CHICAGO--Former Sen. Peter Fitzgerald (R-Ill.) left his mark on civic life in Illinois by sticking his neck out to try to expose the serial corruption among local government officials that has become a fact of life.
Fitzgerald was so unpopular that then state senator Barack Obama considered running for the U.S. even before Fitzgerald decided not to try for a second term.
During Fitzgerald's time in the U.S. Senate, he served with Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) at a time when McCain was getting beat up by his GOP colleagues for his work on campaign finance reform.
McCain has been making the argument that when it come to government reform he has "the scars on his back" to show that he picked tough fights while Obama cherry picked easier to pass reform measures that just were not that controversial but that left him with bragging rights.
On a conference call on Wednesday morning, Fitzgerald, now a banker in McLean, Va., reinforced this message with his assertion that Obama lacked political "courage" to take on local corruption.
He noted that Obama often cites as a major accomplishment helping to get legislation passed in the Illinois General Assembly banning lawmakers from using their political funds for personal use. That's true.
What is also true, as Fitzgerald noted is that the lawmakers who voted on this wrote a provision that grandfathered in their ability to tap their warchests for personal use--so when Obama political godfather Illinois Senate President Emil Jones (D-Chicago) decided to quit--he did so knowing he can take with him more than $500,000 in political money.
"I never heard him speak out," Fitzgerald said, about "corruption in Washingotn, in Springfield, and Chicago." Obama "looks the other way...One candidate...fights for reform...and has the scars to prove it..."
The Obama campaign passed this statement from Fitzgerald's farewell Senate speech, saying Fitzgerald changed his tune about Obama.
NOV 04: Fitzgerald, In His Farewell Speech, Noted His Two Years Of State Senate Service With Obama And Said He Was "Almost Unequaled In His Potential And Promise...He May Surprise The Political Pundits By Voting, Crossing Party Lines At Times That You Don't Expect Him To..." In 2004, Senator Peter Fitzgerald (R-IL) said on the Senate floor, "Barack Obama, my successor, I wish him well. It was a privilege to have lunch with him yesterday in the Senate dining room. I served with Barack Obama in the State senate for 2 years. He was coming in, in the legislature in Springfield, in my last 2 years of service there. He is an uncommonly bright and talented young man.
He is 1 year younger than I. He is the first African-American president of the Harvard Law School. He is almost unequaled in his potential and promise. I am confident he will be a credit to the State of Illinois. I think he may surprise the political pundits by voting, crossing party lines at times that you don't expect him to. It may be a challenge for him with Senator Durbin as his whip. But I see Barack Obama as possibly being a fairly moderate voice, more moderate than many people suspect." [Congressional Record, 11/19/04]