Monday, March 13, 2006

The Machine dirties up Alexi Giannoulias?

If you haven’t noticed, the Democratic Primary contest for Illinois State Treasurer between 29 year old novice politician Alexi Giannoulias and Knox County State’s Attorney Paul Mangieri is boiling down to a battle between their respective angels, two major league Illinois Democratic Party powerhouse sluggers who are energizing the campaigns for each candidate.

U. S. Senator Barack Obama, who of course just a few years was a self-described “skinney kid from the south side of Chicago,” is now a 44 year old potential Presidential Candidate and regular on the national Sunday political talk shows [Yesterday it was Face the Nation’s turn and Barack used the spot to remind all he is a “Christian,” who understands and will speak out about morality, in the broad public policy context. How’s that for a family value? BTW, Host Bob Schieffer was so enamored with and so pandering to Barack, I thought he might lean over and kiss him. But, even Schieffer has his limits to his political bias] For a view that places less significance on Senator Obama for national Democrats, at least in the near term,see here.

Senator Obama has put his good will and TV advertising muscle behind Alexi, whose family supported Barack early on in his 2004 U. S. Senate Democratic Primary by raising 100K for him. Barack, like any good pol, never forgets those who supported him, and especially those who did so early.

Barack is telling all who will listen what a supremely qualified, financial whiz Giannoulias is for the job, based primarily on Alexi’s three years of experience at the family bank. Further, it is more than just an intellectual endorsement as Barack embraces Alexi personally and with an Oprah style hug.

Along for the ride with Barack in his endorsement of the young, former European League Basketball player [He blew out his knee after a year] are the likes of Cong. Jesse Jackson, Jr., [D- Chicago] Cong. Danny [the Mouth] Davis [D-Chicago] and Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky [D-Evanston], who lost recently in her effort to move up to No. 4 in the Democratic House Leadership, but still remains very close to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. Indeed, Alexi’s supporters are a who’s who of liberalism in Illinois.

But, on the other side of the fence stands the No. 1 Democrat in Illinois for more than two decades [Yeah, even more powerful than da Mayor], Speaker Mike Madigan who is also Chairman of the Illinois Democratic Party. Speaker Mike wanted to see geographic balance in his State-wide ticket and reached out to slate downstater Paul Mangieri.

But, the aforementioned stalwarts of liberalism don’t seem to think Paul is liberal enough on social issues, notwithstanding his current Pro-Choice and Pro Gay-Rights [or, as my liberal friends tell me I should say, Human Rights] statements. The liberal, left backers of Alexi think they can demonstrate, by pointing to positions taken by Mangieri in his prior races, that he either really is or really was a social issue conservative. And, who knows, maybe they have a point. [For more on Paul Mangieri and his views, watch our show [Jan. 15] with Mangieri here; Alexi ducked the show, he seems to prefer Obama ads].

In any case, Speaker Mike is not thinking about that that kind of stuff [He himself is said to be Pro-Life, but that personal view seldom seems to influence his politics, or as some would put it- his business]. Simply put, Speaker Mike put doesn’t like to be challenged by upstarts, even Presidential wannabeees like Senator Obama—and Mike Madigan surely doesn’t want to lose.

So, House Speaker Mike Madigan has some muscle and resources of his own to help Mangieri, who is basically without funds. And, at least nominally, virtually all the Party regulars from Governor Blagojevich on down are sticking with Mangieri. After all, who wants to get on the bad side of Speaker Mike? Perhaps the likes of Obama, Jackson, Davis and Schakowsky can speak their minds because they don’t like the social issue views of Mangieri. The rest? forget it.

So it comes down to glitz and TV for Giannoulias and mailers, palm cards and statewide muscle for Mangieri. Yes, Yes, Jan, Jesse, Danny, Barack and some others will have some of their footsoldiers out for Alexi, but not like the Mike Madigan Machine.

And, then there is this piece on Alexi's "ties," [See here], which as Rich Miller of Capitolfax says, it ain’t pretty for Alexi [even though the Gen X-ers and Gen Y-ers think Alexi is. What can I say, it is Illinois. It always comes down to guns, prostitutes, mud and being "Mobbed up.". You expected a discussion of how much should the state be borrowing, are the pension funds being raided and how to manage the State’s financial assets? Come on, get real! This is Chicago. This is Illinois. The state for which the phrase, “Politics ain’t beanbag,” was invented.
Jeff Berkowitz, Show Host/Producer of "Public Affairs," and Executive Legal Recruiter doing legal search can be reached at