Illinois voters say Hastert should not resign as speaker.

The results of the poll, conducted from Sunday to Wednesday, came as Bush traveled to Illinois to raise funds for suburban Republican congressional candidates Peter Roskam and David McSweeney--and to deliver his first personal show of support for Hastert since the page scandal consumed the House Republican leadership two weeks ago.

"I am proud to be standing with the current speaker of the House, who is going to be the future speaker of the House," Bush told several hundred people at an intimate fundraising reception at the Chicago Hilton and Towers on Michigan Avenue.

"Speaker Denny Hastert has a long record of accomplishment and he's not one of these Washington politicians who spews a lot of hot air," the president said. "He just gets the job done."

Bush and Hastert stood shoulder-to-shoulder--though only for a few minutes--on a low stage within arms' reach of a cheering audience. Hastert, who spoke only briefly in introducing Bush, called the president "our friend" and "our leader."

As Bush works to make the economy and war on terror the focal points in the final weeks of the campaign, he portrayed Hastert as a staunch ally. "I have worked with him up close. I know what it's like to work with a speaker who is determined to protect the United States of America," Bush said. "The country is better off with Denny Hastert as speaker and it will be better off with him as speaker the next legislative session."

With those words, Bush turned and shook Hastert's hand, and Hastert and the party's congressional candidates left the stage to the president.

Ethics committee testimony

It was the first time that Bush had appeared in public with Hastert since Foley's resignation on Sept. 29 following reports that Foley had sent sexually explicit electronic messages to an underage congressional page. Hastert has maintained that he knew nothing of any improper communications between Foley and pages until that day. But several House members and staffers say they knew of problems--and reported them to the speaker's office--as long ago as 2000.

In Washington, the House ethics committee heard 4 1/2 hours of sworn testimony from Kirk Fordham, Foley's former chief of staff, who has said publicly that he warned Hastert's chief of staff, Scott Palmer, of Foley's inappropriate conduct with pages at least three years ago. Palmer has denied this.

Fordham would not discuss his testimony, but his attorney, Timothy Heaphy, said: "He has been consistent in his accounts of these events when he talked to the FBI and today met with the ethics committee."

The president maintains the page scandal, which has erupted in the weeks before the Nov. 7 elections in which control of Congress is at stake, will not "drive the election." Instead, he insists, GOP promises of tax cuts and protecting national security will resonate with voters.

"The biggest issue facing this country is who best to protect you," Bush said.

While Bush presses tax cuts and a war on terror, Democrats are attempting to use the page scandal as one of their campaign weapons--questioning Hastert's leadership as Bush campaigned here.

Calling the appearance of Bush and Hastert "a meeting of the `no accountability' caucus of the Republican Party," Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) issued his own fundraising appeal via e-mails to supporters Thursday.

The $850,000 that the Chicago fundraiser generated was one measurement of the popularity of Bush and Hastert.

But in a state that has been turning increasingly Democratic, the latest Tribune poll shows only 36 percent of Illinois voters approve of the job Bush has been doing in the White House, while 56 percent disapprove.

The Illinois results mirror recent national polls showing Bush's job approval rating ranging from 33 percent to 39 percent. One year ago, a similar Tribune survey found Bush's approval rating at 33 percent.

The latest Tribune poll, conducted by Market Shares Corp. of Mt. Prospect, surveyed 600 likely Illinois voters for the Nov. 7 election. The margin of error was 4 percentage points.

As for Hastert, 48 percent of voters said they disapproved of his handling of the Foley situation amid FBI and House ethics committee investigations into whether congressional leaders, members or staff had prior knowledge of the former Florida Republican congressman's communications with teenage pages. Only 24 percent of the voters approved of Hastert's leadership on the issue.

But a plurality of 42 percent of the state's voters said Hastert should not resign his speakership as a result of the controversy, while 32 percent said he should step down and 27 percent had no opinion.

Half of the voters surveyed said the scandal would not have any influence on their votes for Congress, but three in 10 voters said they would be more likely to cast a ballot for the Democratic candidate as a result.

Dissatisfaction with the GOP

Despite providing Hastert some home-state encouragement to stay on as speaker, the poll findings also show high voter dissatisfaction with the GOP-led Congress and Republican control of the White House, the Senate and the House.

