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September 21, 2006

Blago -- all headlines, no follow-through

Being positive, one could say that Ill. Gov. Rod Blagojevich took a bold stand in an attempt to shelter his state's citizenry from the often outrageous prices charged for prescription drugs. One could say that, in another case, he acted with forthright promptness to assure vulnerable people got the flu vaccine they needed.

Negatively, one could say ... well, let Illlinois Auditor General William Holland take over here:

-- "The state's operation of the I-SaveRX program, which imports prescription drugs into the United States, is in violation of federal law."

-- "Pharmacies operating under the I-SaveRX program may be in violation of Illinois' Pharmacy Practice Act."

-- "The state did not monitor whether prescriptions are being filled only by approved pharmacies."

Regarding the state's purchase of flu vaccine at a time when it appeared supplies might be short, Mr. Holland said:

-- The state agreed to purchase the flu vaccine even though it did not have federal approval to import such vaccines. Furthermore, documentation showed that at the time state officials signed the contract to purchase the flu vaccine, state officials knew that FDA approval was unlikely. Without federal approval, importation of flu vaccine was not legal."

-- Documentation was not available that demonstrated how the state determined that it needed the 254,250 does of vaccine that it agreed to purchase from Encosse.:"

-- "By December, 2004, Department of Public Health documentation showed that (the federal Center for Disease Control) had located sufficient flu vaccine to cover Illinois' priority population" ... "The contract with Encosse was signed on Jan. 13, 2005."

-- Illinois officials took the lead in procuring flu vaccine for other state and local governments but failed to develop agreements with these entities. ... the absence of such agreements ...resulted in Illinois being potentially liable to pay for the entire cache of vaccine -- over $8.2 million."

However satisfying it would be to stand sholder to shoulder with a state official challenging federal rules that work to the advantage of the deep-pocketed pharmaceutical industry, Mr. Holland's report to the General Assembly leaves it pretty much impossible to conclude anything other than that Gov. Blagojevich was more interested in flashy headlines than anything else. That's pretty much the way he is.

He got some great headlines in the Quad-Cities by declaring that a new school for Silvis was at the top of the state's priority list for school construction. He got great headlines in Carterville, in the southern Illinois, by announcing its school project was at the top of the priority list. No guarantee, of course, that either Silvis or Carterville will get any money at all, or that either has any guarantee that some other community won't jump to the top of that priority list as the governor makes his rounds in the six weeks remaining until Election Day.

He got great headlines in the Quad-Cities last spring by announcing $14 million for a new Western Illinois University campus here. But that turned out to be nothing when his plan for paying the bill for the bonds needed turned out to be so mushy that the Legislature wouldn't issue them. He got a second round of great headines here a few weeks ago for announcing $14 million for a new WIU campus. But he still didn't say how the required bonds would be paid off, so we may be as far as ever from actually getting the money.

Great headlines, no follow-through. Kind of the hallmark of the governor.

Oh -- in its first 19 months, the I-SaveRX program handled 17,575 orders, less than 1,000 per month.

The vaccine? It ended up in Pakistan a year later, being administered to earthquake victims. The supplier is in court, asking that Illinois be forced to pay up.

Posted by jcb at September 21, 2006 04:05 PM


John, I don't disagree with your assessment that this Governor has been very good at issuing press releases and self promotion via the media.
No disagreement there at all.

I would say, however, that his focus on and executive attention paid to developing the WIU-QC Riverfront Campus has been impressive. He announced and delivered $2.4 million earlier this year, and he has made strong pronouncements since.

Now, you're right, we need a fiscal source for the funds. We need bipartisan support for a capital bill to fund the WIU-QC Riverfront campus. We're not there yet. We also need several Republicans, namely Sen. Todd Sieben, to get on board with a capital bill to push WIU-QC.

Posted by: grillmaster deluxe II at September 21, 2006 04:24 PM

Gee, I can't tell you how shocked I am that a politician would pander to the press who in turn supports his fake but accurate policy positions with glowing (but fake) headlines and stories.

Too bad we can't impeach both Blago and his enabling press. Dang that First Amendment thang----it's what is standing between us and honest reporting.

Posted by: paladin at September 21, 2006 05:01 PM

GDII -- There's going to be a lot of promising and supporting this or that over the next six weeks, by the gov and a the flock of legislative candidates. Then a lame-duck legislature will go into session to consider, among other things, a capital projects bill that will contain the WIU money, among many other things.

What's needed is a frank look at the fiscal side of the issue. That's totally missing as we move through the "promise them anything" season.

