Saturday, August 29, 2009

Hanania: Is Pat Quinn Don Quixote or Chauncey Gardner?

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Gov Quinn: a Don Quixote or Chauncey Gardener?

By Ray Hanania

Gov. Quinn has proven he is little more than a manipulated puppet of the powers that control the Illinois Legislature, which probably makes him their choice to remain as governor.

The boy’s club of powers in the legislature, led by House Speaker Michael J. Madigan and Senate Puppet, err, President, John Cullerton, don’t like a governor who tries to do things on his own.

Need we mention how the legislative leadership conspired to do-in former Governor Rod Blagojevich who refused to kneel to their power and once kicked outside of the good-old-boys system, had to fend for himself.

It’s amazing that if you try to raise money outside of this system, you become the poster child for U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald’s phony and limited “pay-to-play” investigation.

But if you are inside the leadership circle of secrecy, you can pay-to-play all you want, muscling contractors to donate to your campaigns as legislators, using the see-thru veil that only the governor is in charge of contracts in Illinois. The insiders are protected by the system.

Quinn made a critical choice this past week. To be an insider taking orders from the leadership or be an outsider as he has been all his life and stand up for what is right at the expense of his own career?

The fact is there are two pay-to-play systems in Illinois, one played by “outsiders” to the system who are tarred and feathered by the mob, and one played by the insiders who together protect themselves. You don’t do what the insiders want and you don’t get any contracts, services, jobs, perqs.

So phony. So hypocritical. So fake.

Blagojevich may have crossed the line on some issues, but to pretend the rest of the legislative pack is not involved is outrageous hypocrisy.

It is the fear of ending up like Blagojevich that has his former running mate Pat Quinn, the long time Don Quixote of Illinois Politics, running like a scarred jack rabbit.

In the face of the embarrassing disclosures by the Chicago Tribune of how legislators used their clout to bully the University of Illinois’ admissions officers and trustees to allow unqualified students to enter the school, Quinn knuckled under to his selfish career needs rather than to public principle.

In order to keep his job he needed two things: first, King Madigan’s Princess, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan – the Governor in waiting – had to withdraw from the race. Princess Lisa’s candidacy would all but certainly thrown Pat Quinn out of the Governor’s Mansion on his ass in next year’s February 2 Democratic Primary.

Well, bowing to a royal decree, Princess Lisa stepped down.

But, the fearless Don Quixote Pat Quinn had to reciprocate to the “sacrifice” of the Madigan Dynasty and he didn’t hesitate to protect the protectors of the pay-to-play.

His first act was to create a “Blue Ribbon Committee” to investigate the charges. The committee tried to investigate, but all they were allowed to do was look at one side of the scandal, the trustees and administrators at the University of Illinois.

Not investigated was the role of the Illinois legislators who bent arms, threatened, pressured and forced the University of Illinois to accept their nominees who were unqualified to enter the school, passing over more qualified students who may have lost out because of the clout admissions practices.

These nominees were friends, relatives, children of contributors and politicians. They all got in but somehow Don Quixote Pat Quinn’s fire seemed to extinguish itself when it came to holding the feet of the guilty legislators to the fire.

Madigan and Cullerton were among those who nominated the MOST unqualified students to sidestep the University of Illinois’ admissions qualifications system.

But when Madigan and Cullerton were “asked” not ordered to appear before the so-called “Blue Ribbon Committee” to explain their role in this scandalous affair, they said no. They had the “Get Out of Jail Card,” the clout that decides Don Quixote Pat Quinn’s fate.

The “Blue Ribbon Committee,” blue in the face, made a half-assed recommendation to fire the existing nine University of Illinois trustees. Seven quit. Two refused, not for reasons having to do with the corruption of the investigation, but for their own selfish political reasons. They were dynasties in and of themselves.

Don Quixote Pat Quinn then backed down and “allowed” the two to remain. Imagine how forcing the former legal adviser to the late Mayor Harold Washington, James Montgomery, to resign would play on Don Quixote Pat Quinn’s election as governor next year in the Black community.

Quinn could not afford that. He he pretends the Blue Ribbon Committee achieved the goals of ferreting out the unethical practices, but all it did was put a half-assed spotlight on one small part of the “pay-to-play” system led by the leaders of the Illinois legislature.

And now Quinn has vetoed legislation that was half-assed to begin with to put restrictions on how much cash contributors can give candidates running for re-election next year in the insider’s “pay-to-play” system.

He says he did so at the recommendation of the legislative leaders who said the legislation was “not tough enough,” as if they really want tougher legislation passed to begin with.

And who would the legislation have hurt? The legislative leaders who said they want stronger legislation and asked that this legislation be vetoed.

So Pat Quinn, playing the role of a hapless puppet on strings, says yes, this legislation is not tough enough. The public wants tougher legislation to curb the pay-to-play practices that have scarred the state of Illinois continuing to make it the laughing stock of the nation.

Who benefits from this delay?

Well, all of the candidates running for election and re-election next year. They won’t have to worry now about the restrictions the bill would have imposed on their ability to play the Illinois Pay-to-Play Game.

Chief among the benefactors now is Don Quixote Pat Quinn, who can raise all the money he wants, under Madigan’s guidance, of course, to seek re-election.

Fortunately, Quinn’s days as Illinois’ hapless version of “Chauncey Gardner,” the “dumb as a jackass” gardener in the movie “Being There,” whose career moved through the insanity of a world willing to be hoodwinked, probably will get beat anyway.

Let’s hope so.

(Ray Hanania is an award winning columnist with the Southwest News-Herald, former longtime Chicago City Hall reporter, author and host of the morning radio show "Mornings with Ray Hanania" on WJJG 1530 AM Radio, Mon-Fri 8-9:30 am.

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