A total of 58 percent of voters surveyed said they disapprove of the job being done by the Republican majority in Congress, including 55 percent of self-described independent voters who are a voting bloc key to GOP success in Illinois. Roughly the same percentage of voters in the Republican-oriented suburban collar counties expressed dissatisfaction as satisfaction--44 percent to 40 percent--while 57 percent of Downstate and suburban Cook County voters also expressed disapproval.

Moreover, the poll found that 59 percent of Illinois voters believe Republicans have too much power in Washington through their control of the White House and Congress, including half of the voters in the collar counties, 54 percent Downstate, 59 percent in suburban Cook County, 78 percent in Chicago and a quarter of self-identified GOP voters.

At the fundraiser, Roskam and McSweeney each said they had no problems sharing a stage with Bush and Hastert.

Roskam is running against Democrat Tammy Duckworth for the 6th Congressional District seat being vacated by veteran Republican Rep. Henry Hyde of Wood Dale. McSweeney is challenging first-term Democratic Rep. Melissa Bean of Barrington.

"It is obviously the first time that the speaker and the president will share a podium since the events as of late, and it's gotten a lot of attention from that point of view," Roskam said, "but from my campaign's point of view, this is helping to raise funds so that we can get our message on television."

Topinka has new reason to dance  Indicted adviser could hurt governor - John Chase, David Mendell, Rick Pearson, and Ray Long

Republican challenger Judy Baar Topinka tried to gain ground Thursday following the indictment of one of Gov. Rod Blagojevich's top political advisers while his campaign aides tried to assess the damage.

The incumbent Democrat released a new television commercial that will begin airing next week in which he speaks directly to the camera and explains policy differences between his administration and that of President Bush, including his positions on increasing the minimum wage and funding controversial stem-cell research.

The indictment of top Blagojevich adviser Antoin "Tony" Rezko was damaging to a campaign that has relied on trying to tie Topinka to the scandal-scarred tenure of former GOP Gov. George Ryan. But Democratic advisers close to the campaign said they were somewhat relieved the indictment did not directly name or implicate Blagojevich.

"You wish it was better, but you know what the playing field is and it doesn't implicate the governor," said a Democrat close to the campaign.

Topinka, trailing in public opinion polls with less than a month before the Nov. 7 election, attempted to use the indictment to distinguish her as a clear alternative to yet another ethically challenged governor.

"You have a very definite choice here. Again, it doesn't have to be this way," Topinka, the three-term state treasurer and former state legislator, said during a news conference in Springfield. "Look at how we've run our office. Look at what my Senate office was like. Look at what my House office was like. Good, clean government."

Rezko, a chief fundraiser and friend of the governor, was accused Wednesday of scheming to use his vast political influence to extort millions from firms seeking business with the state.

In an indictment unsealed Wednesday, federal prosecutors alleged Rezko used his relationships with key Blagojevich aides to get businessman Stuart Levine reappointed to two state boards so Rezko and Levine could share kickbacks from private companies. The indictment alleges the two also sought to force donations to the governor's campaign fund.

Topinka's efforts to turn the tables on Blagojevich come after months of being hammered in Blagojevich campaign ads linking her to Ryan, convicted earlier this year on corruption charges. Blagojevich campaign aides said a recent commercial featuring Topinka with Ryan at the Illinois State Fair soon will be replaced with the new ad, which doesn't name Topinka, Ryan or Bush.

Still, the Blagojevich campaign insider said that another commercial showing Topinka dancing the polka with Ryan is "in the can" and ready to be rolled out if they feel it's necessary. One of Topinka's GOP primary opponents ran a similar ad showing news footage from years earlier of Topinka dancing with Ryan.

Indictment ends uncertainty

The prospect of Rezko's indictment has hung over the Blagojevich campaign for months, and Topinka has often made veiled references to it, as well as the court dates for Levine that are scheduled just days before the election.

Blagojevich campaign insiders expected the indictment would involve Rezko's extensive private-business dealings rather than his activities with state government. Noting Levine faces sentencing only days before the election, the Democratic campaign insider said the federal indictment ends uncertainty over what Rezko would be charged with and outlines the playing field for Levine's plea agreement.

