Capitol Notebook: Only in Illinois ..

Capitol Bureaus

Play of the Week

Only in Illinois, you could say.

Only in Illinois could the governor's point man on gambling matters be a major league gambler allegedly making his deals with a bookie and skirting the taxman in the process.

That's exactly the story told Thursday by federal prosecutors who indicted Chris Kelly, a close friend of Gov. Rod Blagojevich. Kelly, one of the governor's chief fundraisers, is formerly his top adviser on all things gambling.

"He is a close personal friend who is very active in my political operation," Blagojevich told the Rockford Register Star in 2004. The governor also said, "He does not advise me in terms of my job as governor," but of course that turned out to be untrue.

When Blagojevich needed somebody to represent him in exclusive meetings on gambling matters, he sent Kelly.

In 2003, Blagojevich told the Chicago Sun-Times that Kelly was his "special government agent" on gambling policy.

"He understands that industry," Blagojevich told the newspaper. "He goes to Vegas. He likes all of that."

Indeed, the feds allege Kelly used cash from two businesses he controlled to pay personal expenses and gambling debts he racked up in Las Vegas and with Illinois bookmakers.

Head Scratcher

The question now becomes: Will Blagojevich continue to be a champion of gambling expansion as a means to raise more state revenue?

Blagojevich ruled out all forms of gambling expansion when he first ran for governor in 2002, but has since vacillated between gambling critic and gambling advocate-in-chief.

Quote of Note

"Constant accommodation of language barriers -- particularly at the workplace -- discourages linguistic assimilation." -- John Morris, a Republican candidate for the open 18th District congressional seat, at a Dec. 11 news conference where he said employers should be allowed to implement English-only policies at work if they want.

"If this is 'reform and renewal,' I don't want any part of it." -- government-ethics watchdog Cindi Canary, commenting in the wake of Kelly's indictment. Blagojevich, early in his administration, frequently emphasized the theme of "reform and renewal."

Number to Know

38. The maximum number of years in the prison sentence that Kelly could receive if he eventually is convicted on all 12 counts.

Coming Up

More angst for Chicago transit riders, lawmakers who want construction projects and those who think gambling expansion can cure state government's financial ills. Those intertwined issues still hang over lawmakers heads like leaden mistletoe, and nobody can yet figure out who's going to get kissed - or kicked.