Governor Keno Reeves
The ex-governor's (George Ryan) corruption trial continues to drag on in a Chicago federal courtroom. More indictments of city hall officials fill the front pages of the local Chicago newspapers. The commonality of Illinois politics seems to be apparent: public officials spend most of the time milking their position for private gain. If one wants to do business with a government agency, that business must have alleged access to the decision makers. First, one must make a campaign donation. Second, one must hire a lobbyist close to the subject agency head. Third, if it a specialized contract bid, one must hire a politician's friend as a do-nothing consultant at a six figure sum because that's the way things are done in Illinois. Bribes, kickbacks, ghost payrolling, do-nothing jobs, fixed contract bidding are all standard operating procedure.
So a current politician in Illinois should have enough sense to close the political playbook while the grand juries and federal prosecutors are printing subpoenas faster than the Sunday newspapers. But it appears the Kid Governor thinks he is the invisible Keeau Reeves character.
It has been reported that the Governor has reversed his 2002 campaign pledge against gambling expansion. He is now in favor of state run keno gambling in restaurants and taverns. Why the sudden change of heart? First, a campaign manager was hired as a lobbyist for the firm who would be in the bidding for the keno contract. The company says it was already discussing the idea before hiring the lobbyist; and that the lobbyist did nothing. Which begs the question: hire a lobbyist to do nothing, then the governor endorses your idea? Second, a major campaign donor is also in line to gain from legalized keno. The administration says it cannot control the subcontractors hired to run such a program. Which begs the question again: both financial and political supporters tied to the governor stand to gain from legalizing keno? It smells like a junkyard in the heat of the summer; a real conflict of interest.
The motiviation for the increase in gambling is that it is a vice geared to profit the House. In this case, the State House. The governor is proposing another $3 billion bond issue. But there is no cash flow (revenue) to pay for this huge deficit spending. Illinois manufacturing jobs have decreased; unemployment is above the national average; the standard of living of average citizen has decreased to 1980 levels. So the easy way to extract more money from its cash strapped citizens is the illusory promise of quick winnings with keno, the Vegas bingo card game. There was also conflicting justification for the need for keno. One spokesperson said it would raise the $40 million a year in revenue that is needed to pay back the bonds. However, another report said it would take $80 million a year to pay back the bonds. The proponents cannot get their own story straight. The only thing that the administration fears is that the governor needs to be re-elected by a large margin in order for the Gov to run for President in 2008. That is all that matters to Blaggo. If he has to bury the state in billions of debt, the default would occur after his term of office so in his own mind, he is not to blame.
And running a one-party rule statehouse, Blaggo may get his wish of favored increased gambling. Because it is cloaked in the running mantra that part of the proceeds will be used for school construction. Opponents of increased gambling point out that rationale is a ruse. The state lottery was supposed to have cured all the ills of the Illinois public schools. But it is not about helping the children; it is about helping the campaign coffers until the next election cycle.
Opinion, Commentary, Editorial Cartoons by Ski.
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