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A day of infamy in Illinois: impeachment debate remarks January 30, 2009

Posted by deepblueillinois in Uncategorized.
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The following is the text of my remarks during the Senate deliberations immediately preceding the 59-0 vote to convict former Gov. Rod Blagojevich of the single article of impeachment, and the subsequent vote to permanently bar him from holding public office ever again in Illinois:

Thank you, Mr. President. Like those who have preceded me, I wish to extend my deep gratitude to Chief Justice Fitzgerald, to you and Minority Leader Radogno for insuring an impeccable sense of fairness in the rules governing these proceedings…to the House prosecutor and his team and to our respective staffs who have done a tireless job under extraordinary circumstances.  

Today, the State of Illinois, the soul of the nations heartland, the home of our country’s 44th President, is bruised today and it hurts as it has never ached before.  There is no disputing, as the evidence and testimony overwhelmingly prove., that there is a consistent thread tying all of the behavior together which clearly demonstrates a pattern of abuse of power.  If , as the Governor indicated in his remarks to the Chamber this morning, (F.B.I) Special Agent Cain was constrained in his testimony…the transcripts of Ali Ata and Joseph Cari’s plea agreements, the federal government’s criminal complain, the sworn testimony in the Rezko trial and the Auditor General’s damning findings elevated the whisper to a shout from the rooftops.  Without question,  there was a systematic effort to extort money from hospital executives, racetrack owners, investment banking firms, state lease holders and the list goes on and on. 

And I have to say, ladies and gentlemen of the Senate, that this is not a template that was created just six years ago.  There is no set of circumstances… there is simply no set of circumstances that any of us know of, where someone in any public office can commit to spending public taxpayer dollars without a signed contract, without legal authorization, without a fair, competitive bidding process that does not have a thumb on the scale.   People who work hard and live in our communities expect nothing less. 

In his remarks, which frankly I thought were insulting to law-abiding citizens of our communities, the Governor was clearly trying to disprove that there was a consistent pattern of behavior — one in which private individuals serving in public capacities accountable to no one  directed the spending of millions and millions of public dollars. That’s inexcusable.  It’s not a philosophical difference.  It’s against the law.  The Governor also cited the Executive Inspector General in his remarks earlier today and how it was a matter of pride that there was even an Executive Inspector General in place. But what the Governor omitted in his remarks was that at the end of her submission she pointed out, as the chief prosecutor from the House ably pointed out as well, that there was “utter contempt and disregard for the law.” 

As I indicated earlier, much of what we’ve heard and I anticipate much of what we will hear in the future in a different context, does not represent a template of abuse that developed overnight.  Nor are the participants solely affiliated with one political party.  It may have grown exponentially in these past six years, but those seeds my friends were sown long ago.

Let me reiterate as others have before me… that this is not a criminal trial.  It is a constitutional proceeding to determine the Governor’s fitness to serve all of the taxpayers of Illinois.  Governor Blagojevich as our State’s chief executive oversaw a public enterprise where legal mechanisms to assert oversight, accountability and transparency over public dollars were repeatedly dismissed or ignored.  They were characterized as cumbersome, outdated business models, inconvenient, so that real estate leases, consulting contracts, investment decisions and a host of other public assets were used to extract money and to deny taxpayers honest services. 

In one instance — the so-called “efficiency initiative” — a private entity was created out of whole cloth and payments of public dollars were made.  Payments of dollars that were stripped from state agencies that the legislative branch mandated constitutionally to ensure that they could fulfill their respective missions and those dollars were used in a very elaborate shell game. 

Mr. President, ladies and gentlemen of the Senate, our neighbors and our nation are today confronted with great economic uncertainty that requires true ethical and undistracted attention from our State’s chief executive. Their livelihoods, their homes and their very existence during this economic crisis depend on focused and principled leadership to provide for a better future.  Governor Blagojevich, and through the actions and those of his and those his associates, have demonstrated unfortunately, tragically , that he is no longer fit to hold the office of the State’s chief executive. 



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