Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Obama Rose to the Top in State Famous for Corruption

Few Illinois voters will disagree that our state has been run for decades by some of the most corrupt politicians. Rarely does someone rise as fast as Obama without getting dirty. Look at who his mentor is in Illinois, Senate President Emil Jones..and who Emil Jones' biggest contributors is doubtful that Obama's hands are clean. Last year's attempt to provide Illinois consumers with relief from utility rates that had more then doubled is a great case study on how Illinois politics work. Key players in that rate relief battle included Senate President and Obama mentor Emil Jones and major Obama contributor Exelon (owner of ComEd and 11 nuclear power plants in Illinois).
From Daily Chronicle by Mike Riopell: "SPRINGFIELD - As lawmakers negotiated with utilities over a way to lower power bills, new campaign finance reports show the companies lined some lawmakers' campaign pockets with donations.
Final campaign finance statements for the first half of 2007 aren't due until the end of the day Friday. But early reports show electric companies gave thousands of dollars to key lawmakers at the same time they were trying to come to an agreement behind closed doors.

For example, state Sen. James Clayborne, the Belleville Democrat who played a key role in initiating talks, made $17,500 from generators and utilities from Jan. 1, when electric rates rose, until the end of the reporting period June 30.

“It's clear that campaign giving is part of the strategy of the electric companies,” said David Morrison, deputy director of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform.
As is usual in Illinois, legislative leaders got most of the donations from the utility companies. They can later distribute dollars to individual lawmakers who need campaign help.
Records show Senate Minority Leader Frank Watson, R-Greenville, received $10,000 from ComEd and House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, received the same amount from Dynegy.

Rank-and-file lawmakers got money, too, but not as much. State Sen. Dan Rutherford, R-Chenoa, received $3,000 from electric companies. State Rep. Patrick Verschoore, D-Milan, got $4,800 and state Rep. Bill Mitchell, R-Forsyth, received $1,750.

State Rep. Brandon Phelps, D-Harrisburg, pulled in $500 from Dynegy, a generating company that could end up paying part of a $1 billion settlement. But the contributions probably aren't working, he said, as evidenced by the House's several votes to force utilities to cut their rates.

“I still voted against them,” Phelps said.

All lawmakers' reports won't be filed until the weekend, but utility records show ComEd gave state Rep. Rich Bradley, D-Chicago, and state Sen. Gary Forby, D-Benton, $300 each. Both have been outspoken critics of the rate hikes.
Records detailing donations to Gov. Rod Blagojevich likely won't be on file until the weekend, either.

ComEd's political action committee gave about $54,000 more to politicians in the last six months than it did in the previous six-month period, according to reports filed with the Illinois State Board of Elections.
But because companies can give several different ways, a full accounting of their spending isn't yet available.

The situation is similar to 2005, when a high-profile spat over medical malpractice insurance drew contributions from trial lawyers and doctors, Morrison said. This year, a disagreement over cable television competition has drawn money from AT&T.
Voters will have to decide what effect the donations had when - or if - an electric rates deal is officially announced, Morrison said.

Tuesday brought optimism that a resolution was close, and Wednesday, Senate President Emil Jones, D-Chicago, took credit for steering the rate hike talks away from a plan to force the companies to cut their rates to 2006 levels.
That plan would have resulted in a lawsuit by the utilities, which would have stalled any potential relief for residents, he said.

“I am glad I held my ground,” said Jones.

But Jones suggested the legislation still isn't ready for a vote. Among the sticking points for Jones is a push by Madigan to create a government agency that would work to purchase power more cheaply than the utilities.

“Hopefully, the package that has been put together can stay together,” said Jones."