Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Tweets, Twits & Tax Dollars: Joe Birkett for Illinois, Proven Leader? Proven Corruption Buster?

While DuPage County State's Attorney Joe Birkett was serving as Vice Chair of the Board of Governors of the Illinois Office of the State's Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor, he steered contracts to his political consultants. Birkett now sits on the bench of the Second District Illinois Appellate Court, yet questions remain as to who exactly was the tax-paid client -- Club ILSAAP or Birkett for Illinois?

Four years ago today, the topic in Illinois was ethics.

Top public leaders from the state gathered in Chicago to give testimony before the Illinois Reform Commission, established by Illinois Governor Pat Quinn in his "first official act to restore integrity and examine ethics rules and practices in state government". The impeachment of former Governor Rod Blagojevich, following his December 2008 arrest on charges of conspiracy and fraud, prompted action.

Calling for effective enforcement of anti-corruption laws were Quinn himself, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, Cook County State's Attorney's Chief of Special Prosecutions Bureau Jack Blakey, Illinois Executive Inspector General James Wright, Illinois Inspector General Jim Burns, best-selling author and Chicago attorney Scott Turow, and DuPage County State's Attorney Joe Birkett, who was later appointed to serve on the bench of the Second District Illinois Appellate Court in Elgin.

Birkett spoke to the Commissioners of the challenges in fighting public corruption, proposed amendments to the official misconduct statute, suggested remedies, and discussed the need for enforcement tools. He quoted Albany Law School Professor Michael J. Hutter, "Unfortunately, our review of public corruption convictions in the states indicates that there is apparently little correlation between strong laws and integrity -- if a public official wants to violate his or her trust, the laws don't stand in the way."

Also in the room that morning was...

...a Tweeter, texting play-by-plays of this speech to the Birkett for Illinois Twitter site which remains open at the time of this publication. 

The following Tweets via Tweetie are posted and time-stamped from 5:27 am through 9:32 am on April 9, 2009. (Note: The account was created the previous day; the time zone option hadn't been set up to reflect Central Time. Twitter's default time zone is Pacific Time.)

5:57 amThanks to all our new followers.  Later today 
we will be live tweeting Joe’s testimony before the IL 
Reform Commission.

7:34 amIllinois Reform Commission about to begin.  

Pat Quinn, Lisa Madigan and Joe Birkett up first.

8:02 amMadigan says she doesn’t trust Illinois State 

Police to investigate Governor’s office.

8:57 am, Quinn done.  Joe up next.

9:01 am, Joe pointed out he prosecuted his first public 

corruption case more than 25 years ago

9:05 am, Joe gave commission list of 40 corruption cases

prosecuted by his State’s Attorney’s office

9:07 am,  Joe recommended lengthening statute of 

limitations in corruption cases

9:12 am, Joe strongly urged increased overhear 

powers for county and state prosecutors

9:18 am, Joe proposed giving whistleblowers powers 

to record corrupt discussions

9:32 am,  Joe done testifying. Well received by commission.

Talking to reporters now.

The Tweets were later transferred onto the "Birkett for Illinois" website's blog, which is no longer displayed.

Citizens to Elect Joe Birkett had been paying Reverse Spin (which renamed itself Delos Communications) during this period for consulting, according to the Illinois State Board of Elections. The Wheaton-based political consultant is a prolific Tweeter with over 9,500 Tweets to date on his site.

Birkett, as vice chairman of the Board of Governors of the Illinois State's Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor (ILSAAP), had steered contracts to his political "game changer" consultants, Reverse Spin, in 2007 and 2008.

In the April 2009 report submitted to ILSAAP dated May 11, 2009, Reverse Spin partners wrote about one of the more time-consuming activities of the month: ...accompanied DuPage County State's Attorney Joe Birkett to an Illinois Reform Commission hearing where he testified about proposals to increase powers for state prosecutors. A calendar report reads: Date: Apr. 9, 2009, SA/Contact: DuPage County SA, Description: Accompanied SA on appearance before Illinois Reform Commission. 

Attached was Reverse Spin's bill to ILSAAP for April 2009: $5,756.34. Payment was processed by the state the following month.

(Scroll to the bottom of this post for supportive documentation.)

Joe Birkett for Illinois. Proven Leader. Proven Corruption Buster

Birkett's political ambitions are no secret.

