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June 22, 2006

Off to Whitefish

Am catching a plane pretty soon for my annual trip to Whitefish, Mont., where, once again, I'll spend a week engaged in some extremely intensive porch-sittin' and mountain-watchin'.

Will interrupt myself occasionally to check comments, but not ever 10 minutes or anything. May post, or not.

Posted by jcb at 04:27 PM | Comments (5)

June 20, 2006

36th District stuff ...

The long discussion on Phil Hare's Game has morphed into a 36th Senate District thing. It's seriously off-topic there; worth it's own string though.

Here's the discussion to date:

Anonymous: What is with the two top Republican candidates for the Congress and the State Senate seat both are unemployed. Is this standerd practice for the Republican party around here.

James Beals: Mr. Beydler,

I would like to inform one of your anonymous followers who made a post on June 16th at 1:18PM that I am gainfully employed and enjoy my work. I have never received unemployment benefits. Sincerely, James M. Beals, State Senate Candidate, 36th District.

Dogboy Where do you work Mr. Beals?

Anonymous: Mr. Beals where is it that you are employed. The Secret Service I suppose. It seems as if there is conflicting info of you working or not. For you not to name your employer while a candidate for Senate is troubling. Please respond. We deserve to know

Dogboy: ... tell us what you actually do for a living? Simply, where do you work? Are you ashamed? Are you an exotic dancer or something? This is reedickulous.

Dogboy James Beals,

Why won't you tell us where you work? Are you a professional dancer or something? Do you work for the CIA? Come on James the public deserves to know what you do for a living? And while you are at it Mr. Beals, tell us why you lost your job at GE, Deere and the Arsenal. Please do tell!

James Beals: Mr. Beydler,

I had a good meeting today with the local Editorial Board. I provided information on my current employer, work history, and position on various political issues. I look forward to their publication.

James M. Beals, State Senate Candidate, 36th District

P.S. DOGboy, you have quite a sense of humor.

Dogboy: Beals, or no Beals?

Telling media elite what you do for a living is one thing, but don't the voters deserve to know what our next state Senator does for a living? Well? Don't we?

Do tell James!

jcb Dogboy -- down a little; Beals emailed me the stuff he gave the edit board. Don't ask me why he didn't just post it along with the above. Maybe he doesn't know how to cut and paste.

Anyway, haven't had a chance to deal with that, but will find time later tonite, (unless Beals figures out how to cut and paste in the meantime, and takes care of it.)

Off to play chess now ...

James Beals:

Mr. Beydler, I look forward to playing you in a game of chess. I would like to see Mike Jacobs posting on your website. I look forward to Judy Barr Topinka being our next Governor.

All, FYI - I work for Kress Corporation and have enjoyed all of my previous work experiences.

DOGboy - The only job you could say I "lost" was when the GE union plant closed I was working for and all of the jobs went to Mexico. By the way, I am pro-labor. I transferred to the GE Corporate Headquarters in Fairfield, CT.

Below are some Q/A items I provided to the D/A.

Why are you running for the Senate?
My job at the Rock Island Arsenal fell under the BRAC realignment and was destined to relocate to Detroit, Michigan in the next few years. In addition, I did not feel that our district received our fair share of state funding and could have better representation. I left my job and collected over 1,000 signatures to be placed on the ballot in the Primary Election. I offer the voters a viable option as their voice in Springfield.

What are your qualifications?
I am an Eagle Scout, West Point Graduate, and Army Veteran with over 14 years of business experience. I have been involved in politics as a precinct committeeman and committee treasurer. My education, values, and work experiences translate into an effective leader who also happens to be, one of us.

What do you consider the critical issues of the 36th District?
Our district is job starved, lacks economic development, and is not receiving our fair share in State funding as proven by funds not received to pay for the expansion of Western Illinois University and operating costs of Black Hawk College. The level of constituent service also does not even come close to that offered by Congressman Evans office on a daily basis.

Republican do not often win in Rock Island County, what will you do differently?
I look at myself as a candidate who is to willing listen and work with both sides of the aisle. I was raised by a conservative Democratic family and am running as a Republican. There are good ideas brought forward by both parties and I would proudly co-sponsor a good idea, regardless of the source.

