One year after the bridge collapsed in Minnesota, the governor of Illinois is up in arms. There are worse bridges in our own state, he says, and the legislature must free up the funds. People will die. The bridges will fall. We're all doomed. And when that happens, remember, it's all the fault of House Speaker Mike Madigan.
Why the urgency, after a full year has gone by? Is Rod Blagojevich privy to some inside information? Has he been handed some particularly frightening report that is too horrifying for the average citizen?
No, it's just the fund-raising business again.
A bill is sitting on Mr. Blagojevich's desk, but he won't sign it. The Illinois legislature put together a new law that would forbid political donations from firms doing business with the state. The governor has packed his coffers with political donations from firms doing business with the state, and he's not about to turn off the spigot.
While the bridges crumble, the governor hosts one fund-raiser after another, and who does he meet and greet? Important people who own large engineering firms, as luck would have it. With an indictment hanging over his head, Mr. Blagojevich has to cram in as much fundraising as he can, before Patrick Fitzgerald gathers enough evidence to end it all.
In the Illinois world of pay-to-play, some donors wish that the governor would sign the bill and set them free. Tony Karam of Albert Benesch & Co. would like to not have to donate to the governor, but if his firm is to get a piece of the bridge repair pie, he has no choice but to kick in and then add the cost as overhead. The engineers aren't going to actually pay out of their pockets, not when the taxpayers of Illinois can be hit for the pay-off.
We must have money to fix our infrastructure, the governor of Illinois trumpets.
He's taken hundreds of thousands of dollars from the companies that would do the work, and they're putting the pressure on him to make good on his half of the deal. Syed Hussaini kicked in a couple of grand, and his company needs the work. Entran Engineering, Accurate Group, V3 Companies---they paid, and it's time to play.
Illinois must start work at once, the governor says, these repairs are critical.
We want a piece of that $11 billion capital development plan that you've put together, say the engineers who kicked in to the fundraising efforts.
The big engineering firms are gambling on an indictment not coming down just yet. They're betting that the Illinois legislature will cave in to the governor's overblown, $11 billion improvement plan even though the state is flat broke. Barack Obama can't get elected fast enough, and Patrick Fitzgerald can't get promoted to a paper-shuffling desk job in Washington fast enough.