Capitol Notebook: Cellini becomes a household name - for the wrong reasons

State Capitol Bureau

Play of the Week

Bill Cellini of Springfield has accomplished a lot of things in life. He's a former member of the Springfield City Council, former Illinois Department of Transportation secretary, former co-owner of a riverboat casino and until recently, treasurer of the Sangamon County Republican Party.

And he's done it all mostly behind the scenes - until Thursday, when he added a new feat that he'd prefer to have left undone.

Cellini was indicted by a federal grand jury on corruption charges tied to the massive Teachers' Retirement System pension fund, allegedly steering campaign money to Gov. Rod Blagojevich in exchange for investment business. His attorney insists Cellini is innocent.

Cellini won't be able to maintain his customary low profile if U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald sticks to his usual bulldog approach when it comes to prosecuting people who have been indicted on federal charges.

As for Blagojevich? His spokesman says he was not involved in the "improper activities alleged in the indictment."

Federal prosecutors might have a different story about their "Public Official A."     

Head Scratcher

Gov. Rod Blagojevich last week wrote a letter to Rick Beard, telling him he was being fired as director of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.

Beard, you may recall, has been in the news recently because of revelations that he had been arrested on shoplifting charges last year and this year. He was placed on paid administrative leave soon after The State Journal-Register reported on the arrests. Beard is to go on trial next month in one of the cases.

Blagojevich's letter gave Beard no reason for his dismissal, though it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure it out.

So much for that whole notion of being "innocent until proven guilty."

Quote of Note

"All of those things happened because we had to push and prod and fight through the system to get it done for people, and if I get bloodied up in the process, and there are some times when people are just not generally approving, I feel honored to get my (butt) kicked for the people,"

--Gov. Rod Blagojevich, defending his record and approach to governing to reporters in Chicago last week.

Number to Know

7,725,360. That's how many Illinoisans are registered to vote in Tuesday's election, according to the State Board of Elections. The figure is a new record, exceeding by more than 200,000 the previous record from four years ago.

Coming Up

Sorry, loyal readers. This is the final State Capitol Notebook in its current form. Starting Nov. 12, it will be replaced by Capitol Q&A, a new midweek feature that will take a look at a person or an issue in the news.

State Capitol Bureau