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Chicago Pol Who Made Obama Is Retiring

From those champions of machine politics at the Associated Press:

Chicago’s black politicians building own dynasties

By DEANNA BELLANDI, Associated Press Writer Thu Aug 21

CHICAGO – In a city where the mayor holds the same job his father once did, politics can seem little different from the years of the legendary Democratic Machine. But the faces of political privilege — long dominated by white ethnic groups — have changed as powerful black politicians use their clout to build new dynasties.

The next in a long line of successions has been set in motion by Illinois Senate President Emil Jones, one of Barack Obama’s first political mentors, who in announcing his retirement this week made it clear he wants his son to take his seat.

It’s the latest twist on the “it’s our turn” catch-phrase popular when Chicago elected its first black mayor in 1983, said Laura Washington, a professor at Chicago’s DePaul University.

“It also means it’s our turn to be as corrupt and irresponsible to the democratic process as their white predecessors have been,” said Washington, who also is a Chicago Sun-Times columnist.

Local Democratic party leaders still have to help make the elder Jones’ wish come true. But if history is any guide, they will. And Jones, a South Side lawmaker and proud product of the Chicago machine, is making no apologies.

Democratic leaders obliged when late Cook County boss John Stroger retired after suffering a stroke and asked that his son replace him on the ballot, an election the younger Stroger eventually won. An influential black Cook County commissioner also paved the way for her son to take her seat when she retired two years ago — just weeks after winning re-election.

And a powerful black Chicago alderman got his daughter on the City Council when she was appointed to replace him by Mayor Richard Daley, only to lose an election for a full term to U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson’s wife.

Still, at least one observer contends Jones’ move to pass on his seat could be used to hurt another black politician whose career he helped nurture: Obama.

The Democratic presidential candidate has downplayed his connections to the unsavory side of Chicago politics, but Jones’ blatant move could put them back in the spotlight for Obama’s critics

The elder Jones has filed paperwork to remove his name from the November ballot and it will be up to local Democratic committeemen to name his replacement. A Republican had filed paperwork to challenge the elder Jones in the fall election.

Jones’ 30-year-old son works for the state’s Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity in economic development. He did not return a message seeking comment left for him through the state agency where he works.

While the younger Jones would face election in November if chosen as his father’s replacement, that his father and other black politicians have the sway to name their successors shows just how entrenched they have become in Chicago politics, a closely held profession historically dominated by the Irish and other whites.

“They’ve become part of the system,” said Dominic A. Pacyga, a professor at Chicago’s Columbia College.

Funny how this AP article fails to note the dynamic duo of Jesse Jackson, Senior and Junior.

Still, how Mr. Jones ‘mentored’ Mr. Obama was chronicled in a Houston Press article we posted back in March:

John Stroger, center, with Emil Jones, Barack Obama and Richard M. Daley in August 2000.

Barack Obama and Me

By Todd Spivak
Published: February 28, 2008

But what’s interesting, and almost never discussed, is that he built his entire legislative record in Illinois in a single year.

Republicans controlled the Illinois General Assembly for six years of Obama’s seven-year tenure. Each session, Obama backed legislation that went nowhere; bill after bill died in committee. During those six years, Obama, too, would have had difficulty naming any legislative ­achievements [sic].

Then, in 2002, dissatisfaction with President Bush and Republicans on the national and local levels led to a Democratic sweep of nearly every lever of Illinois state government. For the first time in 26 years, Illinois Democrats controlled the governor’s office as well as both legislative chambers.

The white, race-baiting, hard-right Republican Illinois Senate Majority Leader James “Pate” Philip was replaced by Emil Jones Jr., a gravel-voiced, dark-skinned African-American known for chain-smoking cigarettes on the Senate floor.

Jones had served in the Illinois Legislature for three decades. He represented a district on the Chicago South Side not far from Obama’s. He became Obama’s kingmaker.

Several months before Obama announced his U.S. Senate bid, Jones called his old friend Cliff Kelley, a former Chicago alderman who now hosts the city’s most popular black call-in radio ­program.

I called Kelley last week and he recollected the private conversation as follows:

“He said, ‘Cliff, I’m gonna make me a U.S. Senator.’”

“Oh, you are? Who might that be?”

“Barack Obama.”

Jones appointed Obama sponsor of virtually every high-profile piece of legislation, angering many rank-and-file state legislators who had more seniority than Obama and had spent years championing the bills.

“I took all the beatings and insults and endured all the racist comments over the years from nasty Republican committee chairmen,” State Senator Rickey Hendon, the original sponsor of landmark racial profiling and videotaped confession legislation yanked away by Jones and given to Obama, complained to me at the time. “Barack didn’t have to endure any of it, yet, in the end, he got all the credit.

“I don’t consider it bill jacking,” Hendon told me. “But no one wants to carry the ball 99 yards all the way to the one-yard line, and then give it to the halfback who gets all the credit and the stats in the record book.”

During his seventh and final year in the state Senate, Obama’s stats soared. He sponsored a whopping 26 bills passed into law — including many he now cites in his presidential campaign when attacked as inexperienced.

It was a stunning achievement that started him on the path of national politics — and he couldn’t have done it without Jones.

Before Obama ran for U.S. Senate in 2004, he was virtually unknown even in his own state. Polls showed fewer than 20 percent of Illinois voters had ever heard of Barack Obama.

Jones further helped raise Obama’s profile by having him craft legislation addressing the day-to-day tragedies that dominated local news ­headlines.

For instance. Obama sponsored a bill banning the use of the diet supplement ephedra, which killed a Northwestern University football player, and another one preventing the use of pepper spray or pyrotechnics in nightclubs in the wake of the deaths of 21 people during a stampede at a Chicago nightclub. Both stories had received national attention and extensive local coverage…

So how has Obama repaid Jones?

Last June, to prove his commitment to government transparency, Obama released a comprehensive list of his earmark requests for fiscal year 2008. It comprised more than $300 million in pet projects for Illinois, including tens of millions for Jones’s Senate district.

Shortly after Jones became Senate president, I remember asking his view on pork-barrel spending.

I’ll never forget what he said:

“Some call it pork; I call it steak.” …

But Mr. Obama is a new kind of politician. He is above such petty corruption.


This article was posted by Steve on Thursday, August 21st, 2008. Comments are currently closed.

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