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Sunday, April 27, 2008

Ayers, Rezko, and Obama: Countering the Outsider Image

Hyde Park, Barack Obama's home neighborhood in Chicago, is ground zero for some of the biggest corruption in government in the country. It is not only a part of Chicago politics, long known nationally for a history of corruption, but home to the equally corrupt Cook County and Illinois state governments. While Barack Obama claims that only an outsider like himself can change Washington, he is himself quite the insider to these three governments.

Recently many have argued just how close the relationship between William Ayers and Barack Obama is. While their relationship continues to appear to be tangential at best, it is in fact Ayers cozy relationship with the political class of Chicago that should raise most eyebrows. How does a former domestic terrorist find himself so cozy with so many power players in Chicago? Well, this is the city most famous for this quote after all (by the late Richard J. Daley and father of the current mayor)

vote early and vote often

In fact, Obama got his start in politics at a fundraiser at Ayers' home. Furthermore, Obama was the hand picked successor to Alice Palmer. So, while Barack Obama may claim to be an outsider in Washington, he has been the ultimate insider in Hyde Park, Cook County, and Springfield.

While this may mean nothing outside of those areas, his insider status in those three governments should say plenty about his ability to change Washington.

The current governor of Illinois, Rod Blagojevich, is under investigation on a series of corruption related matters. His predecessor, George Ryan, is serving time for corruption. Another former governer, Dan Walker, served federal time until his release years ago.

Corruption is just a way of life in the government of the state of Illinois. Here is the way in which activists view the history of corruption in Illinois.

Voters are increasingly convinced that public corruption is deeply embedded in Illinois' history and political culture. It doesn't have to be that way(Cynthia Canary, Director of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform)


Illinois' citizens are getting tired of the paradeof scandals, indictments and investigations that plague our state government (Jay Stewart, Executive Director, Better Government Association. )


I would like for my children and all of the children growing up with them and after them to know that we did everything we could to help ensure that justice is blind, that you get a fair shake in the courts regardless of who you are or where you come from (said William Delgado, D-Chicago,)

Barack Obama was State Senator for eight years and what did he do to combat the systemic corruption in state government. His biggest contribution to the corruption in Illinois is his cozy relationship with Illinois' version of Jack Abramoff, Tony Rezko.

While Obama was in state government, he was anything but the outsider reformer that he claims to be now. In fact, he did everything he could to be as much of an insider as he could. That's why he attended this fundraiser hosted by the former domestic terrorist, Bill Ayers. That's why he began a decade plus friendship with Tony Rezko.

The Cook County government is no better. A couple years back I heard Tony Peraica speak. Peraica is a member of the Cook County Board and currently running for Cook County State's Attorney (on a platform of rooting out the very corruption I am talking about). He described one Cook County Board meeting in which the then President, John Stroger, was trying to muscle through a no bid contract that Peraica and his allies had traced back to a buddy of Stroger. According to Peraica, Stroger was trying to muscle it through in less than the four business days that was called for. The action was voted against 15-2 according to Peraica. With news cameras rolling, Stroger brazenly said that the motion passed despite being overwhelmingly voted against.

Stroger lay in a coma for several months before his last election in 2006. His son, Todd Stroger, eventually won the position in a rather dubious manner.

On March 14, 2006, John Stroger, Cook County Board of Commissioners president since 1994 and Todd Stroger's father, suffered a serious stroke one week before the eventually won the Democratic nomination, winning about 53 percent of the votes cast, defeating Forrest Claypool. For months after the elder Stroger's stroke he did not appear in public, and his family provided little information about his condition.

Shortly after the stroke, Todd Stroger gave noncommittal responses about the likelihood that his father would remain on the ballot. But in May, he reversed his previous stance, saying his father would return to office.[2] Ultimately, John Stroger would submit his resignation. At the same time that John Stroger submitted his resignation, it was announced that alderman William Beavers would assume the County Commissioner seat while Todd Stroger, if elected, would take over the County Board presidency.

This announcement came four days after the deadline for third-party candidates to file for the Board presidency race.[3]In the aftermath of his father's resignation, Todd Stroger emerged as the front-runner for his father's presidential seat. His main opponent was U.S. Representative Danny K. Davis. Another opponent, County Commissioner Bobbie Steele, dropped out of the race shortly before party leaders chose a new candidate.[3]

Eventually, Todd Stroger was chosen to represent the Democrats for Cook County Board President. He took on Tony Peraica in the general election. This election was hard fought, close, and with many rumors of malfeasance. According to Peraica, there was even legitimate instances of voter fraud though he said that he simply couldn't find enough to overturn the election.

Since taking office Stroger has recently passed one of the biggest sales tax increases in the country and there are allegations of cronyism, waste and of course other corruption. Meanwhile, Cook County Hospital's budget has been cut. More recently, CBS affiliate has reported of several instances of Stroger friends having cushy six figure jobs in his office.

Stroger's campaign was invigorated by the endorsement and late campaign push of none other than Barack Obama in 2006. Stroger and Obama remain political allies, and Stroger has returned the favor by endorsing Obama for President.

Obama is also endorsed by the mayor of Chicago, Richard M. Daley. Daley's history of corruption is too long to list in one post but let's just he is giving his dad a run for his money on this issue. Daley is also rumored to be the subject of investigations of corruption.

So, while Obama's relationship with Bill Ayers remains tenuous, what isn't tenuous is Obama's relationship with the corrupt city, county, and state governments he calls home. What is clear is that in eight years as a state senator the only thing he did was get himself very cozy with all of the power players that make up the fiber of the corruption. While Obama claims to be an outsider ready to fix Washington, it is clear that in his eight years as a State Senator he was the exact opposite. His rhetoric of reform may sound nice and promising however it comes with a history of action that is the exact opposite. Whatever anyone thinks of the Washington government, it is down right peachy compared to the governments at Chicago City Hall, Cook County, and Springfield. For all of those three levels, Obama is the ultimate insider, and rather than battling the corrupting forces, he has gotten into political bed with most of them.


Jayashiel said...

great post !

Obama under estimated Americans.

Anonymous said...

Tony Peraica is the single best friend (last chance?) Illinois has right now. I live in Chicago, and it amazes me how these crumb-bums keep getting elected. The masses are simply ignorant and vote how their parents voted.

Obama emerged from the political cesspool. Should he be elected to the presidency, I imagine the pattern will continue. We're screwed.

mike volpe said...

There is no bigger Peraica fan than me, however I always feel as though he is headed up a mountain during an avalanche. Still, if he gets the power of the state's attorney's office there could be a lot of corrupt pols going to jail.

As for voting, we are so overwhelmingly dem here that this is part of the problem. We have one Rep on the City Council.