Thursday, January 15, 2009

Capitol Fax Finds Heather Steans "Refreshing"

I generally respect the political reporting on The Capitol Fax Blog, but am a bit disappointed as I read yesterday's "Inauguration Open Thread" by Rich Miller. Several things are disturbing, a lot really, about the item. Most disturbing is the velvet glove treatment of state senator Heather Steans, who has donated insane amounts of money to both Blagojevich and Emil Jones. Miller is generally an excellent correspondent and writer, and so the breathless, awe-struck Medill-journalism-student-like way in which he wrote the report makes one wonder if he had too little sleep the night before. The title of the post is odd. The subject matter of "Inauguration Open Thread" is not about the upcoming inauguration of Barack Obama at all, except for one passing reference to it. Rather, it's about the action in the Illinois Legislature and the Senate's moves toward impeaching Blagojevich. The post is a presented as a timeline, of sorts, of Wednesday's action in the state senate. Let's look some out takes, with breathlessness and velvet gloves in bold red. Again, the atmosphere in the chamber is completely solumn [sic]. It’s a fascinating experience. The schedule is being adopted now, including a mandated respond by the governor by Jan. 20th - Obama’s inauguration day. I'm not sure why solemnity is so fascinating in this context. Miller might have been writing about a state funeral for a beloved national leader. Ellis is finished and now the chief justice is being escorted into the senate. He will then be sworn in as the trial’s presiding officer. I have never heard such quiet in this chamber. Very solemn. Again, Miller's odd fascination with the solemnity and "quiet" in the senate chamber. The moment was, after all, very serious. It would only have been remarkable had the senators in the chamber not been solemn, but for them to be quiet and solemn yesterday was only to be expected and only appropriate. Even the crooks of Springfield are civilized enough to not laugh at a man as he is being escorted in chains to the gallows. Sen. Steans has shown once again why she is fast gaining respect here. She just openly and refreshingly addressed the upcoming impeachment trial and Emil Jones’ failures. As for describing Steans' speechifying as "refreshingly," Miller might better have used adjectives such as disgustingly, hypocritically, self aggrandizingly or cynically. There are more adjectives that would have been better than "refreshingly," but we only have so much space and time to work with here. The big question is why Miller chose "refreshingly" to describe Steans' talk about the upcoming Senate trial of Blagojevich, a man to whom she and husband Leo Smith have donated some $200,000 to for his campaigns? "Openly?" Did Steans come clean about her mega-donations to Rod Blagojevich, Emil Jones and John Cullerton? Surely, Rich Miller is aware that Steans enabled Jones and has been a major donor to him. Surely he read the Chicago Tribune editorial, "The Blagojevich 26," on January 4, 2009. It said (emphasis added): We're in this disheartening situation because of choices Blagojevich has made. We're here, too, because so many members of the Illinois Senate have enabled him. They had the chance to let us vote him out of office. They sided with him, and against the people of the state. Why did so many senators kowtow to Jones and Blagojevich? What were these Democrats thinking? You can ask them. Here are the 21 Democrats who voted no or present (the effect was the same), denying you a choice on whether Illinois should have a recall amendment... The Trib listed the names of the Blago enablers. The list included the "refreshing" Heather Steans and Emil Jones. Steans has also given frantic funds to John Cullerton. Rich Miller thinks Heather Steans is "refreshing." Maybe his memory will be refreshed by these numbers: Money that Heather Steans and her family have given to Emil Jones, (Illinois Senate Democratic Fund, Emil Jones, chair) (2002 thru present): $53,500 to Jones from Heather Steans (and husband Leo Smith, 2002 thru present) $35,000 to Jones from Leo's PAC $ 2,500 to Illinois Senate Democratic Fund $91,000 so far (the January 20 reports may reveal more) Money that Heather Steans and her family have given to John Cullerton, (Senate Democratic Victory Fund [SDVF], John Cullerton, chair): $25,000 to SDVF from Friends of Heather Steans $15,000 to SDVF from Heather Steans and Leo Smith $ 2,000 to Cullerton from Heather Steans and Leo Smith $ 1,000 to Cullerton from Leo Smith's PAC $25,000 to Cullerton from Harrison and Lois Steans (Heather's parents) $20,000 to Cullerton from Heather Steans' sisters $88,000 so far (the January 20 reports may reveal more) "All but $3,000 was given in anticipation of Cullerton's presidency," a source tells Chicago News Bench. Miller's blog from Springfield continued: No applause at all for the guv’s entrance. Total silence, in fact. Yes, for God's sake, we get it, they were solemn, oh-so-solemn. And why would they applaud Blago, anyway? It's seems a waste of bandwidth to note the obvious. Although Miller has emphasized repeatedly that the event was solemn and quiet, as opposed to festive and boisterous, he ends his post with this curiosity: ....WUIS radio will broadcast the Senate’s festivities, which will be presided over by the governor. "Festivities?" Wait a sec, was this "solemn?" But the Senate trial will be "festive?" Solemn or festive? Unlike Heather Steans, Rich, you can't have it both ways. RELATED: See Heather Carry Water For The Machine Subscribe to Chicago News Bench