GOP gubernatorial candidate Bill Brady wants his fellow challengers to agree to a debate to clear the air on ethics issues campaigns have raised. Brady said innuendoes, half-truths and barbs back and forth have reduced the campaign to "childish whining."He wants the Republican candidates to address ethical issues like adults in a debate, he said.The debate should be put on by the news media and televised statewide, he said.The state senator from Bloomington said he has not talked to the other candidates about whether they would participate.Brady called for the debate at a Chicago news conference.
The republican primary for governor is definitely heating up as Judy Baar Topinka's former deputy and longtime companion says employees of her state treasurer's office did political work on state time, she got campaign cash tainted by the licenses-for-bribes scandal and she ordered the shredding of an official document from a controversial state contract. She is denying all of those sensational allegations, calling them pathetic lies paid for by one of her leading opponents -- businessman Jim Oberweis.
Marty Kovarik -- who was Judy Baar Topinka's top deputy and frequent companion in the 1990's -- claims that employees of her treasurer's office routinely did political work on state time, her campaign received tainted cash from George Velasco who was indicted in the licenses-for-bribes scandal in George Ryan's secretary of state's office and in 1995, she ordered an employee of the treasurer's office to shred an official document listing the political insiders who benefited from a controversial loan deal that her office approved with the developers of the former Renaissance Hotel in Springfield.
Topinka's denying the allegations, claiming it comes from a bitter ex-employee and former friend who left the office because of tax problems with the IRS. She says the issues are only resurfacing now because one of Topinka's opponents -- businessman Jim Oberweis -- paid him to spell out the charges in a sworn affidavit.
"I think he's embittered because he did not pay his taxes and could not retain his job. He's turned into a sad character and it's playing right into his hands," said Ilinois Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka, (R) Candidate for Governor.
"Absolutely not in any way. This is purely done on his behalf in the interest of the voters of Illinois," said Jim Oberweis, (R) Candidate for Governor.
Oberweis claims that Kovarik's deposition validates the issues he raised in TV ads that were criticized by Topinka because some of the newspaper headlines were made up. Kovarik says that he went to Oberweis to set the record straight after she called the allegations lies and distortions.
"I wish I could show you the money to follow. The answer is no, absolutely not, and bitter old man, not yet, but I am an old man.," said Kovarik.
Topinka says if anyone ordered the shredding, it was Marty Kovarik. She claims that three of her former employees may be filing a lawsuit to refute allegations of political work on state time and she has no record of campaign cash from George Velasco.
This issue guaranteed to be on the front burner all week -- especially when the candidates face off in a couple of televised debates. The debates could easily determine the outcome of this primary.
Topinka fights corruption allegations - Ofelia Casillas and John Chasehttp://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/chi-060306topinka,1,87320.story?coll=chi-news-hed
(3/6/06) Allegations of wrongdoing dating back a decade resurfaced Monday as Republican gubernatorial candidate Jim Oberweis charged that state Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka was part of a "culture of corruption" and Topinka countered that the attack was "gutter politics."Oberweis resurrected allegations of orders to shred documents and of state workers doing campaign work on taxpayer time in the treasurer's office, citing a sworn statement his campaign got from a former longtime Topinka aide just weeks before the March 21 primary.Martin Kovarik served as chief of staff to Topinka late in her tenure as a state senator, as her 1994 campaign manager for state treasurer, and, in 1995, as her deputy treasurer. The 73-year-old Kovarik also said he had had a romantic relationship with Topinka.In several instances, however, Kovarik's sworn statement taken last Thursday is at odds with news reports and public comments he made while serving as deputy treasurer in Topinka's tumultuous first year in the treasurer's office. He resigned in December 1995 after it was revealed he owed the Internal Revenue Service more than $50,000 in back taxes.Oberweis provided Kovarik's statement at a series of news conferences Monday, saying it supported his TV ads that attacked Topinka's integrity. Asked about Kovarik's credibility, Oberweis encouraged reporters to talk to Kovarik and said, "I'm not going to speculate on things I don't know."At issue are allegations, some dating to 1995, involving Topinka's attempt to settle a controversial $40 million state loan to politically connected hotel developers for $10 million. The deal was blocked by then-Atty. Gen. Jim Ryan, who contended the properties were worth more than the settlement.Kovarik said in his sworn statement the settlement was "structured in my absence" and he "was not in on part of the deal."But in news reports at that time, Kovarik was cited as Topinka's lead negotiator in the settlement with the hotels' investors. In a May 14, 1995, Associated Press story, Kovarik recalled discussing the deal with the hotels' attorneys while he sat smoking a miniature cigar at a conference table in the treasurer's Chicago office.Later Monday, however, Kovarik told a Tribune reporter that he "had nothing to do with the deal.""This comes as news to me right now," Kovarik said. "I honestly have not heard that ever before."In his sworn statement, Kovarik also contended that Topinka ordered him to tell her press secretary to shred a list of the hotels' investors, including Downstate GOP powerbroker Bill Cellini, that she had promised to make public. Kovarik said the order was made in a phone call from Topinka's home to Jim Howard, who was one of her press aides."What do you want him to do with it?" Kovarik said he asked Topinka. In his sworn statement, he said she replied, "I don't care. Shred the damn thing."But in news reports at the time, Howard said he and Kovarik alone discussed the list of investors in a meeting in Kovarik's office. Howard did not return telephone calls on Monday."I went down to Marty's office ... closed the door, and I said, 'There's something we need to talk about; the list was found.' ... He looked at me at that point and said, 'I've never seen it; shred it,'" Howard said in an interview printed in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on June 27, 1995.In an interview printed the same day in the State Journal-Register of Springfield, Kovarik said, "I did not give any order to shred."The document was never shredded, and Topinka made it public to try to avoid concerns that the settlement had been structured to award politically connected investors.Kovarik's sworn statement also said that three women did campaign work for Topinka on state time when she was a state senator.On Monday, however, Topinka's campaign attorney, Jim Stamos, fired off a letter to Kovarik and the Oberweis campaign that said he was representing the three women. Stamos said the three "categorically deny" they did political work on state time. In addition, Stamos said one of the women wasn't a state employee at the time Kovarik alleged in his statement.Kovarik acknowledged later in a telephone interview that it was "possible" the woman was only a volunteer for Topinka's Senate office and may have been paid by her campaign."I can't answer that. I don't have the records," he said.Kovarik also said in his sworn statement that Topinka received campaign donations for her first bid for treasurer through George Velasco, a figure in the federal licenses-for-bribes probe in the secretary of state's office under George Ryan. Velasco, who managed the McCook driver-testing facility, later pleaded guilty to taking bribes for trucking licenses and using the bribes for Ryan fundraising tickets.Topinka denied receiving any campaign funds from Velasco or driving schools but said Velasco met with Kovarik.Oberweis contended Topinka has been "part of this culture of corruption in politics. She has been involved for 25 years. I don't think she even realizes how wrong some of the things she's been doing are."Topinka responded, "This is just more gutter politics on Mr. Oberweis' part." And she said Kovarik "remains embittered" about losing his job and "over the years the bitterness has turned to hatred."As for whether she shared a romantic relationship with Kovarik, Topinka, 62, said she would not discuss her personal life."There are certain things you don't ask a lady—her age, her weight, and, in my case, the real color of my hair," she said.
