Monday, January 26, 2009

Berkowitz goes one-on-one w/Senate President Cullerton on the Blagojevich impeachment trial, taxes and Blago subpoenas to Emanuel and Jarrett

Jeff Berkowitz: How soon could this trial be over if Rod Blagojevich doesn’t show up? Could it be two or three days?

Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago): No, I don’t want to say that because the prosecution will decide
Jeff Berkowitz: Do you think maybe you should have given the Governor subpoena rights, to subpoena Rahm Emanuel, if he wants, or Valerie Jarrett and then let him duke it out with the U. S. Attorney…
Berkowitz: Do you see any way to avoid an increase in taxes? How would you avoid an increase in the income tax or sales tax?
Newly minted Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago) spoke and answered written questions from a packed, non-media audience of more than two hundred City Club of Chicago members and guests this morning at Maggiano’s Banquets in Chicago. [The first Republican perspective scheduled for the City Club this year is apparently Senate Republican Leader Radogno [Lemont] on April 20, 2009].

After this morning’s program, “Public Affairs,” caught up with Senator Cullerton (D-Chicago) and conducted a one-on-one, side walk, video interview with him while President Cullerton was waiting for the valet to bring around his car. [See a transcript, below]. Luckily, for this journalist, the valet service was apparently not speedy.

How long will the Blagojevich impeachment trial take?

It is not surprising that Senate President Cullerton did not want to speculate about how long the Blagojevich impeachment (or should we say removal) state senate trial will take. [The trial started today at noon, and dealt with procedural and evidentiary motions until about 3:30 pm, when the House prosecutor called his first witness Go here for live blogging about the trial by Steve Rhodes on NBC.] It doesn’t sound like Cullerton thinks it will take more than a week to dispose of this matter, if Rod is a no-show, as Gov. Blagojevich has said he will be.

Clearly, President Cullerton wants the trial over yesterday, and that is one reason, he implied, for not giving Gov. Blagojevich the right to subpoena the likes of White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel-- with the likely federal court delays of impeachment precipitated by a federal adjudication of disputes related to Emanuel’s compliance with the subpoena.

During his remarks to the City Club of Chicago, President Cullerton emphasized that Illinois state government can't deal with the large and growing state deficits [4 to 5 billion dollars ?] until it is known whether it is Gov. Blagojevich or Gov. Quinn [the current Lt. Gov.] with whom the legislature must work.

Why the pols want a short trial

Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass suggests perhaps some other reasons why the Dems and perhaps Republicans want to conclude the Blago trial as soon as possible.

One, the longer the trial, the greater chance somebody will spread, on Rod’s behalf, some general or specific dirt about Illinois’ legislators and their own corruption [and Kass raises again the murky partnership purportedly involving Cullerton, his wife-- Pam, Senator Deleo and the son of Blagojevich’s criminal defense lawyer, Ed Genson, as owners of Lincoln Park Title Co.].

Two, the Illinois General Assembly may have a number of legitimate reasons to impeach and remove Rod Blagojevich from the Governor’s mansion, notwithstanding that he doesn’t actually live there. However, clearly the Illinois Democratic Party leaders, starting with Mayor Daley and House Speaker Mike Madigan, and at least some Republicans want a significant income or sales tax increase in 2009, and that will be easier to accomplish with a Governor Quinn than a Governor Blagojevich. While this is clearly not the motivating force for impeachment (as Hot Rod suggests), it is a happy by-product for those pols who are licking their chops at the prospects of more tax revenue.

As for Senate President Cullerton and taxes, he advocated for, and bet on, last June on Public Affairs an increase in the income tax-- but this morning he spoke only of the necessity of a tax increase to fund a capital plan and he suggested that the feds’ increased funding of Medicaid might obviate, in his mind, the need for an income or general sales tax increase to deal with the State's operating deficit.

Rich Miller, in this morning’s Capitolfax publication, refers to block grants from the Feds that might help with (1) general efforts to balance the state budget and (2) what some perceive as specific “shortfalls,” in education funding. Perhaps President Obama and COS Emanuel, despite Obama’s denials at a presser last month in response to a question from ABC’s former local political pundit, Andy Shaw, might give some special attention to Mayor Daley and their “friends,” in Springfield when it comes to handing out the stimulus and other government goodies. [Watch a clip of a 2002 interview of Obama by Berkowitz, followed by an O'Reilly-Berkowitz analysis of President Obama].
Jeff Berkowitz: How soon could this trial be over if Rod Blagojevich doesn’t show up. Could it be two or three days?

Senate President Cullerton: No, I don’t want to say that because the prosecution will decide how many witnesses they want to call and how they want to put their case on, questions, their response to senators. You just can’t say. It will take as long as it takes.

Jeff Berkowitz: Do you think maybe you should have given the Governor subpoena rights, to subpoena Rahm Emanuel (President's Obama's Chief of Staff and a key Team Obama-Team Blago contact on the alleged attempted sale of the Senate Seat), if he wants, or Valeria Jarrett (apparently Team Obama's initially preferred choice to replace Senator Obama) and then let him duke it out with the U. S. Attorney [who indicated he did not want Blagojevich’s impeachment trial to involve certain of his anticipated witnesses for Blagojevich’s criminal trial], however that’s done?

Senate President Cullerton: That would have delayed the trial and we wanted- for the reasons I stated-have the trial be heard as soon as possible and its inevitable there would have been a federal court telling us that we had to wait for that to be litigated. The reasons why the Governor said he needed those witnesses, for the reasons I stated, are not valid because those witnesses’ testimony can be presented indirectly- I assume their relevance to the trial—he could still accomplish the same goal be subpoenaing the transcripts of those public statements.

Jeff Berkowitz: Is the Governor’s PR effort an attempt to tamper with the jury pool for the federal trial, the criminal trial? Chicago Tribune columnist Eric Zorn doubts this hypothesis, but he advances none of his own to explain why Blago has embarked on his massive PR effort: GMA, Today, Don and Roma and The View-- and he may just be getting started.

Senate President Cullerton: I have no idea.

Jeff Berkowitz: That’s the only thing that makes sense because he is not affecting impeachment, is he—he has already been impeached—he is not affecting removal [from office] at this point with the state senators, they are not going to be influenced by this media effort, are they?

Senate President Cullerton: I don’t think so.

Jeff Berkowitz: So, it must be just thinking ahead to the criminal trial?

Senate President Cullerton: Something.
Jeff Berkowitz: Do you see any way to avoid an increase in taxes? How would you avoid an increase in the income tax or sales tax?

Senate President Cullerton: Get money from the federal government.

Ed. Note: John Cullerton stated, in response to a question during his breakfast remarks at the City Club of Chicago, this morning, about an increase in state taxes, “…the Federal Government could be providing …billions of dollars for us to help pay for Medicaid costs so we really can’t answer that question as to whether or not we would need a tax increase to balance our [operating] budget until we see what [the Feds] provide. This, of course, is separate and apart from the capital bill. The capital bill—we need to pass. Their [the Feds'] billion dollars and their half billion for mass transit is not enough. We need to pass a capital bill. That will require some type of a tax increase. It will have to bring in about a billion dollars a year. We are considering the income tax; We are considering the motor fuel tax…no one is talking about increasing the sales tax on gasoline…what we are considering is whether or not to raise the 19 cent per gallon gallonage tax—obviously it’s on the table…
Jeff Berkowitz, Show Host/Producer of "Public Affairs," and Executive Legal Recruiter doing legal search can be reached at *************************************************************
"Public Affairs," is a weekly political interview show airing in Chicago on CANTV, in the Chicago metro area, Aurora and Rockford on Comcast and also often on the Illinois Channel. You can watch the shows, including archived shows going back to 2005, here.
Recently posted shows on the Public Affairs YouTube page include shows with State Senator Kwame Raoul on impeachment(D-Chicago), Democratic political campaign consultant Pete Giangreco on Blago's impeachment and the way in which the Obama Administration will operate, a recent Bill O'Reilly segment w/Berkowitz on Obama, shows with State Rep. Julie Hamos, (D-Evanston) newly minted State Rep. Mark Walker (D-Arlington Heights), essentially the first Dem to represent his district since the Civil War, on the connection between the mess in Springfield and in Cook County government, Chicago Alderman Manuel (Manny) Flores (D-1st Ward, Wicker Park) on impeachment of Rod, Chicago issues and a possible run to replace 5th CD Cong. Emanuel, Cook County Cmsr. Tony Peraica (R-Riverside) on the mess we call Illinois politics and much more.