What are your views on education funding?
Funding education, at all levels, is the best investment our state can make. Our children will be the future leaders of our society and they must be well educated. We must also ensure that we recruit and retain the best teachers in the country that are held accountable to high standards and well compensated.

Would you vote for the Governors plan to sell the lottery to get money for education?
No, this is a very bad plan brought forward by the Governors inability to be fiscally responsible with our taxpayers dollars. The plan is short sighted and will result in a long term economic loss for the State of Illinois. There are better ways to fund our education programs.

What would you do to bring more jobs into the area?
I would work with city councils, county boards, and various agencies that promote economic development and plan for the best long term investments in our area. I would help facilitate the process to construct new buildings while giving credit to everyone involved. Our current administration has run jobs out of Illinois and limited business growth by increasing annual operating expenses.

How would you compare the business climate between Illinois and Iowa?
You can look across the river and see the rapid growth of the Iowa Quad Cities due to the beneficial business climate, lower property taxes, and the government�s leadership in working with the business community. If we diverted some financial benefits from Chicago to the Illinois Quad Cities and worked together as a team, there would be a tremendous growth spurt.

The Governor has borrowed a lot of money. What is you view on the state financial condition?
The General Assembly passed a $59 billion dollar state budget without the support of a single Republican. If he had a good plan, then there would have been unanimous support. We are going down a path of borrowing funds without a plan to immediately repay them. In laymans terms, I certainly would not want my parents to take out a VERY long term loan that held me and my future children accountable to pay off.

James M. Beals, State Senate Candidate, 36th District.

Posted by jcb at 10:16 PM | Comments (127)

June 19, 2006

Down with the Bix at Six

This letter to the QCT pretty much captures my objections to the Bix at Six.

A good chunk of town, that inside an area bounded by Brady on the west, Kirkwood Boulevard on the North and McCelland Boulevard on the east, is rendered damn near inaccessible by the practice runs each Thursday for weeks and weeks and weeks before the actual race.

Those of us who live within that area get to drive way out of our way, or sit forever waiting for a break in the runners clogging the streets as we try to get home, or to go somewhere.

The Bix is a great event; got no quarrel with it, and I'm glad to deal with the inconveniences on race day. But these practice runs are insane. A great big bzzzzzzz to them and the city fathers who think its OK to inconvenience 1000s of residents week after week.

Posted by jcb at 09:42 PM | Comments (4)

Everyone loves Hillary

Poking around in the money reports ...

If the bucks are all that counts in elections these days, learn how to say "President Clinton" again.

Spent some time exploring on opensecrets.org, one of those Web sites that stuffs all the campaign finance reports into a database and reports in about whatever fashion you want to look at it. Among the 50 industries providing the most money in the current election cycle, Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., was the most favored candidate of 13, from lawyers/law firms at the top to civil servants at the bottom. Five of the industry groups that gave to so generously to her generally prefer Republicans.

All top 50 industries do support both parties, of course. Political ideology doesn't mean much to them.

The oil and gas crowd leans most heavily Republican; 83 percent of their $4.8 mill has gone to the GOP. Top individual recipient is, surprise, Texas Sen. Kay Hutchinson.

Leaning most heavily Democrat are the industrial unions; 97 percent of their $4.1 mil has gone to Democrats. Top individual recipient is West Virginia's Robert Byrd. (Sen. Byrd, incidentally, is now the Senate's longest serving member ever. The 88-year-old, now in his 48th year, last weekend passed former senator Strom Thurmund on the tenure list.)

The securities/investments sector most evenly hedges it's bets. It split it's $12.7 million 50-50 between Republicans and Democrats. Most favored individual recipient: Sen. Clinton.

In 17th District

Local factoids: In the 2004 cycle, the two zip codes from which Rep. Lane Evans drew the most money are in Chicago and Stanford, Calif. Six of the top 10 are outside the 17th District. Among in-district zipcodes in the top 10, Rock Island was fourth, Moline sixth, Taylor Ridge seventh and East Moline ninth.