Oberweis digging for dirt GOP candidate charges Topinka part of `culture of corruption' - Ofelia Casillas and John Chase
(OUTRAGEOUS HEADLINE IN PRINT EDITION: Oberweis hurls dirt at Topinka)
(3/7/06) Allegations of wrongdoing dating back a decade resurfaced Monday as Republican gubernatorial candidate Jim Oberweis charged that state Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka was part of a "culture of corruption" and Topinka countered that the attack was "gutter politics."Oberweis resurrected allegations of orders to shred documents and of state workers doing campaign work on taxpayer time in the treasurer's office, citing a sworn statement his campaign got from a former longtime Topinka aide just weeks before the March 21 primary.Martin Kovarik served as chief of staff to Topinka late in her tenure as a state senator, as her 1994 campaign manager for state treasurer, and, in 1995, as her deputy treasurer. The 73-year-old Kovarik also said he had had a romantic relationship with Topinka.In several instances, however, Kovarik's sworn statement taken last Thursday is at odds with news reports and public comments he made while serving as deputy treasurer in Topinka's tumultuous first year in the treasurer's office.He resigned in December 1995 after it was revealed he owed the Internal Revenue Service more than $50,000 in back taxes.Oberweis provided Kovarik's statement at a series of news conferences Monday, saying it supported his TV ads that attacked Topinka's integrity. Asked about Kovarik's credibility, Oberweis encouraged reporters to talk to Kovarik and said, "I'm not going to speculate on things I don't know."At issue are allegations, some dating to 1995, involving Topinka's attempt to settle a controversial $40 million state loan to politically connected hotel developers for $10 million. The deal was blocked by then-Atty. Gen. Jim Ryan, who contended the properties were worth more than the settlement.Kovarik said in his sworn statement the settlement was "structured in my absence" and he "was not in on part of the deal."But in news reports at that time, Kovarik was cited as Topinka's lead negotiator in the settlement with the hotels' investors. In a May 14, 1995, Associated Press story, Kovarik recalled discussing the deal with the hotels' attorneys while he sat smoking a miniature cigar at a conference table in the treasurer's Chicago office.Later Monday, however, Kovarik told a Tribune reporter that he "had nothing to do with the deal.""This comes as news to me right now," Kovarik said. "I honestly have not heard that ever before."In his sworn statement, Kovarik also contended that Topinka ordered him to tell her press secretary to shred a list of the hotels' investors, including Downstate GOP powerbroker Bill Cellini, that she had promised to make public. Kovarik said the order was made in a phone call from Topinka's home to Jim Howard, who was one of her press aides."What do you want him to do with it?" Kovarik said he asked Topinka. In his sworn statement, he said she replied, "I don't care. Shred the damn thing."But in news reports at the time, Howard said he and Kovarik alone discussed the list of investors in a meeting in Kovarik's office. Howard did not return telephone calls on Monday."I went down to Marty's office ... closed the door, and I said, `There's something we need to talk about; the list was found.' ... He looked at me at that point and said, `I've never seen it; shred it,'" Howard said in an interview printed in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on June 27, 1995.In an interview printed the same day in the State Journal-Register of Springfield, Kovarik said, "I did not give any order to shred."The document was never shredded, and Topinka made it public to try to avoid concerns that the settlement had been structured to award politically connected investors.Kovarik's sworn statement also said that three women did campaign work for Topinka on state time when she was a state senator.On Monday, however, Topinka's campaign attorney, Jim Stamos, fired off a letter to Kovarik and the Oberweis campaign that said he was representing the three women.Stamos said the three "categorically deny" they did political work on state time. In addition, Stamos said one of the women wasn't a state employee at the time Kovarik alleged in his statement.Kovarik acknowledged later in a telephone interview that it was "possible" the woman was only a volunteer for Topinka's Senate office and may have been paid by her campaign."I can't answer that. I don't have the records," he said.Kovarik also said in his sworn statement that Topinka received campaign donations for her first bid for treasurer through George Velasco, a figure in the federal licenses-for-bribes probe in the secretary of state's office under George Ryan.Velasco, who managed the McCook driver-testing facility, later pleaded guilty to taking bribes for trucking licenses and using the bribes for Ryan fundraising tickets.Topinka denied receiving any campaign funds from Velasco or driving schools but said Velasco met with Kovarik.Oberweis contended Topinka has been "part of this culture of corruption in politics. She has been involved for 25 years. I don't think she even realizes how wrong some of the things she's been doing are."Topinka responded, "This is just more gutter politics on Mr. Oberweis' part." And she said Kovarik "remains embittered" about losing his job and "over the years the bitterness has turned to hatred."As for whether she shared a romantic relationship with Kovarik, Topinka, 62, said she would not discuss her personal life."There are certain things you don't ask a lady--her age, her weight, and, in my case, the real color of my hair," she said.
OUTSTANDING: Driver card for illegal immigrants rejected
ILLINOIS -- After heated debate, House lawmakers defeated a bill Friday that would have given undocumented immigrants certificates to drive vehicles legally.Lawmakers opposed the bill 59-52. But supporters considered it a victory because more lawmakers favored the concept than in past years.The certificate would have allowed undocumented immigrants to drive legally and buy insurance. The certificate would not have granted the same benefits as a driver's license, such as using the identification to board airplanes, supporters said."We should be concerned about one thing, public safety," said Rep. William Delgado (D-Chicago). "Let's make sure it's everyone in, nobody out."Under the measure, undocumented immigrants would have to pass driving tests, present a tax identification number, a foreign passport, file an affidavit that they would apply to be a permanent resident and hand over all illegally obtained driver's licenses.Rep. Ron Stephens (R-Mulberry Grove) said people should instead report to immigration offices, become documented and get a legal driver's license.
Congressional race endorsements: District 1- Rush, 2-Belin, 3-Kelly & Wardingley, 5-Emanuel, 6-Duckworth, 7-Davis, 8-McSweeney, 9-Shannon, 10-Seals, 13-Biggert & Reedy, 14-Laesch
Our endorsements in congressional races
There are some intriguing contests in the congressional primary elections, most notably in the 6th District, where Democratic heavies Dick Durbin, Barack Obama and Rahm Emanuel are putting on a full-court press to install Tammy Duckworth. Does the disabled Iraq war veteran, plucked from outside the district, have a better shot of beating Henry Hyde's designated successor in November than the seasoned Christine Cegelis? We think so.
Cegelis, who drew 44 percent of the vote in 2002 against Hyde, is an impressive candidate. She has been knocked for being a lackluster fund-raiser, but if Durbin, Obama and Emanuel raised money for her, that wouldn't be an issue. What is an issue is that for all her experience and command of issues important to her district, including education and O'Hare expansion, she doesn't bring the same energy and fresh appeal to the race as Duckworth, a broadly knowledgeable, well-spoken woman whose firsthand experience in Iraq as an Army National Guard major would be an invaluable asset in Congress.
After anti-war Iraq veteran Paul Hackett's near-upset win in last year's special congressional election in Ohio, the Democratic power structure sees in Duckworth, who opposed the invasion, a similar X factor capable of defeating the formidable state Sen. Peter Roskam, unopposed in the Republican primary. Having entered politics only recently, Duckworth has a solid grasp of the important issues, including illegal immigration (her district has a large Hispanic and Asian population; she was born to a Thai mother), the war and health care, and she has the pluck to act on them. She is endorsed over Cegelis and Wheaton College professor Lindy Scott.
If the Democrats offer solid choices in the 6th District, their candidates in the 3rd are a different kettle of fish. Having been pushed into office through the back door by his retiring father William Lipinski, Dan Lipinski has a big hurdle to overcome and we don't think his two years of service have done that. With his experience as a prosecutor, Assistant State's Attorney John Sullivan should be a better choice, but his more liberal views appear to be out of sync with the people he would represent. That leaves us with insurance broker John Kelly. There's admittedly some roughness around the edges and that, combined with his being a second Irish surname in the race, has led some to raise questions about his candidacy. But his forceful advocacy as a true-blue product of the district convinced us he's for real. He gets our endorsement.
On the 3rd District Republican side, GOP voters should prefer perennial candidate and clown Raymond Wardingley only because he's not a neo-Nazi like Arthur Jones.
In the conservative 8th District, no fewer than six Republicans are vying for a chance to try to take back the seat Phil Crane lost to Melissa Bean. Mud has been slung over abortion and tort damage caps between the two top contenders, lawyer Kathy Salvi, wife of past office-seeker Al Salvi, and wealthy former investment banker David McSweeney. Salvi has the name and gender factor to possibly cancel out Bean's edge. Though we oppose McSweeney's views on gay marriage and immigration, we endorse him for his cost-cutting ideas and determination to make campaign financing more transparent.
Here are our choices in contested races in other districts:
1st: Democratic Rep. Bobby Rush is favored over former CHA CEO Phillip Jackson, though the latter has much to recommend him, including his achievements with the Black Star Project.
2nd: Math teacher Robert Belin is deemed less objectionable in the Republican race than furniture salesman Howard Schug. Either would be trounced by incumbent Jesse L. Jackson Jr.
5th: Rep. Rahm Emanuel, a force among national Democrats, is in an essentially non-contested race against two weak opponents.
7th: Democrat Rep. Danny Davis deserves another term and is favored over real estate broker Jim Ascot and Robert Dallas.
9th: To oppose Democratic Rep. Jan Schakowsky, we pick Mike Shannon, who favors redistricting reform, over Simon Ribeiro.
10th: To oppose GOP Rep. Mark Kirk, Dan Seals wants to fix the No Child Left Behind law and is endorsed over Zane Smith.
13th: Republican Rep. Judy Biggert, a key player in the widening of I-55 and other transportation issues, is solidly endorsed over Bob Hart. In the Democratic race, Bill Reedy is favored over Joseph Shannon.
14th: To face Rep. Dennis Hastert, Democrat John Laesch is picked over Ruben K. Zamora.
Tony Peraica: Commissioner living the American dream - Steve Patterson
He was raised to know nothing of freedom or liberty.
Communist control limited opportunities in 1970s Yugoslavia and while Serbian teachers demanded students do away with Croatian teachings, Tony Peraica's mother would secretly guide him to traditional churches, where he could immerse in their culture.
America -- seen only in Clint Eastwood and Lee Marvin movies -- was "the land of dreams."
It's been more than 30 years since an orphaned and teenaged Peraica fled for that land of dreams, where he was raised by relatives in the diversely ethnic -- yet singularly political -- Bridgeport neighborhood.
