June 24, 2009
BY CAROL MARIN Sun-Times Columnist
O,Illinois, of thee we sing. Only in this great state can former first lady Patti Blagojevich morph into the Mother Teresa of Costa Rica; can the dark side's Dan Proft pose as a candidate for governor, and can Congress take precious time away from the crises at hand to contemplate naming a government office building after former U.S. Rep. Bill "Put My Son In My Seat" Lipinski.
****THE WILLIAM O. LIPINSKI BUILDING?
You betcha. I think I can see his building from here. House Resolution 2498, pending in Congress, would rename a 12-story structure at 844 N. Rush Street in honor of the former congressman from Chicago's Southwest Side Bungalow Belt by Midway Airport. It currently houses the U.S. Railroad Retirement Board.
Now, I'm not arguing Lipinski doesn't deserve credit for his 22 years in Congress. A smart, strategic politician, he brought home a boatload of bacon to Chicago, especially transportation money for planes and trains.
But there's more to the story.
In 2004, after winning the primary and promising he was committed to another full term, whaddya know but he suddenly decided to resign. Voters didn't get to pick his replacement for the November ballot. Committeemen with dynastic names like Daley, Madigan and Hynes did. In a meeting called so quickly that only one prospect showed up, what else could they do except select him? And so Dan Lipinski, the congressman's resident-of-Tennessee son, was picked to run in his dad's place.
It gets worse.
The Republican who would run against Dan that year was 28-year-old Ryan Chlada, the son of soon-to-be Cicero Town President Larry Dominick's ex-wife. Young Ryan was what we call a "ringer." No campaign signs, no literature, no nothing. Ryan was there to guarantee The Kid's victory.
And then, once the Lipinski kid replaced the Lipinski dad, the kid put the dad on his federal payroll as a consultant.
Meanwhile Dad also had lobbying contracts with -- guess what? Airlines and railroads -- which in turn gave the kid campaign contributions.
Haven't we, the taxpayers, done quite enough for Bill Lipinski already? Does he get a building too?
I say no. Name it after the legendary Dan Rostenkowski, who despite time in Club Fed, did a heck of a lot more to deserve it.
*****SPEAKING OF CICERO
Dan Proft, the acid-tongued former spokesman for the infamous town of Cicero, made it official Tuesday.
Proft is running for governor in the 2010 Republican primary.
Here's hoping he discloses his income tax returns so we can see how much money he actually siphoned from this blue-collar, mostly Hispanic community.
Proft, who touts his conservative credentials and has done commentary on WLS radio's "Don Wade and Roma" show, founded a public relations firm that was small in size but whose Cicero-related fees approached $1 million in 2008.
Besides being the spokesman for the aforementioned Larry Dominick, who has packed the town payroll with an army of his relatives, Proft picked up a separate fee of more than $300,000 to be the spokesman for a new municipal building. Yes, for a BUILDING.
The question is, when a henchman becomes a candidate, whom does he hire as HIS henchman?
Patti Blagojevich got tossed out of the Costa Rican jungle Tuesday night on NBC's "I'm a Celebrity . . . Get Me Out of Here!" But not before showing viewers and fellow wannabe celebrities that she is nobody's cartoon.
The pity is that the former first lady never took the same pains to show Illinois her human, tough-but-acceptable side. None of this in itself will change the mind of a jury about her indicted former governor husband. But I confess I called the 800 number and voted for her.