Statehouse Insider: Recall amendment not a panacea

Doug Finke

Testimony got under way last week in the federal corruption trial of former Gov. ROD BLAGOJEVICH. Deniability also got under way in the re-election effort of Gov. PAT QUINN.

That’s deniability as in Quinn doing everything he can to put distance between himself and Blagojevich, the guy he was twice elected with to statewide office. It’s a connection Republicans have already hammered away at and will continue to right up to the Nov. 2 election.

Quinn is saying his efforts to get a recall amendment added to the Illinois Constitution should be ample evidence he and Blagojevich weren’t exactly close at the end. Maybe people will buy it, maybe not, but in any event they shouldn’t get overly excited about the amendment.

Sometimes when Quinn talks about the recall amendment, you could get the impression it’s a mighty tool to evict corrupt politicians. Kind of. The version of recall on the fall ballot applies only to the governor, unlike an earlier attempt to establish recall that was much broader in scope. That earlier attempt went down to defeat in the General Assembly.

Also, the way this recall is set up, state lawmakers have to approve a recall election before it will happen. It’s not like disgruntled voters can force the issue all by themselves.

It’s hard to figure how it won’t get enough votes in November to be added to the Illinois Constitution. Just don’t get the idea it’s some kind of panacea.

* Universities can now borrow money to pay their bills. The General Assembly — which doesn’t take steps to ensure the state can pay its bills, including to universities — gave them that permission.

Wasn’t that nice?

* Former Republican state Sen. STEVE RAUSCHENBERGER of Elgin is running to get back his seat. This could be a fun race to watch.

Last week, Rauschenberger formally kicked off his campaign in Elgin. He said the most important responsibility of lawmakers is to craft a balanced budget. Rauschenberger then noted that House Speaker MICHAEL MADIGAN, D-Chicago, said he couldn’t disagree with people who say the just-passed budget isn’t balanced.

“We impeached the wrong guy when we got rid of Blagojevich,” Rauschenberger said. “Mike Madigan has been speaker of the Illinois House for 28 of the last 30 years. He is the architect of the worst-funded public pensions in America.”

* The kickoff also provided material for fans of over-the-top hyperbole. In introductory remarks, Rauschenberger’s bid to return to the Illinois Senate was described as “the greatest comeback in Chicago since MICHAEL JORDAN came out of retirement and led the Bulls to three more championships.”

Whew. At least it wasn’t compared to the Second Coming.

* In the Oops Department, we have Republican gubernatorial candidate state Sen. Bill Brady’s response to Moody’s Investors Service downgrading the state’s bond rating last week.

“Today’s report is yet another independent voice proving the failed economic policies of Governor Quinn has driven our state into the ground” began the statement e-mailed to media outlets. “The decision by Moody’s to further downgrade our credit now leaves Illinois second only to California as the worst in the nation (is this correct?).”

Obviously, what was sent to media outlets wasn’t the finished statement the campaign meant to release. It was a draft with a reminder to check something before it was sent. Hit the wrong button at the wrong time and away she goes. It happens. The Blagojevich administration used to frequently send out stuff about the governor being somewhere at some time (before they stopped altogether) with question marks inserted in key places like where he was appearing and when.

The campaign apologized and sent a revised statement. In case you were wondering, Illinois and California now have the same rating from Moody’s. Feel good?

* Quinn honored the Illinois Wesleyan University baseball team for winning the national Division III baseball championship. It was the school’s fifth national title, although the first for its baseball team.

Quinn noted the long odds against the team, which closed with a 21-4 record in taking the title.

“The Illinois Wesleyan team accomplished what most people said was the impossible,” Quinn said in a Statehouse ceremony. “They were 14-17 at one point this year, less than .500. There’s hope for the Chicago Cubs.”

Yeah, if the Cubs sign the Wesleyan team and put them on the field.

Doug Finke can be reached at 217-788-1527 or