Friday, November 8, 2013

Political "Pope" now free to be political elder statesman like Rosty, "Fast Eddie"

I kind of wish I had known about the release from prison of one-time political powerbroker William Cellini last week when it happened.

CELLINI: Planning for his future
For it seems that the Springfield resident who for decades has used his fundraising skills and political contacts to benefit political candidates of both major parties (even though he himself was a Republican) is no longer occupying space at the federal correctional center in Terre Haute, Ind.

IN FACT, CELLINI was released from the minimum-security work camp near the maximum-security prison last week on Halloween!

Just think, I could have celebrated the holiday by going as Cellini himself, perhaps wearing an ornate "Pope-like" ring so that other politicos could come and kiss it! Of course, there probably would have been a few confused people who would have wondered why an old fool like myself was going disguised as an even older person whom they probably never paid much attention to during his decades of service in and around government.

Cellini is now doing the halfway house portion of federal rehabilitation, where he theoretically will spend this month at a Salvation Army facility on the West Side – getting himself acclimated to life in proper society.

His 366-day prison sentence that he began serving in January won’t technically end until Dec. 5 – yes, Bill behaved himself in prison and qualified for 47 days off his sentence for good behavior.

FOR THE RECORD, the actions that finally got Cellini put away following a career being associated with government that dates back to the early 1970s involved now-incarcerated former Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

VRDOLYAK: Cellini's urban counterpart?
Cellini used his contacts to raise money for the Blagojevich campaign (much of which wound up paying for the legal defense during his two trials), and it was claimed during Cellini’s trial that he approached an investment firm to solicit money with promises that the firm would get to handle state teacher pension funds.

Personally, I think the Blagojevich ties are a miniscule part of the Cellini career – which has mostly consisted of being the guy to whom the government officials turn when they want something done.

After all, he hasn’t held any electoral posts anywhere outside of Springfield – and those were in municipal government back in the 1960s. Within state government, he is a former director of Public Works and Buildings and served two years as the first-ever head of the Illinois Department of Transportation.

ROSTENKOWSKI: Elder statesman?
BUT THE ELECTION of Dan Walker (insert bad joke about Walker’s eventual criminal conviction here) in 1972 as governor brought that to an end.

Although he served as the treasurer of the Sangamon County Republican Party, he really became the corporate type who made himself some money while also indulging himself in politics as a hobby of sorts.

Which means what Cellini really became was the guy who worked with decades worth of government officials, seeing the way things worked. Some argue exposure to all that power throughout the years made him cross the line to criminal behavior.

To me, it makes me wonder if Cellini really ought to be compared to one-time House Ways and Means Chair Dan Rostenkowski, D-Ill., and former 10th Ward Alderman and Cook County Democratic Chairman (who converted himself to Republicanism later in life) Ed Vrdolyak.

ROSTENKOWSKI LITERALLY SPENT the rest of his life after completing his prison time in the 1990s being the elder statesman of the Chicago “Machine.”

How many times did we see him pop up on an Election Day until his death in 2010 for instant analysis of what the voter tallies really meant? Or use his positions as a Northwestern University lecturer and Loyola University senior fellow to influence the way future generations of people perceived politics? Is Cellini destined for similar use at the University of Illinois' Springfield campus?

Vrdolyak these days crops up occasionally in a similar role. Is this the ultimate fate for Cellini? Are Vrdolyak/Cellini destined to become the colorfully-tainted political pundits from Chicago/downstate?

We’ll be waiting to see the outcome.


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