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August 17, 2006

The price of political pandering: $510,528.64

So the next time you run into Mike Jacobs or Mike Boland or Pat Verschoore, you might ask them if that warm and fuzzy feeling was worth $510,528.64.

That's how much a federal judge ordered the state to pay the trade associations that won a decision that Illinois' 2005 video-violence law is unconstitutional. The ruling that the bill didn't pass constitutional muster was hardly surprising; in fact it was kind of a sun-will-come-up-tomorrow situation.

Sen. John Cullerton, a Chicago Democrat who was one of only five senators to vote against the bill, warned during the debate that the measure was deeply flawed, couldn't pass a court challenge. He even warned that the state would get stuck with the lawyers' bills that were sure to come. Rep. Bill Black, a Danville Republican who voted 'present' when the House passed the bill said, 'What we have is all we ever get -- all fluff and no stuff.'

David Vite, president of the Illinois Retail Merchants Association, boiled it down to the nail-on-the-head essentials: ``It's pandering, and it's wrong,'' he said.

Pandering ...good word, that.

Gov. Rod Blagojevich got the ball rolling with a big todo about how the state needed to protect teens from the violence and sex to be found in some video games. He had a great hook -- some company had just brought out a first-person shooter in which the scenario was the Kennedy assassination. Outrage and dismay were the general order of the day, and what politician can resist 'doing something' when the public's outraged? (Being a glass half-full guy, I thought, well at least the game - players now know who Kennedy was.)

There were press conferences and editorials and much knashing of teeth by lawmakers who know an easy headline when one comes along. Never mind that most all of them knew the bill was bad. Who was going to vote against this mom-and-apple-pie measure, and hand a future opponent an easy tv ad?

It passed the Senate, 52-5, with one 'present' vote. In the House, it was 91-19, with six 'present' votes. The Q-C delegation, Sen. Jacobs and Reps. Boland and Verschoore, voted for it. The governor signed it into law, with much self-congratulatory rhetoric all around. All was well.

Except. Except that the bill never went into effect. The retail merchants and the two software trade groups went to court immediately, got a ruling that the law was unconstitutional and an order forbidding its enforcement, all before the Jan. 1, 2006 effective date.

U.S. District Judge Matthew Kennelly said, among other things, that the state came 'nowhere near' showing that the law was constitutional. He also said, 'If controlling access to allegedly 'dangerous' speech is important in promoting the positive psychological development of children, in our society that role is properly accorded to parents and families, not the state.'

Now, in the wake of that entirely predictable ruling, comes the entirely predictable lawyers' bill. The trade associations asked for about $650,000. Judge Kennelly trimmed that back to $510,528.64 . That's hardly the total tab, though. As Sen. Cullerton points out, 'The amount ordered paid to the plaintiffs by Judge Kennelly doesn't even count the substantial fees the state will have to pay its own lawyers.'

Oh, one more thing. The meter's still running. The state has appealed the ruling on constitutionality. More money on state lawyers. More bills to arrive from the other side's lawyers.

Gov. Blagojevich and the others who hopped on his band-wagon may have seen this stunt as a cheap and easy way to score points.

Easy maybe. But not cheap. Only cheap thing here is the politics being played.

Posted by jcb at August 17, 2006 08:39 PM


As a parent of young children, I am sympathetic to the position our QC legislators took on video violence. There are video games that make fun of assassinating the late President John F. Kennedy. I think it's outrageous that the video companies, who's pursuit of profit far outweighs any sense of civic responsibility, should be allowed to peddle this trash. I side with Tipper Gore on this issue.

Posted by: grillmaster deluxe II at August 17, 2006 10:48 PM

David Vite is a well-paid lobbyist for the Illinois Retail Merchants Assocation. He's doing his job. He's standing up tall for the private sector that sells whatever it takes to make a profit. I'm usually on the other side of these issues, but feel that it's a combination of parents and our society that should keep highly violent video games out of the hands of kids.

