Chicago Sun-Times
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Sweet column: The resurrected Frank Kruesi, Chicago's new federal lobbyist.

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Dear Frank,

I never thought I’d be covering you again, not after your exit as president of the CTA.

(Now I may not be paying you much attention for awhile because I am preoccupied with the presidential campaign. But we do go back—to the 1980s when you were with then Cook County States Attorney Richard M. Daley and I was covering Cook County and the Daley Center courts and the 1990s, when you were in the Transportation Department in Washington and then when you returned home with the city-federal aviation portfolio.)

Was I ever surprised that Mayor Daley tapped you on Thursday to be the city’s federal lobbyist in Washington given the circumstances of your departure from the CTA, which Sun-Times City Hall ace Fran Spielman details in her story. LINK

Because of who you are—controversial-- the announcement that you are the going to run the city office in Washington made a lot of news---in the Sun-Times, Trib, Crain’s and on tv. The men who preceded you running the City of Chicago Washington office—Pete Halpin and before him, David Yudin—were very solid, but I wouldn’t be able to get a big story in the paper about them unless I bought ad space.

I just looked up the last column I wrote about you. Here’s the lede and a graf from my Aug. 28, 2003 column:

“I want to explain why the backdoor play by CTA President Frank Kruesi to sweeten his pension is an appalling abuse of his position and then offer some suggestions so that Kruesi can't get away with this again. I think Kruesi should do something that for him may be harder to do than resign. He should apologize.

Mayor Daley was wrong to dismiss Kruesi's sneaky pension move, as he did on Tuesday, as no more than a squabble between Kruesi and CTA Board Chairwoman Valerie Jarrett.”

Jarrett—that would be the woman who now is a top confidant and campaign advisor to White House hopeful Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.). Obama goes on about federal lobbyists, but one way or the other—either as senator, vice president or president—you’ll be dealing with him, Frank and Rep. Rahm Emanuel, the number 4 lawmaker in the House and Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), the number 2 senator in the Senator.

You won’t be able just to invoke Daley’s name and expect people to jump. All the names above can trump anything you come up with. I’m not sure why Daley planted you here now, but I’m always game for trying something new: a high profile city federal lobbyist. Now you will be high-profile, won’t you Frank?

Don’t disappoint me.

You’re back on my beat.

Keep in touch,

Lynn

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Chicago Sun-Times

August 28, 2003 Thursday

Kruesi power trip goes overboard

By Lynn Sweet


Rewriting pension laws to enrich individuals is an industry in the state.

I want to explain why the backdoor play by CTA President Frank Kruesi to sweeten his pension is an appalling abuse of his position and then offer some suggestions so that Kruesi can't get away with this again. I think Kruesi should do something that for him may be harder to do than resign. He should apologize.

Mayor Daley was wrong to dismiss Kruesi's sneaky pension move, as he did on Tuesday, as no more than a squabble between Kruesi and CTA Board Chairwoman Valerie Jarrett.

This is not about a personality conflict. Jarrett, whose tenure on the board ends this month, is absolutely right to question Kruesi's self-serving move to pocket more money.

Daley should have the guts to confront this brewing scandal and do something about it. Daley's the boss. Kruesi's power, which he arrogantly wields, is derived from Daley.

Pension deals need to be done in daylight. In Illinois, any piece of legislation that has the word pension in it should send up flares because rewriting pension laws to enrich individuals is an industry in the state.

That's why the CTA board members who passed a pension ordinance on Aug. 6 after little discussion or debate were either fools, lazy, naive, or they knew the score and kept their mouths shut. Neither alternative is attractive.

When it comes to perks, let me tell you about the board's deal: A CTA board member, whose main work is to attend meetings, gets a wonderful package: $25,000 a year; pension eligibility after two years; a life insurance policy and health coverage for life. A 55-year-old board member who retires after five years on the board gets a $15,625-a-year pension.

The proposed ordinance was presented as an emergency piece of business, not on the published agenda. It was suddenly needed, board members were told, mainly to get CTA employees to retire early so the agency can save some money.

The ordinance potentially raises Kruesi's pension because it retroactively gives him credit for the years he spent as an independent contractor (without pension benefits) working for the state--mainly for Daley when he was a state senator--from 1976 to 1980. Kruesi wants to sprinkle fairy dust on his resume to bolster his pension.