The DuPage County State's Attorney ran three times for state-wide office -- attorney general in 2002, lieutenant governor in 2006, and again for attorney general in 2009. Birkett was appointed to the Second District Illinois Appellate Court in Elgin in 2010. He finally ran a successful campaign outside of DuPage County to maintain that seat last year.

The justice ran unopposed.

Gearing up to run for attorney general in 2009, Birkett couldn't say enough about Blagojevich's fall from grace. Birkett's former boss, former DuPage County State's Attorney and former Illinois Attorney General Jim Ryan, lost to Blagojevich in 2002. Reverse Spin partners served on the executive staff of the former attorney general and had actively campaigned for him, as well.

If only Jim Ryan were governor, we heard, none of this would have happened. 

Birkett’s short-lived 2009 campaign was all about ethics reform.  In press conferences, speeches and editorials, he called to restore public trust by fighting public corruption. His slogan was: Joe Birkett for Illinois. Proven Leader. Proven Corruption Buster.

On July 2nd, Birkett officially announced he was running for attorney general. Rumor had it that his 2002 opponent, Lisa Madigan, would be be in a race for governor or the U.S. Senate. Six days later, Madigan announced that she would seek re-election for a third term. Barely a month after the state's attorney threw his hat in the ring, he dropped out, claiming he didn't have the finances.

Birkett had just $84,248.94 in his war chest; Madigan $3,485,138.23. Birkett for Illinois had been aware of this disparity long before 2009. Their one hope was to ignite a grassroots movement, yet with less than $50,000 in 2008, the campaign committee couldn't afford to pay anyone to start the fire.

CountyLeaks has written abundantly about ILSAAP's Board of Governors' vice chairman steering government contracts to his political consultants, raising questions of what the firm was actually doing while being paid tax dollars for the state agency.

Some of this work appears to have overlapped from official duties into damage control and image enhancement for the spinner's two political clients -- state's attorneys of DuPage and McHenry Counties. According to Reverse Spin's own activity reports submitted with billing, the bulk of their one-on-one work for ILSAAP was for these two state's attorneys.

The political consultants reported to the agency that they had working "extensively" with the state's attorney from their home county during months when Birkett was making headlines for what could be perceived as positioning himself for a major campaign.


Birkett's campaign chairman and treasurer was Jack Hogan, financial director of the DuPage Forest Preserve. Reverse Spin also had a one-year contract with the Forest Preserve starting November 2011 for $48,000. Hogan was paid $500 for accounting fees in 2011 for "YES 2 PCHS," an initiative reportedly led by one of the Reverse Spin partners to build a new high school in Paris, Ill.

Prior to Hogan, Birkett's campaign chairman was the defense attorney for McHenry County State's Attorney and former Edgar County State's Attorney. Reverse Spin has worked closely with this attorney.

According to the State Journal Register's database, Birkett currently earns $197,770.71 as an appellate court judge. The Better Government Association's database shows Jan. 1, 2011 as the pension benefit start date for Birkett receiving $141,652.32 annually for his 29 years of service. Illinois judiciary belong to the Judges' Retirement System  -- not the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund. If these databases are correct, Birkett is receiving $339,423.03 annually.

CountyLeaks Asks:

Why did Reverse Spin rename its company Delos Communications?

Did Reverse Spin Tweet the play-by-plays to Birkett's campaign Twitter site? If not, who in the room did? Did Birkett arrive with an entourage? Or perhaps, there was a witness in the room observing Reverse Spin with an I-Phone...

Clearly, Birkett's testimony before the Illinois Reform Commission was seen as a political event by the live Tweets to the "Birkett for Illinois" Twitter site and website. So why did Reverse Spin list this campaign event among their Club ILSAAP activities for April 2009 and bill the Illinois taxpayers? Why not bill Citizens for Joe Birkett?

Why did Birkett steer Club ILSAAP contracts to his political consultants? Is he applying the same decision-making skills from the bench? Does history matter?

Did having Reverse Spin on contract with Club ILSAAP help stretch Birkett's meager war chest?

Is Birkett currently receiving $339,423.03 in salary and pension, in addition to health coverage and yet another pension opportunity?

Did Reverse Spin write Birkett's stirring testimony read before the Illinois Reform Commission?

Did Reverse Spin come up with the catchy slogan: Joe Birkett for Illinois. Proven Leader. Proven Corruption Buster?