Today, the boy raised to know nothing about self-determination is a successful attorney, elected official and, he said, living the American dream.
Age: 47 From: Raised in what is now Croatia, then Bridgeport, now lives in Riverside Religion: Catholic Education: University of Illinois-Chicago, political science; John Marshall Law School, law Family: Wife Nilo; son Marko, 25; daughter Anisa, 20 Years in office: Elected to Cook County Board in 2002
"I love that stuff," said Republican activist Jack Roeser. "To come to this country and get to where he's at, rise above fantastic pressures, you've got to have a lot of smarts, a lot of force . . . I just love that kind of story."
Peraica smiles as he tells his story -- taking pride in the power behind each telling of it.
"Having lived under a communist system," he said, "you realize the brevity of life and the importance of the one life you do have."
After his parents died of cancer, the 13-year-old came to America, though he acknowledges he "didn't immediately appreciate the unbelievable freedom" offered here.
But that appreciation came as he became president of his class at Holy Name Cathedral High School and as he became involved in politics while attending the University of Illinois-Chicago.
He grew up surrounded by all things Mayor Daley, giving him a natural draw to Democrats, though he says he "woke up" in 1994, disgruntled by the party's direction and burned by its leaders.
By then, he'd finished law school and, with a banking job, was married with kids. And realized he was a Republican.
"But party affiliation is secondary to those who are honest, open and can work in concert with others, in a constructive way, to serve the public," he said.
Peraica is the only Republican running for county board president.
"The whole system needs to be opened up," Peraica said. "It's something I'm very passionate about. And when you're passionate about something and firmly believe you're doing the right thing, you've got to be prepared to fight."
He can be confrontational and abrasive while pulling no punches.
Tony Peraica's style has had Cook County Board President John Stroger regularly mispronouncing his last name, insisting he'll get it right as soon as Peraica stops making erroneous charges while grandstanding in meetings.
Peraica just smiles.
"I've been accused of being brutally honest," he said. "And I don't plan to change that one bit."
He works a room with a smile, with a handshake and maybe a slap on the back not far behind.
There's a need to restructure Cook County government, he tells a crowd, a need to streamline its operations and bring in a new, energized leadership.
"That's not the kind of leadership we have there now," he said. "There's not the energy or desire or inclination to move this government in the right direction."
Peraica's candidness is off-putting to those on both sides of the political aisle, while appealing to others.
There have been behind-the-scenes political battles with fellow Republican Commissioner Liz Gorman, as well as above board alliances with board Democrats like Forrest Claypool and Mike Quigley.
Among the more divisive moves Peraica made came when he set up a campaign Web site that included a link detailing the names, titles, date of hire, home ZIP code and salary for all county employees. "I believe in government being transparent," he said.
"He's got passion," said Republican activist Jack Roeser. "So many of the ones we've got now don't have that.''
No one supports Tony Peraica quite as much as Tony Peraica.
Records show the Riverside Republican has benefitted from smaller donations from dozens of contributors, but Peraica, an attorney, has loaned his campaign almost $1 million since his political career began and more than $751,000 since he won a Cook County Board seat in 2002.
Peraica said he doesn't "have the restraints of associations that might stifle my ability to expose" those he feels are misspending taxpayer money. He said "it's a matter of choice" to self-fund his campaign.
By using his own money, he can "help support a mayor, a village president, a township candidate, and be able to change the entire political culture throughout the western suburbs," he said.
Outside of his own cash, however, Peraica's biggest contribution came from New York banker George Rudman, at $10,000. Rudman did not return a call. Inverness attorney and Republican county clerk candidate Nancy Carlson has given him $7,000, citing the "coalition he put together" on the county board to move legislation through.
Jack Roeser's Family Taxpayers Network has pumped another $5,000 into Peraica's campaign. "He's risen to something," Roeser said. "But he's still got the dust of the streets on his shoes."
But it was just a day after Roeser wrote Peraica a $5,000 check that he put a stop payment on it. Peraica, Roeser learned, had voted to welcome the Gay Games to Chicago this year.
Peraica, conceding it was an oversight, rallied fellow Republicans to take their names off the welcome, which pleased Roeser, who lifted the stop payment.
Without apology, Tony Peraica confirms he's got lofty aspirations.
He has run for county treasurer, twice run for county board and now wants to be board president.
"He's a perennial candidate," said Mike Lapidus, who's challenging Peraica for his Lyons Township committeeman seat. "He runs whenever there's an opportunity and he leaves offices in disarray to seek those higher offices."
He has lost more general elections than he has won -- losing as a Democrat and as a Republican -- but since his 2002 GOP victory for county board over Democrat Ron Serpico, he's hardly been perceived as a throw-in candidate.
And, Peraica concedes, he hopes to build a political base that will allow him to influence other races.
"If he's smart, he's doing all this just to get his name out there," Serpico said. "He's too caught up in himself and willing to spend a million dollars for a crown."
Peraica also makes no apologies about spending loads of his own money to further his aspirations, but his critics -- and there are many, even among Republican members of the county board -- say he needs to focus more on the job he's got than the one he wants.
He has also been criticized for engaging in loud board meeting debates with Board President John Stroger, knowing the haranguing will be seen on public-access TV.
"All he does is fight against Stroger," Lapidus said. "He runs with a big mouth, carries a very big stick, but there's no substance."
But Peraica insists the arguments with Stroger are part of that larger goal -- to shake up the establishment and "fight passionately for good government."
He says he's been able to do that by partnering with Republicans and Democrats alike to block tax increases and push through reform measures. Though committed to the GOP, he doesn't shy away from questions about his pre-1994 life as a Democrat.
Though some say he switched parties as an opportunist, Peraica says he was feeling disenfranchised from the Democratic party's ideals and found himself burned by party insiders.
"I'd always considered myself a conservative Democrat," he said.
He led a revolt among Republicans to change their votes -- cast without much notice -- supporting this year's arrival of the Gay Games in Chicago.
But that angered some Democrats and gay supporters, who have since hit Peraica with criticism.
Best thing you can cook: Roasted lamb, with lots of olive oil, garlic, maybe barbecued fish, followed by a good glass of wine.
Must-see TV: "Chicago Tonight."
Last concert/musical performance you attended: Styx and Bad Company, 2005.
Number 1 radio pre-set station: WBEZ, 91.5 FM.
If you could be stuck on an elevator with a celebrity: Ronald Reagan.
Magazine you read every week/month: Time, Chicago Lawyer.
Childhood nickname: Moji. Croatians who came to the city in the late 1800s used to call all the men that. They said it meant to "shut up."
Letterman, Leno, "Nightline"?: Leno.
PEORIA JOURNAL STAR
Ex-aide: Topinka ordered shredding Oberweis presents charges from opponent's former chief of staff - Molly Parker and Rebecca O'Halloran
(Article includes a nasty quote from LaHood blasting the Oberweis campaign.)
Republican gubernatorial candidate Jim Oberweis said his campaign has been vindicated by a former Judy Baar Topinka aide, who claims his former boss ordered a state document shredded and that she mandated staff to do campaign work on state time.
During a news conference in Peoria on Monday, Oberweis presented reporters with a sworn statement - provided at the expense of the Oberweis campaign - from Martin Kovarik, Topinka's former chief of staff and campaign manager.
Topinka, also in Peoria on Monday, dismissed Oberweis' accusations, describing Kovarik as a disgruntled employee who "must be bruised" because he was asked to leave the treasurer's office in 1995. Topinka said Kovarik was asked to leave because he owed the IRS a substantial amount of money, and she thought that made a bad statement.
In the 46-page statement, Kovarik alleges that Topinka told a staffer to shred a state document containing information about a hotel deal the state made with Republican powerhouse and Springfield developer Bill Cellini. He also said she ordered her state employees to work on her political campaign and that she took money from a secretary of state manager later convicted of taking bribes in exchange for driver's licenses.
Oberweis' latest commercials center on these claims but came under attack when it became apparent his campaign used fake newspaper headlines under the nameplates of real newspapers, including The State Journal-Register and the Chicago Tribune.
In a letter to television stations dated Feb. 28, Topinka's campaign asked that the commercials not be aired because they "cross the line into falsehood."
Oberweis has also been heavily criticized by newspaper editorial boards across the state for his use of false headlines.
"I am here because my integrity is under attack," Oberweis said.
The real headlines that appeared above the printed stories were either shortened, with some words deleted, or changed altogether, according to news reports. Oberweis said his media consultants told him that was a perfectly acceptable practice, and that the criticisms are Topinka's attempt to change the subject.
Still, Oberweis said his campaign responded "100 percent" and changed the ads to represent the accurate headlines. To illustrate, he pointed to a blown-up article titled "Campaign Probe of Topinka Launched" under the Chicago Tribune flag that appeared to have been written by reporter Kevin McDermott. But McDermott has never worked for the Chicago paper and is the Springfield political reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Oberweis' campaign said that was simply a gaffe, but that the story and headline are accurate.