The ordinance has a section that also could enrich the pension of four board members who have worked for other units of government. That would be Jarrett; Victor Reyes, a lobbyist who heads Daley's Hispanic political organization; Cindy Panayotovich, a former state worker, and Sue Leonis, another former state employee and close friend of Maggie Daley, the mayor's wife. This provision was never flagged to Jarrett, who said she will not take the extra money. Reyes also said he would turn it down.

Chicago's mayor picks four board members and the Illinois governor selects three. Gov. Blagojevich does not get to make an appointment until September 2004, and he is not looking to pick a fight right now with the CTA. Still, I have some suggestions:

*Blagojevich should ask the Legislature to strip future board members of salary and pension benefits and drop the lifetime insurance perks. Members of the Chicago Board of Education, the Park District, the Police Board and the CHA get no salary.

*Blagojevich should also make a crusade out of having pension laws covering any government worker written in plain English and with more disclosure as to who really benefits from a change.

*The CTA board at its Sept. 4 meeting should ask for a cost analysis impact of the pension ordinance. Leonis and Panaytovich should explain why they deserve the sweetener. Find out what Kruesi's pension will be after the sweetener and if he worked for the state full time when he was a contractor.

*Blagojevich should propose a law to ban CTA board members from being able to enrich their own pensions without some oversight authority.

Stop the scam!
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Chicago Sun-Times

May 8, 1998, FRIDAY, Late Sports Final Edition

Tempers flare as aldermen visit Congress

By LYNN SWEET

WASHINGTON--The Chicago City Council exported its raucous ways to Capitol Hill on Thursday when 13 aldermen met with Illinois lawmakers to advocate support for mass transit funding.
Anyone standing outside 105 Cannon House Office Building could hear loud voices, and some shouting and pounding on tables, as the aldermen and CTA officials Frank Kruesi and Valerie Jarrett met with Democratic Chicago area Representatives Luis Gutierrez, Rod Blagojevich, Danny Davis, Bobby Rush and Jesse Jackson Jr.

"Maybe you don't know everything that's going on here," Gutierrez could be heard saying through the door to the aldermen, many of whom he served with when he was on the City Council.


Tempers flared because aldermen were feeling the heat for recently announced CTA service cuts. The city paid $ 363.98 each to fly the group to Washington.

"We get blamed for everything," Ald. Dorothy Tillman (3rd) had said earlier at a lunch in the Capitol. The gathering was attended by Mayor Daley, who organized the day trip; Rep. William Lipinski (D-Ill.), who is on the influential House-Senate panel hammering out the final version of the transportation bill, and Democratic Senators Dick Durbin and Carol Moseley-Braun.

Gutierrez faulted Kruesi during the meeting and afterward because of differences over the lawmaker's vote on a bill affecting mass transit funding. Kruesi had been publicly critical of the vote.
WASHINGTON -- The Chicago City Council exported its raucous ways to Capitol Hill on Thursday when 13 aldermen met with Illinois lawmakers to advocate support for mass transit funding.
Anyone standing outside 105 Cannon House Office Building could hear loud voices, and some shouting and pounding on tables, as the aldermen and CTA officials Frank Kruesi and Valerie Jarrett met with Democratic Chicago area Representatives Luis Gutierrez, Rod Blagojevich, Danny Davis, Bobby Rush and Jesse Jackson Jr.
"Maybe you don't know everything that's going on here," Gutierrez could be heard saying through the door to the aldermen, many of whom he served with when he was in the City Council.
Tempers flared because aldermen were feeling the heat for recently announced CTA service cuts. The city paid $ 363.98 each to fly the group to Washington.
"We get blamed for everything," Ald. Dorothy Tillman (3rd) had said earlier at a lunch in the Capitol. The gathering was attended by Mayor Daley, who organized the day trip; Rep. William Lipinski (D-Ill.), who is on the influential House-Senate panel hammering out the final version the transportation bill, and Democratic Senators Dick Durbin and Carol Moseley-Braun.
Gutierrez faulted Kruesi during the meeting and afterward because of differences over the lawmaker's vote on a bill affecting mass transit funding. Kruesi had been publicly critical of the vote.

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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on December 6, 2007 11:28 PM.

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