Legal scholars, how much greener would our grass be had Birkett become our attorney general -- the last person on the planet to solve the mystery of Brian Dugan? To once again have the Reverse Spin partners in executive staff positions at the AG's office where they could create policy, influence legislation and help dismiss reviews of potential wrongful convictions which may be deemed "too politically sensitive"? Everybody sing,"Maybe if we think and wish and hope and pray it might come true..."

Would Reverse Spin have continued performing damage control for He Who Must Not Be Named from their executive posts at the AG's office? Cool...

Why was the state of Illinois so eager to settle the federal civil lawsuits of Randy Steidl and Herb Whitlock before the trial scheduled this month? What information had to be kept from the citizens involving He Who Must Not Be Named? How is this considered reform in Illinois? Are we all feeling much better now? In the spirit of transparency and public trust, shouldn't the state have the court records unsealed? Or would doing so only force embarrassing investigations and criminal charges?

Should Illinois rethink Club ILSAAP?

Why did a DuPage County Assistant State's Attorney, under the direction of Birkett, prepare an amicus curiae "friend of the court" brief on behalf of one of the defendants in Steidl and Whitlock's lawsuits? Who paid for the preparation and court appearance regarding this brief, Illinois tax payers or DuPage County tax payers?

What was the relationship between the former Edgar County state's attorney and He Who Must Not Be Named? Does this have anything to do with...oh...umm...say...Steidl and Whitlock going to the FBI with allegations of narcotics/arms trafficking and money laundering discussed in an interview with WTWO-TV's Patrick Fazio?

Legal scholars, is it an effective tool to toss whistle blowers and watchdogs in prison (and place them on death row) who have the audacity to come forward with information on public corruption? How 'bout filing lawsuits against them? Is this noble and courageous? Would that reform Illinois?

Does Birkett still have Reverse Spin on speed dial?

Could Birkett, Reverse Spin and Birkett's cronies withstand the tough anti-corruption enforcement tools and official misconduct amendments proposed on April 9, 2009? How 'bout that neat suggestion Birkett had about extending the statute of limitations for public corruption to six years or longer? Or do such proposals only apply to the rest of us? Different standards, right? Gotcha...

Speaking of different standards, isn't it interesting that Club ILSAAP and Illinois state's attorneys back pending legislation for the Freedom of Information Act not to apply to them? If this bothers you, contact your state rep or senator ASAP. As Will Rogers said, "Remember, write to your Congressman even if he can't read."

Readers, please join CountyLeaks in a trip down memory lane where Birkett calls for stricter enforcement of transparency, stating that prosecutors should be able to bring criminal charges against public officials who violate FOIA...

Justice Birkett, could you please tell us all the prosecutions of public corruption in DuPage County involving your cronies? Should we set aside 10 seconds or 15 for your response?

What words of wisdom were imparted to DuPage County State's Attorney Bob Berlin sitting at the knee of his predecessor, Obi-Wan Kenobi? Is this wisdom being applied now? 

What other activities did Reverse Spin conduct for their political clients DuPage County State's Attorney Birkett and McHenry County State's Attorney Louis Bianchi which may have been billed to the Illinois tax payers? For example, did Reverse Spin prep their political client, McHenry County State's Attorney Louis Bianchi for the Daily Herald's campaign forum in 2008 and bill the taxpayers? CountyLeaks has discovered many such examples... Do readers have six hours?

Should there be some state's attorneys in Illinois, past and present, in orange jumpsuits? Some of our governors donned orange, why not some state's attorneys?

Why does a government entity require the services of political spinners? Should Illinois procurement laws be amended making it illegal for government entities to contract spinners for smearing whistle blowers and citizen watchdogs? Should it be illegal for government entities to contract spinners more interested in promoting political agendas than providing a public service? 

Or, does CountyLeaks have it all wrong, legal scholars? Maybe Illinois needs more spinners? Help me out, here... Don't be a tease...

When will the facts, government documents and connections presented in CountyLeaks be ready for mainstream news? Or are citizens only worthy of information conveyed in the official line of press conferences, news releases and tax-paid spinners and operatives? Is there any correlation with reporting the official line and Illinois being the most corrupt state?

Following are public records of Reverse Spin's Club ILSAAP activity report, billing and payment voucher for April 2009. To enlarge, click or double-click the image: