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.
Public-sector unions largely owe their growth to their authority to force non-joining workers to put money in their coffers. The Supreme Court believes this authority needs some restraint. By a 5-4 margin, the Court ruled on Monday, June 30, in Harris v. Quinn that nonunion private-sector home health workers cannot be required to support a public employee union even if their wages come from state Medicaid funds. The class-action suit originated in 2010 when several home care workers sued the State of Illinois and two unions, challenging two executive orders issued, respectively, in 2003 and 2009 classifying thousands of these service providers as state employees. The orders, wrote Justice Samuel Alito, violated worker freedom of speech. At the same time, the ruling did not overturn the 1977 decision that justified the public-sector union shop and applied it to non-members.
State governments are becoming effective union organizers. Several employees in Illinois, unhappy over the prospect of being forced to subsidize such an arrangement, are pushing back. And they've got themselves an audience at the highest level. On October 1, the Supreme Court agreed to hear an appeal by a group of home care providers objecting to an executive order issued in 2009 by Illinois Democratic Governor Pat Quinn that reclassified their status as "state employee," so as to bring them under union representation. The class-action case, known as Harris v. Quinn, will test the High Court's willingness to build on its Knox v. SEIU ruling of last year, which held that a California Service Employees union could not force covered nonunion employees to pay fees to support its political activism.
The elder Jesse Jackson has grown wealthy these past couple decades mainly by shaking down corporations. One of his sons, former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., D-Ill. (see photo), has preferred a different path to wealth: his campaign till. That path is now leading to federal prison. On Wednesday, February 20, the younger Jackson, who served nine terms in Congress before resigning last November 21, pleaded guilty in District of Columbia federal court to diverting about $750,000 in re-election funds to personal use. Jackson, who since last June has been hospitalized twice at the Mayo Clinic for bipolar disorder and other problems, told U.S. District Judge Robert L. Wilkins that in pleading guilty to wire and mail fraud, he had "no interest in wasting the taxpayers' time or money." His wife, Sandi, until recently a Chicago city alderwoman, hours later pled guilty to a related tax fraud charge.
Submitted by NLPC Staff on Fri, 12/09/2011 - 09:01
Yesterday, former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich was sentenced to 14 years in prison for, among other things, attempting to "sell" the US Senate seat that was once held by President Barack Obama. Blagojevich's punishment comes on the heels of the U.S. House Ethics Committee's decision to continue its investigation into Congressman Jesse Jackson's role in the same scheme.
Last week, the United States House of Representatives Ethics Committee voted to end its temporary deferral of a case against Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D-IL). The US Justice Department had requested the deferral but has since withdrawn that request. The case had been deferred for over two years.
Jackson, the son of Rev. Jesse Jackson, is in his ninth term in the US House and is under investigation for allegations that he attempted to buy the open US Senate seat that was vacated by President Barack Obama. It has been reported that Jackson's supporters were willing to raise $1.5 million on behalf of Governor Blagojevich's re-election campaign.
Last August, things looked sunny for former Illinois Democratic Governor Rod Blagojevich. He and his lawyers had just obtained a hung jury on 23 of 24 corruption charges. But Justice Department prosecutors, confident they had their man, continued to pursue the case - and this time with different results. Last Monday, June 27, a Chicago federal jury, after nine days of deliberation, found the man known as "Blago" guilty on 17 of 20 charges, nearly a dozen of them related to his attempts during the fall of 2008 to fill the pending Senate vacancy left by President-Elect Barack Obama in return for campaign cash.
Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., D-Ill., like his famous father, has become a Democratic Party kingmaker, both in Chicago and on Capitol Hill. He's also, according to the September 21 Chicago Sun-Times, the mastermind behind a scheme to raise $6 million in campaign contributions for then-Illinois Democratic Governor Rod Blagojevich in return for a U.S. Senate appointment. The allegation, made by a Chicago-area businessman-fundraiser, Raghuveer Nayak, contradicts Jackson's assertions that he hadn't tried to buy Barack Obama's pending vacant Senate seat in the weeks prior to Election Day 2008. The actual version of events may well determine whether federal prosecutors can secure multiple guilty verdicts against Blagojevich, convicted in August on only one of 24 corruption charges (lying to federal agents), with the other 23 resulting in a hung jury.
To win a conviction in a criminal case requires establishing opportunity, means and motive. Recent testimony in the ongoing corruption trial of former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich reveals more than a few clues as to the motive part. Blagojevich and his wife, Patti, as it turns out, had about $200,000 in outstanding consumer debt at the time of his December 2008 arrest. Anxiety, if not desperation, over how to pay the money back was likely a major explanation for the ex-governor's eagerness to peddle President-Elect Barack Obama's soon-to-be-vacated Senate seat to the highest bidder. Worse, Mrs. Blagojevich's real estate firm during 2002-04 apparently received roughly $150,000 or more in suspect "consulting" and other fees from a company co-owned by Obama's original paymaster, now-jailed (and awaiting sentencing) real estate developer/political kingmaker Tony Rezko. The revelations reinforce the popular image of the couple as willing to do anything for money.
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.