Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Pete Giangreco, political consultant to Blago, on TV in the suburbs

Jeff Berkowitz: Are you going [to] defend all this stuff, all this, all the allegations about somebody gets appointed to a board and right before that they gave a twenty five thousand dollar check [contribution to Governor Blagojevich]--

Pete Giangreco: Let me, let me tell you. Eighty percent, Eighty percent

Berkowitz: Tony Rezko, is he-

Pete Giangreco: Can I, or you--

Berkowitz: Well, let me get the question out first.

Pete Giangreco: You’re filibustering…this is like the longest question in the Western World.
This week’s suburban edition of “Public Affairs,” features Pete Giangreco, a Democratic campaign consultant who seems to focus on direct mail and media message development. [The suburban airing schedule is included at the end of this blog post] I saw Senator Barack Obama, on election eve in the U. S. Senate campaign, thank Pete, very sincerely, for making him look pretty—even though that probably didn’t take much work in the case of the Junior Senator from the state of Illinois.

Giangreco, still a young man, has worked, in one form or another, in six presidential elections, from that of the [even then and still] aging Gary Hart 1983-84 Presidential bid [of Monkey Business- Donna Rice fame, although the monkey business happened in the next election cycle when Hart was 51] to the successful Clinton Gore campaigns to the [still boyish looking, even if 50, or so] John Edwards’ bid for the Democratic Presidential nomination in 2004. Pete Giangreco is a partner at the Strategy Group.

In addition to his national political consulting practice, Giangreco has worked on Mayor Daley’s ‘91 and ’95 campaigns and would be “thrilled,” to work on his 2007 campaign, should Daley have one. Pete was dubbed a “Blagojevich media meister,” by then Governor candidate Jim Ryan at the famous WTTW debate, where Boxer Jim got off his one good one liner of the campaign, looking Rod in the eye, about 6 inches away from him and saying, “Have you no shame.”

If looks could kill, Blago would have been a dead man. Lucky for him, they can’t and Pete went on to help elect Rod Blagojevich as Governor, and has functioned in some loosely described media-political-consultant capacity to Governor Blagojevich during Blago’s administration, notwithstanding Pete’s proud statement, “I don’t do government.”

Public Affairs, of course, doesn’t endorse candidates or consultants. But, it does thank Pete Giangreco for doing what he has done so often, stepping in as a last minute sub when one of our scheduled candidate guests has to cancel, and providing spirited, vigorous, no holds barred debate and discussion of national, state and city public policy issues and politics. This week’s suburban edition of Public Affairs is no exception and it will also air throughout the City of Chicago [in the regular “Public Affairs,” City of Chicago time slot] next Monday night, August 8 at 8:30 pm on CANTV, Cable Ch. 21 in Chicago.
A partial transcript of the show with Pete Giangreco is included, below.

Berkowitz: Is he [Governor Blagojevich] re-importing drugs from Canada? Is that what you’re saying?

Giangreco: Absolutely. Yeah, um, well, he’s not doing it. But, we’ve got a website that allows people to do it.

Berkowitz: What about the drugs that he bought that he couldn’t sell [because he was not allowed to import them]?

Giangreco: You know, there was a crisis. Look-

Berkowitz: What was the cost of that

Giangreco: Um, I think two million dollars.

Berkowitz: Two million dollars.

Giangreco: That’s a drop in the bucket.

Berkowitz: A drop in the bucket.

Giangreco: Yeah. I think so.

Berkowitz: Nothing to worry about.

Giangreco: Now look. Would you rather have a governor that-- that hears that there’s a crisis, and sits on his hands and does nothing, or a governor that goes and does the best he can? I think that’s what Blagojevich has done.


Berkowitz: So you point to-

Giangreco: A lot of progress.

Berkowitz: You point to healthcare and job growth in the last month or two, those are the two main things you point to?


Giangreco: No, no, no. Minimum wage. I think the higher standards-forty nine percent of high schools in Illinois now have higher graduation standards, that mean more reading, more science, more math, because Rod Blagojevich took over the State Board of Education, which was a mess under Ron Gidwitz.

Berkowitz: It was a mess?

Giangreco: And they were able to strengthen those standards. There’s no teacher certification backlog anymore; there’s no DNA backlog.

Berkowitz: It doesn’t do a great deal, the State Board of Education. Ron [Gidwitz] would say it did a great deal and he says it did it well.

Giangreco: Well, it was a mess when he [Blagojevich] took it over.

Berkowitz: You would say it does a great deal-

Giangreco: There are even Republican senators, like [Senator Bill] Brady, who agreed with Blagojevich on the takeover of the State Board of Education, and has actually applauded some of the moves we made on raising standards.