We don't let kids smoke cigarettes until they're of age. We don't sell beer to kids unless they're of age. We don't let kids vote until they're old enough. Why should we sell video games that promote the assassination of JFK to kids?

Values matter. Shame on David Vite and the federal judge.

Posted by: values matter at August 17, 2006 10:54 PM

John, I'm not sure that the way you've written this accurately reflects the size of the bandwagon and may unfairly target our three legislators.

You've mentioned our local state legislators by name, but they have 143 additional accomplices. Only 11 people voted against the final version of this law.

I believe that the legislators have a responsibility to at least attempt to pass enforceable and constitutional laws, and that didn't happen in this case. But obviously the whole gang, save 11, were either hoodwinked into become blind followers of this effort or were pandering, as you describe it.

Not only do I wonder why legislators voted yea, I wonder whether the 11 nays voted no because they knew the law was fundamentally unenforceable or they voted no on principle.

Posted by: Huck Finn at August 17, 2006 11:02 PM

Huck -- I said what the vote was, and provided a link that leads to all the details. I mentioned only the Q-C legislators by name because they'd the only ones most the readers here would wonder about.

I've got $50 that says if I'd listed all the names on each side neither you nor anyone else would have given the list anything more than a cursory glance.

It's impossible to believe anybody who voted for the bill thought it would really pass the constitutional test. There's an enormous volume of First Amendment case law, including several chapters written over the past couple of years when several state legislatures got slapped down for doing what Illinois tried to do.

grillmaster deluxe II -- I've spent -- and spend -- more time than I'd like worrying about the impact of video games and tv and movies and xanga.com and myspace.com and the other elements of kid culture these days.

But abusing the constitution isn't the answer to whatever problem there really is. That's the ends-justify-the-means rationale I'm sure you reject when the president makes it on the grounds that we're fighting terrorists.

In any case, as I've watched a good many young people pass through the jungle over the past 20 years, I'm impressed with their easy ability to deal with the stuff we parents worry about all the time. It's their world; they're comfortable in it even when we're not.

values matter -- doesn't make much difference who signs Vite's check. He was right on this one. So was the judge, who in a very pro-family ruling, pointed out the problems need to be dealt with by parents and family, not the state.

That approach, of course, has the additional beneift of being constitutional.

Posted by: jcb at August 17, 2006 11:41 PM

John, you're right. If you would have put the all-inclusive list of names here, I would have ignored it.

And you did include the vote totals, albeit a far from the top. I clicked on the link and when I came back, I jumped right to the judge's call. I read too quickly.

I'm not arguing that they pandered. In fact, if any of the yeas claimed they were hoodwinked, I'd suggest they were incompetent.

Posted by: Huck Finn at August 18, 2006 01:08 AM

Spot on John...

The sad thing is that this particular collossal waste of state resources for less than serious political posturing is only the tip of the iceberg, I'm afraid.

I think this is one thing at the root of the public's utter disgust with congress at both the federal and state levels.... they see them not addressing the very real and very pressing matters of concern to the country and themeselves but jacking around with all these stupid issues designed to give them something to put in their taxpayer paid mailings.

It's shameful, and not remotely close to good leadership or governance. It's nothing but a huge costly game, pure and simple.

Posted by: TID at August 18, 2006 03:51 AM

As a parent I agree with our legislators. I know Mike Boland and to call him and the rest of our legislators on the carpet for trying to protect our kids is uncalled for. Mike Boland was a teacher and knows what is right for our children's welfare. There are children that play a game where they shoot President Kenedy in the head.
Maybe you are for that kind of America Mr. Beydler.
I am glad that our representatives are not.

Posted by: American at August 18, 2006 08:12 AM

So, what would have happened if the local legislators would have voted against this measure? It's an easy call. They would have been demonized in the campaign and called out for caring enough to protect children.

Posted by: Tough Spot at August 18, 2006 09:03 AM

The issue has nothing to do with whether or not these games are acceptable or not - they clearly are not. Thankfully our local representatives understand that much.


Here the ball was dropped, dollars wasted and the public good not done.