"I hope when the dust settles and people see what is really happening here, they'll understand that this has nothing, virtually nothing, to do with the governor," said state Sen. Carol Ronen (D-Chicago), a longtime adviser to the governor. "There's no implication that the governor is part of any of this or any of this had to do with anything but a couple guys, maybe a handful of guys, trying to line their pockets."

Treasurer's tough road

But even as Topinka tried to capitalize on the new allegations, she was forced to answer questions about her ties to a figure in Rezko's indictment. She said Thursday that for 10 years she hasn't spoken to Springfield powerbroker William Cellini, who is alleged to have played a role as an intermediary in one of the Rezko-Levine schemes, sources have said.

In her first term as treasurer, Topinka cut a deal on two aged state loans to hotels that let Cellini pay $10 million to settle a $40.3 million debt. She later opposed the still-unsettled deal.

Topinka blamed her position in the polls on Blagojevich's commercials and sought to show that much of the money his campaign fund raised to pay for those ads came from the likes of Rezko.

"We've seen a governor who's had, what, $50 million?" she asked. "... I think the money itself becomes a question of where it came from."

Topinka aides said it was still unclear how the Rezko indictment is resonating with voters and if it would be used in paid television commercials against Blagojevich. It's also unclear whether Topinka has the political cash to keep up with Blagojevich's aggressive television campaign.

Glenn Hodas, who was deputy campaign manger for Republican Jim Ryan's run for governor against Blagojevich in 2002, said it will be difficult for Topinka.

"She needs to say I am a clear and different alternative. And that's the challenge," Hodas said.
 
Rutherford challenges White on hiring  2 sides trade barbs over no-bid contracts - James Kimberly
The Republican candidate for Illinois secretary of state said Thursday that Jesse White's office may have violated the law by awarding no-bid contracts to the wives of highly-paid employees.

White campaign spokesman David Druker acknowledged that the women have contracts with the office but denied there was anything illegal about them. Druker dismissed the charges as a campaign stunt.

State Sen. Dan Rutherford of Downstate Chenoa, who is running against White, asked Illinois Atty. Gen. Lisa Madigan to investigate the legality of contract jobs awarded to Melissa Roth and Benna Benigno.

Rutherford said state law prohibits state contracts with the spouse of any state employee who makes 60 percent of the governor's salary.

Roth is the wife of Personnel Director Steve Roth, who makes $103,500 annually; Benigno is the wife of Chief of Staff Thomas Benigno who makes $139,000 annually. Sixty percent of the governor's $150,691 annual salary is $90,415.

Rutherford has made nepotism in White's office a campaign issue.

"Earlier I said, `It is bad; it's evil. I don't know if it's illegal.' ... It turns out it is illegal," Rutherford said Thursday.

White "is either knowledgeable of it or he has just been asleep at the wheel," Rutherford added.

Druker said Rutherford is desperate for attention. "I think we're in a situation where [Rutherford] is getting more desperate to try and get some attention to his campaign," he said.

Druker said that the state statute on hiring contains numerous exceptions and that the secretarial jobs that Roth and Benigno hold fall within an exception granted to ministerial positions. Druker said the women were given the contracts because they were qualified for the jobs.

Benna Benigno received a contract in December 2005 that pays $24,000 per year to work as a secretary for the Illinois Secretary of State Police, Druker said. Melissa Roth earns $32,000 per year as a staff assistant in the Driver Services Department under a contract signed in February 2005, Druker said.

Earlier this week, White criticized Rutherford for twice voting as a state representative against a bill that would lower the blood-alcohol standard for drunken driving from 0.1 to 0.08.

"His votes against 0.08 and his view that it is not an important weapon in the war on drunk driving are irresponsible," White said in a prepared statement.

Rutherford said he voted against the bills in 1995 and 1997 because at the time he thought the General Assembly ought to increase penalties for repeat offenders and those with blood-alcohol contents higher than 0.1.

Rutherford said he sponsored alternative legislation in 1997 that would have increased the penalties for repeat DUI offenders, but the bill was defeated.

Rutherford said he supports the new lower standard. "[0.08] is the law. I support it. I will not move to repeal it," he said.
 
Will Rezko show in court? - Jeff Coen and Matt O'Connor
Indicted businessman and political fundraiser Antoin "Tony" Rezko has a date in court today, and officials say he could be considered a fugitive if he doesn't show up.

