Blagojevich’s trash is Topinka’s Treasure

By DOUG IBENDAHL • November 14, 2005


Judy Baar Topinka and her mentor George Ryan long-ago abandoned the Republican base, and the alienation is largely mutual. Among real Republicans, any reminder of either brings the sort of uncomfortable conversations one might experience at Thanksgiving Dinner when excuses are made as to why the black sheep of the family isn’t present. Republicans have largely moved on to that next level of estrangement and denial. We just tell ourselves the two are really happier with their other family – the Democrats. Maybe we still exchange the occasional Christmas Letter.


But over on the Democrat side this past year, they were still fuedin’ like the Hatfield’s and McCoy’s.  


The family feud between Governor Blagojevich and his father-in-law, Chicago Democrat Ward Boss Dick Mell began brewing in January. Blagojevich closed a landfill employing other Mell relatives amid allegations it was accepting illegal waste.


Mell was more than a little peeved over Blagojevich spoiling this corner of the spoils system, given how helpful Mell was in electing the little ingrate. Just prior to the March 2002 Primary for example, Mell spoke to Downstate Democratic County Chairmen in Springfield and told them how helpful his then-unknown son-in-law could be when it came to state jobs.


But not to worry Democrats, you’ve got your own army of compassion in Topinka. She has long cultivated an image as that nice older lady from Riverside who’s always finding homes for abandoned pets.  


But there are some other strays for whom Topinka is happy to help find homes – cases about which she doesn’t brag to her old friends in the Chicago media corps. 


These strays Topinka houses courtesy of you the taxpayer inside her own State Treasurer’s Office. These are the strays that Dick Mell and other Chicago Democrats drop-off at her door. No mutts here, these are pure Democrat.


Over the weekend it was reported that Blagojevich’s Executive Inspector General had investigated allegations of hiring irregularities that resulted in several workers being ousted from the Employment Security Department.


In one case, investigators found that an employee was hired for an opening in northwest Illinois but allowed to work in the Chicago headquarters. The employee in question was trying to avoid rules meant to favor military veterans for jobs.


Investigators blamed the incident on Georgia Brahos, a Dick Mell supporter who was brought in as head of human relations in the Employment Security Department. According to Blagojevich, Brahos left the administration rather than be fired. The Blagojevich Administration did fire Brahos’ co-worker Surami Garcia, who was accused of telling job candidates to falsely claim they were in college in order to qualify for student jobs.


Where is Georgia Brahos now? Well she’s back on the state payroll – working for Treasurer Topinka.


Another Chicago Democrat who knows the warmth of Topinka’s embrace and who’s now lapping the milk of political patronage is the wife of Democrat U.S. Congressman Bobby Rush.


Topinka helped Democrat Bobby Rush in his 2000 campaign, and in 2002 Rush endorsed Topinka’s reelection bid, over Democrat challenger Tom Dart.


Right after that election, Topinka hired Rush’s wife Carolyn, as director of banking development – whatever that is. We wouldn’t want to imply that the job has any responsibilities for soliciting all the campaign contributions from the banks that do business with the Treasurer’s Office – her chief source of campaign funding in the past. Such an insinuation would be wrong. We are confident those contributions just roll in on their own.


Now Topinka wants to be Governor. If her bid is successful, we can look forward to Dick Mell and his fellow Chicago designers decorating Judy’s Mansion with more of the cast-offs Blagojevich leaves at the curb.


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


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