This was supposed to be a quiet year at the Illinois statehouse.

The Democrats have some vulnerable incumbents, particularly in the House. The fewer problems, the less controversy, the better for incumbents with tough campaigns ahead.

With all the breathless coverage of the Illinois Gaming Board's decision to put a riverboat in Rosemont, a big story has been completely ignored.

Why did the board's staff twist so many facts, ignore so many problems, and neglect to look into serious mob ties in order to put a casino next door to Rosemont, in Des Plaines?

You don't have to look much further for proof that staff favored Des Plaines than its selection of the casino-bidding finalists.

For well over two years, John Daley's 11th Ward organization has carried state Representative Patricia Bailey (D-Chicago) on its back. Daley is Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley's brother.

Bailey's mother was one of a very small handful of influential African Americans who endorsed Rich Daley during his first successful mayoral race in 1989.

Last fall, Governor Rod Blagojevich took a brief but nasty beating in the Chicago media.

Thick smoke from a super-hot fire killed nine people in a Loop office high-rise. One of the building's managers, Elzie Higginbottom, was a Blagojevich campaign contributor, and when the city and the county dragged their collective investigatory feet, the media demanded that the governor step in.

Barack Obama's victory in the Democratic U.S. Senate primary for Illinois looks a lot like Glenn Poshard's 1998 Democratic gubernatorial primary win, only upside down.

Poshard won a bunch of small southern Illinois counties with overwhelming margins.

Illinois Bell, Ameritech, SBC. Whatever you call it, the phone company's name appears to be mud with at least some Illinois voters.

Last year, you might remember, Texas-based mega-corporation SBC muscled a bill through both the Illinois House and Senate that opponents claimed would double some local phone bills.

During the 2002 campaign, gubernatorial candidate Rod Blagojevich traveled to Vandalia, in southern Illinois, and spoke to a large crowd of union members. Most of those union members worked at the local state prison.

I'm going to talk about Blair Hull, but I have to tell you a story first. Nobody thought Terry Link had a chance back in 1996. Link was running for an Illinois Senate seat in a Republican-leaning, Lake County district.

Buried deep within Governor Rod Blagojevich's annual budget address last week was a nasty argument with the most influential bunch of do-gooders in Illinois - the social-service providers.

These are the groups, many of them religious (such as the Catholic Conference, Lutheran Social Services, and the Jewish Federation), that take care of the state's most vulnerable citizens.

At first glance, it might seem puzzling that last week's list of federal indictments included the powerful lobbying firm of Ronan Potts, but not the guy who runs the firm, Al Ronan.

Ronan's attorney has all but admitted that Ronan is "Fawell Associate 1," who was repeatedly referred to in the indictments of former George Ryan Chief of Staff Scott Fawell and others connected to Fawell's alleged schemings at the Metropolitan Pier & Exposition Authority, which Fawell ran for four years.

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