Berkowitz: He [Blago] didn’t get what he wanted, which was basically to take the State Board of Education and put it within his control completely. Blagojevich was not given that by the legislature.

Giangreco: No, but because now, the governor was able to make some appointments to the State Board, we now are getting rid of hundreds and hundreds of pages of meaningless, worthless, out of date rules, that free up-- cut through the red tape-

Berkowitz: Yes, that the Legislature passed—

Giangreco: No, Let me finish. No, that the Governor was able to do, because we now have a, we finally have a state board of elections [a Freudian slip?] that’s accountable to the governor, uh, state board of education, uh, that’s accountable to the governor, we’re getting rid of five hundred pages already, of worthless rules, raised-

Berkowitz: Accountable?

Giangreco: Raised education standards.

Berkowitz: Excuse me. Accountable in the sense he was able to appoint them, but he didn’t get the kind of firing ability that he wanted-

Giangreco: No, no, he didn’t, and maybe that’s something-

Berkowitz: So, they’re really not accountable. They can do what they want [and this is the point that Senator Brady made when he announced for Governor last week; he accused Blagojevich of giving in, not fighting hard and not holding out for a restructuring that would make the State Board of Education truly accountable to the Governor—by becoming a department within the Blagojevich administration].

Giangreco: They’re a lot more accountable now than they were under the mess that Rod Gidwitz left.

Berkowitz: Okay. So, you’d give him [Gov. Blagojevich] an A- on?

Giangreco. On progress. On making progress. That would be minimum wage--

Berkowitz: And, a B- on?

Giangreco: On, on getting the word out,
you know? It’s hard, in this environment, uh, because the press would rather report on things that don’t matter to people-


Berkowitz: Pay for play? Pay for play? Does that matter?

Giangreco: I was thinking more about the dust up with Alderman Mell [Blago’s Father in Law, Ald. Mell, is aka, by Hispanics, as the gringo, 33rd Ward Boss. Ald. Mell is said to have told his friends and cronies he would be the State patronage boss when his son-in-law was elected governor. Ward Boss Mell was generally acknowledged to be quite helpful to his son-in-law, Rod Blagojevich, as Rod moved up the political ladder from State Rep. to Congressman to Governor, with Ald. Mell cutting deals here, cutting deals there, etc.].

Berkowitz: Panda Express [Blagojevich insiders winning access to lucrative concessions at the Tollway oases, e.g., Panda Express]?

Giangreco: No, no.

Berkowitz: Tony Rezko?

Giangreco: Yeah.

Berkowitz: Does any of that stuff matter, any kind of public corruption? Selling seats, Board seats? [State Agency board seats, e.g., Illinois Health Facilities Board].

Giangreco: Well, hang on a second. Hang on a second; hang on a second. Not in any of those reports were there any allegations of criminal wrongdoing.

Berkowitz: Kieferman? The Illinois Health Facilities Board?

Giangreco: The Kieferman thing was done by Republican holdovers.

Berkowitz: Who Rod held over. Right?

Giangreco: True. Well, I guess that’s what you get for being bipartisan.

Berkowitz: Stu Levine.

Berkowitz: Well, no. It’s like-

Giangreco: Stu Levine. [Former Illinois Attorney General] Jim Ryan’s best friend who gave hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars to Republicans.

Berkowitz: But, Rod’s the guy who made this appointment. He’s accountable. The buck stops there. He can’t just say, well, the guy was appointed originally by a Republican?

Giangreco: Well-

Berkowitz: He’s got to look at that and say, “Is that the right guy to be there?”

Giangreco: No, I mean, I think he was looking to reach out and make this a government not just of Democrats, because we are a state not just of Democrats. [Well, actually, the law requires a certain division between Democrats and Republicans on the State Agency Boards]. Even though we’re a blue state. And, reach out. And, there’s been some plusses where he’s brought you know, Republicans, in. Frankly, he has a great working relationship with [Illinois House Republican Leader] Tom Cross. They don’t agree on the issues, but they’re friends, and they’ve been able to get things done together. The stem cell piece, which, which was supported-

Berkowitz: We’ll get to that in a second. Stick on, stick on—excuse me, stick on ethics just for a minute.

Jeff Berkowitz: Are you going [to] defend all this stuff, all this, all the allegations about somebody gets appointed to a board and right before that they gave a twenty five thousand dollar check [contribution to Governor Blagojevich]--

Pete Giangreco: Let me, let me tell you. Eighty percent, Eighty percent

Berkowitz: Tony Rezko, is he-

Pete Giangreco: Can I, or you--

Berkowitz: Well, let me get the question out first.

