Tuesday, February 11, 2014

A serious allegation? Or just a way of trying to legitimize campaign sleaze?

I recall a day I once spent on the job for the now-defunct City News Bureau of Chicago when I was trying to confirm a sordid tale about Oprah Winfrey – one in which I came up with nothing!

RUTHERFORD: Facing a firestorm!
Not a single fact. Nothing confirmable. I didn’t get the story!

THE CHICAGO SUN-TIMES a couple of weeks later came up with a gossipy blurb about it in one of their columns. And by day’s end, that had crumbled into falsehood.

I remember Winfrey feeling compelled to go on her television program live to address the rumor and deny it – while not giving any credence to the story.

I have been thinking about that incident for the past week; ever since Republican gubernatorial hopeful Dan Rutherford held that press conference on Jan. 31 along with former federal agents to try to defend himself from what he expected would be allegations made against him. The moment felt, to me at least, very Oprah-esque.

The stories being told now about Rutherford are sordid enough that some people want to believe it will be the end of the political campaign for the man from Chenoa who rose through the ranks of Illinois government from state legislator up to Illinois treasurer.

WHO NOW WANTS to make the big move up to governor!

For the past week, we have had stories published and broadcast about allegations with no details offered up. With reporter-types who knew the name of the person making the allegations, but choosing not to reveal it.

At least not until Monday. Which is the day that Ed Michalowski filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Chicago against Rutherford. He says that while working for the state treasurer’s office, he was sexually harassed. He also claims he was pressured into doing political work on state government time. But most people are going to focus on the former accusation.

WINFREY: Will Dan be as successful?
Michalowski loses any claim to anonymity because his name is now on the lawsuit. It’s a matter of public record.

ALTHOUGH THE FACT that it is now out there, in a sense, does not make me feel there is any more legitimacy to the allegations.

I’ll state right now that I don’t know Michalowski or anything about him. And I certainly have no clue as to whether or not there is any legitimacy to his claims – which are that he experienced the harassment once at Rutherford’s home, once at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., and once at a tavern in Springfield.

Before we knew what he was talking about, Rutherford denied the allegations. He claimed more than a week ago that any trash talk being spewed now was politically motivated.

The sad thing is that my gut feeling makes me suspicious – of the people who are making the accusations. Particularly some of the attorneys who have been talking in recent weeks about the case!

FOR IN THE two-plus decades that I have followed the activity of state government, I have heard rumor and innuendo concerning Rutherford that would be consistent with these latest tales.

Is this lawsuit now just something on a piece of paper that is meant to give legitimacy to such trash talk? As in now that this case is out there, they can start spreading the other nonsense tales that they have spewed for years?

All in hopes that it could drive the Rutherford campaign out of the mix for governor? Which makes me wonder if the real villain becomes whichever Republican candidate stands to benefit the most IF Rutherford were to wind up dropping out of the campaign?

I’m not about to get into tales I heard about Rutherford years ago – other than to say they were always more resembling of whispers that were told anonymously by people who couldn’t necessarily get their stories straight.

QUINN: The ultimate winner?
WHICH MAY WELL be where this whole saga is now headed! Just one nasty mess that will take down everybody in its path.

Which also has me thinking that the ultimate beneficiary of this may well be the Pat Quinn campaign – since whomever winds up winning the Republican nomination is going to be beaten up, bruised and bloodied so badly that they may not be able to give it their best effort in trying to Dump Pat come November.


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