Thursday, June 19, 2008

Last One Out Turns Off the Light

And then there were none.

As the exit train picks up steam, word is that Abby Ottenhoff, the Governor's communication chief, is the latest to say 'see ya' to the Governor.

Her departure, comes in the wake of the adios parade led by Carol Ronen, Rebecca Rausch, and Sheila Nix.

According to Sneed:
Ottenhoff will be replaced by Lucio Guerrero, a former Sun-Times reporter who oversees media relations for Cook County Assessor Jim Houlihan.
From her days on House Democratic staff onwards, Abby was always simultaneously pleasant and professional. Abby always did her (admittedly tough) job well and proved that it could be done without being shrill or offensive. I wish her all the best.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

On a Lighter Note

Are You a Republican?

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

As True as Ever

(I started this post over the weekend and then forgot to finish it. My apologies to our 16th President.)

In any event, and with much thanks and credit to Wikipedia...

Yesterday marked the 150th anniversary of one of the most famous speeches in our country's history.

On June 16, 1858, upon accepting the Illinois Republican Party's nomination for United States Senator, Abraham Lincoln delivered his "House Divided" speech at the Old State Capitol.

The most well-known passage of the speech is:

"A house divided against itself cannot stand." I believe this government cannot endure, permanently, half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved — I do not expect the house to fall — but I do expect it will cease to be divided.

It will become all one thing or all the other. Either the opponents of slavery will arrest the further spread of it, and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in the course of ultimate extinction; or its advocates will push it forward, till it shall become alike lawful in all the States, old as well as new — North as well as South."

In this one speech, Lincoln put a fine point on the danger posed to the very existence of the Union by the fractious debate over slavery. And while it should be noted that notwithstanding the poignancy of the speech, Lincoln wound up losing the election to Stephan A. Douglas, this speech, and the debates with Douglas that followed, helped set the stage for Lincoln's eventual rise to the Presidency of the United States.

There are a couple of very interesting aspects of the speech that I wasn't aware of until doing a little bit of homework for this post.

It turns out that the quotation "A house divided against itself cannot stand" is taken from Matthew 12:25: "Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand".

Also, it is worth noting that while today's candidates are often raked over the coals for incorporating the thoughts or words of other elected officials, that Lincoln was not the first politician to make use of the "house divided" line.

Eight years before Lincoln's speech, Sam Houston proclaimed during the Senate debate on the Compromise of 1850 that, wait for it, "A nation divided against itself cannot stand".

In any event, I think that it is safe to say that the timing and context of Lincoln's invocation of the line helped crystallize just how much was at stake for our country at the time. And ironically, if Lincoln were to look at Illinois state government today, the same concept just might run through his mind.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Lend a Hand, Write a Check

You always hope that disaster doesn't strike close to home or affect those who you care about. When news of the flooding in downstate Illinois first broke, I called my friend Rep. Roger Eddy to see if there was anything that we could do up here to be of any assistance.

Roger called me after doing a fly-around to tell me that the damage is pretty extensive and that perhaps the most useful thing that could be done by private citizens is also one of the easiest.

From a press release issued by Rep. Eddy and Senator Dale Righter:
State Senator Dale Righter and State Representative Roger Eddy have established a fund to help local families devastated by flooding. The lawmakers Wednesday established the Wabash Valley Flood Relief Fund at the Farmers and Merchants Bank in Hutsonville to accept monetary donations to help meet the immediate needs of families evacuated this week from their flooded homes.

“When levees broke yesterday, many families were forced to evacuate immediately. There was no time to gather food and water, clothing, toothbrushes, or any other daily essentials they are going to need,” said Eddy. “Securing the state disaster declaration has gotten the wheels in motion for long-term recovery assistance, but donations to the flood relief fund will help these families with their day to day needs in the mean time”.

"After touring many of the hardest-hit communities it’s obvious that local families can’t wait for state or federal relief dollars to become available. They need help now,” said Righter. “The good news is that our offices have been inundated with calls from people from our area and across the state who want to help. All donations to the fund we established today will go directly to helping families in our six local counties declared state disaster areas.”

Righter and Eddy said the fund is accepting monetary donations. Those wishing to contribute can send checks to:

Wabash Valley Flood Relief Fund
P.O. Box 277
Hutsonville, IL 62443

Do the right thing. Write a check. Any amount would be appreciated.

Sunday, June 08, 2008


And the karma bus just keeps chugging along.

According to Sneed:
Sneed hears Governor Blago's top deputy gov, Sheila Nix, just quit. Is this the beginning of an office bailout now that the feds are fine-tuning their gun sights on Gov. Blago? Stay tuned.
At one time, I thought that Sheila seemed nice enough, although I have long questioned the judgment of anybody who willingly chooses to work in this Governor's inner circle.

But I have been repeatedly told that Sheila was part of the brain trust that prepped Carol Ronen for her disastrous Chicago Tonight appearance, and who helped conjure up the Governor's dimwitted and ill-received strategy to try to derail the pay-to-play ban by uttering flat out lies.

Paycheck or no paycheck, the concerted efforts of Sheila, Carol and Rebecca Rausch to aid and abet the Governor's efforts to prevent ethics and campaign finance reform by conjuring up and mindlessly parroting the party lines were inexcusable and emblematic of the legacy that will mark the Blagojevich era.

The Governor's need to surround himself with sycophants unwilling to question the misguided wisdom of his strategies, coupled with individuals all too willing to play that role, have done untold damage not just to the Administration, but more importantly, to our fine state.

