November 29, 2008
BY CAROL MARIN Sun-Times Columnist
OK, psychology majors, let's think about this. The governor of the state of Illinois, Rod Blagojevich, is arguing for mercy for the former and imprisoned governor of the state of Illinois, George Ryan.
As FBI agents and U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald circle their wagons in Operation Board Games ever more tightly around the Blagojevich administration, suddenly this governor feels the pain of another.
It wasn't always so.
In the campaign of 2002, the one in which Ryan did not dare run for a second term given the federal heat, Blagojevich was relentless in referencing the corruption and scandals in Ryan's administration.
"Pay to play" -- before it became the term of art to describe big Blago donors getting big contracts or board appointments --was a term he weaponized to use against Ryan and the Republicans who ran against him, including former Attorney General Jim Ryan (no relation) and former state Treasurer Judy Barr Topinka.
Now he sees his predecessor's agony.
No doubt Ryan is suffering. And no doubt whatsoever that his wife, Lura Lynn, needs and wants her husband by her side. The scandal took just about everything away: his pension, his freedom, their savings, their life together. Blagojevich, who says he is convinced that the feds have nothing on him, sees a year in prison out of a sentence of 6½ as quite enough.
You can understand why.
Federal authorities have methodically marched across the alphabet, identifying Blagojevich friends, associates and appointees by a letter rather than a name as they press their investigation .
Blagojevich, in court filings, is Public Official A. He has not been charged with any crime.
Others have not been so lucky.
Co-schemer A: Bill Cellini is the most recent indictee. He's a Springfield power broker, multimillionaire and bipartisan pal to the rich and powerful.
Co-schemer B: Christopher Kelly has been a close Blagojevich advisor and top fund-raiser. He's facing gambling-related tax fraud charges.
Stuart Levine: He's the Highland Park Republican who learned to love Democrats, raised money for both and used his connections on boards and commissions to rig real estate and other deals. Now singing like a robin in spring, Levine gave testimony that helped put away Tony Rezko.
Tony Rezko: A fund-raiser to a wide and influential list of pols from Blagojevich to Barack Obama to John Stroger and Harold Washington. Guilty in one corruption trial, about to go to trial on financial fraud, he is reportedly ready to flip.
The list is even longer, but the shortened version makes the point well enough. Prison -- beyond Ryan's plight -- must be very much on the governor's mind, given the growing list of people he knows who are ending up there.
Anyone who has visited a prison knows the grim reality of that existence. Rather than argue for Ryan's reprieve, maybe Blagojevich should drive to Terre Haute to visit him. And talk about lessons learned.
Sister Therese update
I promised I'd keep you posted on Sister Therese O'Sullivan, the Catholic nun who runs a homeless shelter on the South Side.
Last week, she was making sure the St. Martin de Porres House of Hope at 64th and Woodlawn was ready for Thanksgiving.
For 25 years, the shelter has been home to women and children. The moms are all in the second stage of drug and alcohol recovery, working to get on their feet and back out into the world.
Just before my deadline, I learned that Sister Therese, 70, who works 24/7, had experienced chest pains and weakness. Nuns hate being told what to do, but her staff and the paramedics prevailed that day. She went to the emergency room of the University of Chicago Hospital.
The good news is that she didn't have a heart attack. She's back home -- getting ready for Christmas.