Topinka, who was joined by U.S. Rep. Ray LaHood in Peoria, made issue of the mistaken byline, saying it shows you can't trust anything the Oberweis campaign is saying.
"This is as outrageous of a scheme as I have ever seen," LaHood said, adding "don't be fooled by this trickery; it will never work."
Kovarik, speaking from his retirement home in Wisconsin, said he has nothing to gain by speaking out against Topinka. He said the two had a romantic relationship that lasted about the length of their professional relationship. The last time he spoke with her was after a funeral in 1996, Kovarik said, noting their relationship fizzled after he left the treasurer's office.
"It lost its luster," he said. "She didn't have time for me because I no longer participated in political activities."
But Kovarik, now 73, said he's not bitter about being asked to leave. He is married and said he has moved on with his life.
"Disgruntled employee . . . call me whatever you want," Kovarik said. "I'm not here selling anything, I don't want a job . . . I don't care . . . all I know is that this is my mission at this point."
"The man (Oberweis) does not deserve to be beat up over it."
Ex-Topinka staffer lobs impropriety - Chris Lusvardi
SPRINGFIELD - A former chief of staff for state Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka has accused his former boss, now a candidate for governor, of using state employees for work in previous campaigns and ordering the shredding of state documents.
Martin Kovarik says in a sworn statement last week that he was told to order another worker to get rid of a list of investors connected to a hotel loan. Topinka, however, said Kovarik alone suggested the documents be shredded.
Kovarik, who left office after it was revealed he owed federal back taxes, also claimed three women engaged in campaign work while they were state employees in Topinka's Senate office.
Topinka served in the Senate from 1984 until she was elected state treasurer in 1994.
However, Topinka's gubernatorial campaign says one of the women wasn't a state employee at the time.
Jim Oberweis, one of Topinka's opponents for the Republican nomination, said Monday that Kovarik's accusations are proof that his recent television advertisements are accurate. Oberweis' ads claim Topinka is under federal investigation for ordering the shredding of documents.
Topinka responded to Oberweis' ads with ads of her own saying that Oberweis' claims were false and challenged Oberweis to prove his claims.
"It verifies that our ads are 100 percent accurate based on fact, and that Judy Topinka is absolutely not telling the truth when she says our ads are false and ought to be taken off the air," Oberweis said at a Statehouse press conference in response to Kovarik's accusations.
The sniping came a day before Oberweis, Topinka and fellow Republican candidates Ron Gidwitz and Bill Brady are scheduled to participate in an hour-long debate beginning at 5 p.m. in Springfield.
Topinka questioned the need for Oberweis to bring the charges forward.
"I am saddened that Jim Oberweis has taken his campaign further into the gutter," Topinka said in a statement. "Last week it was made-up headlines and today it has taken a more egregious turn to slander."
Oberweis said the accusations are another example of Illinois' corrupt political culture.
"It just goes back to the point that she has been a part of this culture of corruption in politics," Oberweis said.
"She has been involved for 25 years. I don't think she even realizes how wrong some of the things she has been doing are."
The Topinka campaign questioned Kovarik's credibility, saying he is a man with "an ax to grind."
He served as chief of staff in Topinka's state senate office from 1989 until 1995, ran her 1994 state treasurer campaign and ran the treasurer's office in Topinka's first year.
Kovarik left his position in December 1995 after revelations that he owed more than $50,000 in federal tax money.
Kovarik, who is retired and living in Kenosha, Wis., voluntarily gave the statement to the Oberweis campaign.
The primary is March 21.
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
DIERSEN'S MADE UP HEADLINE: St. Louis Post-Dispatch trumpets an Oberweis campaign nameplate mistake
Illinois governor's race: Oberweis camp makes another news gaffe - Philip Ewing
A week after being criticized for ads that matched newspaper logos with made-up headlines, gubernatorial candidate Jim Oberweis' campaign on Monday played the same game, displaying a newspaper reporter's byline under a newspaper for which he never worked.At a news conference in Peoria, dairy magnate Oberweis displayed an oversized newspaper story with the Chicago Tribune nameplate but credited to a St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter. The campaign later said the mixed-up names were a mistake.The snafu arose as Oberweis defended claims in his advertisements that Topinka ordered the shredding of legal documents in a 1995 plan to forgive $30 million in bad debt for state-financed hotels in Collinsville and Springfield. A former top Topinka aide, Marty Kovarik, approached the Oberweis campaign and said Topinka had, in fact, ordered him to shred the files, though that contradicts what Kovarik and Topinka said at the time.The Topinka campaign maintains that if Kovarik shredded any documents, he did so on his own.Oberweis, who said he has never met Kovarik, nonetheless defended Kovarik's credibility after reporters pointed to inconsistencies and inaccuracies in his written statement. Oberweis said it was proof enough for him that Kovarik had voluntarily come forward to substantiate his campaign ads.In a written statement, Topinka said she was "saddened" Oberweis had taken his campaign "further into the gutter," and dismissed Kovarik as a "tax cheat" and a "disgruntled former employee."The Tribune article was one of three news stories from 1995 on display about criticism of Topinka's plan to forgive $30 million in bad debt for state-financed hotels in Collinsville and Springfield.
Topinka says accusations are baseless - John Pattersonhttp://www.dailyherald.com/news/kanestory.asp?id=163711
Republican governor hopeful Judy Baar Topinka says allegations by one of her GOP rivals that three employees did political work on the taxpayers’ dime are baseless, pointing out that one of the women in question was never employed by the state.
And an attorney for the three women accused of cheating taxpayers threatened legal action if Jim Oberweis’s campaign doesn’t retract the accusations included in a sworn statement from a former Topinka aide.
“My clients are not public figures. They are entitled not to have lies told about them,” said attorney James Stamos in a letter to Oberweis and Martin Kovarik, the former deputy treasurer in Topinka’s state treasurer office.
The Topinka campaign said Kovarik’s statement is riddled with factual errors, calling into question its credibility and the credibility of Kovarik, who left his job in 1995 after revelations that he owed $53,000 to the IRS.
“It’s just another desperate attempt,” spokesman Roger Germann said.
Oberweis, a Sugar Grove dairy magnate, acknowledged Kovarik might have a few things wrong but said he believes “most” of the accusations to be accurate.
Kovarik also alleged Topinka, from Riverside, received campaign money from a secretary of state manager convicted of trading bribes for truck driver licenses and claims Topinka instructed him to “get rid” of a list of politically connected investors in a controversial hotel loan in the mid-1990s.
Topinka’s campaign brushed aside Kovarik’s claims, saying they searched campaign records and could find no such donations and claimed it was Kovarik’s idea to shred the list of investors. That list never was destroyed back in 1995 and was given to reporters a week later.
Kovarik did not return messages left at his home.
The reaction from other Republican candidates for governor varied. Bill Brady, a state Senator from Bloomington, called for a debate focused solely on ethics. Ron Gidwitz, a Chicago businessman, called the accusations disturbing, if true.
Daily Herald endorsements: Senate: Hultgren-48; House: Beaubien-52, Mathias-53, Froehlich-56; DuPage County Board 5th District: Connelly
31th Senate District: Simpson, Geo-Karis rake in more money - Russell Lissau
Big checks from Republican Party leaders keep rolling in for state Senate candidate Suzanne Simpson.
Simpson, who is challenging veteran incumbent Adeline Geo-Karis for the GOP nomination in the 31st District, received more than $49,000 in campaign cash during the first seven weeks of 2006, new state documents show.
Donors included the political committees of seven Republican state legislators, including state Rep. JoAnn Osmond of Antioch and state Sen. Bill Peterson of Long Grove. Peterson’s committee was among Simpson’s most generous supporters, giving $10,000.
Geo-Karis collected $32,400 during the same period, records show. Among her supporters was former Illinois Gov. James R. Thompson Jr., who donated $1,000.
Simpson received financial support from prominent Republicans earlier in the campaign, too. Geo-Karis didn’t.
The donations indicate which candidate GOP legislators want to see join them in the Capitol, said Antonietta Simonian, executive director of the Lake County Republican Federation, the local party’s fundraising arm.
“Follow the money,” Simonian said Monday. “Especially if it’s coming from Springfield, there are people who were supporters of (Geo-Karis) in the past but are taking this race seriously and have a greater level of confidence in Sue.”
Geo-Karis, 87, of Zion, and Simpson, 51, of the Grayslake area, will face off in the March 21 GOP primary. Geo-Karis has been senator since 1979; Simpson is Warren Township’s supervisor and a former state representative.
Candidates must regularly file campaign disclosure forms with the Illinois State Board of Elections. The reports list contributions and expenses and identify donors.
The newest reports cover donations and purchases made between Jan. 1 and Feb. 19.
The Simpson for Senate committee collected $49,195 during the period, the forms show. Nearly all of it came from other political committees, with a small number of individual contributions.