Again, right intentions mean little if intelligence is not utilized to back up these intentions. Maybe our legislators can take those good intentions and write a bill that can actually stand up under pressure.

Posted by: Jim Mowen at August 18, 2006 10:07 AM

Earth to The Inside Dope ... if you think video game violence constitutes lawmakers "jacking around with all these stupid issues," as you stated, then I wholeheartedly disagree.

Video game violence, thrust upon us by the highly-profitable video game industry that has no shame putting out video games that let our QC kids assassinate President Kennedy, is a concern to this parent. The sensibilities of our children are being bombarded by these violent video games. Yes, good parents should be the first line of protection; but hard-working parents need help protecting their kids. What's so wrong with having the Illinois Retail Merchants step up to the plate to have the video games labelled?

Tossing this off as a "stupid" issue that deserves no legislative attention is rather amazing given all of the studies that tie early sex and violence by kids to the culture in which we live and to the early exposure to violent videos and movies.

Posted by: grillmaster deluxe II at August 18, 2006 10:28 AM

Why was the legislation released out of the rules committee? Because it was meant to "PANDER" to voters. They wasted our money, it should tick people off!

Posted by: Why? at August 18, 2006 10:36 AM

Jim, Good intentions and getting the job done are two different things.

If their intention was to limit access to these games, they should have written legislation to get the job done. They fell far short of that mark and knew it before it came to a vote.

The were either pandering or poorly executing their jobs.

Posted by: Huck Finn at August 18, 2006 10:54 AM

As a parent, I strongly disagree with the judge's ruling. The Illinois Legislature will appeal this ruling and win in higher court.

Illinois has a long history of protecting children by limiting what they can and cannot do. Illinois does not allow children to buy pornography, cigarets, liquor or guns.

John Beydler and the $31 billion video game industry could care less about the health and welfare of our children. All these people want is more and more profits.

Responsible adult know: Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, Thrill Kill, Hitman or Killer 7 should not be marketed to children and are wholly inappropriates. The Illinois Legislature has a duty to keep these violent and sexually explicit video games out of the hands of our children.

If the aforementioned video games are not enough to convince jcb, he should pick-up a copy of "Guy Game" at a video retalier. After poking around for a while, he will eventually stumble upon a photographic scene depicting a minor nude girl, perhaps this scene will change jcb' mind.

JCB, if standing up for the right of violent and pornographic video games makers is what you stand for, donít expect me to lead a parade in your honor.

Three cheers to our legislators for doing the right thing!

Posted by: KateNelson at August 18, 2006 11:41 AM

grillmaster, do you happen to have any documentation for those many studies that tie viedo games to increased sex and violence. i would be interested in looking at them.

Posted by: Robbie at August 18, 2006 01:24 PM

GDII, what studies do you refer to?

It's time to face the facts folks, children have been entertaining themselves in violent ways since the beginning of time. The "toys" are simply getting more realistic. I'm not soooo far removed from childhood; I played similar games. I had little green army men (probably even dismembered them with firecrackers) - but one thing that I never did was confuse fantasy with reality.

Come on folks, video games don't create real-life monsters, it's the lack of parental envolvement that does that.

Posted by: Anonymous at August 18, 2006 01:50 PM

This is all truly interesting. It seems we have the government protecting our kids vs. parents protecting our kids.

All those of a certain age, raise your hands if, in the flower of your youth, you watched such fare as Hopalong Cassidy, Roy Rogers, The Lone Ranger, Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Roadrunner, etc. I'll guarantee all those aging hippies you see by the side of the road, exhorting you to honk if you love peace, were raised on the violence of the cowboy shows during the 50's or the violent cartoons of the 40s, 50s and 60s.

It should be pointed out that neither Lee Harvey Oswald, Sirhan Sirhan, John Wilkes Booth, etc. got the idea to assasinate a POTUS from a video game. I'd say that blogs like Democratic Underground, which regularly call for the assasination of GWB are more dangerous than a video game, because those posting on DU have the ability to carry out their mission.

My personal opinion, as the parent of a teenaged son who X-Boxes, is that our First Amendment rights have been eroded enough by the sexual harrassment laws signed into law the the Sexual-Harrasser-In-Chief, Bill Clinton, and McCain-Feingold, signed into law by the Doofus-In-Chief, who was counting on the SCOTUS to declare it unconstitutional.

The government has declared that parents are not competent enough to decide if their minor child should have an abortion----do we really want the government intruding into what they play on X-Box and GameCube? Who really wants to grant the govenment the authority to decide what is right and wrong for our children?

Posted by: paladin at August 18, 2006 02:31 PM

Beydler thinks it's okay to sell sexually explicit video games to our children, but censors comments he doesn't agree with. Does this strike anyone else as odd?

Paladine's view is also disengenuos.. What kind of wacky job supports selling sexually charged and violent video games to children? Paladine's view here is far closer to the Liberal left than the right she so often reports to represent.

Illnois doesn't allow children to purchase ponographic maganzines. Nor does Illinois allow children to purchase demon rum.. Nor does Illinois allow children to purchase cherry-bombs or assult weapons. Yet Beydler and his blog partner, Paldin, think video game makers have "a constitutional right" to show pornographic and violent video games to my 6-year old child. How odd is that?

What kind of world are we living in? The $31 billion violent video game makers stuff their pockets full of cash, and Beydler and Paladin are fighting for their "right" to do so. Jbc and paladine ought to be ashamed of themselves.

Talk about pandering!

Posted by: KateNelson at August 18, 2006 07:57 PM

Kate -- Your post is the perfect illustration of why we have legislators who don't have the guts to vote against bad bills, even knowing enormous lawyer bills will result.

They'd rather waste money than subject themselves to half-crazed attacks that make no sense whatsoever.

I'm assuming that if your six-year-old is out buying video games, you're probably along. You should take the judge's advice and exercise your parental power to guide the kid's purchase, and not depend on the state to take care of it for you, especially when clearly unconstitional laws are the instrument the state would use to do your job for you.

Ummmm ... I think it's my job, not the state's, to guide my children through the maze of cultural influences; I think legislators ought not to vote for laws they know will be found unconstitutional; I think the state ought not pointlessly waste hundreds of thousands of dollars.

You, on the other hand, apparently depend on the state to do your parenting for you; don't care whether the consitution is observed, so long as violating it further's the state's ability to run your life; and you're perfectly willing to toss money out the window.

Who's where on that left-right scale?

Posted by: jcb at August 18, 2006 08:34 PM

Left wing is wanting to sell pornographic and violnent video games to our children.

35% of the kids in East Moline grade school come to school hungry everyday. And you think these parents are regulating what their kids play and buy? Please. You are living in some kind of dream world!

Posted by: KN at August 18, 2006 09:20 PM

Kate -- "35% of the kids in East Moline grade school come to school hungry everyday" Where in the world did you get that statistic?

If it's accurate (and I don't think it is), you need to quit wasting time on this blog and get on down to the school house with a picket sign; and/or call up you legislators and demand they do something to fix a very real problem, rather than diddle away time dreaming up ways to to use the law-making process to set each other up for embarrassment.

Posted by: jcb at August 18, 2006 10:05 PM

jcb, why are you so mean spirited, a picket sign? KN brings up a great point here. I am a school teacher in a RI grade school. More that 35% are set up for the breakfast plan. I imagine that this is what she is talking about.
I know first hand from seeing kids comming to school dirty and without the proper preperation for their school work. If you think that these parents are guiding their kids in their choice of video games then you need to get out of the house. If you have kids you must homeschool them because you seem to be sheltd.

Open your eyes to your surroundings.

Posted by: WHO at August 18, 2006 10:57 PM


Some people can do more than two things at once. If you push yourself away from the computer and into the real world you would better understand that the Illinois Quad Cities has a very high poverty rates and indeed many children come to school hungry.

Rather than pontificate about feigned problems why not focus on local issues, such as the incerdible amount of children that qualify for school breakfeast program in East Moline, Moline and Rock Island.

