Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Another Prominent Republican Bites The Dust

The GOP Culture of Corruption has just gotten bigger.

On Tuesday, Former Illinois Governor George Ryan was found guilty on all accounts in his corruption case.

STLToday has the full story:

In a stunning verdict that sent tremors though this year's political landscape in Illinois, a federal jury found former Gov. George Ryan guilty Monday on all counts of a wide-ranging corruption case.

The verdict came after a five-month trial in which prosecutors painted a picture of a career politician who, for decades, allowed cronies to raid state government in exchange for cash, vacations and personal gifts to Ryan and his family.

Ryan, 72, a Republican, faces a maximum of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine on a racketeering conspiracy count alone. Prosecutors also want Ryan and co-defendant Larry Warner to forfeit a total of $3 million, the amount prosecutors estimate Warner received through state leases and contracts Ryan steered to him.

Ryan, appearing unfazed during a brief statement outside the Chicago courtroom, defiantly vowed to appeal. "I believe this decision today is not in accordance with the kind of public service that I've provided the people of Illinois over 40 years," he said.

Elsewhere in Illinois, political experts and politicians in both parties were trying to get their bearings after a verdict that surprised virtually everyone for its broad sweep.

"I think you can argue it's a problem for both parties, and with the whole system," said John Jackson, political scientist at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. "Each party will take it and try to run with it. It hurts politics in Illinois."

He added: "We can't have too many more of our governors going off to jail. It's bad for democracy."

All but the most partisan observers agreed that the Ryan fallout - once the delight of Democrats and the scourge of his fellow Republicans - now is likely to hit both sides of the political aisle as this year's gubernatorial race heats up.

The Republican candidate for governor, Judy Baar Topinka, was a political ally of Ryan's through much of the 1990s as state treasurer. And Gov. Rod Blagojevich - a Democrat who won his first term largely by tarring Republicans with Ryan's ethics issues - now has his own ethics issues, with federal investigators probing allegations of contracts for political insiders through the administration.

Mike Lawrence, director of the Public Policy Institute at SIU Carbondale and a former top Republican aide, predicted that the election Nov. 7 "will be more of a referendum on Rod Blagojevich than on George Ryan." But Lawrence added: "There's no doubt in my mind that Blagojevich's people will try to tie Judy Baar Topinka to George Ryan."

Topinka and Blagojevich on Monday both released campaign statements after the verdict. Topinka's statement implored, "Now that the jury has spoken, it's time for all of us to move forward." She noted that she had proposed new ethics standards to end "pay-to-play" politics - which has become code for the Republican ethics allegations against Blagojevich.

Blagojevich's statement, in an obvious reference to Topinka, alleged that "too many of those who point fingers today had positions of responsibility during the Ryan administration and were silent before."

Perhaps ominous for Democrats were the comments of U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald in Chicago after the verdict. Fitzgerald - whose office is behind the investigations into Blagojevich's administration - noted that much of the evidence against Ryan was circumstantial.

"People need to understand we won't be afraid to bring strong circumstantial cases into court," Fitzgerald said " . . . If they're out there doing this sort of corrupt conduct, people will investigate them, and we won't be afraid to try them."

Ah, yet another memorable Republican moment!

Makes you wonder when John Boehner (who has said he is against ethics reform) and company are going to try to clean up the ethics mess they have spread all over the nation.

My bet would be not anytime soon.

Read about Congressman Ford's actions on ethics reform here! (1 , 2, 3)

Read about John Boehner's views opposing ethics reform here!

Read about John Boehner's broken promises regarding ethics reform here!