Guest Column: Tired of Prime Time Blago

June 2, 2010

By John Russell Ghrist

“Liars and cowards” is what former Gov. Rod Blagojevich is calling federal officials who have brought some of the worst charges of corruption against him in the state’s history. It was not enough that Blagojevich and his wife have played stupid roles on TV reality shows. Now, they are holding their own press conferences to claim their innocence, and the media are playing right into their hands. Why is “Blago the Clown” getting so much publicity?

It’s because on a slow news day, the newspapers, TV and radio stations find this guy not only quite amusing, but outrageous. He’s also the subject of numerous blogs, talk shows, and serves as political fodder for columnists with nothing better to write about.

The latest episode of his inane outbursts resembles other political hacks that finally got their hands caught in the cookie jar and want to reverse the tide of public opinion and point it toward their accusers. Everyone knows that to catch a sneak, one has to act like one, too. Therefore, federal wiretaps were installed to record what Blago and his crony friends were up to. We all heard the tapes of how he tried to use the vacancy of President Barrack Obama’s former Senate seat to his own advantage. He is heard on the recordings asking what was in it for him. Even the person he appointed, Roland Burris, bowed out for re-election and has had to cover his own tracks. When Blago came to Rockford a few years ago, he tossed the community a few political crumbs, and then snuck out of town before the media could ask him any embarrassing questions. Isn’t that being a coward, too?

Blagojevich wants all the tapes played to prove his innocence, while his brother Robert doesn’t. Blago’s brother has his own political troubles now. Playing the thousands of hours of tapes would just lengthen the trial and further turn it into the media circus Blagojevich’s attorneys are hoping for. All of this advance publicity of his June trial will also make it impossible to find jurors who have not already formed opinions about the case, which is another goal of his babbling legal team.

In recent unsealed court documents, it was revealed the former governor’s methods and plans for corruption were taking place long before he even took office. Something was wrong from the start when he did not even want to live in the governor’s mansion in Springfield. He took expensive state helicopter rides home for dinner every night. The home in the capitol was good enough for other governors of our state, why not Blago?

On the wiretaps, we heard him say we wanted to “make money.” In recent days, federal officials have also outlined how funds were funneled through his wife’s business operations. She had a job that paid $180,000 at a charity. It makes one wonder about how much a person is really worth, and how much of donations go toward salaries for inept individuals rather than the cause. We also found out what he and his wife really think of the Chicago Cubs. The revelation of all the corruption charges Blago refutes has also brought to light a number of other shady backroom wheeler-dealers that have helped him carry out his massive evil plans.

The real “liar and coward” in this case is Blago himself. As a former good state employee for nearly 19 years, I remember he had his cronies tell us nothing was going to change at the Illinois Department of Transportation and we would not lose our jobs. I had prided myself during my state career to not take any political sides and just do what the taxpayers were paying me for. This included many years of all-night dispatching during snow storms and a variety of productive public relations work. I was the voice on many state presentations, Highway Advisory Radio, sent out timely road construction news releases to the media, and edited the department’s newspaper. I still remember the day one of Blago’s cronies pulled a story about a fund-raiser at a grocery store for one of our state employees who needed a kidney transplant. That space in our newspaper was replaced with a worthless article about what the former governor was doing.

We could easily see the atmosphere was changing at IDOT. Working programs were being ruined, we were asked to do political work on state time, and an abundance of overly-paid political workers with no specific duties were hired. When two other good workers and I were marched into an empty room in 2004 and told our jobs “had been abolished,” it proved Blago had lied to us. I made $33,000 a year, far less than the people the former governor was hiring to do nothing. I was never able to find a similar position and ended up going bankrupt and was foreclosed. When the state got millions of dollars in debt to medical and social service agencies, I was laid off again at another position. Good jobs are impossible to find in this bad economy.

Now, this guy is getting all of this exposure to deny the charges against him. Unlike other corrupt political officials, Blago got caught and is now squirming around like a stepped-on worm, crying foul against the legal system. I hope the judge will keep the trial proceedings from being disrupted.

All these years, I have never met a career politician I liked, and none has ever done me any good. I have resorted to writing to several of them, including the present governor, to look into how those of us who lost our state jobs were unfairly treated. There is never any reply. The Inspector General’s office has also been useless and is no more than a rubber stamp of political worthlessness. Now, it’s too late. The state ranks sixth in the country in political corruption and is basically broke. I lost many benefits I worked hard for, and the taxpayers lost a good employee, too.

Everyone has a right to a speedy trial and to face their accusers and is innocent until proven guilty. However, Blagojevich has gone too far and clouded the minds of the media and the public with his spiteful antics. It’s time for Blago to take the beat down and go to jail. Then, the state can work on solving its real problems, including the ones he’s caused.

John Ghrist is a local resident who hosts a radio show, Everyday People, on WTPB LP 99.3FM.

From the June 2-8, 2010 issue

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