The Thompson caper | Bleader

The Thompson caper

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Old man Roeser barks and shows some teeth at former governor James R. Thompson, now of the law firm Winston & Strawn, whose $687,000 worth of services to the ethically challenged current governor have yet to be adequately explained.

"Why," Roeser asks, "has Jim Thompson turned a brilliant legal reputation and a quality law firm to the indentured service of hack boiler-room lobbying clients . . . ?  Why was he the source of freebie criminal lawyer services to a convicted governor with the services so egregious that the bar association won’t recognize the work as pro bono since the work is generally recognized as payment of some hidden political deal?"

Roeser sees Thompson as a fallen Republican star who's mostly been given a pass by the allegedly liberal media because he was pro-choice and a big spender. But in any normal political alignment Thompson was and is on the right; and my media neighborhood hasn't given him a lot of passes.

Of course, if you lean far enough to the right, everything looks liberal.  But facts are facts.

 

  • Thompson ran for governor in 1976 as a lock-'em-up prosecutor. As Robert Hartley documented in his 1979 book, Big Jim Thompson of Illinois, he wouldn't go to the people when Democrats resisted his proposed ethics legislation--instead he chose to fight for the 1978 "Class X" gimmickry that set Illinois on the road to massive imprisonment.

  • In 1995 I wrote up one of Thompson's later election-year gimmicks: issuing state loans to risky private ventures, including two downstate hotels owned by backers. "It was as old as politics: use your office to get money for people who can then give back enough to keep you there. But it was executed brilliantly.  On August 11, 1982, Thompson and Democratic state treasurer Jerome Cosentino announced the formation of the Illinois Insured Mortgage Pilot Program, which (1) was bipartisan, (2) was perfectly legal, and (3) had a fashionable public-policy cover story."

  • More recently, my Reader colleague Michael Miner has tracked Thompson's ability to serve for years on the Hollinger board without noticing that the Sun-Times's parent company was being looted.

Illinois's culture of corruption is bipartisan. Thompson's a Republican, Cosentino a Democrat. Republican Peter Fitzgerald and Democrat Patrick Quinn both did their parts to expose the hotel scandal that grew out of the IIMPP.

In this context Thompson deserves everything he gets--and more than he's likely to.  But what about Roeser himself?  As long as he flirts with Blagojevich's re-election candidacy, isn't he just playing pot to Thompson's kettle?

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