I supposed dealing with feigned issues is easier than dealing with issues that really matter. By the way jcb, have you ever done anything to help your community grow and prosper. What's that, I can't hear you?

Posted by: KateNelson at August 18, 2006 11:52 PM

WHO -- Ah, so now we're talking about kids at A school in Rock Island as opposed to ALL the kids in East Moline. I can believe that 35 percent of the kids in one or another particular school come from homes with incomes so low as to to qualify them for the breakfast program.

It's good to hear that the breakfast program is surviving the Perils of Bush, and I hope that the need is being met.

You surely understand, being a teacher and all, that having a low income does not make one a bad parent. I'd be guessing that a good many of the kids making up that 35 percent come from homes where money may be short, but care, concern and love are not.

Going to school without the proper preparation is hardly proof of parental non-involvement, either. You can kick 'em off the computer, turn the TV off, put the book in their hands and sit next and ask questions or whatever -- they'll still go off unprepared, if they don't feel like getting prepared.

The need for breakfast programs, before and after school activities, all-day kindergarten and other such things is enormous.

Me, I think the $1 million or so being handed over to high-priced lawyers because of the video-game bill stunt would have been better spent elsewhere.

Kate -- "Rather than pontificate about feigned problems why not focus on local issues, such as the incerdible amount of children that qualify for school breakfeast program in East Moline, Moline and Rock Island. I supposed dealing with feigned issues is easier than dealing with issues that really matter."

My point, exactly. If our lawmakers weren't dealing with feigned problems, ie., the Attack of the JFK-Killing Video Games, they'd have more time to deal with issues that really matter, and have more money with which to do it.

Posted by: jcb at August 19, 2006 12:06 AM

well jcb, you have sure got people pissy this time... yesterday morning while at work i was in the beginnings of a post defending the video game market... in retrospect, i think i was lucky that work was too busy to write a decent post yesterday... this is something i am glad to have stayed out of...

i would like to put a bit of perspective on that 35% statistic being thrown around. I think it is a misrepresentation to automatically assume that those people are 'hungry' when i was a kid my family spent several years on welfare related programs including free meals at school. It was not until i was in high school that my family was back on its feet and got off of the program. But in all those years we were still never in the situation that we didnt have food. We never took advantage of the breakfast program because we were able to do that at home. The lunch program was certainly a big money saver for our family.

In my opinion to say that anyone who qualifies for free or reduced lunches is 'starving' (my word not KN's) is a total fallacy. I would be especially interested to see if that 35% includes the reduced price people. I think they would be even farther away from this desolate situation that KN describes.

Hey KN, what have you done to help your community??? Would you even be willing to reveal your identity so that we can see what kind of person you are? You are quick to pick on jcb as usual, but you can easily get online and find out who he is, and he continually writes his opinions on many issues. But instead you throw threats around while hiding behind the veil of your computer screen.

P.S. i dont really have a problem with the video games... If the jfk killing game was based on killing hitler no one would care... there have been first person shooting games for years that have had monsters and germans to kill, but no one cared until it was an american president...

I really wish people would get off the moral horse against video games, because if i want to see nudity i can just watch network tv... If i want to see violence i can go to any theater or video store and watch an array of crappy movies...

As jcb has mentioned, its not the governments job to parent children... i know its hard in this day and age where parents have to work overtime to afford gas to put in their $40,000 suv that gets 4 miles per gallon...

i have learned more history than most people know from the video game civilization... as a junior high kid playing i learned what a phlanx was, what the colossus was, the names of major babylonian cities, etc... but even with a game as tame as civilization is, it is still based on exterminating all the other cultures of the world...

Posted by: Robbie at August 19, 2006 10:55 AM

To accuse Rep Verschoore of this pandering is very disgusting. Mr. Verschoore is thee best thing to happen to the district. He came through the appointment process and is still the most down to earth rep that we could wish for.
To accous him of doing the right thing for the youth would be more like it. The court is the one that made the mistake here.

