Monday, April 24, 2006

Better than Hannity & Colmes: Berkowitz & Kay

"Public Affairs," is featuring Dick Kay, tonight [April 24] through-out the City of Chicago on CANTV, Cable Ch. 21 at 8:30 pm ; And, on the "Public Affairs," podcast page on your computer [See here]. Dick Kay has been the Political Editor and Host of City Desk at NBC-5 News for almost four decades.

The "Public Affairs," podcast page gives you a choice of 20 different episodes of “Public Affairs," including, in addition to our show with Kay, shows featuring the Republican nominee for State Treasurer, Sen. Christine Radogno, and Congresswoman Bean [D-Barrington] and her challenger in the 8th CD, David McSweeney [R-Barrington Hills] [See here]. The show with Sen. Radogno also airs in 35 North Shore, North and Northwest suburbs this week on Comcast Cable.
Blago and Judy to rumble on City Desk
Jeff Berkowitz:… Let’s talk about the Governor’s race. Rod Blagojevich. Judy Baar Topinka. We’re taping this in early April. You will be having them on City Desk some time in May.

Dick Kay[host of City Desk on NBC 7]: Let me, uh-

Jeff Berkowitz: A discussion [with] Rod and Judy.

Dick Kay: As you know, City Desk is unstructured. It will not be a debate and I will let them give them their head if they want to question each other, they can do that, whatever they want to do. Obviously, I’ll try to moderate that, to make sure they don’t feel like either one’s slighted. I think it’s going to be the end of May, and it will probably air- The Governor has agreed to do it. He just hasn’t said “yes” to the date, but we are tentatively shooting for Sunday morning, May 28, for this program, City Desk.

Jeff Berkowitz: program. You will be retiring on June 1, so it will be kind of like your last time. Kind of like when [Quarterback] Terry Bradshaw, when he was inducted into the [Football] Hall of Fame, he said-- Oh, for one more time to place his hands under the butt of his center.

Dick Kay: Yeah [laughs]. I don’t plan to do that.

Jeff Berkowitz: You don’t want to place your hands under-

Dick Kay: It probably will be my last show. My plan is to retire June 1st. I guess Friday is June 2nd, [and] I could technically do another one, but I don’t think I will.

Rod’s image: Investigations of his Administration
Jeff Berkowitz: All right, so right now, you’ve got Rod Blagojevich, the incumbent Governor. He’s been there for almost four years—will have been there for four years. He’s got fifteen million dollars. He’s a Democrat, in a Democratic state. Shouldn’t this be a cakewalk for him?

Dick Kay: Well, yeah, it should be a cakewalk for him, but Rod Blagojevich is sometimes, as you know, his own worst enemy. I mean, there are—the biggest problem for Rod Blagojevich is image. And, here’s a guy who is conscious of image. But, the biggest problem is the image that there are so many federal investigations of his administration and his friends and his fundraisers. And, you know, it’s created a great deal of distrust. Topinka and the Republicans like to call it “pay to play,” campaign contributions for appointments and contracts. So far, regardless of what they say-- there are no absolutes—so far, they haven’t touched the Governor, in these investigations. Doesn’t mean they won’t. Doesn’t mean they-

Jeff Berkowitz: Tony Rezko, Chris Kelly. Big fundraisers.

Dick Kay: Big fundraisers.

Jeff Berkowitz: [There are] people thought to be snooping around there.

Dick Kay: They are. They are.

Jeff Berkowitz: Joe Cari has—already had a plea agreement with the feds. Perhaps, they spoke there of “public official A”-

Blagojevich as Official A
Dick Kay: Well, he [Blago] has admitted that he is “Official A.” There is no question that Governor Blagojevich is “Official A.” But, Joe Cari, that was all hearsay. What Joe Cari said was—he didn’t say that they were taking campaign contributions in exchange for this business. What Joe Cari [said] was that Levine—Stuart Levine, who is under indictment—told him that’s the way it was working.

Jeff Berkowitz: Right.

Dick Kay: Well, everyone says, “Why would any U.S. Attorney go along with this and present this kind of information if it weren’t true?” Well, I don’t know if it’s true.

Jeff Berkowitz: Well, why would he? He kind of tips his hand where he’s going. Why do you suppose-

Dick Kay: Well, everybody knew where he was going, but-

Jeff Berkowitz: Maybe he wanted to shake the tree a little bit, and see what would fall off, and maybe somebody would start talking.

Dick Kay: Probably.

Jeff Berkowitz: You think somebody dropped a dime?

Dick Kay: I think they probably—I think they probably are all talking.

Topinka’s Tough Row to Hoe
Jeff Berkowitz: Judy Baar Topinka, on the other side of the fence, as the state Treasurer, started a practice that Pat Quinn hadn’t, that is, taking campaign contributions from banks with which she does business.

Dick Kay: Umhmm.

Jeff Berkowitz: Got a lot of criticism for that. Is she anybody to talk about pay to play?

Dick Kay: I think that Judy, as the campaign goes on, I think that she’ll have a tough row to hoe, because I believe that Judy has her own problems with a) taking campaign contributions. I think they identified--the Gidwitz people, in the primary—identified something in the neighborhood of two hundred thousand dollars from contractors doing business with the Treasurer’s office, banks, et cetera, giving money to Judy.

Jeff Berkowitz: Might have been six hundred thousand dollars.

Dick Kay: Judy has that hotel loan still pending. She tried to get rid of it—

Jeff Berkowitz: Settled for twenty five cents on the dollar.

Dick Kay: Twenty five cents on the dollar.

Jeff Berkowitz: [Bill] Cellini and his Board [members] are out there giving contributions to Judy? That’s what Oberweis said.

Dick Kay: Well, I don’t know that they were giving contributions-

Jeff Berkowitz: To her campaign.

Dick Kay: It was a Republican deal.

Jeff Berkowitz: Okay.

Dick Kay: And Judy wanted to—the other thing is, at one point there was an investigation of Judy’s office into the use of [state employees as] political workers. I mean, [state] office workers putting time into the campaign.

Jeff Berkowitz: Two or three years ago, right?

Dick Kay: I don’t know if that’s still over. I mean, I haven’t heard anybody-
say it’s over. I never heard anybody say it started.

Jeff Berkowitz: Yeah.

Dick Kay: There’s a couple of people who will tell you that, in fact, they have talked to the U.S. Attorney’s office, but it’s been a couple of years.

Topinka’s Problems with Conservatives
Jeff Berkowitz: Yeah. So, she’s got that concern. You know, also, she got thirty eight percent of the vote. So, the great majority of the people in the Republican primary voted for someone else, including thirty two percent for Jim Oberweis. We would conclude that that’s probably fairly conservative vote? Can she, a social moderate, and maybe a moderate in other ways, too, get the people who voted for Jim Oberweis behind her, those Republicans?

Dick Kay: No, the problem—no, I don’t think she’ll get the conservative Republican vote. I mean, because they’re already trying to find a way out. Some of them are talking about switching to [Senator and Rev.] Meeks if he gets in the race.

Rev. Meeks
Jeff Berkowitz:But, that’s not going to happen. Meeks is no more attractive to them than Judy. He may be on social issues, but not on economic issues.

Dick Kay: I don’t know that he’s attractive, period. I mean, the guy—the first thing he wants to do is raise income taxes. He says he doesn’t, but he wants a tax swap, property taxes for income taxes. He came up a week ago and asked for-- I don’t know how many millions he wants for-- prison guards. His list of demands grows, and at a time when people are criticizing state spending, he’s still out there talking about tax increases and budget growth.

Jeff Berkowitz: So, Reverend James Meeks, the state senator, is out there trying to increase contributions, somehow, from the Governor a commitment for education, for what he would view as, his constituents, who are in large part African Americans. The Hispanic Caucus has--

Dick Kay: It seems-

Jeff Berkowitz: Said the same thing. He’ll make a deal. Is that what you think happens?

Dick Kay: I think they’ll make a deal, or he won’t run. He’s already filed as a Democratic candidate for re-election to the Senate-

Jeff Berkowitz: Right.

Dick Kay: If he runs, he loses his Senate seat. He says he’s willing to give it up, but I find that hard to believe.

Jeff Berkowitz: So, how does that--what’s that race come down between Blagojevich and Judy Baar Topinka? Is it too early to tell, or can you-

Topinka’s Ethnic Style
Dick Kay: I think that Judy will—Judy has one other problem, and it’s a matter of—first of all, she will get crossover. A lot of women like her. Her positions on social issues are good. A lot of women will cross from the Democratic party that once supported Blagojevich and go to Judy. On the other hand, Judy continues to pop off. It was part of her charm as the Treasurer, candidate for Treasurer. It was not the kind of thing that will engender respect for a candidate for Governor. I mean, she said the other day, “he [Gov. Blagojevich] has weasely eyes.” She tried to back out of that and say, that’s because he [Blago] doesn’t look at you when he talks. And, she’s-

Jeff Berkowitz: So, that’s a problem.

Dick Kay: Her effort- she’s well liked, but her effort to be this down-to-earth person—I think in the end it will hurt her, if she continues along those lines.

Jeff Berkowitz: Too down to earth. Tom Roeser, a conservative, radio personality, said she’s a “low rent” candidate. Is that being too tough?

Dick Kay: Judy is a great ethnic lady, proud of her heritage. She’s always been a tough talker, from her days in the legislature, all the way through. I mean, but you can’t tell a nationally syndicated columnist [George Will] that you want Bush to raise money for you at an undisclosed location in the dead of night. And, that they talked her into "getting in the race [for Governor]."

Jeff Berkowitz: But, her aide said that.

Dick Kay: But, she [Topinka] was there. She was present and she didn’t say, “No, I don’t mean this.”

The Money Game
Jeff Berkowitz: Edgar says she has to raise ten million dollars. Rod already has fifteen. Is that the-

Dick Kay: She won’t raise ten million dollars, but the Republican party will be there. I mean-

Jeff Berkowitz: How much will she have to spend at the end of the day?

Dick Kay: I think she will probably approach five, six, seven million.
I don’t know.

Jeff Berkowitz: Rod’s got fifteen [million dollars]. How much will he have at the end of the day? .

Dick Kay: Well, the way he’s been spending it-- he won’t have anything left. She’s got wealthy backers, Kjellander and a lot of these people. She’s got millionaires in her corner, you know. And, so, I think she’s going to raise some money.

Jeff Berkowitz: In Illinois, they could write her a check for a million if they wanted to.

Dick Kay: The difference in this, though, is that Judy Baar Topinka is well known. I mean, Judy Baar—you don’t need fifteen million dollars—because she doesn’t have any program to present to the people. I mean, her program is “let’s defeat Rod Blagojevich.” And, everybody knows her because she’s been in politics now, for what-- twenty, thirty years in Illinois?

A Referendum on Rod
Jeff Berkowitz: So, she wants to make it a referendum on Rod. Rod wants to make it a choice and say, “here’s my “All Kids” program, here’s my program for all kids having access to pre-school. What have you got, Judy?” Is that what Rod’s doing?

Dick Kay: He’s got a good record, if you are an average working stiff in Illinois. He’s got a record that says we covered the doughnut in prescriptions for senior citizens, we provided health care for every kid in Illinois... We’ve going to provide pre-kindergarten school. We kept the minimum wage—we raised it and we want to raise it again. We decoupled from the federal employment overtime regulations. Our people continue to get overtime. I think he—and he improved education, too, in terms of raising standards. Has he done enough for education? No, but I think you could probably never do enough for education.

Jeff Berkowitz: In terms of the education lobby, teachers’ unions, what they want

Dick Kay: Well, yes, of course, I mean that’s what Meeks wants, too.

Jeff Berkowitz: But, the Republicans would say, about jobs, there should have been an increase…with the recovery of about 250K jobs, they say there has been an increase of about 20,000 jobs. Do they have a point?
Public Affairs, with Dick Kay, was recorded on April 9, 2006 and is airing on the City of Chicago edition of Public Affairs tonight, April 24 at 8:30 pm on Cable Ch. 21. . The show with Dick Kay is also available as a video podcast at the Public Affairs Cinema Complex, along with nineteen other shows, which are also airing there. [See here].
Partial transcript draft of the Public Affairs show with Dick Kay was prepared by Amy Allen, who also does research for “Public Affairs,” and has her own political blog [See here].
Jeff Berkowitz, Show Host/Producer of "Public Affairs," and Executive Legal Recruiter doing legal search can be reached at