In addition to Osmond and Peterson, Simpson’s backers include the campaign committees for state senators J. Bradley Burzynski, David Luechtefeld, Christine Radogno, Dale A. Righter and Todd Sieben.
Burzynski, Luechtefeld and Sieben are part of the Senate Republican leadership.
Simpson said she is grateful for the support.
“The legislators realize that the time has come for a change,” she said.
The Re-elect Senator Geo-Karis Committee received $32,400, nearly all of it came in as individual contributions.
Eight donations totaling $10,000 came from Chicago-area banks.
Neither Geo-Karis nor her campaign manager could be reached for comment Monday.
The donations and a few expenditures left Simpson’s committee with more than $84,000 in mid-February, records show. Geo-Karis ended the same period with about $72,000.
The winner in the GOP primary will face Democrat Michael Bond in the Nov. 7 general election. The 31st District includes nearly all of northern Lake County.
Beaubien v. Driscoll: 52nd Dist. candidates answer questions - Madhu Krishnamurthy
The battle between two conservatives vying for the 52nd House District is being fought on two main issues — parental notification of abortion and the state’s taxation and spending.
It’s all the candidates want to talk about. But what they aren’t saying in campaign fliers and mailers to constituents shows who they are, just as much as what they are saying.
How would incumbent state Rep. Mark Beaubien, 63, of Barrington Hills, and challenger Dennis Driscoll, 61, of Round Lake, vote on key issues that may come before the State Legislature? The two Republicans are facing off in the March 21 primary.
Here are their answers to some questions the Daily Herald posed:
Q. Would you support offering a wider range of state-funded services, such as driver’s licenses, education, health care, etc., for undocumented immigrants?
Beaubien: “Our economy depends upon them. Without immigrants, of which a large percentage in Illinois and in my district are undocumented, the majority of businesses could not find enough willing workers and, especially at lower than prevailing wages. Many have a second- or third-grade education, speak little or no English, and come here in a heartfelt effort to better their lives and those of their families. As long as people are working here, paying taxes here, and living here, they and their children deserve state services. The state should also continue to support agencies who serve immigrants.”
Driscoll: “I don’t want to provide incentives for more people to disobey our laws. The problem is not a state problem. It has to do with our immigration laws. If these people are needed, then people at the federal level should see that, and bring these people within the law in one way or another. It would be expedient just to kind of wink at the whole thing and (say) ‘let’s just go on with something else.’ That’s just not the way to do business.”
Q. Would you support a plan to make the public employee pension system more like private pension plans offered by businesses?
Beaubien: “I can’t answer it. It’s a constitutional issue. The governor’s Pension Commission, of which I was a part, proposed seven potential areas for reform. The final bill that the governor presented contained only two of the reforms, eliminating 81.5 percent of any savings to the system. Current employees need to know that we are constitutionally bound to not reduce current benefits, so the fear of taking away benefits is not realistic. Yet we must look at changing benefits for new hires and at raising the retirement age for incoming participants in the five state pension systems. That’s something I might support depending upon how it’s done. We can only do it prospectively to new employees, not retroactively.”
Driscoll: “I support the 401K model. It gives the employee a very accurate idea of what is there to support him in his retirement. We’re in an inflationary environment and we have a situation where the costs are going to spiral way up. As our costs go up, the taxes need to go up to pay them and we are sitting on a financial time bomb here. The current employees, we have a contractual obligation to them to deliver the pensions promised. We cannot shortchange our contributions to them. We have to restore the money that was basically taken from them in the past.”
Q. Would you vote to expand casino licenses in Illinois?
Beaubien: “I have always been opposed to gaming and to its expansion. That said, the presence of our already existing casinos make change unlikely. If competitive gaming facilities are continually built out of state, Illinois would have none of the revenues and all of the problems that gaming presents. In that type of circumstance, I would give serious consideration to expanding.”
Driscoll: “It’s a quality of life issue. Do we want to be a Midwestern Las Vegas? We could do that, but I don’t think the people in the district would like that. Quantity does not equal quality by any stretch of the imagination. Let’s maintain the status quo.”
Myers v. Carr: Sparks fly at Wheaton council - James Fuller
A perceived red herring left Wheaton Mayor Jim Carr red-faced Monday night as a verbal confrontation broke out during discussion on a downtown development project.
It all started as the city council wrapped up debate on a five-story office/retail building project with a parking garage proposed for a site next to the downtown Jewel Osco.
That’s when Jon Myers stepped to the podium for public comment.
He pelted the council, particularly Carr, with questions about possible favoritism given to the project developer, Wheaton Property Partners. Myers pointed out the company already owned part of the land for the project before the city put out the request for development proposals. He also noted that the owner’s representative, Chad Thorsen, was a friend of Carr’s and lives about six houses away from him.
Myers also said the project seems to be on a fast track that’s atypical of many development projects.
The city hasn’t approved final plans for the development, yet the project’s attorney, Henry Stillwell, committed to having a company with 300 employees moved in by October 2007.
Carr stopped Myers mid-comment and told the Wheaton resident he should ask some pointed questions about the project or stop talking. Nothing illegal or unethical was done in awarding the contract, Carr said. Councilmen Tom Mouhelis and Phil Suess echoed the mayor’s sentiments.
But it didn’t end there.
The council unanimously voted to move the project along, as the tight timeline is designed to accommodate the committed but unnamed tenant the building would primarily house.
Carr called Myers up to the council table after the council meeting and gave him another tongue lashing. Carr told Myers his questions amounted to “innuendo.” He accused Myers of pandering to the TV cameras filming the meeting for the local cable access channel and advised Myers to bring such accusations to him personally and privately.
Myers wasn’t backing down, sparking a visible outburst from Carr.
“You’re pushing it,” Carr said. “You’re absolutely pushing it. You are offending me. Back off.”
Myers is a frequent contributor to the council’s public comment periods. He is also embattled with the city in a lawsuit stemming from Myers’ unionization of several part-time library employees. The city is fighting the unionization after losing the initial battle with the Illinois Labor Relations Board.
Myers said he has no plans to stop asking questions at council meetings.
DuPage County Board District 4: Donald A. Sender endorses Grant Eckhoff
Candidate’s visible — if only you’d look - Donald A. Sender
I have heard many quaint and curious charges over the years in the contests for county board seats, but I do not remember a brand new candidate accusing his incumbent opponent of a visibility problem. I am not surprised when some officeholders occasionally do a disappearing act, but wear a cloak of invisibility?
I really wonder about that one. How much more can be expected of a person who was willing to serve 13 years on the Wheaton City Council, and allow himself to be televised for the entire community over and over again? Every wink, blink and twitch of a council member can be minutely examined by the viewer. Their positions on important and sometimes delicate issues can be easily seen and heard.
Grant Eckhoff has survived this scrutiny for 13 years and has been re-elected time and time again. The public chose to vote him onto the DuPage County Board in 2002 because of his experience, drive, good common sense and solid record of accomplishment.
Since then, he has helped rescue the DuPage County Historical Museum from people who would have shut it down. He has served on the county Chamber of Commerce, the economic development committee, and is the appointed monitor of the redevelopment schemes for land surrounding O’Hare Airport.
It is quite clear that Grant Eckhoff is in the field, working for the county taxpayers. He deserves your support and has earned your vote. For those who really believe he is not visible, I strongly recommend the Wheaton Eye Clinic.
West Chicago might conduct another special census later this year to get a handle on its growing numbers and to reap more funding that is doled out based on population, the mayor said Monday night.
“Certainly we should get our fair share,” said West Chicago Mayor Michael Fortner.
The last special census was held in 2003 to see if the city topped 25,000 people, which would give it “home rule” status and additional taxing and legislative powers.
Fortner, in his annual State of the City address, said business vacancy rates dipped to 8 percent, the lowest level in 10 years. He predicted more growth and businesses along North Avenue and at Tower Station, a retail development off Route 59 and Hawthorne Lane.
He also highlighted the conclusion of two long-running issues within the city.
Last March, the city and other groups agreed on a $74 million clean-up and restoration of the West Branch of the DuPage River and Kress Creek. The five-year U.S. Environmental Protection Agency project marks the final phase of removing radioactive thorium that resulted from the Rare Earths Facility plant in West Chicago starting in the 1930s.
The city also was awarded $2.5 million for reimbursement of legal fees.
Last September, the DuPage Airport reached an agreement with a private firm to develop 800 acres on the city’s west side into the DuPage National Technology Park.
In the 1990s, a railport and NASCAR racetrack were two other uses considered for the land.
“It was a good year for those with patience,” Fortner said.
Monday may have been Fortner’s final State of the City speech.
Fortner is running for the Republican nomination for the 95th House District seat. His opponent on March 21 is Pamela Mitroff of Wheaton.
No Democrat has filed to run in the district, which includes all or portions of Wheaton, Warrenville, West Chicago, Batavia, Geneva, Aurora and North Aurora.