Posted by: Anonymous at August 21, 2006 01:31 PM

I would like to know if you think that the Legislature should have passed the Medical Malpractice bill which keeps Doctors in Illinois. Some have said that they believe it to be unconstitutional.

I believe that it is the legislators who legislate and the courts to decide constitutionality.

Posted by: Anonymous at August 21, 2006 09:06 PM

Anything to keep the medical rates down and keep our doctors in town is great by me. My Doctor was very glad that this passed and he worked hard for it.

Posted by: Keep the medical reform intact at August 22, 2006 10:35 AM

Yes, yes, yes, Anonymous 9:06PM. Our country works because we have three seperate branches of government. Sometimes the court are more concerned with costitutional arguments than the Legsislative branch. I think this is because they are closer to the people they represent. While judges run against themselves every ten years.

President Bush and Al Gore agreed that something need to be done to keep pornographic and violent videos out of the hands of small children. I am surpirsed that the D/A would agree to print jcb's rant.


Posted by: KN at August 22, 2006 04:08 PM

"Mike Boland was a teacher and knows what is right for our children's welfare."
John Mark Karr, the pedophile who has said he murdered and raped JonBenet Ramsey, also was a teacher. I wouldn't be so quick to hand out credentials, American.
Kate: Try to remember, child pornography laws protect some of the things you're wringing your hands about.
And this whole business of hungry kids in East Moline in Rock Island, though worrisome, is so typical of Mike, I mean Kate. When politicians screw up as badly as they did on this video-game bill, they love to jump up and down and shout, "But look over here!"

Posted by: Barb I at August 24, 2006 01:00 PM

Did anyone else notice the story in the D/A today about Napoleon Jackson's acquittal in the murder of Kevin Horne?

At first it looked like just another depressing story about kids killing kids, until I read further and saw that the evidence the State's Attorney presented was really weak----they only had one eyewitness. Jackson had a decent alibi that was corroborated by the store owner of a shop where Jackson got a DVD of Hood 2 Hood. The Asst. SA who prosecuted the failed case claimed that after watching the DVD, Jackson committed a "copycat" crime.

This was a first for me. In the past, a video, or book or song or movie has been used to bolster the case of defendants, but this is the first time I've seen the prosecution attempt to use a DVD as "evidence" in a murder case. If I remember correctly, the "But Judge, MegaDeth made me do it" defense rarely, if ever, flies.

Which makes me wonder if all the State's Attorney jobs are obtained through patronage.

Posted by: paladin at August 26, 2006 12:09 PM

paladin, are you talking about rock island county state's attorney's office in this case?

jeff terronez is a guy who begged to become state's attorney, telling everyone that would be his job for the rest of his life and that was the dream job for the rest of his life.

now you can't help but notice phil hare placing him at his right side at all these events.

mr. terronez had better focus on becoming a good state's attorney for the next 20 years before he starts thinking about running for something else.

Posted by: values matter at August 26, 2006 07:13 PM

It always seemed to me that the up-roar about sex and violence in media traditionally came from the right side of the political spectrum. So perhaps when folks from the other side of the aisle join in, it feels somehow like a betrayal. I have friends who still resent Tipper Gore for her (now ancient history as far as I know) work with music "censorship" groups.

It's real easy to decide the right vote in retrospect, it's a bit more difficult in the odd atmosphere created by what some call "Capital Dome Syndrome" which effects everyone elected to the state legislature to one extent or another.

It takes a lot of guts for a politico to vote against this kinda thing, just as it takes a lot of guts to vote against a war.

Posted by: Huntooner at September 7, 2006 08:13 AM

Huntooner, are you saying that your guy Boland had no guts for voting for this?
I would like to know why you feel that Boland should have voted against keeping violent and sex filled video games from our youth?

Posted by: John P at September 17, 2006 08:17 PM

General Mark Clark once asserted, "People are always watching for opportunities to misconstrue your actions."

Think that might be the case here?

Posted by: Huntooner at September 19, 2006 07:54 AM