Capitol Notebook: Times a-changin' for Jones, Blagojevich

State Capitol Bureau

Play of the Week

Times indeed have changed for political buddies Emil Jones and Rod Blagojevich.

Both have been among government's most prolific campaign fundraisers. But this election season, Gov. Blagojevich and Senate President Jones have seen their stock dwindle.

Jones is retiring in January, and there's several Democrats vying for his seat. He's still giving out lots of money to help Democrats win Senate seats, but his fundraising and spending has dropped significantly now that he's a lame-duck officeholder. Those running to be his successor have become big players in the money game for Democrat candidates.

And Blagojevich, the financial wunderkind who has shattered campaign money records, isn't even involved in races this fall.

His campaign told the State Board of Elections last week it isn't giving money to support other candidates or ballot issues this election.

So that means Democrats running for legislative seats won't reap the rewards of cash from a governor whose administration is under the cloud of federal investigations, whose poll ratings are at all-time lows and whose fights with lawmakers have dominated government in recent years.

No doubt tears are flowing on campaigns throughout Illinois.

Head Scratcher

Barack Obama has thousands of Illinoisans helping him in the presidential election here and in other battleground states. But one has a rather unique approach - tackle the serious topic of war through political humor on the Internet, all on a shoestring budget.

Robert Marshall, a radiologist from the Chicago suburbs who has lost several political races in the past as a Republican, is backing Obama because he believes the Chicago Democrat has the right approach to easing conflict in the Middle East.

Marshall has started a political action committee dubbed Citizens Against War In Iran, and at the Capitol Friday unveiled its new Web site:

He's heading to states such as Indiana, Ohio and Missouri to help Obama beat Republican John McCain by running newspaper ads and touting the Web site.

Marshall's Web site includes "a variety of humorous videos" designed to reach the undecided voter.

The videos feature him acting as an investigative reporter for Chicago "radio-TV station WNUT" and interviewing himself dressed as a typical Republican voter, and also interviewing people portraying "King" Rush Limbaugh and "Queen" Sarah Palin. One video featuring a spoof of the Rev. Jesse Jackson and protective underwear can't be adequately described here.

Marshall took a two-month leave from his job to help the senator and is working with a $25,000 budget of his own cash, although he's looking for donations.

He has let the Obama campaign in Illinois know about his efforts. He hasn't met Obama but wants to soon.

"The only thing I regret is not doing more," Marshall said.

That may not be the only thing Obama regrets.

Quote of the Week

"Quite frankly, when I first met him, I was disappointed."

Attorney General Lisa Madigan, speaking at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale last week, on meeting her future father - powerful House Speaker Michael Madigan - when she was 10 years old. Her mother's previous boyfriend had owned two ice cream parlors.

Number to Know

20,462. That's the number of Illinoisans who voted during the so-called "grace period," which ended Oct. 21 for the Nov. 4 general election. The "grace period" lets people register to vote after the traditional registration deadline, but they must cast their ballots immediately. The State Board of Elections initially pegged the number of "grace period" voters at 180,000, then realized it had mistakenly combined its "grace period" and "early voting" figures.

Coming Up

Thursday, Oct. 30 is the final day for Illinois voters to take advantage of the "early voting" period for the general election. Through early voting, people can cast their ballots at designated locations -- usually, the local election office -- before Election Day, and they don't have to explain why.

State Capitol Bureau