Sunday, January 04, 2009

Get Ready for Chicago Style Politics

Barack Obama has yet to be inaugurated as the new President of the United States and his Administration is already mired in controversy. First, there were the concerns over how his campaign was financed at a sum well over $600 million (the most ever in any US Campaign) with extremely weak accounting on the part of the campaign and concerns that he received monies from foreign countries. Then there were questions regarding whether Barack Obama was a naturally born US Citizen, which remains unanswered. Next there was Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich allegedly trying to sell a US Senate seat and Barack Obama denying there were any communications between the governor and the President-Elect's office, followed by the then jaw dropping discovery that Obama's Chief of Staff did, in fact, have conversations and they were on FBI recordings. Finally, the President's choice for Commerce Secretary, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, has had to withdraw his name from consideration because of on going corruption charges.

Richardson shocked the political world by endorsing then Senator Obama during the Presidential race, while slighting the Clintons who gave him much of his impressive resume. Obama rewarded Richardson with the very high level Commerce position. Unfortunately, scandal has followed Richardson and MSNBC reports that a "federal grand jury is investigating how a California company that contributed to Richardson's political activities won a New Mexico state contract worth more than $1 billion. Richardson said in a statement issued by the Obama transition office that the investigation could take weeks or months but expressed confidence it will show he and his administration acted properly." The story goes on to point out the extent of the alleged link between the California company (CDR Financial Products) and Richardson: "The largest donation, $75,000, was made by CDR in June 2004 — a couple of months after the transportation financing arrangement won state approval — to a political committee that Richardson established before the Democratic National Convention that year. "

The media has yet to mention the fact that this Obama Administrated has already faced more concerns of corruption than many Presidents face in four or more years. Americans can expect to see much more of this in the next several years. Obama cut his political teeth in Chicago and that city is the most politically corrupt city, in the most politically corrupt state, in the Union. Eventually I am afraid we will all be in awe of what we witness from the Obama Administration. I eventually believe that Obama will bombard us with so many examples of corruption that we will become desensitized to it.

The state of Illinois has become notorious for its political corruption. The FBI in charge of the Blagojevich case has said that if Illinois is not the nation's "most corrupt state," it certainly is a major contender for the title. Three former Illinois governors since the 1960s have gone to prison, including the governor before Blagojevich, George Ryan. It is not uncommon for dead people to vote in Chicago elections and charges of "pay to play" for contracts are common place. Again, this is where Obama learned politics. Washington politics are corrupt enough without the hardball style that is known in Chicago. Because of the media and its love of a good scandal, I believe Obama's effectiveness will be continuously plagued and weakened with charges of corruption.

Kevin Price is a syndicated columnist whose articles frequently appear at ChicagoSunTimes.com, Reuters.com, USAToday.com, and other national media. Kevin Price is Host of the Price of Business (M-F at 11 AM on CNN 650) and Publisher of the Houston Business Review. Hear the show live and online at PriceofBusiness.com. Visit the archive of past shows here.

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