Saturday, February 7, 2009

Ryan “rule” could mean that Blagojevich won’t be broke in elder years

If the ruling of an Illinois appellate court provides any precedent, we’re going to hear a lot of grousing from the public in future years from people whose sense of vindictiveness is such that they want Rod Blagojevich penniless and destitute (preferably with a wife and kids who no longer speak to him).

The appeals court based in Chicago made a ruling Friday with regards to Blagojevich’s immediate predecessor as Illinois governor.

GEORGE RYAN GOT what his attorney, former Illinois Gov. James R. Thompson, called a victory when the court said that Ryan will get to keep a piece of the sizable government pension he would have received for more than three full decades of government service.

Specifically, Ryan will get credit for the roughly 20 years he served as a state legislator from Kankakee (rising to the rank of Illinois House speaker) and as lieutenant governor. None of the “crimes” for which he was found guilty by a jury in U.S. District Court in Chicago related to those years.

His pension credit earned during his eight years as Illinois secretary of state and four years as governor will be lost, because that is the time during which Ryan allegedly let his driver testing staff shake down unqualified drivers for bribes, did nothing to stop them, then tried to interfere with a federal investigation into those bribe solicitations.

Admittedly, that is still a huge hit for Ryan.

HIS PENSION FOR all of his time doing “the people’s business” in Illinois government would have barely exceeded $100,000 per year, every year for the rest of his and spouse Lura Lynn’s lives.

Because he only gets credit for those earlier posts, and because the most recent of that work occurred nearly 20 years ago, his pension goes down to about $65,000 per year.

Not that Ryan will receive any of it. Federal Bureau of Prisons inmate number 16627-424 will remain at the work camp that is part of the maximum-security prison at Terre Haute, Ind.

The money will go to the one-time Illinois first lady, who reportedly has been struggling financially to cover her expenses since her husband went away and state officials desiring political payback went after his pension.

SUCH A PENSION will not make her wealthy, but at least she’ll have some income coming in. That is bound to upset some people, whose disgust level for Ryan is so high that they will not be pleased unless Ryan is both incarcerated and destitute.

I would guess some of those same people have an identical attitude toward Blagojevich.

In the case of Blagojevich, the activity for which he could be indicted by a federal grand jury relates entirely to his time as governor of Illinois.

That would mean his two two-year terms as a member of the Illinois House of Representatives from the Ravenswood and Lincoln Square neighborhoods and his three two-year terms in the U.S. House of Representatives (from much of the Northwest Side and surrounding suburbs) are not included.

ANY PENSION BENEFITS he is entitled to for that government service should still have to be paid out, even though I don’t know how much of a pension Blagojevich is entitled to.

I do know that he is now eligible to start collecting it, since he is no longer on the government payroll. Once (and if) he is convicted in a federal court, state officials would be able to cut off the portion of his pension that is connected to his six years as governor.

But Blagojevich likely was counting on a significant stint as governor to bolster the amount of credit he would receive toward earning a sizable pension. I can’t believe that his 10 years in state and federal government will give him all that much.

Certainly, it won’t be enough of a financial jolt that he can afford to live at the level he appeared to be dreaming about for his retiring years.

HECK, ISN’T THAT what his involvement in the so-called selling of a U.S. Senate seat was about?

Prosecutors want us to believe that Blagojevich was offering up the prominent government post to whoever was willing to contribute the most money to help create a nonprofit organization that would someday employ Blagojevich and wife Patti at salaries that could let them live comfortably while working whenever they chose.

Personally, I’m waiting for the day when some member of the General Assembly tries to slip a bill through the Legislature that would ban anyone convicted (or maybe even charged) of a criminal act from being able to receive anything in the way of a government pension.

Perhaps they’ll try to claim it’s a bi-partisan measure by calling it the “Ryan/Blagojevich” bill.

IT WOULD BE a drastic over-reaction on the part of the Illinois Legislature, but it would also not be unheard of for the people who are part of the Statehouse Scene to lose their common sense when their politically partisan motions take over.

And when political people realize that at age 48, Blagojevich still has a couple decades (barring an accident) of life to collect pension checks, the people of Illinois will have a long time to simmer in their anger over the thought of Milorod collecting a regular check from the government.


EDITOR’S NOTES: George Ryan’s wife (who herself is 74) is now able to collect a portion ( of the pension that the former Illinois governor would have been eligible for had he not been sent to a federal prison.

For the time being, the unemployed Rod Blagojevich is entitled to a little bit of income for the full pension benefits (,0,7350721.story) he qualified for during 16 years in state and federal government.

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