Wednesday, 2. November 2011
Mainstream Media – Actually On a Case?
In the previous article in this series, we provided a brief review of the long train of corruption cases in Chicago and Illinois, and how they provide valuable perspective for some compelling national and international issues.
Earlier this week, we had two indications that some elements of the City that Works may actually be working in a good way, and on matters related to international terrorism, drug trafficking, corruption in the city, state, and federal governments, and even the events of September 11, 2001.
On November 1, the Chicago Tribune reported how the City of Chicago’s “Corporation Counsel,” Stephen Patton, responded to a question about a dispute over the authority of the City Inspector General, Joseph Ferguson. Ferguson has faced noncompliance with subpoenas he has issued to the city. New mayor Rahm Emanuel’s Corporation Counsel has argued to the State Supreme Court that the city has the authority to enforce these subpoenas, not the inspector general alone, and the city also holds sole authority to hire outside counsel in matters at issue.
This article did not identify any of the specific cases for which subpoena demands had been rebuffed. But the fact that the City Inspector General has been issuing them is alone room for optimism.
Our founders gave us a federal republic. As corrupt as it can be, the division of powers can still lead to a form of competition allowing individual autonomy to open doors that freshen the air, and start shining lights. And convictions at lower levels can lead to information valuable for proceeding up the staircase. Consider the origins of the suppressed but ultimately revealed Watergate affair, when five burglars were caught by local police officials.
For those concerned whether corruption in the state judiciary might undercut Chicago’s City Inspector General while issuing subpoenas that are challenged by the administration of the City of Chicago, consider Operation Greylord. Back in the 1980s, the conviction of a Cook County traffic clerk was followed by a train of convictions of higher Chicago-area public officials, including judges, in a prosecution led by federal criminal authorities and the IRS. The Illinois judiciary, while not above suspicion, is not what it was back then.
And Patrick Fitzgerald & Company haven’t been idle. On November 1, the same day the Chicago Tribune reported the story about the City Inspector General, the news broke that a Republican Illinois political consultant, William Cellini, was found guilty of two felony counts — conspiracy to commit extortion and aiding and abetting the solicitation of a bribe. This was the latest conviction is what has been labeled “Operation Board Games,” in a case with very curious examples of cooperation among Democrats and Republicans. Back in June, Democratic Governor Rod Blagojevich was convicted on 17 counts of corruption. Quoted in the Tribune later in the day, Fitzgerald stated:
In the quiet corridors in Chicago and Cook County and Springfield, a lot of backroom deals take place, and the fact that Bill Cellini was convicted today sends a very, very loud message.
The next day, an editorial in the Chicago Tribune praised the conviction and emphasized the bargaining power it left with prosecutors that can lead to information underlying future possible cases. If Fitzgerald and Company are still on the hunt, we could be on a slow but ultimately revealing path. And in part due to the federal nature of our republic, which includes a measure of autonomy for local federal criminal prosecutors within the federal branch.
Why might these two developments – the spat over subpoena authority for the inspector general in Chicago and the felony convictions of an Illinois power broker – actually matter for things like international drug-running and the events of 9/11?
The inspector general for the City of Chicago is no flunky, at least on the surface. His appointment by previous Mayor Daley and his confirmation by unanimous vote in the Chicago City Council might argue for some skepticism. But Joseph Ferguson has a very interesting resume. He came to the job after 15 years in the United States Attorney’s office for the Northern District of Illinois — Patrick Fitzgerald’s office. Ferguson’s bio states that from 2000 to 2009 his work included drug trafficking, terrorist financing, and public corruption cases, and one of his titles included Terrorist Financing Coordinator. And he has taught courses titled “National Security Law.”
Isn’t this interesting, for a local city inspector general?
The 2000 to 2009 interval certainly had its share of shocking developments in these areas, including such things as pervasive terrorism warnings delivered to high-level government officials before 9/11, reports of negotiations over the invasion of Iraq including Turkish officials that were underway four months before 9/11, assertions of support for ‘bin Ladens’ up to 9/11, the events of 9/11 themselves, the subsequent invasion of opium poppy and energy-rich Afghanistan, the invasion of Iraq, FBI investigations of Turkish organizations in Chicago, and the resignation of former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert from Congress in 2007 and his subsequent work as a lobbyist for Turkey.
And now, there is a legal battle over subpoena power in Chicago, pitting the City against an inspector general versed in terrorist financing and national security law. A city now led by Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Speaking of resumes, Mayor Emanuel’s will be a topic in the next article in this series.
Bill Bergman has 10 years of experience as a stock market analyst sandwiched around 13 years as an economist and financial markets policy analyst at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. He earned an M.B.A. as well as an M.A. in Public Policy from the University of Chicago in 1990. Mr. Bergman is currently working with Social Movement Sciences LLC, a new enterprise developing evaluation and funding services for not-for-profit organizations.
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