Andrea Zinga's top two zip codes, money-wise, were Moline and Quincy. The top 10 were all within the district. So far in the 2006 race, Moline is her top source of money. Nine of the top 10 zips are in the district; the one that isn't is Bettendorf. Top donor to Zinga so far: Open Secrets says it's The Riverstone Group, but the figure, $5,250, is really the cumulative amount donated by Riverstone employees and officers, not the company.

No info yet from Phil Hare.

And, in Iowa

Bettendorf is the top source of money for Mike Whalen, the Republican candidate in Iowa's lst District. Seventy-six percent of his money comes from Iowa.

Des Moines (out of district) is Democrat Bruce Braley's single best source of support. Just 42 percent of his money is from Iowa. Fifty-eight percent is from out of state.

Interestly enough "business" is the top donor sector for both Whalen and Braley. Within "business," financial/insurance/real estate is Whalen's biggest backer, at $28,539. For Braley, it's lawyers/lobbyists. That sector has handed him $280,693. Wow!

Anyway, exploring opensecrets.org is kind of like eating popcorn. Hard to stop once you start. Try it sometime. May learn something you'd like to know come Election Day.

Posted by jcb at 09:42 AM | Comments (31)

June 18, 2006

A correction

I mentioned this in a comment on the post below, but it deserves a separate entry, given I've twice said the FEC doesn't list a Phil Hare campaign committee.

In fact, Hare's statement of candidacy and statement or organization for Friends of Phil Hare were both received by the FEC on April 17.

Whether I didn't find them earlier because of inept searching or because the FEC is slow getting paper filings into the database, they have been on file.

Posted by jcb at 11:16 PM | Comments (0)

June 17, 2006

This n' that....

So Friday was Phil Hare's last day as Lane Evans' district director. Better late than never, I guess.

Still nothing on file with the Federal Election Commission to indicate a campaign committee's been formed. (See A correction) Still no campaign website, that I can find anyway. I hope he's planning on doing one. Be a big help to people in the zig-zag district.


Both candidates were in the Springfield zig a while back holding press conferences. Doug Finke reported in the Journal-Register that both mentioned drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Preserve. Hare's against it, period. Zinga thinks it might be ok if she's convinced there'd be no environmental damage.

Here's a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service assessment" she should read. She could check out the Wikipedia entry on the controversy, too. After she does, maybe she'll be a little less mushy on the question, one way or the other.


Both Hare and Zinga declare themselves eager to debate the other, so I'm assuming there'll be some. Be interesting if, in addition to whatever formal affairs get set up, the two would make a bunch of joint appearances, show themselves to people of both parties and engage in some give-and-take that wasn't so carefully scripted.

Be a huge relief from TV ads and whatnot.


Zinga hopes to raise $300,000 by the end of the month; said she was a third of the way there a couple of weeks ago.

A person would think that'd be enough to run a dang good campaign in a rural Illinois district. But if she hits the goal or comes close, it'll just be a signal for the big out-of-district money to get in the race.

Probably gonna get expensive out there, folks.


Speaking of expensive -- 'cross the river, in Iowa's First District, Republican Mike Whalan has raised more than $600k and spent will more than half a mil; Democrat Bruce Braley's raised nearly $600k and spent $400k-plus. And that was just in the primary.

Fifty-eight percent of Braley's money came from out of state; 24 percent of Whalen's did. (opensecrets.org)

Think I'll find something besides politics to write about.

Posted by jcb at 09:22 PM | Comments (8)

June 15, 2006

The cheapest of cheap political theater

God knows we need a debate on the never ending war in Iraq, but what begins today in the House of Representatives is nothing more than the cheapest of cheap political theater.

The resolution put before the House (by Illinois' own Henry Hyde) concludes by declaring "Now, therefore, be it Resolved, That the House of Representatives ... declares that the United States will prevail in the Global War on Terror, the noble struggle to protect freedom from the terrorist adversary." (Full text)

Alrighty then.

