Saturday, November 01, 2008

Backing the Machine

Part 2 in my series on how reality and BO's carefully crafted image don't match up.

BO has spent millions of dollars on handlers, image managers, and spin controllers to create the image that he is a reformer. Let’s take a look at his record and see if he really has taken on corruption and abuse of power in an effort to put power back in the hands of people and get government back on track working for the cause of everyday citizens, or if he has been part of the problem, exploiting his power for his own gain and perpetuating the corruption in one of the most dirty cities in America.

To punch your ticket in Chicago politics, the person you go to is John Stroger, the President of the Cook County Board of Commissioners. Political connections and campaign contributions are they means to secure a cushy government job or get promoted. Without those connections or money, you languish at the same desk for years as less qualified people bypass you by crawling to Stroger.

BO, a long-time player on the Chicago political scene, knows how the machine works. An in 2006 he had a chance to put a stop to it, but decided instead to perpetuate it for his own benefit. In that year, John Stroger faced a serious challenge for re-election from a reform-minded liberal Democrat. Local politicians across the political spectrum, sick of Stroger’s corrupt reign lined up to support the challenger. All except for BO, the highly influential rising star of the Democrat party. He had the opportunity to yank out a keystone of the corrupt Machine that has plagued the city for decades, as any true reformer would be eager to do. But he did not.

When John Stroger fell ill, his son Todd Stroger took his place on the ballot (under suspicious circumstances) for the general election. Suddenly BO found his voice, endorsing Stroger, and going so far as to call him, to the horror of Chicago’s liberals, “a good progressive Democrat.”

Stroger won by a narrow margin, due very likely to the credibility he got from BO’s endorsement. The newer Stroger was even worse than his father. Eventually the FBI raided the Cook County office building and Circuit Judge Julia Nowicki was put in charge of documenting the results. In a scathing 54-page report she detailed more than 200 cases of illegal cronyism and patronage hiring. She documented employees using county time for political activity. She found county employees who were harassed for not joining Stroger’s political organization. And she found that Stroger’s human resources staff still kept two sets of personnel files to order to “cover” patronage employment. More than half of the campaign contributions Stroger received came from county contractors or employees. Stroger’s campaign cash was predominately coming from people whose pockets he was lining with taxpayer money.

By not rocking the boat, BO secured the support of Daley, Stroger, and Emil Jones for his presidential bid, giving him essential connections, credibility, and money to support his campaign.

When the county government settles the numerous lawsuits, it will be the taxpayers of Cook County who end up paying for Stroger’s crimes, which BO could have put an end to but chose not to.

Tribune columnist John Kass, an expert on Chicago’s political scene wrote:

“What is Obama allowed to campaign as a reformer, virtually unchallenged by the media, though he’s a product of Chicago politics and has never condemned the wholesale political corruption in his home town the way he condemns those darn Washington lobbyists? He has endorsed Daley, endorsed Daley’s hapless stooge Todd Stroger for President of the Cook County Board. These are not acts of a reformer, but of a guy who, as we say in Chicago, won’t make no wave and won’t back no losers.”

BO has never stood for change or reform. He denied the voters a choice and backed the machine. That is the real story behind “Change you can believe in.”

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