Mystery Pardon

There’s been a dearth of information about the one Illinoisan on the list of 14 that President Bush pardoned a couple weeks ago: Richard Micheal Culpepper.

Who?

Richard Micheal Culpepper. Of downstate Mahomet.

Seeing as how the 2000 census put Mahomet’s population at 4,877, a lot of folks down there probably know Culpepper. But I’ve come up pretty much empty.

What we do know is that Culpepper was sentenced on Jan. 15, 1988 to five years’ probation for making false statements to the government. He was also ordered to pay a $1,000 fine and $4,351.90 in restitution.

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Kirk Steps Up; Who’s Next?

“Rejecting an idea endorsed by two top Democrats, Republican North Shore Rep. Mark Kirk sent a letter to the White House today asking President George Bush not to commute the federal corruption sentence of former Republican Gov. George Ryan,” the Tribune (and others) reports.

“The letter’s terse subject matter refers to the former governor, incarcerated at the federal correctional facility in Terre Haute, Ind., as Federal Inmate Number 16627-424.”

“George Ryan betrayed the public trust, was convicted beyond the shadow of a doubt by a jury of his peers and lost all of his appeals. His crimes struck at the fabric of our democracy and invited a new wave of public corruption in Illinois,” Kirk wrote.

Will the rest of the delegation weigh in? Obama?

The Devils in Durbin’s Details

A collection of noteworthy points, details and arguments from the Durbin-Ryan-commutation imbroglio that I haven’t yet had a chance to point out.

* “If Ryan is released early, he will have spent less time in prison than two friends convicted in the case – Ryan’s aide, Scott Fawell, who did the dirty work, and businessman Lawrence Warner, who profited from the dirty deals,” the Sun-Times notes in an editorial today.

* “Let’s also look at one of the main assertions on Ryan’s behalf, that he’s been punished enough in part because his government pension has already been taken away,” Mark Brown writes today.

“What they fail to mention is that he had already collected about $800,000 from his ridiculous $197,000-a-year pension before he was sent off to prison. How many of you can expect to collect $800,000 from a pension in your entire lifetime? Not many. It’s not our fault if he spent it all.”

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10 Questions for Dick Durbin

UPDATE DEC. 2: Some of these questions have now been asked and – sort of – answered. Let’s take a look (from various news sources).

*

Well, Durbin did it.

1. Why not just wait for Barack Obama to become president and ask for him to commute George Ryan’s sentence? You certainly have more influence with Obama than George W. Bush. And Obama certainly is more familiar with Ryan’s case.

“Durbin said he did not ‘think it would be appropriate’ to wait to ask President-elect and fellow Illinois Democrat Barack Obama to issue a commutation when he takes office since clemency actions normally come during the final days of an outgoing presidency.

Define “appropriate.” And, actually, presidents act on pardons and clemency requests throughout their terms; there is usually a flurry at the end of a term because it’s the last chance they get to exercise their power. And wouldn’t it be more appropriate if the new president from Illinois acted on this case? And will someone ask where Obama stands on this?

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My Darling Clemency

In conjunction with stating on Thursday that George Ryan should be set free, Gov. Rod Blagojevich is expected to announce the following this week:

* He will not only keep Death Row empty, but clear out Simple Felony and Misdemeanor Row too.

* He is planning to enter the priesthood sometime between the end of his term as governor and the day of his coming federal indictment. He has also taken on a second job at a soup kitchen and a third job as a paralegal at Winston & Strawn.

* He will accept an ambassadorship from Barack Obama, but swears it is not because it will give him diplomatic immunity.

* Yes, he knows what irony means.

* Patti made him do it.

Meanwhile, Jim Thompson insists that Ryan feels remorse.

A) He’s just been too shy to say so publicly.
B) He’s damn sorry he ever trusted Scott Fawell.
C) He’s sorry he shanked that guy in Unit C and he’ll apologize for anything to get out before the ladies trap him in the shower.

Todd’s Folly

“Budget day is like Groundhog Day in Cook County,” Commissioner Mike Quigley says. “Every day is the same day over and over again.”

No kidding. I’m not sure how guys like Quigley and Claypool can take it; I mean, if we’re frustrated, imagine what it must be like in the trenches.

Just for starters, copies of the budget weren’t available because some of the figures were inaccurate. Again. Printer’s error. Supposedly.

“Every year, President Stroger issues his budget, and it’s a mess,” Claypool said. “It’s full of errors. It’s incomplete.”

And it’s a budget that calls for borrowing to pay the bills. Hey, the Sun-Times asks, what happened to all that new sales tax money? “What we were going to do with the surplus was to put it in a reserve fund, which is sound financial practice and that’s what rating agencies really want to see, that we have a rainy day fund.”

Hasn’t it been raining in Cook County for years?

Even the good news doesn’t turn out to be ture.

“Right now, I don’t believe we have the votes,” said John Daley, chairman of the finance committee. (And by “we,” he meant “we.”)

Not true, according to the Daily Herald.

“[W]hile Stroger allies have said repeatedly they don’t have the votes to pass the borrowing, a survey of commissioners Tuesday by the Daily Herald reveals that, in fact, they likely have the bare minimum of nine votes to pass it, but want other commissioners to join them so they are not forced to take the heat alone,” Rob Olmstead reports.

