Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Will Cellini trial get the short shrift?

Federal officials began the process Monday of picking a jury for the trial of Springfield business executive William Cellini, yet I wonder how many people have any sense of whom he is.
CELLINI: Boss behind the bosses?

Because thus far, his trial is turning out to be the circumstance that is causing other trials to be delayed.

FIRST, THAT OF former Gov. Rod Blagojevich. And now, Tony Rezko. U.S. District Judge Amy St. Eve on Monday delayed the sentencing of the man who was supposed to be capable of taking down the political careers of  Blagojevich, Rahm Emanuel and Barack Obama.

So we’ll have to wait until November to find out what eventually will happen to Rezko – who in the end didn’t have much of an effect on Rahm and Barack. And Milorod seems to have gone down to legal defeat without any input from Antoin.

All of these political people are the “big names” who are overshadowing Cellini. I’m sure there are many people who are observing this whole situation and thinking that Cellini is some sort of afterthought.

Which is a mistake!

WHENEVER PEOPLE ASK me who Bill Cellini is, or why is he significant, I always use the overly-simplistic explanation of telling them that Cellini is the guy who has the ability to tell the elected officials what it is they will do with their political positions.

Because on paper, he doesn’t come across as much. He used to hold positions in state government (the first director ever of the Illinois Department of Transportation) back in the days with Richard Ogilvie was Illinois governor.
OGILVIE: Gave Celllini his only post

In recent years, he has been the treasurer of the Sangamon County Republican Party. Which means he’s not in charge of the GOP in Springfield and its surrounding rural towns.

But he’s the guy who controls the money and has the institutional memory. As a result, he’s the guy that the party chairmen usually turn to when they need “advice” about what to do.

AND BECAUSE HE’S a prominent Republican in the Illinois capital city, the state legislators and other officials turn to him. Even the Democrats. Because Cellini isn’t somebody who feels the need to play ideological politics – which is why the biggest Cellini critics these days (the ones most eager to see him carted off to prison) are the ideologues.

The ones who scream “RINO” and complain that Cellini isn’t a real Republican because he’s willing to work with Democrats in state government when they manage to get themselves elected to political positions. Because they don’t want to accept the idea that people of the two major political parties (along with those of other ideological persuasions) really do have to work together if we’re to accomplish anything as a society.

This is the guy who wound up helping Rod Blagojevich to raise the money he needed in order to beat Jim Ryan in 2002 and annihilate Judy Baar Topinka in 2006. That Cellini-raised money was the reason she could never truly rebut all the nonsense rhetoric Blagojevich spewed during that campaign.

As for Jim, perhaps the reason Cellini was willing to back Blagojevich was because the Ryan campaign of ’02 was based too strongly on the concept of “It’s my turn,” rather than offering any vision for Illinois.

IT ALSO RELATES to the actions that federal prosecutors say amount to criminal behavior. For the trial that likely will take up the bulk of the month of October says that Cellini’s behavior in getting contributions from a would-be Hollywood producer amount to extortion. The old shake-down.
BLAGOJEVICH: Cellini-raised cash

Of course, there are those who are skeptical of these charges, saying that they are closely related to actions for which other people were already acquitted. Hence, there are some who think Cellini could be the lone individual in this latest federal investigation of state government corruption who could be found “not guilty.”

And I’m sure if that happens, there will be those people who will argue that it was Cellini’s cunning and cleverness that somehow managed to allow him to elude a criminal conviction.

Or maybe it just means that his behavior was business, and not criminal. And that the only thing he might be “guilty” of is associating with sordid individuals.


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