Sunday wrap

Pay-to-Play banned in Illinois ... On Jan. 1 a new law will start to put the brakes on pay-to-play politics in Illinois. U.S. prosecutors say that Gov. Rod Blagojevich was so threatened by this law that he went on a hunt to raise as much money as he could before it went into effect. This would lead you to think, hey, Illinois did something right. We passed an ethics law. How about that! This law had an awfully strange birth process. We've been writing about it for more than a year. The astonishing charges against Blagojevich, though, put some things in a new light. We want to explain this to you, piece by cynical piece ... When you look at the history of this ethics bill, when you look at how many legislators didn't even whimper as Blagojevich and Jones tried to stall it, to kill it, you realize it's going to take a lot more than the impeachment of a governor to change the culture of corruption in this state. (chicagotribune.com)

What should Blago do? ... Well, first off he is doing the right thing by proclaiming his innocence. Pay-to-play has always been part of Illinois politics, under Ryan, Edgar, and many other politicians. I find it hypocritical that he's being criticized for doing a pretty decent job as Governor just because he allows money to influence him. In DC that would be called lobbying, not bribery. If the trains run on time and the streets are clean, who cares if he makes a little extra on the side; it's cheaper than giving him a raise ... Finally, he should dish out the dirt on Obama. What did Obama know and when did he know it? A prominent politician like Obama knows what goes on in his state. I bet he even offered money to Blagojevich to consider his preferred candidate. Hopefully we will find the truth. Keep fighting the good fight Blago!! (nolanchart.com)

Stossel: Legalized Scandal ... Righteous indignation over allegations about Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich's "pay to play" brazenness camouflages the corruption inherent in all government. After all, what does it mean to be a politician if not that you promise favors — coerced from the taxpayers — in return for support from key constituencies? ... A system that rewards politicians skilled at campaigning — which is the art of creating an illusion — and that puts hundreds of billions of coerced taxpayer dollars at the disposal of the winners will tend to attract men and women with a comparative advantage in manipulation. We shouldn't be surprised that people like Blagojevich prosper in "public service" — until they get caught crossing the line. ...Blagojevich allegedly assumed someone would be willing to pay dearly to be a U.S. senator. I'm sure he was right. But if government were less important in our lives, politicians would have fewer goodies to trade. In return, we'd have more money and more freedom. That's one more reason to limit government power. (creators.com)

Political corruption no surprise ... Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich has become the poster child for the rampant corruption endemic in Chicago politics -- commonly known as "the Chicago way." Yet Blagogate is about more than a brazen attempt by the Democratic governor to leverage a U.S. Senate seat in exchange for campaign contributions or a lucrative job for him and his wife. It is about a political culture in which bribery, influence-peddling, cronyism, abuse of power and misuse of public funds are widely practiced. President-elect Barack Obama is a product of this venal swamp. His claims that he knew nothing of Mr. Blagojevich's "pay-to-play" scheme are not credible. Mr. Obama was deeply immersed in Illinois' sleazy politics. He was a junior U.S. senator. He was a member of the state legislature, as well as a community activist in Chicago for years. He publicly supported Mr. Blagojevich in his gubernatorial campaigns. It was an open secret in Chicago that Mr. Blagojevich was as dirty as they come: a crass opportunist who would say - and do - anything to get ahead. (washingtontimes.com)

Santa: Have an AFSCME Christmas

'This is the way it's done' ... Pennsylvania is one of just a few states where corrupt government is ingrained in the culture. That's the view of Christopher Borick, a political science professor at Muhlenberg College in Allentown. Historically, Illinois, New York, New Jersey, Louisiana and Pennsylvania -- states where government to varying degrees embodies "machine politics" -- have had high-profile corruption cases and a populace largely tolerant of corrupt officials, Borick said. "It's part of the broader culture of how politics operates in these places. It's passed down from one generation to another. It's almost an expectation that 'This is the way it's done,'" Borick said. "We've seen improvements, but it is still part of the culture." (pittsburghlive.com)

Congress urged to sacrifice ... Our government is broken. Politics is more important then getting on with trying to dig ourselves out of the hole we have put ourselves in. Why is Congress looking for a fall guy on the auto bailout? Yes, the auto companies are dysfunctional. Yes, the union should do more to help. But management signed these union contracts. For politicians to demand that labor take cuts to insure that the companies qualify for the loans is wrong. It just shows whom they really represent. How about Congress working for $1 a year to show us they want to the solve the nation's problems instead of talking about them? (indystar.com)

Willie Brown: My pal Blago ... I got a call from Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich the other day. The first thing I said to him was, "You know, this call is probably being taped." Blagojevich said he had read my column in The Chronicle last week, in which I raised questions about the "pay to play" charges being leveled against him in connection with his pending appointment of someone to fill Barack Obama's now-empty U.S. Senate seat. I think he liked how I raised questions about the timing and manner of U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald's decision to charge him over what appears to be little more than loose conversations he had with his staff. He laughed, we talked, and all in all he seemed in pretty good spirits for a guy looking at federal charges. I wouldn't bet on him stepping aside anytime soon. If anything, his hand is getting stronger by the day. (sfgate.com)

Town invites union organizers ... The Town Board of Menasha has approved a 2 percent pay increase for 34 nonunion town employees in 2009. The town is continuing negotiations with both the police union and its 19 members and the general town employee union with 18 members, but a settlement previously reached with the Teamsters Union representing 13 water, wastewater and park laborers gives them 3 percent pay increase next year. Town supervisors approved the nonunion wage increase without discussion this past week but excluded two employees, the fire chief and deputy fire chief, who will get no raise next year. (postcrescent.com)

Russia to defend oil prices ... Russia would come under crippling financial pressure and may need to raise money externally if oil languishes at an average of $30 a barrel over the next two years, the World Bank predicted Friday. The bleak scenario would mark a rapid unraveling of Russia's oil-fueled economic gains over the past eight years, during which time the government has paid down most of its foreign debt and built up a vast stockpile of international reserves. "If oil prices in 2009 and 2010 average $30 a barrel, that would be a nightmare scenario for a global economy," Zeljko Bogetic, the World Bank's chief economist in Russia told investors on Friday. "The pressures on the current account and public finances in Russia would quickly rise to a point where the financing constraint would become so sharp that it's possible even to envisage Russia's return from a creditor to international organisations to (that of) a borrower." (breitbart.com)

Bam pick backs union bigs over secret ballots

Anti-capitalist love affair ... Last week, Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez made his fourth visit to Tehran in two years to sign more economic agreements with Iran. The Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and Chávez, say they “admire” each other. Ahmadinejad calls Iran a second home for the Venezuelan president, and Chavez offers support to the Iranian government. Last year, several left wing Iranian students and blogs criticized the friendly relations between “socialist” president Chávez and the Islamic Republic, where thousands of socialist militants were executed in the past. (globalvoicesonline.org)
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