If the mere wording of the resolution is not enough in itself to demonstrate the motive for this "debate" is partisan advantage, House Republican leader John Boehner made it clear in a "confidential" memo to House Republicans, in which he makes clear the points he hopes to score against Dems. (Full text)

Dems, being the irresolute sheep they are, will mostly go along with the charade, though there is a small chance this may go where Boehner and the other game-players don't intend. At least a few Republicans are pretty upset by the cheap tactics and may get out of control. We'll see over the next couple of days.

As an aside here, I'll say that one of the reasons I mostly admire Lane Evans is that he was one of few Dems who had the guts and clear-headedness to vote against the Iraq war resolution back in 2003. But even he ended up voting in favor of some atrocious "war on terror" laws because the ever-duplicitious Bushies tacked then onto bills that provided payroll and equipment money for the troops in Iraq.
(See Cry, beloved country.)

Wonder if he's going to be able to take part in this debate.

Posted by jcb at 12:15 AM | Comments (38)

June 13, 2006

The paperwork

The State Board of Elections' list of latest candidate filings now includes Phil Hare in Congressional District 17.

No objection to the filing is listed, which I take to mean there hasn't been one. (Some of the filings listed include a notation that an objection is pending.)

Meanwhile, the Federal Election Commission website does not list a Phil Hare campaign committee, which I take to mean he hasn't yet filed organizational papers, which I further take to mean he hasn't yet raised the $5,000 that triggers the requirement to file. (See A correction)

Of course, I suppose that could mean that he just hasn't read the section of the election code that requires a committee to be designated once $5,000 has been raised. Or, alternately, maybe he read the rules but didn't understand them.

On the topic of Hare and rules, some of the commenters on this string on The Inside Dope contend that Hare may have missed the requirement that he resign as Lane Evans' aide when he declared his candidacy because the printed version of the ethics rules left out that part, which was only included on the ethics committee website.

I'll believe that when someone produces a copy of the print version that omitted the rule in question.

Posted by jcb at 03:48 PM | Comments (8)

June 10, 2006

Phil Hare's game

Re: Phil Hare's failure to resign from Rep. Lane Evans' staff, as ethics rules require, when he announced that he is a candidate for Rep. Evans' job:

I am a chess player, so will cast this in chess terms.

Phil Hare lost a pawn in the opening. That's often enough to cost even the stronger player the game, unless there is "compensation" -- control of a critical square, an open file on which to attack or faster deployment of the pieces.

If you lose a pawn in the opening without some compensation, it's called a "blunder."

Phil Hare just blundered.

He should have known the rules. He should have acted on the knowledge two months ago.

He knew the question existed. He said he "looked through" the ethics rules. He just missed the part that applied to him -- until a reporter called it to his attention.

So, here's the question that will be asked, in some form or another, about 10 million times between now and November: Mr. Hare, are you too ignorant to understand the rules you looked through, or too arrogant to believe you had to follow them?

That Mr. Hare did resign, once the press inquired, doesn't really provide an answer. He's just playing a pawn down now.

Posted by jcb at 05:50 PM | Comments (65)

June 08, 2006

Tilting at windmills...

Time to mount the faithful Rocinante, take lance in hand and charge that windmill ...

The turnout in Iowa's primary election Tuesday was pretty bad. Just 11 percent of registered voters state-wide bothered themselves; in Scott County, the figure was an ever-so-slightly better 12.3 percent in an election featuring real congressional races in both parties, a gubernatorial contest in one and several legislative races. Yawn, went the voters.

Understandable. The candidates on the ballot Tuesday had been tugging on our sleeves, begging attention for months. Now the survivors will be doing the same for an additional five months, until November's general election. About 95 percent of us are simply going to tune it out. The campaigns will become just so much background noise. A good many of us will ignore it so successfully we'll even miss the fact when actual, factual Election Day arrives.

Couldn't we just compress the season? Have the primary elections in, say, late August or, even better, the first week of September? Seems to me that sharply shortened campaigns would turn elections into events worthy of attention rather than processes that bore us into ignorance. A bigger gain might be that people elected to office could spend a little more time tending to business beyond that of getting re-elected.

