Saturday, May 23, 2009



Governor Pat Quinn (no relation) of Illinois admitted on Friday that a campaign aide has been hitting up special interest groups for $15,000 donations at the same time that the governor is pushing legislation enacting supposedly sweeping campaign reforms, reforms that include limits on campaign contributions. A Springfield based trade association has confirmed these malodorous machinations, saying that it received a request to host a fund raiser after the legislature completes work on the campaign ethics legislation the Governor is pushing with very public ardor.

The Governor, however, has said that such apparently meretricious solicitation was a mistake. Further, one of the governor’s spokesmen, Bob Reed, reassured us with the admonition:

“At no point in this process should anyone think Pat Quinn was being anything other than honest and aboveboard throughout this process. This was a mistake on the part of the campaign, and it’s not going to happen again.”

We, of course, are all supposed hit ourselves with a flattened palm on the forehead and say something like “What was I thinking? Even though his people may have made a ‘mistake,’ St. Pat would never take part in such nefarious dealings!” Then we would be expected to flagellate ourselves, perhaps literally, for even entertaining the notion that our crusading governor could be anything less than beatific.

But I ask why we are supposed to react in such a manner. Pat Quinn is a good guy. I had lunch with him once, many years ago. He listened carefully as I and a friend of mine (and regular reader of the Insightful Pontificator) gave our views, views decidedly contrary to those of Mr. Quinn, on public finance and the state of the economy. He asked great questions and left a very positive impression on a skeptical, to say the least, audience of two. Mr. Quinn is clearly a smart man, having graduated, reportedly, at the top of his class at Northwestern University Law School and obviously having had a very successful career in politics. But Pat Quinn is a lifelong politician, whose only experience in anything resembling the private sector has been working on property tax matters while waiting for the next public sinecure to become available. He has, however, had the good fortune to have been a career politician in Illinois, where having avoided getting convicted of a felony somehow entitles one to veneration of the magnitude and intensity generally afforded the likes of Mother Teresa.

Perhaps Mr. Quinn has been as clean as we are all repeatedly told we must believe; I have little reason to think otherwise and am not accusing him of being on a par with some of the worst actors in this state. However, I don’t feel compelled to accept his denials of what closely resembles the double dealing and old fashioned pay to play politics that has been the norm in this state as long as anyone can remember simply because good St. Pat has told us that what looks nearly felonious was a mere oversight. Can you imagine the response Mayor Daley or House Speaker Madigan would get if they expected us to believe their denials simply because they are who they are? I also don’t feel compelled, as apparently everyone else in this state does, to preface any criticism of the governor, be it of his lunatic tax program, his starry-eyed approach to government, or his richly deserved reputation for grandstanding, with “I know the governor is an honest and a good man, but…”

Mr. Quinn, like his counterpart from the fringes of Chicago politics who now finds himself in the White House, is not some kind of man on a white horse. He, along with the President, has avoided the worst aspects, felonious or otherwise, of the politics of the city from which he emerged. But that does not qualify him for canonization or exempt him from criticism and suspicion. The sane person looks at all politicians with a jaundiced eye. Perhaps “Guilty until proven innocent” is going too far in dealing with such characters…but only perhaps.

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