Talk about a week filled with heavy-duty irony. Christian conservatives rallying for lower casino taxes and Governor Rod Blagojevich doling out George Ryan's pork money.

Early last week, a coalition of conservative groups held a press conference.

"We are trying to change the tones in the state capitals - and turn them toward bitter nastiness and partisanship," Grover Norquist recently told the Denver Post.

Norquist runs a group called Americans for Tax Reform, and his organization was scheduled to participate in a Chicago press conference last week that was called to attack Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich for his anti-business proposals.

House Republican leader Tom Cross and Senate Republican leader Frank Watson weren't exactly on the same page during the spring legislative session. As a result, there is serious tension between the two Republican caucuses.

I'm not a superstitious person, but I'm starting to believe that Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich's life has been blessed by a kindly leprechaun, a lucky star, or an influential guardian angel. Take your pick.

He was elected to the Illinois House after a new legislative map gave state Representative Bruce Farley (D-Chicago) the opportunity to be kicked upstairs to the Senate by Blago's politically powerful father-in-law.

Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich has racked up some impressive poll numbers partly because the voters have so far bought into his constant refrain that he is "changing Springfield's culture."

There is no doubt that he has reformed some things.

Jim Ryan might have been right.

Remember last year when the Republican gubernatorial candidate warned that Chicago Mayor Richard Daley would control the state's agenda if Chicagoan Rod Blagojevich was elected?

Well, current evidence is leaning in Jim Ryan's favor.

Republicans have waited a long time for some good news in this state, and it finally arrived last week. U.S. Senator Peter Fitzgerald announced he wouldn't run for re-election, and former Governor Jim Edgar hinted that he just might enter the race.

The cacophony of angry voices has started rising to a fever pitch in the wake of Governor Rod Blagojevich's state budget address last Wednesday. Most of the complaining is coming from three areas: riverboat owners; elementary and secondary educators; and higher-education institutions.

A new source of cash fell into the laps of Springfield lobbyists this past week.

Several New York-based stock-trading firms have hired statehouse lobbyists. But they don't want the lobbyists to lobby for or against anything.

Back in the day, Ray Frias was one of the sharpest political operators at the Illinois statehouse.

The Chicago south-sider was first elected to the Illinois House in 1992 after securing the unlikely support of the Illinois State Medical Society, a usually Republican-leaning group with very deep pockets.

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