Actually, Iowa is better off than many states. Our June primary seems downright reasonable compared to places like Illinois, where the primary is in March, eight months before the general. That's past yawn-inducing; it's snore-producing.

In any case, state and federal representatives elected this fall will take office in January, 2007. Within a year, it'll be time to start dealing with the mechanics of re-election, collecting signatures and filing petitions, putting together a campaign staff, raising money, etc. Legislating will be on the back burner for half or more of the two-year terms these people serve.

Most all politicians recoil in horror at the thought of a shorter campaign season. How ever, they ask, could a primary winner get organized in just 60 days? How could the needed money be raised in just 60 days?

The first answer, I guess, are that if you win a primary, you ought to be able to hit the ground running as far as message and positions go. Secondly, who says the money is "needed"? Most of it tends to go to pay for television advertising, which is one of the great banes of healthy politics. TV political ads are on the whole inaccurate, misleading, nasty and ugly -- and that's the good things about them.

There are certainly better ways to communicate with voters these days. A candidate with a good website and good imagination could reduce TV advertisers to the occasional 10-second bit that says "find out all about me at voteforme.com, or whatever. Maybe someone will work up enough nerve to try that someday.

On a sort-of-related note, a good many Davenporters think a good way to deal with electiion fatigue would be stretch the terms of the mayor and city council members from two years to four years. There'll apparently be a special election on that question within the next couple of months.

Hard to get excited one way or the other. Yeah, the accountability imposed by two-year terms is a good thing; so would be the somewhat greater stability and continuity of four-year terms. If the council elections were as protracted as those for state and federal reps, I might favor the longer terms. But the gap between council primary and general elections is short. So is the leash two-year terms put on the alderpeople.

Hmnmm, short leashes .... good.

Posted by jcb at 03:28 PM | Comments (5)

June 06, 2006

Issues, sort of

Now that 17th Congressional District Dems are through entertaining us with novel nominating maneuvers, it's time to move on to the important stuff.

Start with Iraq. No difference there between Republican Andrea Zinga and newly named Dem nominee Phil Hare. Both think there ought to be a timetable for withdrawing U.S. troops. Haven't heard either say anything about dates -- and without dates, talking about timetables is pretty much the same as accepting the status quo.

Several other similarities, too.

Energy, for example. They're both 100 percent behind wind power and ethanol and otherwise turning crops into fuel. 'course, new ethanol plants are springing up like mushrooms in the Midwest, so the challenge here may be to keep from heaping too much government largess on the industry.

Maybe they'll take a look at Rob Mellon's idea about hydrogen. The Dem wannabe (he placed fifth) talked about a Manhatten Project-level effort to develop hydrogen as our primary fuel. Hope exploration of that idea doesn't die with Mellon's campaign.

They're both also in favor of stopping the flow of illegal immigrants; Hare's on board for providing a path to citizenship for some illegals who already are here. Haven't heard Zinga say anything about that aspect of it.

Pretty much the same on some bringing-home-the-bacon issues, too. They'll both try real hard to get money for the I-74 bridge, work for the Rock Island Arsenal and new highways and such for down district. And they'll have offices throughout the district and cooperate with local officials in economic development and work hard to sure veterans get their due.

Hare's against NAFTA, CAFTA and all the alphabet soup of trade agreements. Zinga's for "fair trade, not free trade." A shade of difference there, maybe.

There are disagreements, of course. Abortion's one. Hare's pro-choice. Zinga isn't. Given the Supreme Court these days, a lot of people are more concerned about a legislator's viewpoint on that question than they might have been in elections past.

I'm sure there are other major differences, too, though none pop immediately to mind. It'll be easier to do side-by-sides on the two when Hare gets a website up. Zinga's already got a lot of issues/positions info up at andrealanezinga.com.

Go get educated.

Posted by jcb at 11:52 PM | Comments (30)

On to November ...

Andrea Zinga was in a chipper mood this afternoon as she chatted with reporters drifting in and out of her campaign office in the LeClaire Hotel in Moline. It was a "very good day," she said, an hour or so after the Democrats finally ended their tortuous nomination process by picking Phil Hare as her opponent in the 17th Congressional District race.

Her theory: Hare, an aide to outgoing Congressman Lane Evans, isn't particularly well known outside Rock Island County, giving her an edge in a district that sprawls over all or parts of 23 counties from the Quad-Cities to Decatur.

Further, she says, Hare has no significant donor base in the district, leaving him dependent on the national organizations that, in her view, may not back Hare as they have Evans. In the meantime, one of her aides said, she's raised about $100,000 and there's strong interest in her campaign on the part of national groups, now that it's an open seat she's seeking, rather than one held by a long-time and popular incumbent.

She also thinks the fact Hare was selected by party leaders rather than voters in a primary election will tell against him.

Zinga, a former TV news reporter and anchor who lost to Evans in 2004, may or may not be right about any of those things. We'll know come November -- if not before.

For the moment, though, there are sighs of relief among Dems that the strange and bizarre nomination process has ended, apparently without much chance that a lawsuit will add to the torture. Even better, Hare was a clear and unambiguous winner in a five-way contest. He got 63.9 per cent of the votes, with the four others combined getting just 36.1 percent. Only John Sullivan, the state senator from Rushville, with 28 percent, made a significant inroad.

The quick recap: Evans, a 12-term incumbent, decided to seek a 13th term even though the Parkinson's Disease he's been battling for a decade was making obvious gains. Though a good many party people were hoping he'd call it off, he didn't, so no one opposed him in the primary election. Then, barely a week after winning the nomination, he announced that, while he would serve out his term, he was going to decline the nomination.

The announcement was met with equal parts dismay, irritation, consternation and anger. A good many people who would have run in an open primary felt cheated. A good many ordinary Dems felt like they'd been robbed of a voice in picking the candidate.

Vague and never-before-used guidelines for replacing a congressional candidate led to much controversy, but 17th District committeeman Don Johnston and committeewoman Mary Boland, guiding the process, made a series of hotly debated decisions which, in the end, stood.

The critical call was that only those precinct committeepeople elected in this year's primary would have a voice in picking the new nominee, with each committeeperson having a number of votes equal to the number of Democratic ballots cast in their precinct in the primary.

Seven people declared they were candidates; five were formally nominated at a convention that followed a series of candidate forums in various places in the district. Today's vote, by mail-in ballot, produced Hare as the nominee.

Bits and pieces:

-- The official tally sheet used today had the names of 411 committeepeople on it (310 precincts didn't elect a committeeperson this year,so had no voice). The 411 were entitled to cast 30,244 votes.

-- Thirty-seven of the 411 did not send ballots; four who did send ballots had them disallowed because they didn't sign them.

-- In the end, then, 370 committeemen cast a total of 26,621 votes. Hare got 17,011. Sullivan got 7,530. Rock Island Mayor Mark Schwiebert got 1,370; State Rep. Mike Boland of East Moline got 612; and Quincy school teacher Rob Mellon got 98.

-- Of the 37 committeepeople who were eligible to vote but didn't, 11 were from Sangamon County, seven were from Macoupin County, five were from Montgomery County, four were from Macon County, two each were from Adams, Fulton and Jersey counties; and there was one each from Pike, Greene, McDonough and Fayette counties.

-- The pre-vote buzz was that Rock Island County, with three viable candidates, might end up splitting its votes and thus hand the nomination to Sullivan, a popular down-district state legislator. That turned out not to be a danger With Evans' endorsement and strong backing from RICO's Democratic leaders, Hare came close to sweeping the vote here. As the votes were read off today, it soon became apparent that Hare also was the favorite of Macoupin County, which had nearly as many votes as RICO and which also is a union stronghold.
I'll dig around in the votes a little later and see what other interesting bits and pieces may be there to share.

Posted by jcb at 06:11 PM | Comments (7)

June 02, 2006

Just waitin'

Talked with Don Johnston this afternoon. Like everybody else, he's just waiting for Tuesday to get here, so the ballots can be counted and the 17th District Dems will finally know who their congressional candidate will be.

