Friday, July 29, 2005

Skoien: Standing up to Daley or Twisting slowly in the Wind?

Gary Skoien, Cook County GOP Chairman, offered $10,000 to anyone providing information leading to the conviction of Mayor Daley. [See here].For that, he got fired from an executive level Chief Operating Officer position in the private sector [See here].

Today, Chairman Skoien held a press conference to discuss corruption in the City of Chicago. His wife and children were there to stand by him, as were a few political supporters. But, the so-called big guns, e.g., State GOP Chairman Andy McKenna and his predecessor, State Treasurer and likely gubernatorial candidate Judy Baar Topinka, couldn’t have put more distance between Skoien and themselves, on this whole issue

If Skoien had held the press conference a week ago, virtually no print or electronic media would have attended. Yet another, mundane dog bites man story, they would say.

However, today, the cameras could barely fit in the Loop Cook County GOP offices: CBS, NBC, ABC, Fox and more. Two of the three major political reporters in town, Mike Flannery and Andy Shaw, were there with their cameramen, both peppering Skoien with questions, many of which were pretty friendly. John Kass, the Tribune’s major guy on public corruption in Chicago and the journalist who invented the phrase Daley-Ryan Combine, couldn’t be there for the press conference because of a major matter he had to cover, but he was there right after to spend some quality time with Skoien, in a one on one interview.

Skoien made a brief statement to open the press conference and then skillfully used the questions from the media to make his case. Skoien will be lucky if 90 seconds of the 30 minute, or so, press conference makes it on the 6:00 pm news [or 4:00 pm or 5:00 pm or 10:00 pm], but he scored some major points, something no other Republican party leader has done in years. And some important media guys were there, too—so they could tell you about it.

Cook County GOP Chairman Skoien lost, along with a few other candidates, to Andy McKenna, Jr. at the end of the year, when the Republican State Central Committee chose its new State GOP leader. In his first six months of State GOP leadership, virtually nothing has been heard from McKenna-- about Mayor Daley, public corruption, or anything else, for that matter.

Today, Chicago, Cook County and the State of Illinois heard from Gary Skoien. It may not last. But, for today, the Republican Party in Illinois had a leader who was speaking. And the media were listening. You can take a listen, too, below:
Gary Skoien: The good news is that …I have a good family. Financially, I am in a good position. But, you know there are a lot of little guys out there that aren’t going to get a camera crew when they get smashed down by the [Daley Chicago] Machine. They aren’t going to get any attention on the radio when they lose their job or aren’t able to get a job because some political hack was hired in their stead…I understand why Mr. Reschke [CEO, Prime Group] did this [fired Skoien from his COO post at Prime, a real estate development company]. He [Reschke] is in fear, like every other businessman in the City [of Chicago]…so I understand what Mike did—he needs TIFs, he needs zoning…we all understand that if you get out of line against this Mayor, if you say what you think, you are out on the street. The thing that is the most shocking, of course, is that I work for the private sector. ..I don’t work in the [Daley] Administration or in a political office. It shows how far the tentacles, how far the intimidation, how far the threats, how far the fear goes...
Skoien: …You’ll find over the next few weeks that the phone has been ringing off the hooks and it [the Cook County GOP’s offer to pay $10,000 to anyone providing information leading to the conviction of the Mayor for Public Corruption] is going to make a difference.

Jeff Berkowitz: Have you heard anything from State GOP Chairman Andy McKenna, Jr.? Publicly, his office has said that this is your baby—I think that is what they said, essentially. Have you heard anything from Andy McKenna?

Skoien: No, not beyond that. And, it is my baby
Berkowitz: Gary. you knew that this was going to happen [if you did this]. You knew, Mike Reschke was going to go ahead and do this, and so what was the point?

Skoien: No, No. I did not know. He told me last night at 5:00 pm. that this was going to happen. He said and he is a good friend and a political contributor of Mayor Daley and I would posit that every donor—every developer in the City of Chicago is a big contributor and a friend of Mayor Daley.

Mike Flannery [CBS 2-News]: Why is that?

