Monday, June 23, 2008

Lt. Gov Quinn on Blago, Obama and Biz

What follows is a question and answer session from May 13 with Lieutenant Governor Pat Quinn. Originally, this story was slated to run as a feature in the late, great BW Chicago magazine.
Over an order of crab cake sandwich, steamed asparagus and a modest slice of banana cream pie enjoyed at a downtown seafood restaurant, Quinn talks with me about his uneasy relationship with Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich and much more.
Editor/Blogger's note: Because BW Chicago is no longer around, I felt it was a professional courtesy to double-back and ask Quinn if he'd object to an edited version of the interview appearing on this blog. The Lt. Gov., who did not see this article beforehand, is OK with its posting. Here goes:

You have not always agreed with the Blagojevich administration, especially on big business issues. I opposed the gross receipts tax. I told the governor that privately and testified publicly against it.

Does the governor listen to you? The governor doesn't listen to me enough, in my humble opinion. On Election Day of 2002, I was hoping we would have a government totally focused on reform and cleaning up the problems of [former Governor] George Ryan. A lot of those aspirations are still waiting to be fulfilled. It's disappointing that the governor is not engaged in carrying out these missions. He's distracted by political feuds, many of them started by him.

How does he turn it around? I would say this if he were sitting right here: I think it's time to apologize to the people of Illinois for appointing a fellow like Stuart Levine to two boards.(Editor's note: Stuart Levine recently pleaded guilty to taking part in a scheme to obtain kickbacks from investment firms seeking business with those panels. He was also the star witness at the recent corruption trial of Antoin Rezko) That was a big, big mistake. People are willing to listen if you take the approach that a mistake was made. People do make mistakes. But the attitude that "all is well" and it's someone else's fault is the wrong way to go.

You favor a recall of elected officials, something not allowed under the state Constitution and something many politicians don't want. I've been for recalls since 1975. It keeps every incumbent on their toes. Recall is a last resort, a safety valve when the voters are truly irritated.

Does Illinois' reputation of "pay to play" --which compels individuals or companies to contribute to politicians' campaigns if they want to bid on public contracts -- hurt its ability to attract new business or investment? When you have a corruption tax, or fear of a corruption tax, who's going to raise their hand and volunteer to pay it? This is a state that wants the Olympics, so we have to have to project an image to the world that says, "We don't have to hide behind a tree when it comes to political corruption".

Does it matter if we get the Olympics in 2016? Yes, the Olympics would open the eyes of the world to Chicago.

Back to politics. You are for Illinois Senator Barack Obama for President and also a friend of his chief strategist, David Axelrod. I was for Obama from day one. I play basketball with David. He takes too many shots for his ability.

Let's consider this: Obama wins the presidency. The governor has to appoint a new senator. Would he name you? Well, it would be snowing in Hell. If it were up to me, I'd rather the governor appoint himself, and we could get a fresh start in Illinois . I think enough people on the Democrat and the Republican sides would say, "Hallelujah."

Would you make a good governor? I know I could get people in the huddle, and we'd come up with a play that everyone would carry out.


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