If any one state stands out in the race to the bottom of public employee pension insolvency, Illinois would be it. And GOP Governor Bruce Rauner is steeling himself to prevent a collapse. Rauner, a former private equity fund manager, was elected last November over Democratic incumbent Pat Quinn. He faces $111 billion in unfunded pension liabilities, or about $8,500 per resident. The years of greed, corruption and bad luck having taken a toll, the governor and his top fiscal policy adviser, Donna Arduin, have proposed tough measures to reverse course. So far, they haven’t won any friends among public-sector unions - or the Illinois Supreme Court, which on May 8 sided with the unions in invalidating reforms enacted in late 2013.
Attentive NLPC readers were aware of the extent of Exelon Corporation’s activism to gain regulatory favor in support of “green” policies in which it reaped millions of dollars in government grants and mandates, but last week’s lengthy New York Timesarticle about the cronyism-tainted relationship between the Chicago-based utility and the Obama administration revealed a few nuggets.
The story told how Exelon, with top executives as “early and frequent” supporters of the president as his political career ascended, were able to gain more access to the White House than others thanks to their longstanding relationships. According to one Exelon lobbyist, his employer was considered “the president’s utility.”
From a public relations standpoint, getting forced out of the Illinois governor's mansion a year and a half ago was a smart career move for Rod Blagojevich. He's been all over the TV since, doing stints on such shows as "Celebrity Apprentice" and "The Late Show with David Letterman." But publicity may not be enough to keep him or several of his former allies out of prison. His long-awaited trial on fraud and conspiracy charges related to his attempt to sell Barack Obama's pending Senate vacancy to the highest bidder began on June 8, the result of a five-year Justice Department probe into corruption in Chicago politics. Prosecutors wrapped up their case just before 5 P.M. Tuesday. Evidence introduced thus far confirms widespread suspicions that former Gov. Blagojevich and his benefactors were part of a larger Chicago-Obama White House conduit.
Radio and television broadcasters - at least those catering to black and Hispanic audiences - soon may join financial services and auto manufacturers as the beneficiaries of a federal bailout. For the last half year, a group of executives of minority-themed media enterprises have been lobbying Capitol Hill to provide a boost to their money-losing operations. Having natural allies in the black and Hispanic congressional caucuses, they may win additional support from the Obama administration and any number of white lawmakers eager to expand their base of support. As it is, one of its key members already may have coaxed a loan modification from a financial giant.