Rezko is slated to appear for the first of two scheduled arraignments in his fraud cases at 10 a.m. on the 25th floor of the Dirksen U.S. Courthouse. If he isn't present and his lawyer has no reasonable explanation for his absence, authorities said they would begin an active hunt for Rezko, who is believed to have been in the Middle East for several weeks.

Nobody answered the door at Rezko's Wilmette home Thursday night, although a car was in the driveway and a light was on in the house.

Rezko is set to appear first before U.S. District Judge James B. Zagel to answer to fraud charges stemming from the allegedly bogus sale of Rezko's pizza restaurants.

At 1:30 p.m., he is to appear before U.S. District Judge Amy St. Eve to be arraigned on charges of fraud involving allegations he used his relationships with high-ranking Illinois officials to try to extort millions of dollars from firms seeking to do business with the state.

Rezko, a member of Gov. Rod Blagojevich's inner circle and one of his chief fundraisers, is accused of trying to force illegal payments from investment firms that were seeking business with the Teachers' Retirement System. Rezko allegedly used the position of his co-defendant, Stuart Levine, to pressure the firms.

Levine, once a member of two state boards, is a cooperating witness for the government.

Rezko's whereabouts have been a concern for federal investigators for weeks as the cases against him progressed. He was indicted under seal Oct. 5, and federal prosecutors moved to unseal the documents Wednesday as a federal warrant for his arrest was issued.

"The government moved to seal the indictment based on information that Rezko was then outside the United States, but had plans to return soon to the United States from abroad," the government's motions to unseal the indictment in both cases reads. "That information has not proved accurate, and the government has no current information as to whether or when Rezko intends to return to the United States."

Authorities said it is possible Rezko's attorney, Joseph J. Duffy, will appear Friday and ask both judges for more time to produce his client.

Duffy could not be reached for comment Thursday. But he had previously issued a statement saying his client is innocent and that he is traveling outside the country.

"For decades, Mr. Rezko has frequently traveled abroad for business purposes," the statement read.

The federal warrant for Rezko's arrest was issued by St. Eve, and FBI officials said information on him has been entered into law-enforcement databases. If he comes in contact with customs agents overseas or police inside the U.S., he could be detained at any time, authorities said.

If Rezko is considered to be fleeing prosecution, the FBI will handle the warrant itself in cooperation with law enforcement around the globe, FBI spokesman Tom Simon said Thursday.

The FBI typically handles its own warrants in such cases, Simon said, and has the international reach and resources to attempt to track someone overseas.

"It makes sense for us to keep these warrants and use what we have learned during an investigation to help locate the person," he said.

Authorities in recent days have been fielding rumors and hints about Rezko's whereabouts. Speculation includes that he already is back in Chicago, and also that he might be holed up in Jordan, Syria or Qatar, they said.

U.S. Atty. Patrick Fitzgerald has said Rezko's location won't matter until his scheduled court appearances. Fitzgerald said his office expects Rezko to answer the court's call as a U.S. citizen.

"I think it's fair to say he's been traveling abroad at times," Fitzgerald told reporters Wednesday. "He was not under indictment when he was traveling abroad, and we'll wait to see what happens. We fully expect to see him in court.

"If he appears on his own volition, great," Fitzgerald said. "If he doesn't, we'll do what we always do when people become fugitives."

New legal troubles emerged for Rezko Thursday in Cook County Circuit Court.

Rezko was sued for more than $10 million by a Chicago man who says he helped Rezko secure a $1 million loan from Broadway Bank, whose vice president is Democratic state treasurer candidate Alexi Giannoulias.

Semir D. Sirazi, a Chicago businessman and former executive of U.S. Robotics, filed suit alleging Rezko defaulted on the loan he needed to help operate his restaurant empire.

Sirazi put up a $1 million certificate of deposit as collateral for the Rezko loan. Rezko pledged that if he defaulted, he and his business partner would give Sirazi a piece of the company, Rezko Concessions. They also agreed to pay Sirazi fees of $1 million per year plus interest until the loan was satisfied, the suit alleges.

Sirazi seeks the company stock and more than $10 million in accrued fees, interest and attorneys' fees.

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July 14, 2006 News Clip - Text 14-July-2006
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February 14, 2006 News Clips (TEXT) 14-Feb-2006
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