The Wiring of Pete Pappas

“Do you know that guy Sam Skinner?”

That’s what the Democrat across the aisle asked me one day shortly after our 1973 swearing in.

“No, never met him,” was my answer.

“That’s good, because he’s getting close to some of my friends,” was the reply, as he poked his finger repeatedly into my chest

We ended up getting along well enough, but that exchange made me think it was time to meet Sam Skinner.

So, the next time I was in Chicago, I went into the U.S. Attorney’s Office and asked to see him.

I was ushered in and Sam started to ask me questions about State Rep. Pete Pappas, a Republican from the Quad Cities. He knew I was on the Motor Vehicles Laws Committee and asked about the cement truck bill that had been approved the year before. This is the one that raised the weight limits to 80,000 pounds, a highway busting level.

I told him that I was sworn in until 1973, so knew nothing about it.

Later, U.S. Attorney Jim Thompson indicted Pappas for having accepted bribes. Also indicted were all the members of the Motor Vehicle Laws Commission, except Republican Clarence Neff of Stronghurst, if memory serves me correctly.

And we learned that Pappas was wearing a wire during 1973…presumably while chairing the House Motor Vehicle Laws Committee, on which I served.

Once he was indicted, that light bulb that you used to see in balloons above cartoon characters’ heads blinked brightly.

After our first Motor Vehicle Laws Committee meeting, lobbyists working the committee financed a dinner in the lower level of the Mansion View Inn. (The Mansion View was owned by Paul Powell earlier. What do you want to bet that Secretary of State’s employees were strongly encouraged to stay there while visiting Springfield?)

Rep. Pappas stood up after dinner and explained that the Motor Vehicle Laws Commission, which consisted of five House and five Senate members, “pre-screened” the bills.

“I don’t want to tell you how to vote, but if they are sponsored by the members of the Motor Vehicle Laws Commission, they’re OK to vote for,” Pappas continued.

I raised my hand.

“I’m co-sponsoring a bill with Harold Katz to eliminate the requirement to have a drivers license application notarized,” I said.

His reply was exactly what he had said just before: ““I don’t want to tell you how to vote, but if they are sponsored by the members of the Motor Vehicle Laws Commission, they’re OK to vote for.”

In 1973, I sponsored a lot of bills (passing more than any other freshman) and the Motor Vehicle Laws Committee met while I had to present bills to other committees.

One day, I walked into the committee room during a roll call. I asked my 33rd Distrrict Democratic colleague what was being voted upon and he told me it was Katz’ notarization bill.

I voted in favor.

The bill passed by one vote.

If looks could kill, I would be dead from the stare I got from Chairman Pappas.

My guess is that he was not yet wired at the time the vote was taken.

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