How low can the Illinois GOP go?

By DOUG IBENDAHL • July 5, 2006


Over the past several months, Illinois Republicans have watched as absurdity is redefined.  From illegally rigged State Party elections, to refusal to enforce its own Code of Ethics, to working against President Bush’s efforts to defend traditional marriage, to Gubernatorial nominee Judy Baar Topinka proudly parading again this summer on the streets of Chicago with gay sex clubs – what’s left of the IL GOP’s George Ryan wing continues to embarrass each and every Republican.


Just the Latest Betrayal


Remarkably, even with all signs warning of disaster looming ahead for the IL GOP in the November election, the destructive behavior continues.


Consider this latest betrayal of Republicans by self-described leaders of the State Party. These “Republicans” don’t want you to know how they are supporting one of the dirtiest and most liberal of the Chicago Democrats over a solid Republican challenger. But we think every Republican deserves to know. Here are the facts.


On May 7th, Republican committeemen in the 10th Illinois Senate District held a meeting and chose John Fitzgerald, a 36-year Chicago police officer, as the Republican nominee to fill a vacancy on the ballot for State Senate (the 10th State Senate District includes portions of Chicago and suburban Cook County). One would assume this is good news for Republicans because in the past four elections, the GOP hadn’t bothered to recruit or nominate a candidate to run against the incumbent Democrat – State Senator James DeLeo.


As a cop, a member of Chicago’s Finest, Fitzgerald already has a job requiring some courage.   But he’s also shown bravery in voting Republican while in the City of Chicago’s employ. To say that’s frowned upon by the Chicago Machine is an understatement. 


Fitzgerald is also an adjunct professor at Lewis University and the owner of a real estate academy. As an added bonus, he reportedly has some significant savings that he’s willing to utilize to get his own campaign off the ground immediately. 


According to Joe Hedrick, the respected Niles Township Republican Committeeman and Chairman of the 10th Legislative District Committee, Fitzgerald is a true Republican who is committed to running an aggressive campaign against the Democrat DeLeo. Bottom line – Fitzgerald is an actual Republican who wants to run as a Republican (do we need to even mention the glaring contrast to Topinka?).


And that’s the problem from the Old Guard’s perspective.


Real Unity – with the Chicago Democrats


Democrat DeLeo is a close political ally of State Representative and 41st Ward Republican Committeeman Michael McAuliffe, and of lobbyist and Republican State Central Committeeman Jack Dorgan. Dorgan was a senior staffer under Lee Daniels (see the United States Government’s proffer in the George Ryan criminal corruption case for a description of Dorgan’s previous job, according to the U.S. Attorney).


Another Republican sell-out on DeLeo’s side is Skip Saviano who is also a Republican State Central Committeeman and State Representative. Saviano used to be DeLeo’s legislative aide. (Recall that Saviano is the guy who killed Republican State Senator Chris Lauzen‘s bill (SB600) in the State House last year that would have returned to Republicans the right to directly elect their own senior Party officials.)


On the other side of the aisle, DeLeo is closely aligned with 36th Ward Alderman and Democratic Committeeman William P. Banks and Governor Rod Blagojevich. DeLeo is your typical old-style Chicago Democrat, complete with an indictment and guilty plea.


In 1989 as a then State Representative, DeLeo was indicted by a federal grand jury for allegedly taking bribes while working for the Cook County Circuit Clerk during the “Operation Greylord” investigation into judicial corruption. DeLeo eventually pled guilty to a misdemeanor tax offense, reportedly in order to avoid a second trial and to keep his State House seat.


Apparently the news of a GOP challenge to their long-time Democrat political ally isn’t sitting well with the “Republican” trio of Saviano, Dorgan and McAuliffe. On May 18th, McAuliffe organized a second 10th Legislative District Committee and slated Fred Rupley, a longtime state employee, as a competing Republican nominee. 


Since the law obviously only allows one candidate to fill a Party’s vacancy on the ballot, McAuliffe filed an objection to Fitzgerald’s candidacy with the Board of Elections on May 30th. The case is still pending according to the Board of Elections.


But this is not the first time Saviano & Friends have worked against Republicans in order to keep their Democrat buddies happy. In 1996, Saviano helped Rod Blagojevich win his U.S. Congressional seat over the incumbent, Republican Mike Flanagan – who had defeated embattled Dan Rostenkowski in an historic upset in 1994. 


In 2002, Saviano “ran” one of his staffers, James Caporusso, against his friend and officemate Democrat Don Harmon of Oak Park for State Senate.  But Caporusso wasn’t a serious challenger. Saviano merely put the shill up to discourage a real Republican candidate from getting into the race who might have made the Democrat Harmon work for his election. Caporusso subsequently withdrew from the race after the replacement deadline had passed, and left Harmon to run unopposed. Such loyalty helped Caporusso earn recognition from the General Assembly courtesy of Saviano. 


This year, Harmon will face Republican Jim Rowe. Saviano also attempted early on to pressure Rowe out of running against Harmon. But Rowe is a solid Republican and he refused.


Keep in mind that these races are just a few that we know about. We can only imagine how many Democrats will get a free ride courtesy of Saviano & Friends this November.


Enough’s Enough


How can Republicans be asked to seriously consider volunteering for the IL GOP when State Central Committeemen are working against good Republicans? So Skip Saviano kills direct democracy last year for the IL GOP, for what? To better protect this filthy double-dealing with Chicago Democrats? To make it easier for Saviano to coddle a convicted Democrat pal like James DeLeo?


The absurdities have simply gone too far. It is time for State Central Committeemen Skip Saviano and Jack Dorgan to submit their resignations to State Party Chairman Andy McKenna. And if McKenna won’t demand them – he should go too.


State Representative Michael McAuliffe should also do the right thing and immediately resign his Party title as 41st Ward Republican Committeeman.


If Saviano, Dorgan and McAuliffe want to continue to work in their own self interest, instead of the GOP’s – that’s their choice. But the rank-and-file deserve to have Party leaders who are actually on the side of honest Republicans.


Until McKenna, Saviano, Dorgan, and McAuliffe do the right thing, we really don’t want to hear any more of this hypocritical talk about “unity.” Until these back room dealers stop aiding convicted Chicago Democrats at the expense of actual Republicans – they need to stop wasting our time with their pleas to assist that other Chicago Democrat in GOP clothing – Topinka.


Doug Ibendahl is a Chicago Attorney and a former General Counsel of the Illinois Republican Party.


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