May 8, 2010
'Vote for the Crook. It's Important.'
If you ever wonder why politics in the State of Illinois is such a bucket of worms, you need look no farther than the shot a CBS Chicago bureau producer fired at Republican U.S. Senate nominee Mark Kirk the other day.
Said CBS producer, Ed Marshall, told Kirk in front of a live mike:
Channel 2's made a decision. We're really not going to cover the Senate race if it consistently, only in your terms, is about Broadway Bank. The bank's been taken over by the government, Alexi's been pilloried. Tell me: what is your campaign going forward? What are the issues that you are going to tell the voters why they should vote for you?
In other words, the Broadway Bank collapse is not going to be investigated further by the media, and henceforth, it is off-limits as a campaign issue. CBS was telling Kirk to button his lip -- or else.
Why is this significant? Because the "Alexi" in the above quote is none other than the former V.P. and Chief Loan Officer of the bankrupt Broadway Bank, Alexi Giannoulias, who currently is the Democratic Senate nominee. CBS doesn't want to rock any boats here.
The media's gripe with Kirk is that he is making a campaign issue of the bank's collapse and of its nearly $400-million cost to taxpayers. Continually harping on the matter makes it tough for the media to run soft coverage of the Giannoulias campaign. They continually have to brush aside tough financial issues in order to get to the warm-and-fuzzies about his recent marriage or his love of Bulls basketball.
And in an election climate where being labeled a " banker" is not a resume-enhancer, Giannoulias needs all the media help he can get.
What CBS does not want to happen is for Illinois voters to ask themselves, "Does a bank failure matter?" After all, in the grand scheme of things, what is another $400 million? Billions and trillions are tossed around every day. Right now there are so many zeros on the end of the federal budget deficit that the number runs off the edge of the page.
But to answer the question -- darn right, it matters! Somebody has to pay that money back. And we know just as sure as the sun rises in the east that the bill is not going to be paid by Democratic-connected insiders. It's going to be taken out of the accounts of everyday people, one way or another.
Another thing the media would rather not concern voters with is the fact that a lot of the missing Broadway Bank money was lent to Chicago mob figures. Locally, these are termed "juice loans." Believe it or not, Giannoulias lent some $20 million to felons who were already convicted and were awaiting sentencing at the time the loans were made. This kind of banking is straight out of "The Sopranos." Yet to CBS news, mob connections are not a disqualifier for public office. Today's Democratic Party is a big tent.
CBS's real problem is the fact that Illinois politics are conducted inside a house of mirrors, and everywhere they look, they see a crook.
Alexi Giannoulias happens to be the Democratic Party nominee for Barack Obama's old U.S. Senate seat, the same seat that former Illinois Governor Rod "Blago" Blagojevich attempted to sell for $5 million just a year and a half ago. The "Blago" trial is set to start in June. A key witness is expected to be money-man Anton "Tony" Rezko, who also helped fix things so Barack and Michelle Obama could buy their Hyde Park house at below-market price. Did you follow all of that? And we haven't even mentioned two recent suspicious suicides, or Chicago Mayor Richard Daley and the gaggle of aldermen and city officials under investigation.
This is the kind of furniture in the room that the mainstream media in Illinois has to tiptoe around every day. There are crooks everywhere who need to be ignored. And all the mouthing off that Mark Kirk is doing is just making CBS's job of keeping this Senate seat in Democratic control a lot tougher.
To further move the narrative along, in 2006, Giannoulias got himself elected State Treasurer of Illinois. On the good side, at age 30, he was the youngest treasurer elected in state history. On the bad side, his record in Springfield is similar to his record at the Broadway Bank. Illinois finances are a mess; per capita taxpayer debt is second only to California. Here's an example: Recently, Illinois Bright Start, a state program that allowed parents to send money to Springfield to prepay for their kids' college tuition, was found to have lost $85 million.
We have to admire Giannoulias. Thrown off, he gets right back on the horse, and failing at one thing -- at the bank or at the Treasurer's job -- he dusts himself off and attacks his next goal.
But what about CBS? Do they get to decide what to gloss over, what's important and what is not? In an era of economic trouble, aren't a candidate's financial blunders worthy of public notice, even if that candidate happens to be a Democrat? Has the mainstream media become that useless?
I never thought I would think of Mark Kirk for more than two seconds. I didn't vote for him in the primary. He is what is known as a "moderate" Republican. One thing's for sure, though: He hasn't cost taxpayers a dime. Between Kirk and Giannoulias, how tough a choice can it be?
Illinois is one of the battlegrounds in the 2010 elections. There are a lot of these local battles all over the country, and each one is important to the future of America. No matter where you live, there is a tough race that needs your help. Go ahead. Drive the media nuts: Make the commitment to work for good, clear-thinking candidates this fall.
Here in Chicago, CBS news has gotten involved for their guy. For them, the old Democratic Party slogan is the order of the day: "Vote for the Crook. It's Important."