The 7th Appellate Court has ruled that former Governor and Secretary of State George Ryan and his co-defendant will not get a hearing from the full court on whether he received a fair trial.
How devastating for his wife Lura Lynn, who has been invariably gracious every time I have met her.
George and I were elected to the Illinois House the same year–1972. During the summer after the primary, he called me and asked me to vote for Bob Blair for speaker. That was the first time I talked to him. I ended up supporting Blair over Henry Hyde. I could figure out Hyde didn’t have enough votes to be competitive and my ideology had not become as conservative as it is now.
George got Linda, the good secretary. I got a Western Illinois University grad who could neither type nor spell. She had been hired on the recommendation of a state rep. who wasn’t re-elected. I shared her with Charlie Gaines, a black from a Chicago district so conservative that his precinct voted against creation of the RTA. It took me until the fall to get a replacement.
I first got to know George when the United States Corps of Engineers came up with an enormous plan to pump Chicago’s sewage to the outlying counties, including McHenry and Kankakee, where George lived. The sewage was to be used as fertilizer in a land treatment system, the liquid collected underground and piped back to its original watershed.
What a stupid idea!
The Corps must have had so many engineers coming back from Vietnam that they didn’t know what to do with them.
A whole Woodstock auditorium-full of farmers and other local residents made clear McHenry County wanted no part of the scheme.
The fight against C-SELM was the first time I figured out we had any interests in common.
George decided to get on the appropriations committee. Despite my background in budgeting, I didn’t ask for that committee. I asked for every place that property taxes might be considered and Blair, who had fired me as an appropriations committee staffer when he won the speakership two years before granted my requests. He must have been stunned that I had voted for him.
George was also an ally in the fight against the Regional Transportation Authority. His district included parts of rural Will County, where the only buses residents see are school buses.
Blair was defeated in the fall undertow of the RTA’s narrow passage.
Want to know how bad it was?
The workers at the Caterpillar plant in Joliet took a roll of toilet paper after the primary election (when the Regional Transportation Authority passed by less than 12,000 votes in a paper ballot election) and wrote something like quite uncomplimentary on it about what was going to happen to Blair if he didn’t get them out of RTA. Rest assured it contained the “S” word or a reference to it. Then they signed it, rolled it back up and gave it to him.
Emotions ran so deep that Blair lost the fall election.
With Blair out, George took up the cause of Bud Washburn from Morris. Because of Watergate, the Republicans were in the minority. I think we only had 76 out of 177 House members. In any event, George helped Washburn get elected Minority Leader, snagging a leadership post for himself.
When Washburn left to run unsuccessfully for Congress, George replaced him. Lee Daniels ran against him. When we discussed the contest later, George said my request was pretty straight-forward. I think the word he used was “easy.”
I asked to be made Spokesman for the Transportation Committee, an upgrade from Motor Vehicles. I pointed out the Don Deuster, the then-Spokesman, was supporting his opponent. I also also for the authority to hire my own secretary. (My ad read, “Not your typical state job. You’ll have to work.” When a state employee called to complain, I asked her if she were calling on state time. That ended that conversation.)
You would not believe–or maybe you would–what one sleazy Chicago Republican requested. George, who didn’t play around, told me he had no idea how to produce the what the guy wanted (something a bit out of the ordinary, even for Springfield), but an assistant did. George got the West Side Blockster’s vote for Minority Leader.
George was always gruff. There are not many politicians whom one would describe as “gruff.” If you offend people, you usually don’t get elected. George was so tied into the power structure in Kankakee County that this aspect of his personality didn’t prevent his election.
He probably didn’t have to do much person-to-person campaigning. I think his gruffness is attributable to his not having to really campaign for his early offices–county board member and state representative.
But he was loyal to his friends.
I remember a story one of my state legislative friends told me. It’s about how George dealt with a young staffer who had become addicted to alcohol. The night before Ryan had dinner with the lobbyist of a rehab favility and got permission for his staffer to enter its program.
The next day, George got the guy in a Capitol elevator with a couple of other assistants and stopped the elevator.
The 20-something was told he had two choices when the elevator door opened. He could end up without a job or he could go with these guys to a rehab unit. He picked rehab and is practicing law in Chicago today.
I know that most people aren’t interested in hearing anything about the good side of George Ryan, but all of us have good and bad sides.
Please take these memories for what they are–thoughts about a man who obviously made bad choices in his political career.
I’m reading former Governor Dan Walker’s autobiography, “The Maverick and the Machine: Governor Dan Walker Tells His Story.”
A lot of it is not like I remember, but I’m intrigued with its format. Taking his long manuscript, Peggy Lang “dismantled,” “reorganized and reassembled the story, rewriting parts of it,” Walker explains.
Each chapter starts with Walker’s memories of prison and proceeds to play it off against another part of his life story. Walker, by the way, did not got to prison for official corruption. I think he was caught in one of the first savings and loan scandals.
The technique of laying off prison life against pre-prison life is quite effective.
I wonder if George could utilize the same technique.
Here is Patrick Fitzgerald’s statement:
U.S. ATTORNEY’S OFFICE STATEMENT REGARDING RYAN / WARNER APPEAL
CHICAGO —Statement of Patrick J. Fitzgerald, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, regarding today’s decision by the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, denying the petition for en banc rehearing of defendants George Ryan and Lawrence Warner, in United States v. Warner and Ryan, Nos. 06-3517 & 06-3528:
“We are pleased that the full Court of Appeals has decided to let stand the initial careful opinion of the panel majority, which held that the defendants received a fair trial. Even the three judges voting to rehear the appeal agreed with the majority of judges that
‘the evidence of the defendants’ guilt was overwhelming.’
Ryan and Warner were convicted of serious crimes in awarding state leases and contracts that were steered illegally in return for hundreds of thousands of dollars in benefits for Warner and Ryan, including financial support for Ryan’s successful 1998 gubernatorial campaign.”
I note that Appellate Judges Ilana Rovner and Joel Flaum did not take part in the decision. Considering their close relationships to Ryan’s attorney former Governor Jim Thompson, I am pleased to see they did not. Ilana was Thompson’s deputy governor in the Chicago office. She used to say she was a fairy godmother trying to undo all bad things done in Springfield. She used to have and may still have a summer home on the northwest side of Wonder Lake.
Those judges in favor of giving Ryan a hearing before the full appellate court were Richard Posener, Michael Kanne and Ann Williams.
The six judges voting against were Frank Esterbrook, Terrance Evans, Daniel Manion, Kenneth Ripple, Diane Sykes and Diane Wood.