The talk is about a bill authoring about $3 billion in bonds. What's the bonding period proposed? What will the interest cost us, at rates within the likely range?

Add that figure to whatever we'll be paying the bankers and lawyers to do the paper work.

That should yield the amount needed each year to cover the bonds. What is that figure? Where, exactly, is the source of the payments?

The governor ought to taking the lead in getting that information out, as well being out front in the promising crowd.

As an aside here, what's Topinka had to say about the capital improvements bill?

-- Paladin -- your last sentence makes no sense at all.

Posted by: jcb at September 21, 2006 05:51 PM

Blago is a joke.

He comes up with the prescription bill - and it is costing the taxpayers in a major way - and will continue to do so.

The KidsFirst program, noble as it sounds, will have the same disasterous fiscal outcome.

Blago has raided the state pension fund and the unfortunate reality is that the Western Illinois University project (and the Quad-Cities) will get the shaft simply because there is no money available to pay for this - because Blago wants to make good headlines and does not care about responsible bottom-lines!

Politics as usual. Will JBT be any better - she has to be...how could anyone be any less responsible?

Posted by: havinfun at September 21, 2006 05:59 PM

Blago was in town for the FOP endorsement. I noticed that no elected Democrats from Rock Island were in attendance and no candidates. No Phil Hare.....no one. Anyone no why that was?

Posted by: Just Wondering at September 21, 2006 06:22 PM

What I'm saying is that the press goes easy on those they like and goes hard on those they don't like.

The press gets a pass whether they print the truth or print lies. If they are found out printing lies, the First Amendment, as it is now interpreted, does not compel them to out the liars. In fact the press defends liars---it's their right. If the press had to adhere to the same stringent rules that they demand of others (government and corporations) we would have better reporting. As it is, the First Amendment makes a convenient cover for all sorts of press sins, and as a result, we get the type of reporting that you mention above----credulous.

No one in the press pays a price for bad reporting----it's the First Amendment thang, baby!

Posted by: paladin at September 21, 2006 07:19 PM

Paladin, you're right about the press. I'm sure you share my indignation about the right-wing slant to talk radio, cable TV and FOX TV. But that's the right-wing media these days, they seem to control and dominate everything under the banner of the First Amendment.

I just wish conservatives, and I know you've said you aren't a conservative, would stop their whining about the "liberal press." I can't find that liberal press anymore, and that's fine because I want an objective press.

Posted by: values matter at September 21, 2006 09:59 PM

Values Matter...

Come now...conservatives have a fair shot on FOX News and you think it is slanted towards Conservatives?

CBS (Rather allowing known lies to be spread about Bush), NBC, ABC, CNBC, CNN - all lean as far (further) left than the one station that leans right - FOC News.

Newspapers are far more liberal than conservative. This is such a fact that I see no reason to dig deeper.

As for radio, these are for-profit entertainment shows. The simple fact is that people want to hear conservative talk radio and the liberal radio is going bankrupt. This is not 'conservative press' this is simple for-profit entertainment.

Bottom-line is that the press clearly leans left -major TV and newspapers. If you disagree, please provide a list of all these right-wing TV stations and newspapers (I will bet you that my list will dwarf yours).

Posted by: havinfun at September 22, 2006 07:12 AM

How boring to be you, vm, and view everything through a partisan lense.

I dare you to show me where I said "the press is liberal". Of course parts of the press ARE liberal, but so what? Thankfully we live in an era of press diversity. I remember the bad old days when we only had three networks and they all copied from the NYTimes. That was way too much power placed in the hands of an elite few for my taste. So I believe that the press is liberal, and conservative, and libertarian and anything else we want it to be.

So my point (imperfectly made) was not the press is too liberal or too conservative, but too freakin' lazy.

This post by jcb got me thinking about what the local press could do and could be. jcb notes that Blago blows into town, or makes an announcement, and the press just unquestioningly records it for the rest of us to digest. But we know that at least some journalists (like jcb) know how to look beyond the statements of politicians, and know where to look for real information. My beef is why don't they do more of this analysis? This post appeared on today's editorial page of D/A, but why isn't this important work being done on the news pages?

Freakin' inquiring minds wanna know!

Posted by: paladin at September 23, 2006 01:33 PM

It's been a week and VM has been quite invisible. He made a stupid comment and, I suspect, hoped it would just be accepted. When challenged, he wilts.

VM, do you agree that the press leans more left than right (as I suspect that you do by your silence) or are you willing to back up your post?

Posted by: havinfun at September 30, 2006 08:08 AM