Police tapes handed over in Furstenau battery case - Bill Bird
WHEATON — Tape recordings of Naperville police radio communications from New Year's Day were given Monday to the attorney representing City Councilman Richard R. Furstenau, who faces charges of shoving a city police officer that day.
Attorney Joseph Bugos confirmed he received the tapes during a pretrial hearing Monday in DuPage County Circuit Court.
The tapes are from police radio transmissions broadcast just before and after the start of Naperville's 175th anniversary parade near the city's downtown where the battery is alleged to have occurred.
Furstenau, 61, is a two-term City Council member and Republican Party candidate in this month's 48th District state Senate primary.
He pleaded not guilty Feb. 7 to a charge of misdemeanor battery. He is accused of using the back of one of his hands to strike the police officer in the chest.
Furstenau has denied any wrongdoing in the incident. He said in January the dispute grew out of his asking the officer why cars parked at the curb on Chicago Avenue were being towed at the start of the parade.
Furstenau's trial is set for May 15. A misdemeanor battery conviction is punishable by up to a year in jail and a fine of $1,000.
Hospital charity care bill dead, House GOP leader Cross says - Larry Avila
PLAINFIELD — The ranking Republican in the Illinois House of Representatives says a measure that would force hospitals around the state to provide more charity care is finished.
"I think it's dead and rightly so," House Leader Tom Cross, R-Oswego, said Monday. He was among many area legislators and elected officials who addressed the media in Plainfield supporting Edward Hospital's plan to submit a new application to the state for its proposed Plainfield hospital.
Cross said House Bill 5000, whose biggest proponent is Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, was a poorly drafted bill.
"It's my understanding that it won't go forward," Cross said. "There are no members of my caucus that support it because it will have a negative impact on so many hospitals in Illinois."
A main provision of the legislation mandates that 8 percent of a hospital's total operating expenses represent charity care. Madigan's initial estimates found that hospitals in general spend less than 1 percent of their total operating expenses on charity care annually and that hospitals can afford to spend more given most operate under a tax-exempt status.
Edward Hospital officials have said that if the charity care law were in effect, the hospital would have faced a $7 million deficit in fiscal 2005 because its charity care expenses would have totaled about $22.4 million. Edward had a profit of $15 million in fiscal 2005, money that was reinvested into facility improvements and equipment upgrades.
Edward spent about $3.4 million in charity care during fiscal 2005. Edward also has argued that its and other hospitals' community benefit or many unreimbursed costs are not taken into account in HB 5000.
For example, Edward's community benefit, which includes services provided at Linden Oaks Hospital, in fiscal 2005, totaled about $49.1 million.
Edward officials continue to monitor the bill, said Brian Davis, the hospitals' vice president of marketing.
"We have worked closely with our legislators to explain our position on this bill as have other hospitals across the state," Davis said. "There's strong opposition to it from both sides of the aisle."
Despite the roadblocks, representatives for Madigan remain optimistic.
"We are continuing to negotiate actively with the representatives and hospital industry to keep talks going through this session," said Anne Murphy, senior counsel for Attorney General Lisa Madigan.
Murphy said the hospital industry and state lawmakers seem open to reaching some compromise.
"We have heard from the industry that there are significant amendments for us to consider," she said. "Our sense at this juncture is that the bill will only move forward when the amendments are made."
One amendment would exempt hospitals with Medicaid inpatient utilization rates of 35 percent or greater.
"We are open to continuing talks with the hospital industry and listening to what other amendments may entail," Murphy said.
Danny Chun, spokesman for the Naperville-based Illinois Hospital Association, said while HB 5000 was referred back to the Rules Committee, it doesn't mean the proposal is dead. IHA opposes the legislation because of the financial hardship it would cause the state's hospitals.
"The Speaker of the House could use parliamentary procedures to revive the bill at any time," Chun said. There's a possibility HB 5000 also could be added to another bill under consideration.
"I really can't speculate as to what will happen but we remain adamantly opposed to this bill and it's our hope that if it does come up for a vote that they will vote it down," Chun said.
BELLEVILLE NEWS DEMOCRAT
Topinka's former deputy alleges she told him she wanted document shredded - Anna Johnsonhttp://www.belleville.com/mld/belleville/news/state/14032808.htm
CHICAGO - Republican gubernatorial candidate Judy Baar Topinka's former right-hand man claims in a statement released Monday that Topinka told him to "get rid" of a document relating to a controversial hotel deal more than 10 years ago.
In an affidavit released by one of Topinka's Republican opponents, Jim Oberweis, former deputy treasurer Martin Kovarik said the state treasurer told him in April 1995 to tell a staffer to shred the document listing investors in two hotels owing the state about $40 million.
According to a sworn statement that Kovarik gave last Thursday, Topinka, when told of the document said: "I don't want to see it. I don't want to have anything to do with it. It doesn't exist. I told everybody that it wasn't around. Get rid of it."
Topinka denied Kovarik's allegations, saying he is a disgruntled ex-aide with an ax to grind after he was forced to leave his position as deputy treasurer in 1995 because he owed more than $50,000 to the IRS.
"We told him to pay his taxes. He did not," Topinka said. "We could not have someone who did not pay their taxes in a money office. He unfortunately has turned into a very sad, pathetic character and is playing right in Mr. Oberweis' hands."
"This is just more gutter politics on Mr. Oberweis' part," she said.
Oberweis said Kovarik, who is now retired and lives in Kenosha, Wis., contacted his campaign last week after seeing news reports about Oberweis' latest television advertisement attacking Topinka.
"It's very clear that she has been a part of this culture in Springfield, a part of the whole culture of corruption that has been pervasive in this state," Oberweis said of Topinka.
Oberweis said he has never met Kovarik and his campaign did not compensate him in return for the sworn statement other than to pay the court reporter.
Telephone messages left with Kovarik by The Associated Press on Monday were not immediately returned.
The documents listing hotel investors became an issue during a controversy involving Topinka's plan to settle $40 million in hotel loans for about $10 million. Topinka said the state could not collect on the full amount of the loans because the hotels have continued to decline in value.
Then-Attorney General Jim Ryan eventually blocked the settlement, saying it was a bad deal for the state.
One of Topinka's former spokesmen, Jim Howard, abruptly resigned in May 1995, claiming Kovarik ordered him to shred the document. The document was never shredded, and Topinka later released it.
Kovarik had denied the allegation and remained Topinka's deputy treasurer until revelations about the federal taxes he owed forced him to resign.
In the affidavit, Kovarik alleged it was Topinka who told him to tell Howard to shred the documents.
Kovarik, who also worked as Topinka's chief of staff when she was a state senator, also claimed Topinka encouraged staffers to do campaign work on state time and accepted donations from a former state worker convicted of taking bribes for truck driver licenses.
Kovarik said George Velasco, who pleaded guilty in 1999 to accepting bribe money for the licenses, brought several hundred dollars worth of campaign donations to Topinka's office during her first campaign for state treasurer.
Topinka said she does not have any records showing she received campaign money from Velasco.
Meanwhile, another Republican gubernatorial candidate called on his opponents to clear the air by debating the ethical issues that have been raised by the campaigns.
"The innuendoes, half-truths and barbs back and forth through negative advertising have created an atmosphere which has reduced this campaign to childish whining," state Sen. Bill Brady of Bloomington said at a news conference in Chicago.
In the Democratic primary, challenger Edwin Eisendrath reported a $500,000 donation from his mother, Susan Manilow of Chicago. The money could be used to mount a late advertising campaign against incumbent Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
FAMILY TAXPAYERS NETWORK
Sandy Wegman vies for best ad of season - John Biver
Very few political ads stand out every election cycle - and I think I may have just heard my favorite for the 2006 primary. It's a Sandy Wegman for Lt. Governor radio ad - and you've got to hear it for yourself.
It compares the two women who are in contested primaries on the statewide ballot - but they're running for two different offices! Sandy takes on Judy Topinka, and by extension, her "running mate" Joe Birkett.
Sandy Wegman is running independent of any gubernatorial candidate - and the clear message of the ad is to say no to the Topinka/Birkett ticket.
Sandy needs your financial support to help get the word out that she's the conservative in the Republican Party primary for Lt. Governor. Click here to learn more and to contribute to her campaign: www.sandywegman.com.
Click here to listen to the radio ad: Sandy Wegman v. Judy Topinka.
she ordered the shredding of a key document involving two hotels which spurred considerable controversy to be shredded, and that
her closeness to then secretary of state George Ryan led to a state worker delivering checks to her campaign from the infamous McCook drivers’ license facility where commercial drivers licenses were purportedly received from bribes; also that
employees of her state Senate office worked on her first Treasurercampaign and were paid by the state with her acquiescence, a fact that could be prosecutable if further verified.
