Friday, November 11, 2005

Pollster/Political Consultant McCullough indicted in DuPage

Yesterday, Rod McCullough, a Republican pollster/political consultant for whom the phrase “a little rough around the edges,” was invented was indicted by a grand jury in DuPage County. The indictment, sought and received by DuPage State’s Attorney Joe Birkett, included two felony counts of perjury and forgery. The underlying predicate acts involved petitions to get on the ballot by Jim Gumm, who was seeking to keep his job as Milton Township [within the 6th CD] assessor. Gumm, a Republican who was running as an Independent, had hired McCullough to oversee the petition drive in an effort to get the signatures needed to put Gumm on the ballot.

The indictment does not allege that Rod forged the signatures on the petitions, but it does allege that he knew some of the signatures on the documents were forged prior to submitting them.

McCullough, speaking by phone with me late Thursday night, said he “absolutely was not guilty of any of the charges,” and he “couldn’t wait to put this case before a jury.” McCullough said he “strongly objected to the criminalization of the political process,” and that he was “disappointed that Birkett is criminalizing the American political process.”

Reliable sources suggest that the types of actions at issue, even if thought to have evidence in support, seldom warrant felony indictments. Simply put, the legal requirements of oversight when petitions are being distributed and signed “in the presence,” of the supervisors are a bit loose.

Reliable sources indicate that McCullough did campaign work for Bob Coleman, who lost in his 2002 contest with Birkett for the Republican nomination for the Attorney General slot. Further, McCullough published on his web site so-called summaries of the famous Jack Ryan “child custody sealed records,” a week before the 2004 Republican Senate Primary election, giving a jolt to the Jack Ryan Campaign, but not enough of a jolt to prevent Jack from winning the primary. McCullough was the campaign manager of General Borling's ill fated campaign for the Senate, in which the General received 2% of the vote. Borling did not want the information disclosed by McCullough and gave him the choice of resigning before being fired. McCullough resigned.

Three months later, the court ordered the Ryan sealed records made public, revealing some aspects of the McCullough summaries to have been accurate but some to have been quite inaccurate. Jack Ryan formally withdraw from the race six weeks later.

Some suggest Birkett is engaged in a bit of petty payback for the above. Moreover, Birkett is said to be still mulling a run for Governor, a partnership with Judy Baar Topinka as her Lt. Gov. running mate, or perhaps another run for Attorney General [he lost by 3 points in a tough race in 2002 with the current AG-- Lisa Madigan].

Would Birkett's prosecution of a Republican for corruption make him look good for one of those political races? Would it deflect attention from his continuing failure to resolve the Jeanine Nacarico case by finally indicting Brian Dugan, years after his confession, and his alleged involvement in a wrongful prosecution in that matter? Or, does the indictment of McCullough only months after his alleged violations highlight the years of procrastination by Birkett in indicting Dugan?

To further complicate things,Joe Morris, the conscience of the conservative wing of the State GOP, had represented McCullough, in the election fraud investigation. Morris, who also is Birkett’s personal attorney, had received a waiver from Birkett’s office [regarding the potential conflict of interest], permitting Morris to represent McCullough and Birkett. Oddly, that consent was recently rescinded by Birkett.

So, is this a righteous prosecution of Rod McCullough or a political persecution by Joe Birkett?