By Doug Ibendahl
Back in the fall of 1998 I was a young (okay, young-ish) associate at Mayer, Brown & Platt (now Mayer Brown LLP), the Chicago-based law giant. One day a big partner invites me to that night’s Bull’s game to help entertain some clients in the firm’s skybox at the United Center.
I of course jumped at the chance since this meant a rare opportunity – and more importantly a valid excuse – for not doing what I normally would have been doing that year, working late on the mountain of paper required to consummate huge and enormously complex asset securitization deals. Fun stuff.
For the record, you simply can’t pass up a chance to watch any event in a skybox. In fact it’s difficult to go back and sit with the masses once you know about the dessert cart and other amenities.
That night I specifically remember someone asking me about George Ryan. This person, also a lawyer, knew I was a die-hard Republican and gung-ho for George who was facing off against Democrat Glenn Poshard that November.
“What about that licenses-for-bribes story?” that other lawyer asked me.
The gentleman was of course referring to a scandal which eventually would be known as Operation Safe Road. In 1998 the scandal was just starting to percolate, but that other lawyer was doing his homework. I was not.
I remember I said something like, “Oh that’s no big deal, don’t worry about it.”
I don’t recall adding Bruce Rauner’s now routine “that’s baloney” phrase – but I was in the same neighborhood.
How wrong I was.
Operation Safe Road turned into an eight year investigation and resulted in over 75 convictions, including the conviction of Ryan on 18 felony corruption counts in April of 2006.
Voters like me who didn’t do their homework and promoted a corrupt politician did a tremendous disservice to the state. And the Illinois GOP still hasn’t recovered from its decimation under George Ryan.
Well I learned my lesson. I’m saying never again.
I’ve done my homework this time. I may have read more court filings and related documents involving Rauner and his private equity firm GTCR than possibly all of the “real” reporters in this state combined.
Based on my due diligence on both men (in Ryan’s case, belatedly), I confidently say that George Ryan was a Sunday School teacher compared to Bruce Rauner.
Read more: Republican News Watch
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