"By now you've now doubt heard that Marty R. Kovarik, Topinka's former 2nd in command has come forward to unequivocally verify all of the claims made in our ads. From 1989 until 1995, Mr. Kovarik was the Chief of Staff for State Senator Judy Baar Topinka. Mr. Kovarik also served as Ms. Topinka's Deputy Treasurer from inauguration in January 1995 until Mr. Kovarik's retirement in December 1995. Mr. Kovarik ran Ms. Topinka's senate office, ran her senate campaign, traveled the state of Illinois with her as her campaign manager in the 1994 Treasurer's race, and ran her Treasurer's office and its nightly investments. Only Ms. Topinka's current confidant Nancy Kimme can be said to have a relationship nearly as close as that between Mr. Kovarik and Ms. Topinka.
Last week, after a Chicago newspaper cast doubt on the content of our Take a Closer Look at Judy Baar Topinka ads, a Chicago newscast produced a segment during which Ms. Topinks said of the ads, "This is just fraudulent. It is deceiving to the public."
In his retirement in Kenosha, Wisconsin, Mr. Kovarik saw both the news story and the advertisements. Upon seeing the news story, and in an unsolicited manner, Mr. Kovarik then contacted my campaign, and told us that my ads were 100% accurate, and that his conscience would not allow him to let Ms. Topinka's misrepresentations and attacks continue without exposing the truth. Never having known Mr. Kovarik, I applaud his willingness to come forward. Mr. Kovarik has given a sworn statement, and has provided details which corroborate the factual content of my ads."
Gidwitz Releases New Ad New spot highlights Gidwitz's endorsement by the Chicago Tribune
http://www.ron2006.com/Republican Gubernatorial Candidate Ron Gidwitz today began airing a new ad that showcases his recent endorsement by the Chicago Tribune.The Chicago Tribune endorsed Gidwitz in the Republican gubernatorial primary saying he is the "Republican best equipped" to end the "cronyism" and "self-dealing" in Springfield. "Given the need to free Illinois from the culture of political sleaze, the Republicans need a can-do candidate with the fearlessness to be a will-do governor. That's Gidwitz," says the endorsement. "I am honored to have received the endorsement of the Chicago Tribune. This endorsement reaffirms what my candidacy is all about: restoring the voters' trust back into our state government so that we can move forward on the important issues like education reform and job creation."With two weeks to go, voters are beginning to tune in to this primary campaign in search of a candidate who can and will make a difference in Springfield," Gidwitz added. "That candidate is me. I have the political independence and the vision that is needed to reform state government, improve our education system and attract good-paying jobs back to Illinois."The 30-second spot will run in broadcast and cable television markets statewide. The ad was created by nationally renowned media consultant Chris Mottola whose clients include New York Governor George Pataki, Senators Connie Mack (FL), Conrad Burns (MT), Arlen Specter (PA) and the President's 2004 re-election campaign.The ad can be viewed at http://easylink.playstream.com/urqmedia/rg.endorsement.wvx
DEKALB DAILY CHRONICLE
Before a group of less than 10 people that included Mayor Bob Seyller and state Sen. Brad Burzynski, R-Clare, he spoke about the importance of being from Bloomington and representing the state from Springfield, not from Chicago - a common criticism of governor and Chicago resident Rod Blagojevich.
Topics of interest to Cortland community members included property tax relief and education funding.
Brady said some form of property tax relief was necessary in Illinois. According to Brady, without property tax relief “the Illinois economy is going to continue to spiral downward.”
Brady said that in general, he supports local control of schools. Regarding school vouchers, Brady said, “I'm not an advocate.” He later added, “In some cases vouchers may be a solution.”
After the meeting, Brady stressed “there's more to Illinois than Chicago.
“I believe we need a governor like Jim Edgar, who can give Chicago its due but represent the interests of downstate Illinois,” he said, “and I'm the only (candidate) who lives outside the Chicagoland area.”
Brady went on to stress his experience in government and business and his conservative record.
“I'm the only candidate who's consistently been pro-life, consistently supports the second amendment, consistently against tax increases. I think these are fundamental issues that affect Illinois families and businesses,” he said.
He then stated his plan to provide property tax relief and repeal the sales tax on gasoline.
Brady is one of five vying for the GOP nod in the March 21 primary election.
Peter Fitzgerald to Campaign for David McSweeney on March 8th Will be available for the media at 4:30pm at a Palatine event for McSweeney
Barrington Township: David McSweeney, candidate for Congress in Illinois' 8th Congressional District, will be joined on the campaign trail by former US Senator Peter Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald will be the headliner at a fundraising event in the early afternoon and then a "meet and greet" in Palatine on Wednesday March 8th.Fitzgerald endorsed McSweeney early on in the campaign:"Dave is an outstanding candidate who I believe would do a superior job representing our northwest suburban community in Washington DC", said Senator Fitzgerald. "David McSweeney is a pro-family fiscal conservative with a strong business background", continued Fitzgerald."Dave is energetic, bright, and hard-working. For the decade or more that I have known him, he has always exhibited high moral and ethical standards. In my judgment, he has the character and temperament to represent us with distinction in Washington", said Fitzgerald. (From September 12, 2005 McSweeney Press Release)Senator Fitzgerald and David McSweeney will be available to the media at 4:30pm on March 8th at:Cotillion Banquets(847) 934-5500360 S Creekside DrPalatine, IL 60074David McSweeney resides in Barrington Township within the 8th Congressional District with his wife Margaret and their two daughters.
McNeil endorsed by Concerned Women for America of Illinois LAC Kosel attacks pro-lifers as “extremist”
FRANKFORT – Chris McNeil, candidate for 81st District state representative, is pleased to announce he has received the endorsement of Concerned Women for America of Illinois’ Legislative Action Committee.“Mr. McNeil is a strong pro-life, pro-family candidate who will preserve and promote traditional family values, and we share his vision for real reform in Illinois,” stated CWALAC in its press release.CWA of Illinois is the state affiliate of the nation’s largest public policy women's organization. CWA is a unique blend of policy experts and an activist network of people. It has a 25-year history of helping members across the country bring Biblical principles into all levels of public policy.“We are confident Mr. McNeil will fight effectively against efforts to undermine Illinois families in important arenas such as education, parental rights, pornography, abortion, bioethics, taxes, and attempts to redefine the family,” stated CWALAC in its press release.CWALAC marks the third Illinois pro-family group to endorse McNeil’s candidacy for state representative of the 81st District, joining Family-PAC and the Illinois Federation for the Right to Life. In response to McNeil’s gathering support, Kosel disparaged such groups by saying in the Frankfort Station newspaper, “…he’s supported by the extremist, pro-life lobbying groups” (Frankfort Station, 3/01/06). In the same article, Kosel continued by re-iterating that “I’m not pro-life or pro-choice enough for either lobby.”“Which of these fine groups does Kosel consider 'extremist’” asked McNeil in response. “I have always been told that Kosel’s real position on abortion would come out sooner or later, but I never imagined she would paint pro-lifers as extremists. These are long established and well respected groups that simply want to protect innocent life. The protection of innocent life is never extreme, it is what’s right,” McNeil concluded.
NEW YORK TIMES
VERY SAD: Conservative Jews to Consider Ending a Ban on Same-Sex Unions and Gay Rabbis - Laurie Goodstein
In a closed-door meeting this week in an undisclosed site near Baltimore, a committee of Jewish legal experts who set policy for Conservative Judaism will consider whether to lift their movement's ban on gay rabbis and same-sex unions.
In 1992, this same group, the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards, declared that Jewish law clearly prohibited commitment ceremonies for same-sex couples and the admission of openly gay people to rabbinical or cantorial schools. The vote was 19 to 3, with one abstention.
Since then, Conservative Jewish leaders say, they have watched as relatives, congregation members and even fellow rabbis publicly revealed their homosexuality. Students at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York City, the movement's flagship, began wearing buttons saying "Ordination Regardless of Orientation." Rabbis performed same-sex commitment ceremonies despite the ban.
The direction taken by Conservative Jews, who occupy the centrist position in Judaism between the more liberal Reform and the more strict Orthodox, will be closely watched at a time when many Christian denominations are torn over the same issue. Conservative Judaism claims to distinguish itself by adhering to Jewish law and tradition, or halacha, while bending to accommodate modern conditions.
"This is a very difficult moment for the movement," said Rabbi Joel H. Meyers, a nonvoting member of the law committee and executive vice president of the Rabbinical Assembly, which represents the movement's 1,600 rabbis worldwide.
"There are those who are saying, don't change the halacha because the paradigm model of the heterosexual family has to be maintained," said Rabbi Meyers, a stance he said he shared. "On the other hand is a group within the movement who say, look, we will lose thoughtful younger people if we don't make this change, and the movement will look stodgy and behind the times."
Several members of the law committee said in interviews that while anything could happen at their meetings on Tuesday and Wednesday, there were more than enough votes to pass a legal opinion (a teshuvah in Hebrew) that would support opening the door to gay clergy members and same-sex unions. The law committee has 25 members, but only six votes are required to validate a legal opinion.
