Political Use of Public Cars

Back in 1982 I tested the hypothesis that one could not run for any office higher than state senator without selling one’s soul by accepting Governor Jim Thompson’s invitation to run for State Comptroller against incumbent Roland Burris.

My loss to Burris gave him bragging rights to having carried the State of Illinois by over a million votes.

Vernon Jarrett, a black columnist in Chicago, repeated the extent of that victory about a half a dozen times in promoting Burris for higher office.

But, his victory over me did not impress Democratic Party primary voters enough to propel him to first place in any subsequent try to statewide office.

Running against an incumbent is never easy.

But I was ignorant of one advantage until a joint appearance in Peoria.

Before agreeing to make the race, I told Thompson one of the things that I would need was a car.

Driving all over Illinois adds thousands of miles to the odometer.

Thompson made arrangements for a Highland Park auto dealer who was on the Illinois Tollway Board to provide one. I got a relatively new one which was switched out when they reached a certain mileage.

I was driving to Peoria from Springfield and arrived just in time.

That was the day I discovered that my (and your) tax dollars were paying for not only a state car, but a State Policeman as Burris’ driver.

Somehow, that seemed to be an unfair advantage.

Especially, when a set of straight plates are applied over the official State Comptroller plates in order to keep the fact that taxpayer resources were being used to promote the political ambitions of an incumbent.

I wonder if statewide officials still use the excuse of needing protection from the public to justify use of State Police-driven state cars for political purposes.

This came to mind when McHenry County State’s Attorney’s Investigator Mike McCleary was indicted by Special Prosecutor Henry Tonigan in what seems more and more to be a vendetta against Bianchi and his employees.

McCleary was charged with a felony with regard to his use of a county-owned car for personal use. Judge Joseph McGraw dismissed those charges June 29th.

There wasn’t any evidence I saw that McCleary helped Bianchi in his campaigns, by the way.

However, contemporaneously, no objection has been made with regard to any McHenry County elected official having used his county car to drive to political events.

But back to the hypothesis.

I didn’t disprove it.

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