Memo to John Daley: Pull your pal Todd aside and teach him a lesson from your brother. The best way to get cooperation from your legislative body is to co-opt them first, then bully them.

Adopt the Quigley/Claypool reforms. It will only make you stronger.

Luis’s Folly

So Luis Gutierrez’s pitch to Rod Blagojevich to replace Barack Obama in the Senate was that he only wanted to serve as a place-holder for the next two years in order to work on immigration reform. Then he’d be out.

Um . . . huh?

Let’s do some good ol’ fashion speculatin’.

1. Face value is reality. Nah.

2. Face value is partially reality. Gutierrez wants two years in the Senate not only to work on immigration reform, but to raise his profile for his next move: mayor, governor, who knows.

3. Gutierrez thinks his wife will be able to make even more lucrative real estate deals on the side if he’s a senator instead of just a rep.

4. Gutierrez mistakenly believes that Obama’s Hyde Park mansion comes with the seat.

5. Gutierrez mistakenly believed that Blagojevich preferred a place-holder; his real intention was to run for re-election to the Senate in 2010 because the people would demand it.

Dick’s Folly

Has Dick Durbin lost his mind?

It’s hard to think of any other explanation for the news today that he is considering asking President George W. Bush to commute George Ryan’s sentence.

“Let’s look at the price he’s paid,” Durbin told reporters.

Um, Dick, let’s look at the price we’ve paid.

“His family name has been damaged.”

Oh waah!

“He is at an advanced moment in his life and been removed from his family.”

On a soft, six-and-a-half-year sentence imposed by a federal judge. All appeals denied.

“He has lost his economic security.”

He doled out taxpayer money to his cronies in a series of dirty deals.

“The question is whether continued imprisonment is appropriate at this point.”

The question, Senator Durbin, is why you aren’t giving your personal consideration to those among the thousands of Illinois prisoners who aren’t actually guilty, or who deserve a measure of this nation’s compassion. Or even those who are guilty but are remorseful for what they’ve done – which Ryan still isn’t.

This is a neat game you are playing, senator. You can hardly decide against asking Bush to set Ryan free now, can you? But even if you decide against it, you have signaled to the president that you’ll give him cover. The U.S. Senate’s second-highest ranking Democrat thinks it’s okay.

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Having a Ball

“Barack Obama tried to keep corporate lobbyists out of his campaign, but when it comes to his home state’s Inaugural Gala, everything is for sale, and the corporate sponsorship list reads like a Who’s Who of Chicago big business,” Politico reports.

“Stroke a $55,000 check, as utility giant Exelon Corp. has, and you’ve purchases sponsorship of the ‘City of Chicago Ballroom.’ American Airlines has dropped $40,000 for exclusive sponsorship of a cocktail reception that may include members of Congress. And $20,000 merely gets your company name over the coat check booth.”

That’s right – you can even sponsor the coat check. That’s almost worth it just to tell the story about how you, um, sponsored the coat check.

Now, if you can only scrape together $10,000, you can get your name on a dessert.

Which is only about a third as crazy as Monsanto spending $30,000 to build a mock-up of the Steppenwolf right there, apparently, in the ballroom.

Monsanto, of course, is the recipient of generous tax subsidies, so they can afford it. Their executives will probably even fly in on private jets.

Hey, it’s a ball. That’s what corporate royalty does.

Cullerton and Rosty

ArchPundit (Larry Handlin) has challenged my characterization of new state senate president John Cullerton’s 1994 congressional campaign against incumbent Dan Rostenkowski and reformer Dick Simpson – which I drew from press accounts including the New York Times article I excerpted and linked to – as tinfoil hat territory.

I went back and looked at the coverage in real time and it’s clear that Cullerton wasn’t necessarily a traditional stalking horse with no intention of winning office himself and acting only as a spoiler to the challenger, but that he was a stalking horse of a sort in that his objective was to prevent Simpson from winning Rostenkowski’s seat and taking it from the Machine. It didn’t matter much to Cullerton whether he won as the backup or Rostenkowski retained the seat.

The coverage shows that Cullerton, like many others, considered running for Rostenkowski’s seat in 1994 because Rostenkowski was vulnerable. Simpson had won 43 percent of the vote in his losing challenge two years prior, and Rostenkowski had since fallen under the cloud of corruption that eventually sent him to prison. It wasn’t even clear for awhile that Rostenkowski would run for re-election that year.

Cullerton got ready just in case, saying at first that he would only run if Rostenkowski didn’t. Then, reading the polls and discussing the race with party leaders, Cullerton entered the campaign anyway to give the Machine a fail-safe option. Cullerton spent most of the campaign, the reporting shows, attacking Simpson, not Rostenkowski.

Of course, the whole thing backfired when Rostenkowski won the primary but was dispatched in the general election by neophyte Republican Michael Flanagan. Still, that was a better result for the Machine than a Simpson victory. Two years later, Ald. Dick Mell engineered the takeover of the seat by his son-in-law, Rod Blagojevich. Order was restored.

Here are the relevant excerpts from the papers.

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