You gotta wonder about the sanity of the folks who run the Libertarian Party. Illinois Libertarians have the greatest opportunity in years to build their party. When Republican-leaning citizens become disenchanted, they often vote Libertarian. And the state's Republican party is currently fractured and weak after a brutal primary campaign. The GOP winner, Jim Ryan, has yet to either unify his party or provide sufficient answers to many of the questions and accusations hurled at him by his two feisty opponents. The attacks didn't work well in the spring campaign, but according to a post-primary poll, independent voters paid attention and are streaming away from the Republican in truly scary numbers.

But instead of putting together a serious ticket, the Libertarians decided to court disaster at their recent convention by nominating an accused pedophile as their candidate for governor.

Former Illinois state Representative Cal Skinner claims the allegations that he sexually abused his 18-month-old daughter are completely false and were concocted on the eve of a particularly nasty divorce to pry away custody of his daughter.

He might be telling the truth, and this could just be some terrible nightmare, which would fit nicely with the Libertarian philosophy of "government as bad guy." But Skinner has repeatedly lied about the charges, and has woven enough phony spin to fill a yarn warehouse.

He has claimed, for instance, that the Department of Children & Family Services (DCFS) cleared him of the abuse allegations. But DCFS did not clear Skinner, even though he stated in a 1998 letter to his McHenry County constituents that the agency had "removed the slander from its files and issued a letter to me certifying that DCFS has no record of my having abused any child."

What Skinner didn't mention was that up until a few years ago, DCFS was required by state law to expunge an accused child molester's record after five years if no new allegations surfaced. Skinner simply asked DCFS for any records of abuse allegations against him two months after his file had been destroyed.

And he never mentioned that a DCFS investigator testified at a trial that Skinner had "sexually molested his daughter."

Skinner also continues to point to a judge's ruling that gave him custody of his daughter. But the judge was unaware of the DCFS report and the abuse allegations.

And he never mentions that another judge restricted him to supervised visitations based on the DCFS report and the damaging testimony from an agency investigator.

Skinner says his wife has "disappeared" with his daughter, and he can produce a warrant for her arrest on charges of parental kidnapping. But the state's attorney who issued the warrant apparently never knew about the abuse allegations because he told the newspaper that first broke the Skinner story that he would consider reversing his decision. Skinner also didn't file a missing-person report until a year after his ex-wife fled with their child.

In Skinner's defense, he was never arrested for sexual abuse, no charges have ever been filed against him, and no allegations have ever been made that he abused any other children. And his ex-father-in-law, who claims to have caught Skinner touching himself in a lewd manner while his 18-month-old daughter lay naked on a changing table, stood silently by for years while Skinner ran for the House.

Anyone who has ever been through a bitter divorce and/or child-custody battle knows how awful they can be. And you'll get no argument from me that way too many innocent people are permanently slandered by their ex-spouses every day.

And, frankly, some of Skinner's ideas ought to have a place in the upcoming gubernatorial contest, particularly his belief that the four state legislative leaders have far too much power.

But Skinner has proven that he is the wrong candidate at the wrong time. He has yet to speak of the allegations against him without lying or engaging in deceptive half-truths. And it doesn't help matters that the country is currently mesmerized by revelations of child sexual abuse by Catholic priests. The public might not be willing to listen to his explanations when this story finally gets out.

Skinner lost his Illinois House seat two years ago mainly because his constituents had lost their trust in him. The rest of the state, and the Libertarian Party, should take heed.

Rich Miller also publishes Capitol Fax, a daily political newsletter. He can be reached at (

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