State politics smitten with incurable plague
Nepotitis. Unlike erectile dysfunction, the heartbreak of psoriasis or restless leg syndrome, there's no treatment for this one.
No vaccine to prevent it.
No antibodies to battle it.
Nepotitis is that rabid contagion of the Illinois political persuasion that infects whole families -- irrespective of race, color or creed. We witnessed another case of it just this week when state Senate President Emil Jones announced his sudden, post-primary retirement together with his plan to plant his son, Emil Jones III, on the November ballot so young Emil can, come January, sit in old Emil's 14th District South Side Chicago seat.
Oh, right, there will be an election. But the primary has conveniently come and gone when other candidates, had they known of President Jones' pending retirement, might have jumped in but didn't. And since the Republican opponent in the general election is none other than Ray "Spanky the Clown" Wardingley, a pitiable perennial, why bother with the general election? Let's just plop young Emil in his dad's seat now.
Nepotitis is a plague that never dies.
At the very same moment Barack Obama, an alumnus of the Illinois State Senate and a mentee of President Jones, is campaigning across America in behalf of change we can believe in and a new kind of politics. Here on the homefront we have his mentor playing the same old, cynical game that treats public office like a family entitlement. And the public payroll like a bequest.
You don't need me to remind you of our long and embarrassing history, but recent blasts from the past make the pattern clear.
Congressman Bill Lipinski was the picture of health through his primary race in the spring of 2004 only to be stricken with nepotitis mid-summer. The onset of the disease coincided with the deadline for ward committeemen to slip his out-of-state professor son, Dan, onto the November ballot where his opposition was a ringer the Lipinski forces had already planted on the Republican side of the ballot.
Nepotitis leaves nothing to chance.
Then, of course, we had the double-header over at the Cook County Board in 2006.
President John Stroger, felled by a stroke, stayed on the primary ballot until, once again, summer rolled around and with it, the deadline for ward bosses to install his son, Todd, on to the November ballot. Meanwhile, interim County Board President Bobbie Steele, whose pension was about to skyrocket with her momentary occupation of the president's post, had her own bout of nepotitis resulting in another quick resignation and installation of her own son, Robert, in his mother's commissioner seat.
I could go on and on, but really, why bother?
Now President Jones is pretty angry with us at the Sun-Times and at NBC5. Furious that we have dared to ask questions about how young Emil, lacking a college degree, got an administrator-level state job paying almost $60,000 a year; how his stepson, John Sterling, has been the beneficiary of hundreds of thousands of dollars in state subcontracts at the same time his stepfather was fighting the mandatory disclosure of subcontractors; and how Jones himself has regularly taken out no-interest loans from his million-dollar-plus campaign fund, more than half a million of which he can pull out in personal income thanks to a grandfathered-in campaign provision.
Again, I could go on because there's so much more to fuel the outrage.
What does Emil Jones III have to say about his candidacy for his dad's seat?
He has not returned Sun-Times' phone calls or e-mails. Why? President Jones' spokeswoman, Cindy Davidsmeyer, said Tuesday by phone from Springfield that Emil III is "still a private citizen, not on the ballot yet. That's the way he's conducting himself."
I understand. We all understand.
Nepotitis is not just incurable, it's all but invincible.