Friday, September 30, 2005

George Ryan, Part 2

Part 2

The main prosecution lawyer, in his opening, called Warner, Ryan’s co-defendant, "George Ryan's fixer," alleging that as secretary of state, Ryan gave his friend "the keys to the state government kingdom" and knowingly allowed him to shake down vendors for kickbacks. In return, Warner provided a $145,000 loan to shore up a business co-owned by Ryan's brother, helped repair flood damage at the home of a Ryan relative and even paid for the band at the wedding of a Ryan daughter. (Everybody Polka!)

Warner's attorney, Terence Gillespie, scoffed that his client wasn't a "cartoon character called Fixer" and instead described Warner as an opportunistic (Come on now, is that word really that much better?) businessman who pursued lucrative but legitimate state business. The attorney went on to say that the alleged kickbacks to the former governor were nothing more than gifts from a longtime friend. (Yeah, right, whatever.) "He followed the American dream, not some secret, dark conspiracy," Gillespie added. (Yes, it’s an American dream if you do it within the parameters of the law and NOT step on people while doing it…wait a minute…that IS the American way, isn’t it? Never mind.)

But Fardon, the prosecution attorney, insisted that even before Ryan took office as secretary of state in 1991, he and Warner were plotting to fleece the agency along with companies that wanted its business.

After a lobbyist warned Ryan of the shakedowns by Warner and others, Ryan tried to blame that lobbyist for misunderstanding. Ryan consistently "used the power entrusted to him by the taxpayers of Illinois to unfairly dole out taxpayer money to a chosen few of his friends and associates," Fardon said.

Essentially, Warner and others "took care" of Ryan, who rarely withdrew money from his personal bank account while in office but was known to carry fat wads of cash with him wherever he went. “With all the corrupt dollars flying around, George Ryan lived large," Fardon said, adding "This is not a case about unsophisticated defendants who stand out in the open under crystal blue skies and hand each other cash.”Another Ryan friend, Springfield lobbyist Ron Swanson, also benefited in the scheme, Fardon said. After he was elected governor, Ryan appointed Swanson to a $5,000-a-month no-show job as a lobbyist for the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority (McPier – which operates Chicago’s McCormick Place and Navy Pier).

On Thursday, Ryan’s former Chief of Staff, Scott Fawell, took the stand for the prosecution. The odd thing about Fawell is that his smirky, too-cool-for-school, wise-ass, frat boy act (if indeed it is an act) comes off as truthful and honest.

True, Fawell is a politician that, in all essence, exemplifies a lot of what’s wrong with Illinois politics.

Is he a bad guy? Sure. He was yanked out of federal prison by prosecutors so he could testify against his former employer, George Ryan. Who was also his friend and mentor. Fawell also made it abundantly clear in the first hours of testimony that he’s a reluctant witness, a very, very reluctant witness, stating "you guys have my head in a vice, basically." (Better that than having his head in some other place in prison – don’t bend over for the soap)

Everything about Fawell’s performance suggests that Fawell is a straight shooter, even while he repeatedly slips in cocky and jovial asides, some of the best I have read are:

- "We beat Quinn like a tom-tom," he said, after Assistant U.S. Attorney Patrick Collins asked about his role in an early Ryan campaign against current Illinois Lt. Gov. Patrick Quinn.

- "I was looking at the high-tech system you have here (in the courtroom), I didn’t have that for my trial."

He swiped at political consultant Paul Lis, labeling him “a loudmouth, pompous ass". He attacked the media, stating, "They’re not the brightest bulbs." He even spoke ill of the prosecutors when asked if he had strong negative views of the U.S. Attorney’s office, Fawell said "that would be putting it mildly."

Nice. Sounds like someone who, were it your child, you would smack upside the head. But this is not a child, this is, supposedly, an adult.

Fawell’s attitude is not the attitude one might expect from someone who was betraying an old friend to serve his own selfish interests, though that is what he is doing. He is the key witness in a trial that could do one of two things.

- Severely damage Illinois politics and send it back a dozen years or so
- Totally realign the state and alter not only the way we allow politicians to act in this state, but also the way we choose our politicians.

You’re asking yourself, really? Probably not, at best, this will decide if a seventy-something father and grandfather is going to serve any prison time.

Ask yourself this question; if George Ryan is found guilty and sent to prison, will it have any effect on how Illinois and National politicians act? I answer cryptically… we still have a Tom DeLay and Stephen Frist in politics, so what do you think?


Anonymous said...

Again, Ryan is a scapegoat. He did nothing wrong, just being put on trial by a bunch of bitter, hard-up liberals.

Anonymous said...

Wow, do you need a reality check!

No way is Ryan a scapegoat. Do a little research , think for yourself and you will see that Ryan definitely had his hand in the 'cookie jar'..