Friday, October 15, 2010

Ed Vrdolyak's hand slapping: Is there any doubt the system is corrupt?

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Ed Vrdolyak's hand slapping: Is there any doubt the system is corrupt?
By Ray Hanania

Let me get this straight.

Ed Vrdolyak, one of the slipperiest politicians in Illinois who everyone assumed was guilty but had a Teflon career for years until this week, gets 10 months in jail for his role in a $1.5 million kick back scheme involving a Gold Coast property.

And the same Feds are trying to put Rod Blagojevich in jail for 30 years for never taking one cent for his personal use, but did what every politician (including Vrdolyak) in pushing contractors and friends to donate to his campaign.

This is the poster image for Illinois’ infamous and oft cited “culture of corruption.” The culture of corruption isn’t just about the politicians who slip through the cracks and eventually get caught – it only took 30 years to finally put Fast Eddie in a cushy prison after another federal judge – and friend – sentenced him to probation and community service that had him making calls from his limousine to raise money for his clout-heavy cronies.

The culture of corruption in Illinois is endemic to the state government and applies more directly to the system in which the corrupt politicians play.

It’s the system that is corrupt and the people who haven’t gone to jail and the ones pulling the strings.

So what Vrdolyak got caught. Ed Vrdolyak is Mr. Personality. Mr. Popular. The pal of friend and foe. He is one of the smartest politicians in Illinois and pal-ed up to politicians he supported and fought with.

He was well-liked by the political establishment which made it easy for him to rise to the top of the grunge when he led the infamous Vrdolyak 29 to lead a race-based campaign that succeeded in stymieing the administration of Harold Washington during his first term as mayor.

This was the Ed Vrdolyak who found it so easy to bring judges of all sorts to his home for the annual private picnic in a backyard partially built on a Chicago street he managed to acquire without raising one eyebrow from the Feds.

This was the Ed Vrdolyak, who when he lost his power in the Democratic party, slipped easily into the comforting leadership of the Republican Party.

He was liked. And because Ed Vrdolyak was liked, he got a pillow slap from the first judge, who doesn’t deserve to remain on the bench. And now he is getting a slap on the wrist to make the public feel better.

Even the prosecutors, who failed to get the three and one-half year prison term for Vrdolyak that they originally sought, were excited that Fast Eddie was sent to prison at all.

Meanwhile, the unliked and woefully disdained Rod Blagojevich is being forced to defend himself against trumped up charges from the U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald.

Oh the Vrdolyak decision to go to summer camp for 10 months must have made Fitzgerald feel extra good, considering that things haven’t been going his way as of late.

Fitzgerald’s crew failed to win a conviction of Blagojevich in the first trial on the 23 of the 24 charges. They did get the jury to agree that Blagojevich lied to the FBI. But they couldn’t get a unanimous jury nod of the serious charges of corruption.

But Blagojevich is easy to attack and Vrdolyak is difficult. The public doesn’t care too much for either, although Blagojevich has gained much support by going public to respond to the public outcries by the federal government that characterized their 18 months of pre-trial public lobbying.

Blagojevich is disliked by the politicians and Vrdolyak is held in high esteem despite his political shenanigans.

I liked Vrdolyak, too. He was a crafty shell game manipulator. But he always went too far, including in his role in the Town of Cicero with former President Betty Loren-Maltese who was sent to prison for 8 years for her role in stealing $10 million – another injustice in that the sentence was too lenient considering how much she stole from the taxpayers there.

Vrdolyak had a pattern similar to that of Loren-Maltese. While they stole, they were doling out favors to many. And in Vrdolyak’s case, many in the public who benefited from Vrdolyak’s charity wrote letters on his behalf that “swayed” the federal judge.

Vrdolyak gets 10 months and Blagojevich gets threats of 30 years.

Did you need anything more to demonstrate the state’s culture of corruption and how bad it really is?

(Ray Hanania is an award winning columnist, media strategist and morning radio talk show host. He can be reached at

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