Pete Giangreco: You’re filibustering…this is like the longest question in the Western World.

Berkowitz: No, just those names. Tony Rezko. I mean, here’s the guy who’s doing business with the Governor’s-- the Governor’s wife. He’s got tremendous influence on appointments [in the Blago administration to state agency boards]. Tremendous influence in terms of money that he makes, as part of his relationships with people in the administration. We don’t have to go through this point by point, but you understand the allegation. The governor has-- has accumulated fifteen million dollars in campaign contributions [some quite a bit in excess of $1000] from people who do business with and benefit from the state government, and then he comes out two weeks before the scheduled end of the legislative session, and says, “Here’s my bill to reform campaign finance, and all my competitors now should be restricted to getting only one thousand dollar campaign contributions.” That’s the question—[Are you going to defend all that?].

Pete Giangreco: Okay. Eighty percent of the people on boards and commissions never gave a dime. Uh, so, to make some allegation that to get on a board or commission you had to give a campaign contribution is flat out wrong. It doesn’t comport with the facts. Eighty percent, four out of five, never gave a dime.

Berkowitz: What about those that did?

Pete Giangreco: Never, ever, ever, did.

Berkowitz: But, the ones who gave substantial contributions--

Pete Giangreco: Better record than Ryan or Edgar. Now, the fact is, that Governor Blagojevich’s administration was given an award, uh, as having, as having the best procurement system in the country, that, because the politics of how-- [Pete responds to Berkowitz’s facial expression] I don’t care whether you agree, but this is the-

Berkowitz: Bill Holland, Bill Holland

Pete Giangreco: The National Association-

Berkowitz: No, not me. Bill Holland, the Auditor General-

Pete Giangreco: Can I answer the question?

Berkowitz: Yeah. Okay.

Pete Giangreco: [The National Association of] Purchasing Agents gave, uh, the Blagojevich administration their top award because it was the best system that separated the political from the governmental. In fact, the governor’s office finds out about who wins contracts at the same time reporters do. It only, it only becomes public when- It’s a separate entity, and for that, it’s the best in the country; it’s the best because it’s completely separate…
Berkowitz: What about Bill Holland? He’s the well-respected [Long-time, Independent] Auditor General in Illinois. He essentially trashed the entire procurement process of the Governor and first-

Pete Giangreco: No, that’s--

Berkowitz: At first, the governor started trying to trash Bill Holland, then he said, “Yeah, you’re right.” Isn’t that essentially what happened?

Pete Giangreco: No, I don’t think that’s right. Um, I think-

Berkowitz: Has he-

Pete Giangreco: And, certainly what you have in every administration, are some bumps along the way, but …
Pete Giangreco, recorded on July 24, 2005 and as is airing on the Suburban edition of Public Affairs this week [week of Aug. 1] and on the City of Chicago edition of Public Affairs on Monday night, August 8 at 8:30 pm on CANTV, Cable Ch. 21. See, below, for a detailed suburban airing schedule.
Pete Giangreco debates and discusses with Show Host and Executive Legal Recruiter Jeff Berkowitz grades for Gov. Blagojevich and President Bush; the successes and failures of Mayor Daley’s and Governor Blagojevich’s administrations, the ability of the Blagojevich administration “to get the word out,” likely candidates for Mayor, likely Democratic candidates for Governor, Public Corruption issues related to the Daley and Blagojevich administrations, job growth or decline in Illinois and procurement issues in the City and State, ethics and campaign finance legislation, education and much, much more.
The suburban edition of "Public Affairs," is regularly broadcast every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 8:30 pm on Comcast Cable Channel 19 in Bannockburn, Deerfield, Ft. Sheridan, Glencoe, Highland Park, Highwood, Kenilworth, Lincolnshire, Riverwoods and Winnetka.

The suburban edition also is broadcast every Tuesday night at 8:30 p.m. on Comcast Cable Channel 19 in Buffalo Grove, Elk Grove Village, Hoffman Estates, Lincolnwood, Morton Grove, Niles, Northfield, Palatine, Rolling Meadows and Wilmette and every Tuesday night at 8:30 p.m. on Comcast Cable Channel 35 in Arlington Heights, Bartlett, Glenview, Golf, Des Plaines, Hanover Park, Mt. Prospect, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Prospect Heights, Schaumburg, Skokie, Streamwood and Wheeling.
Transcript drafts prepared by Amy Allen, who also does research for “Public Affairs,” and has her own political blog [See here].
Jeff Berkowitz, Host and Producer of Public Affairs and an Executive Recruiter doing Legal Search, can be reached at JBCG@aol.com