While Sheila may be the latest out the door, I think that it's a safe bet that she won't be the last.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Put it on the Board!

Whether Hilary Clinton wants to admit it or not, this thing is over:
Barack Obama effectively clinched the Democratic presidential nomination Tuesday after a grueling marathon, based on an Associated Press tally of convention delegates, becoming the first black candidate ever to lead his party into a fall campaign for the White House...

The tally was based on public declarations from delegates as well as from another 15 who have confirmed their intentions to the AP. It also included 11 delegates Obama was guaranteed as long as he gained 30 percent of the vote in South Dakota and Montana later in the day. It takes 2,118 delegates to clinch the nomination.
We obviously have a fascinating several months ahead of us, but if you somehow haven't realized it yet, you're witnessing history being made. And while pundits can point to limitless aspects of the importance of this contest, I still think that the greatest upside has been the untold number of previously disinterested Americans that have now engaged themselves in the process. A victory for all of us.

Monday, June 02, 2008

R.I.P. Ellas Otha Bates

If you've never seen Bo jam on a guitar (a homemade one, no less), then you really don't know Diddley. And the man had some moves to boot. Check this out:

CNN has a good overview of Bo Diddley's life here.


Proving the adage that desperate people in desperate situations say desperate things, the Governor once again showed that he will never let the facts get in the way of him speaking his mind.

Today's target - me. During his press conference today, the Governor was asked about his intentions with respect to the pay-to-play legislation that he never wanted to see but which is now sitting on his desk.

No longer able to hide behind Carol Ronen's or Rebecca Rausch's pantsuits, but not wanting people to pay attention to 800-pound gorilla (aka the U.S. Attorney) that is hovering over him, the Governor had to attack me on his own. Let's break down what he said:

Blagojevich: "(Fritchey) is currently a paid lobbyist for the payday loan industry."

Facts: In 2006, I was retained as counsel by Cash America to apply for a variation to open a pawn shop in the Little Village community in Chicago. The application was heard by the Zoning Board of Appeals, which is comprised of an architect, two lawyers and a minister. After multiple hearings, the application was approved. Records of both the client and the specifics of my engagement were filed with the Chicago Board of Ethics.

Blagojevich: "He gets paid by the payday loan industry and has actually voted on the House floor, on 3 separate occasions, in favor of his paying client."

Facts: I have been working on reforming the payday loan for nearly a decade, having filed one of the first payday loan reform bills in our state's history (with former Rep. Tom Dart), and continue that work to this day, working with colleagues such as Reps. Miller and Hamos, and groups such as Citizen Action. If the Governor isn't aware of the work that I've done on this issue, then he just hasn't been paying attention. Big surprise there.

Facts: In 2005, I was honored to receive the Monsignor John Egan Campaign for Payday Loan Reform Leadership Award for my efforts on behalf of HB1100 (the Payday Loan Reform Act of 2005). At the time, one of the presenters was kind enough to say the following: "Representative Fritchey’s leadership and support was crucial to the passage of House Bill 1100,” stated Lynda DeLaforgue, codirector of Citizen Action/Illinois. “His work to put an end to abusive payday lending practices will greatly impact the working families of Illinois.

Blagojevich: "That can't possibly be ethical. Whether it's legal or not remains a question."

Facts: Apparently, the Governor wouldn't know ethics if it hit him upside his head with his own hairbrush. What isn't ethical is making a deliberate effort to deceive the public through misleading statements about me in order to try to protect his fundraising juggernaut, which has raised countless millions from individuals and businesses who just 'happened' to wind up with fortunes in state contracts.

And the only legal questions he should be looking at right now involve his own activities.

Facts: Every Senator and every Representative and every major editorial board support cutting the ties between the Governor's fundraising and state contracts through this specific piece of legislation. So try as he may to tarnish me, there are a whole lot of Illinoisans (about 12 million) that want to see this bill signed. As is.

I hope that, in the future, he's more careful about his statements. Especially if they're under oath.

Sign Here

The Tribune echoes my post of the other day urging the Governor to simply sign the pay to play ban, but not surprisingly, they said it in a much more eloquent manner.
There is one thing the legislature did do right. It sent to the governor an ethics bill.

Yes, you heard right. An ethics bill. In Illinois. Pick yourself off the floor. It's not law yet. The governor apparently has his own mischief in mind...

It's a good bill. But Blagojevich has been warming up a familiar ruse: He's been hinting that, instead of signing the bill, he'll send it back to lawmakers with "improvements" they won't be able to swallow. In Springfield, that's called "loving a bill to death."

It's transparently bogus...

Blagojevich could save himself some embarrassment—and maybe even regain some trust of Democrats and Republicans—if he would just sign the bill.
Politics being what it is, I completely understand and accept the Governor trying to spin the issue to take shots at me. (The fact that his spin is wholly misleading and unrelated to the issue at hand is just par for the course. Although, with Carol Ronen off collecting her super-sized pension, and Ronen v2.0, aka Rebecca Rausch, now off the clock, it remains to seen who the Governor will call in from the attack dog bullpen. )

The bill has a January 1 effective date, which means that any amendatory veto would still be overridden in time to keep the bill on track to go into law when the General Assembly intended. In light of this, any attempts to rewrite the bill amount to a futile effort to delay the inevitable.

But putting our differences aside, the Governor signing the bill would not only be the right thing for him to do, it would go a long way in showing that he has the ability to do the right thing when it is put in front of him.

One day, he'll be gone. One day, I'll be gone. But before that happens, pay to play politics should be gone as well.