Committee members who oppose a change may try to argue that the decision is so momentous that it falls into a different category and requires many more than six votes to pass, even as many as 20, the members said. Other members may argue that no vote should be taken because the committee and the movement are too divided.
The committee may even adopt conflicting opinions, a move that some members say would simply acknowledge the diversity in Conservative Judaism. The committee's decisions are not binding on rabbis but do set direction for the movement.
"I don't think it is either feasible or desirable for a movement like ours to have one approach to Jewish law," said Rabbi Gordon Tucker of Temple Israel Center, in White Plains, a committee member who has collaborated with three others on a legal opinion advocating lifting the prohibition on homosexuality.
Even if the five Conservative rabbinical schools — in New York, Los Angeles, Jerusalem, Buenos Aires and Budapest — adopted different approaches, Rabbi Tucker said, "I don't think that would necessarily do violence to the movement."
The Conservative movement was long the dominant one in American Judaism, but from 1990 to 2000 its share of the nation's Jews shrank to 33 percent from 43 percent, according to the National Jewish Population Survey. In that same period, the Reform movement's share jumped to 39 percent, from 35, making it the largest, while Orthodox grew to 21 percent, from 16 percent. Estimates are difficult, but there are five to six million Jews in the United States.
Jonathan D. Sarna, a professor of American Jewish history at Brandeis University and author of "American Judaism: A History," said, "In the 1950's when Americans believed everybody should be in the middle, the Conservative movement was deeply in sync with a culture that privileged the center. What happens as American society divides on a liberal-conservative axis is that the middle is a very difficult place to be."
Rabbi Meyers, vice president of the Rabbinical Assembly, said he worried that any decision on homosexuality could cause Conservative Jews to migrate to either Reform, which accepts homosexuality, or Orthodoxy, which condemns it. But Dr. Sarna said some studies suggested that many Jews who were more traditional began abandoning the Conservative movement more than 20 years ago, when it began ordaining women.
Few congregants are as preoccupied about homosexuality as are their leaders, said Rabbi Burton L. Visotzky, a professor of Talmud and interreligious studies at the Jewish Theological Seminary, who spends weekends at synagogues around the country as a visiting scholar.
"There are so many laws in the Torah about sexual behavior that we choose to ignore, so when we zero in on this one, I have to wonder what's really behind it," Rabbi Visotzky said.
The ban on homosexuality is based on Leviticus 18:22, which says, "Do not lie with a male as one lies with a woman; it is an abomination," and a similar verse in Leviticus 20:13.
The law committee now has four legal opinions on the table. Although the reasoning in each is different and complex, two opinions essentially oppose any change to the current law disapproving of homosexuality, and one advocates overturning the law.
A fourth, authored by Rabbi Elliot N. Dorff, rector and a professor of philosophy at the University of Judaism in Los Angeles, argues that the passages in Leviticus refer only to a prohibition on anal sex and that homosexual relationships, rabbis and marriage ceremonies are permissible.
"What we're really trying to do is to maintain the authority of halacha, but also enable gays and lesbians to have a love life sanctioned by Jewish law and guided by Jewish law," said Rabbi Dorff, vice chairman of the law committee.
A change in the ban on homosexuality has been staunchly opposed by the longtime chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary, Rabbi Ismar Schorsch. But Rabbi Schorsch is retiring in June after 20 years, and his successor could greatly affect the policy. Rabbi Schorsch declined to be interviewed for this article. Several Conservative officials said that while Rabbi Schorsch is not a member of the law committee, he is very involved in its deliberations on this issue.
If the law committee does not vote to change the prohibition, some rabbis said, the issue could resurface at the Rabbinical Assembly's convention March 19-23 in Mexico City.
Many students at the seminary say they find the gay ban offensive and would welcome a change, said Daniel Klein, a rabbinical student who helps lead Keshet, a gay rights group on campus. "It's part of the tradition to change, so we're entirely within tradition," he said. Mr. Klein said that even if the law committee did not lift the ban this week, change would come eventually.
"Imagine what will happen 10 years from now when some of my colleagues are on the law committee, when people from my generation are on the law committee," he said. "It's not going to be a close vote."
VERY SAD: Homosexuals Coming Out for Mardi Gras, to the Delight of Australia - Jane Perlez
SYDNEY, March 5 — Tom Sellers busily adjusted white cowboy chaps over the underwear of dozens of gay men, handed out sequin-trimmed pink and blue cowboy hats and tied glittery bandannas to best effect around everyone's necks.
As dusk fell, Mr. Sellers and his group, inspired by "Brokeback Mountain," were geared up (or, in some cases, geared down in bare buttocks) to take their place in Australia's venerable Mardi Gras gay pride parade, which cavorted through crowd-lined streets here Saturday night.
This is a macho country, where sports and beer are king and where people who are different from the basic Anglo-Saxon stock can sometimes suffer, but gay pride is nothing new here.
This was the 28th incarnation of a Mardi Gras event that has grown from an angry protest march that ended in arrests for some of the participants to a full commercial venture with floats sponsored by businesses, political parties, churches, fire brigades and, yes, even the police.
Many of the 300,000 spectators were dressed in fancy costume and vamped to the parade music that marked the trail to a full-blast dance party. The party, which lasted until 10 a.m. on Sunday, featured six disc jockeys and spread over three sites at Fox Studios, owned by the Australian-born media magnate Rupert Murdoch.
But this year the festivities took place against the backdrop of the 10th anniversary of the election of Australia's conservative, and conformist, prime minister, John Howard, who is now one of the nation's longest-running leaders.
Just days before Mardi Gras, Mr. Howard, 66, who prides himself on being a "suburban solicitor," and has made ordinariness a social virtue, was celebrated on the front pages of the newspapers. He was described as a peerless prime minister who has led an unparalleled economic boom and who has done little wrong.
In contrast to Saturday night's raucous street party, well-to-do supporters of Mr. Howard celebrated his anniversary last Wednesday in a staid Sydney hotel, and at Mr. Howard's orders drank only inexpensive bubbly white wine and did not dance.
At the parade, partygoers said they regarded Mr. Howard as the outsider.
"He doesn't show any appreciation of our lifestyle," said Daniel Osborne, 29, a financial controller, as he stood bare-chested waiting for the parade to start with white chaps on his legs and a cowboy hat shading his face.
Mr. Howard is one of the few Australian politicians who has declined to send a greeting of good wishes to Mardi Gras. His predecessor, the leader of the Labor Party, Paul Keating, was not a friend of gays either, once remarking that "two blokes and a spaniel never make a family." But veterans of the parade noted that Mr. Keating stood by political form and dispatched his best wishes to Mardi Gras.
Mr. Howard has stood firm in opposition to same-sex marriage. In fact, Australia's marriage law was recently changed to the disadvantage of gays, said David Marr, a prominent Australian author and journalist at the forefront of the gay movement.
The previously gender-neutral law was rewritten to state that marriage is a union between a man and a woman, he said.
But for several reasons, earlier vitriol among gay Australians against the Howard government has subsided, said Mr. Marr, the author of a well-received biography of Patrick White, the Australian literary Nobel Prize winner and self-described homosexual.
Even as Mr. Howard adopted as an election slogan "for all of us," a motto that political commentators said subliminally telegraphed to Australian ears that true Australians were heterosexual and white, homosexuals increasingly felt part of the larger society, Mr. Marr said.
"The gay community feels more and more 'us,' " he said. "A sense of a defiant minority is giving way to a sense of being part of the real community. The sexual apartheid is completely breaking down." It is a similar phenomenon to that in the United States, where gay leaders have recognized that the gay movement is joining the mainstream, he said.
This was evident among the 40 uniformed police officers who marched on Saturday night to the tune of Aretha Franklin's "Respect," belted out by Special Constable Letitia Davy from the back of a police truck. Inspector Jo Reed, 35, a lesbian, led the contingent.
"We're here to show the total change from where we were nearly 30 years ago when homosexuality was an offense," said Inspector Reed, in a crisp pale blue and dark blue uniform, a red name badge affixed to her chest, and a peaked cap over her red hair. At the first march in 1978, 53 people were arrested.
Inspector Reed said she joined the police force 11 years ago. "I'm a gay liaison officer," she said, explaining that she was one of a number of police officers in Sydney whose special task was to assist gay people in trouble, and to deal with gays who preferred to talk to a gay officer.
A lesbian couple, Tracy Lambert, 42, and Jackie Mills, 48, brought along 6-year-old Tully, Ms. Lambert's son.
Explaining Mr. Howard's popularity, Ms. Lambert said that most Australians were delighted with the buoyant economy under Mr. Howard, and cared little about gay issues. "The gay community doesn't have enough influence to make a legislative difference," she said.
But on Saturday night, the couple said they were on the streets for the party, not politics. Were they planning to attend the all-night splash at the Fox Studios?
"We're parents," said Ms. Lambert, with a nod to Tully. "We're going home."
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