By: Mark Glennon*
“Prepare to get sick,” we wrote, and “stop this now,” we put in bold face. That was on Thanksgiving Eve last year when we wrote here about a $224 million, clearly questionable spending binge quietly announced that afternoon by then lame duck Governor Pat Quinn. Many of the handouts, all with borrowed money, appeared to be pay off for political friendships or wasteful. Nobody else wrote about it.
Well, this week the Sun-Times wrote in detail about the full extent of that lame duck spending spree. It’s indeed sickening. Quinn’s administration raced to dole out 609 state grants to local governments, schools and businesses that ended up totaling $405 million by the time he left, according to the Sun-Times, and much of it is ugly. Read the whole Sun-Times article. Here’s one of their examples:
The village of Melrose Park was awarded a $3 million grant just weeks after its mayor, Ronald Serpico, ordered a stretch of a street in the west suburb to be named after the late father of a top Quinn aide — John D’Alessandro, who was his chief operating officer.
Quinn’s office scurried to finalize paperwork on the grants right up to inauguration time so that incoming Governor Rauner could not stop them. Rauner ordered a halt immediately after he was sworn in on January 12, but it was too late to stop what Quinn had done.
Oversight was up to D’Alessandro in the governor’s office, a 28-year old, according to the Sun-Times:
He’d risen to deputy chief of staff when he left the state payroll last June to work for the Democratic Governors Association, which pumped $5 million into Quinn’s campaign against Rauner. The association paid D’Alessandro $182,000 in the five months he worked there, records show. He rejoined Quinn’s staff as chief operating officer after the Nov. 4 election.
Much of the spending was under the infamous 2009 Illinois “Jobs Now” program which was supposed to be for stimulus at the depth of the recession. Much of it may have gone to worthy, routine infrastructure projects, but much of it clearly didn’t.
It was not a feat of forensic work that allowed us to see what was happening that Thanksgiving Eve. The $224 million of grants we complained about were all referenced in press releases put up on the Governor’s site, proudly displayed later, no doubt, by the recipient pols to their constituents. The real significance of this chapter is that nobody cared. I know that some reporters read us here. I will leave it to you to speculate why nothing was written about it except here — and nothing since was written, except for the recent Sun-Times article.
Throw the $405 million in the pot with the rest of what we and our kids will be paying off for years.
*Mark Glennon is founder of WirePoints. Opinions expressed are his own.