If you think Governor Rod Blagojevich gets bad press now, imagine how harsh the coverage would be if we knew what he was hiding.
For instance, we know from sources that the governor's own office and his various agencies have been served with dozens of federal subpoenas involving countless criminal allegations, but Governor Blagojevich won't even confirm receiving a subpoena. He won't say how many subpoenas he's received. He won't say what the FBI is looking for.
Attorney General Lisa Madigan is supposed to issue a legal opinion on whether the governor has to comply with reporters' Freedom of Information Act requests on the subpoenas. As of this writing, though, her office has been silent.
Just think of the nuclear explosion that would result if voters could finally see the details of what the feds are looking for and whom they're looking at.
Like I said, his coverage is tame compared to what it could be.
And then there's the infamous check. The governor is hiding all sorts of things about that check.
The "check" was for $1,500 and was supposedly given to the governor's daughter by the governor's longtime friend Michael Ascaridis.
Beverly Ascaridis, Michael's wife, told the Chicago Tribune that she found the canceled check, became suspicious, and took it to the FBI. Mrs. Ascaridis was given a state job right around the time her husband wrote the $1,500 check, even though she reportedly failed the state job test.
The governor's office and Mr. Ascaridis initially claimed that the $1,500 was for Amy Blagojevich's college fund and was given to her as a birthday present.
Then, after almost two weeks of silence, Governor Blagojevich himself finally held an impromptu press conference and made everything even more confusing. He implied, but didn't come right out and say, that the check might have been for his other daughter's christening.
When asked whether the check was deposited into his daughter's college fund, Blagojevich would only say he reported on his state forms that "all of the kids' money for college goes into a mutual fund for college." That's what's called a nonresponse. An emphatic and simple "yes" would have quelled a lot of questions.
And if we can't even get him to answer whether the $1,500 check was deposited, imagine what his office says when asked for supporting evidence, like a receipt, that the check was actually put into his daughter's college account.
Governor Blagojevich won't say if he and his family have received other large cash gifts. He stonewalls when asked how Mrs. Ascaridis got the state job even after failing the state test. He won't say why she was given a position in Whiteside County (which is in western Illinois) before the job was moved back to the Chicago area - perhaps to avoid military veterans' hiring-preference laws. He won't say what she did for the month she was reportedly listed as working in Whiteside County when she told the Tribune she didn't even know where that county was.
He won't say why he amended his state ethics statement to include the Ascaridis gift after the FBI interviewed him. In fact, he won't even admit that his amendment came after the FBI interview even though that is clearly the case.
Big things, little things. This guy hides just about everything.
I assume that the governor's campaign is calculating that if they spend more money on a few kabillion more TV ads, they can weather almost any media storm. After all, reporters have a notoriously short attention span, and Judy Baar Topinka isn't exactly setting the world on fire with her campaign. Blagojevich might just bury her, even if the last poll released had her gaining on him.
So, fine, let's say he does win the election. But at what price to this state? Shouldn't voters know how many federal criminal investigations a governor is hiding before they cast their ballot? Shouldn't they know if there is a simple explanation for a large check that some consider a bribe? And shouldn't they see the proof?
Open government might not always be honest government, but at least voters would know what they're getting. Right now, all we have to rely on is the governor's ubiquitous TV ads about how great he is and what a crook Topinka is for once dancing the polka with George Ryan.
Rich Miller also publishes Capitol Fax (a daily political newsletter) and (http://www.thecapitolfaxblog.com).