Johnston, the district committeeman, said he thinks all the ballot problems have been solved.

The biggest -- the first list of elected precinct committeepeople he got from Sangamon County was 28 names short -- was caught the day the ballots were mailed. An updated list was obtained from the county clerk, and ballots sent to those who qualified to vote.

Hancock County's list included three appointed committeepeople -- the ballots sent them have been voided (each ballot has a security code; if a ballot with a voided code is received it won't be counted).

A couple of committeepeople said they didn't get their ballots; the first ones mailed were voided and new ones sent. Johnston said two ballots had the wrong number of weighted votes to be cast by the committeeperson.

His error, he said -- the ballots were voided and new ones were sent.

As of this afternoon, he said, all seems to be in order.

The committeepeople are mailing their filled-out ballots to a post office box in Rock Island. On Tuesday, at 11 a.m., a committee of five county clerks -- from Rock Island, Henry, Mercer, Hancock and Macoupin counties -- will open the box and collect the ballots, along with a letter from the postmaster certifying that the box had not been previously opened.

The committee of clerks will take the ballots to the the county board room in the Rock Island County Office Building, open them and count them.

The person who gets the biggest number of the 30,000-plus votes to be cast will replace Lane Evans on the general election ballot.

Thus will end what likely has been the strangest congressional nomination in Illinois history; unless, of course, an unhappy loser seeks to appeal the process.

Posted by jcb at 09:35 PM | Comments (9)

June 01, 2006

Searching, unsuccessfully, for a search snit

"It could probably be shown by facts and figures that there is no distinctly native American criminal class except Congress." -- Mark Twain

I been trying really, really hard to work up a major snit about the jack-booted Executive Branch Cops stomping on our revered Constitution's seperation-of-powers doctrine with a Midnight Raid on the Official Capitol Hill Office of an Official Member of Congress. Having trouble, though it should be easy.

Our current executive and his minions haven't paid much attention to constitutional doctrine, except to dodge it if it got in the way of collecting telephone records on millions of us, or doing warrantless wire taps, or running secret prisons or declaring in "presidential signing statements" that the law being created doesn't particularly apply to the executive, unless he wants it, too.

Even Denny Hastert, the former Illinois high school coach turned Speaker of the House, is upset. Upset enough to hold hands with Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and denounce the FBI search of Rep. Bill Jefferson's office as a major affront to the Constitution.

That's pretty heavy stuff for Hastert, an administration loyalist who's managed not to see or speak about all those other affronts to the Constitution. Just yell "War on Terror" at him and he's for whatever it is, sensible or not.

Still, with Denny and Nancy backing me or not, I can't get upset.

First, there's every reason to be snooping into the business of Mr. Jefferson, a Louisiana Democrat.

On Jan. 10, Brett Pfeffer, a former Jefferson aide, pleaded guilty to bribing a public official, the public official being Rep. Jefferson. In May, a businessman named Vernon Jackson pleaded guilty to bribing Jefferson -- $400,000 in return for help with a telecommunications deal in Nigeria. (Jefferson is co-chair of the Africa Trade and Investment Caucus.)

The cops even have Jefferson on tape taking $100,000 in marked bills. They said they found $90,000 of it in the deep freeze at Jefferson's D. C. apartment when they searched it in August.

Jefferson, a Harvard-trained lawyer, has been ignoring FBI subpoenas for various documents for 10 months or so.

Leaves the search sounding downright reasonable, doesn't it. Especially since the FBI agents who spent 18 hours rummaging through Jefferson's office had a warrant. The judge who issued it did so knowing the place to be searched, what was to be searched for and why it was being sought. The congressional office part didn't bother him.

Doesn't bother me much either, despite my general distrust of this administration and its power-grabbing ways. The trail here is pretty clearly marked; it needs to be followed where it leads, congressional office or not.

If Hastert/Pelosi et.al want to fight over separation-of-powers, let's hear a little more about those "presidential signing statements" and such. With you all the way on that one, guys.

But shielding one of your own from a well justified criminal investigation? Nah. You've lost me there.

Posted by jcb at 09:35 AM | Comments (10)