Skoien: Because, the way you get business done in the City of Chicago without fear of any retaliation and what you are doing is by being on that team.

Flannery: On the Daley team.

Skoien: On the Daley team. And, if you don’t play you go nowhere. And, in this city, if you’re with them, you have a lot going for you. If you are against them, you’re in the woods…

Andy Shaw [ABC-7 News]: Do you think one issue for another election might be this corruption tax [discussed earlier in the press conference by John Cox], what it costs people to support—

Skoien: John [Cox] is exactly right. The corruption tax is huge. What do we pay the Duffs? What do we pay for incompetent employees? …Those dollars don’t go to schools. Shame on them. Shame on them for what they’re doing to the kids in the schools. That is the issue here. The issue here isn’t that some members of the Combine [Daley Ryan Combine] are upset because somebody said something that was a little strong against the Mayor of the City of Chicago.
Skoien: I think the Mayor’s role in my firing has been playing out for sixteen years. And, everybody knows that if you take the Mayor on, you are toast. And, Mike [Reschke] knew it and he did what any rational businessman would do.

Berkowitz: You are saying that Mike [Reschke] knew that he had to do this. Mayor Daley wanted him to do this and he went ahead and did it.

Skoien: I didn’t say Mayor Daley asked him or wanted him to do it. He [Mayor Daley] has created a culture where Mike knew basically from what I saw—Mike actually said—I had to fire him because he took on the Mayor. That’s what he said--I mean, in his press conference.
Berkowitz: Is it your statement that the public corruption leads directly to Mayor Daley. Is he legally culpable?

Skoien: You know, that’s what the U. S. Attorney does. I mean, the U. S. Attorney will decide what his culpability is and he is getting lots of help as Andy [Shaw] pointed out. Not just from us. He is getting lots of help. I am sure Mr. Tomczak is going to be helping him [and see here for how Chicago Water Department honcho Tomczak, and others, may have helped, on the City dime, now Congressman Rahm Emanuel beat Nancy Kaszak. And, it is going to go on and on from here. We all, as citizens, need to stand up and say enough is enough.
Jeff Berkowitz: Would you think about running for Mayor [of Chicago] in 2007.

Gary Skoien: No, but I think there are a number of great candidates
. You know, John [Cox, who was standing a foot away from Skoien at the press conference] would be one. You know, we will see what happens with Ron Gidwitz. Mike Ditka [former Chicago Bears coach] is in the area. Jack Ryan, there are a number of names of people who would be interesting candidates to run for Mayor and I think some people might seriously think about it…
Press Conference, Cook County GOP offices, July 29, 2005
Jeff Berkowitz: Clark Pellett [City of Chicago GOP Chairman]. Did Clark Pellett say anything to you?

Skoien: You know-- he is in Europe.

Berkowitz: All this time. Since it started?

Skoien: I don’t know when he left but I have not spoken to him.

Berkowitz: But, seriously, you are not getting any support. Is McKenna [State GOP Chairman, Andy McKenna, Jr.] calling you and telling you- Hey, lay off here. Or, is he just being quiet. Do you communicate with Andy, at all?

Skoien: Nobody is saying—All these guys, you know the deal. The guys who are part of the Combine [The Daley Ryan Combine]. Nobody wants to rock any boats. I think they are going to have a different view as a result of what happened yesterday, frankly, but I understand. And, I understand, the Speaker of the House [J. Dennis Hastert] has to work with the Mayor of the City. There is nothing in it for him to go after—after the Mayor.

Berkowitz: So you think—

Skoien: I think some of them would have been better off just not saying anything frankly because I think anybody who lives in the City or is in Cook County understands what goes on here.

Berkowitz: So you think you basically take this on yourself? McKenna stays out of it. [Speaker] Hastert stays out of it.

Skoien: I’m not asking. I don’t need it. I don’t need any of them to get into this. I think it is going fine. And, McKenna apparently put out a press release that was positive today.

Berkowitz: Did he?

Skoien: That’s what I heard. I haven’t seen it.
Post Press Conference Questions and Answers, Cook County GOP office, July 29, 2005
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