Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Gubernatorial Candidate Dillard on ethics, corruption and Gov. Quinn; The Ghosts of Christmas past: George Ryan and Rod Blagojevich

Dillard promises no fundraising for two years if elected Gov

Kirk Dillard, State Senator and Republican Primary gubernatorial candidate, held a press conference yesterday morning at the Sheraton Hotel and Towers in the Chicago Loop to discuss his ethics reforms initiatives. The press conference consisted of a thirteen minute statement by the Senator about his ethics initiatives and his ethics record. Senator Dillard then spent about thirteen minutes answering a dozen questions from four radio correspondents and this journalist. The local TV stations were represented by their cameras or pool camera. [Watch Dillard discuss various state legislative issues].

The most significant proposal coming from Senator Dillard (R-Westmont) was his pledge to shut down his political operation for at least the first two years of his Governorship, should he win, and not accept campaign contributions unless and until he subsequently announced a decision to seek re-election. Dillard also would seek to move the primaries in Illinois back to late July, with all of this intended, said Dillard, “to send a clear signal to the public that the era of pay-to play is finally over.” Dillard has additional ethics reform proposals, discussed here.

Dillard to focus on the three Es: Economy, Education and Ethics.

Senator Dillard, who has five announced competitors for the Republican gubernatorial nomination, promised to devote during his first two years in the State’s top job “every ounce of strength he has to “governing the state of Illinois, not worrying about a political operation.” This would include, said Dillard, “turning our 48th ranking state economy around, improving our public schools and leading by example on ethics.”

Dillard says Gov. Quinn is not corrupt but is a weak leader.

Dillard said he was also “Very disappointed,” that we found out during the final days of the Spring, 2009 Springfield legislative session that Pat Quinn was “trying to have $10,000 fundraiser meetings off campus, off of, around the State Capitol.” “You’ve got to lead by example on ethics,” Dillard said.

When asked if he somehow was suggesting Gov. Quinn is corrupt, Dillard said Quinn was a “fine man,” but he was “very disappointed that [Gov. Quinn] turned his back on [his own] Collins Reform Commission,” and that he “waffled and capitulated with respect to the University of Illinois Trustees.” [Gov. Quinn backed down from his threats to remove them-- when two of the Trustees declined to resign].

Senator Dillard said he, on the other hand, was the first candidate for Governor to call for the dismissal of the Trustees of the Board of the University of Illinois, and said he didn’t need to spend a half million dollars to come to that conclusion. Dillard reiterated, “I don’t think Pat is corrupt…I just think Pat is a weak leader.”

Dillard: I won't apologize for George Ryan

When another reporter suggested ethical issues were perhaps bi-partisan, pointing to the last Republican Governor, George Ryan, who is now serving time for public corruption, Dillard said he would not apologize for George Ryan. However, he noted the Republicans did not re-nominate George to serve another term. Senator Dillard argued this contrasted with the Democrats who chose to re-run Rod Blagojevich in 2006.

Quinn's blessing of Blago in 2006

Dillard added, for good measure, that the Democrats did this “When everybody in the State…knew that [Blagojevich] had ethical improprieties, including Governor Quinn, who just days before the election, when Rod was about to run for re-re-election, said “I don’t see anything wrong with him.”

Did Dillard speak out against George Ryan

This reporter followed-up on that line of questioning by asking Senator Dillard if he “spoke out against George Ryan while he was Governor from 1998 to 2002.” Dillard responded that when he disagrees with any Governor, including the one he worked for, his self-described mentor, Jim Edgar, he speaks out-- so Dillard invited the media to go back and see what he said.

Following up further, this reporter questioned Dillard as to whether he was aware of George Ryan’s activities during that time period, and since Dillard said that Lt. Gov. Quinn should have spoken out against Rod Blagojevich, why isn’t it fair for people to turn that around and say, “you weren’t Lt.Gov. but you were an important State Senator, did you speak out against Governor George Ryan.”

Dillard had "Issues with the Ryan Administration."

Senator Dillard said that he was sure he could go back and find numerous instances where he had “issues with the Ryan administration,” and he has “even …voted against Gov. Edgar’s initiatives (after being his Chief of Staff),” when Dillard was a State Senator.

That answer didn’t quite respond to the point this reporter had raised. It isn’t a matter of whether Senator Dillard had “issues with the Ryan administration.” It is simply that Senator Dillard seemed to be arguing that Lt. Gov. Quinn should have spoken out, as Lt. Gov., about the ethical improprieties of Gov. Rod Blagojevich. If so, does Senator Dillard think that he, as a State Senator, had similar obligations to speak out about the ethical improprieties of Gov. George Ryan. If so, what did he know, when did he know it and what did he say?

Fair is Fair

I mean, fair is fair. Of course, while we’re at it, the media should ask candidates of all parties these questions, in the context of our broader ethics discussions. It was perhaps a little more timely and relevant in Senator Dillard’s case since he had just raised the issue of then Lt. Gov. Quinn’s blessing of Blago, when Quinn was his running mate in 2006.

Finally, conspicuous by its absence, was any advocacy in Senator Dillard’s initiatives of enhanced real time disclosure of campaign contributions. This reporter sought to raise that issue at the conclusion of the presser, but Republican gubernatorial candidate Dillard said he had no time for further questions and left, stage right, as quickly as he had entered.