By Rich Trzupek
It’s hard to believe that anyone could pick worse candidates than the party that gave Illinois gubernatorial candidates like ex-governor/current convict George Ryan and the unbearably bland Judy Barr-Topinka, but Illinois Democrats are giving the GOP a run for their money this year. First they gave us disgraced former lieutenant governor candidate Scott Lee Cohen and now comes troubling revelations about their Senatorial candidate, state treasurer Alexi Giannoulias. One has to wonder: does anybody check a candidate’s background these days?
Giannoulias is a protégé of the current president, which should have set off an alarm bell or two. When you’re tied into the Obama/Axelrod crowd, the chances of having a few skeletons hanging out in your closet rise exponentially. In 2006, Obama had this to say about Giannoulias:
“He’s one of the most outstanding young men that I could ever hope to meet. He’s somebody who cares deeply about people.”
When somebody tells you that an Illinois Democrat “cares deeply about people,” you are well-advised to check to make sure that you still have your wallet. Giannoulis is no exception. According to Crain’s Chicago Business, Giannoulis stands to make $10 million off his role as owner of Broadway Bank, even though that bank is almost certainly about to go under.
The president throws a hissy fit every time some Wall Street banker receives a bonus that the White House finds unseemly, even when the bank in question has long-since repaid taxpayers and is actually turning a profit. So do we hear similar howls of outrage when Giannoulis is poised to pocket a $10 million even as his bank slides down the dumper? The only sound to be heard from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW is that of crickets chirping.
Giannoulias was the senior lender at Broadway Bank from 2002 through 2006. Among the people that he approved for loans was one Michael “Jaws” Giorango, a fellow Giannoulias would describe as a “colorful character.” Giorango is colorful indeed, with a long police blotter that includes multiple convictions for bookmaking a running a prostitution ring.
Perhaps we can give Alexi the benefit of the doubt. He can’t be expected to check the criminal record of everyone he loans money to – some $11.8 million in the case of Jaws and his associates – right? Giannoulias said as much to the editorial board of the Chicago Tribune recently. However, if he figured that the Trib’s progressive sympathies would lead to journalistic memory failure, he was to be sorely disappointed. Tribune columnist John Kass picks up the story:
“With the Tribune’s editorial board, Giannoulias was asked how his relationship with Giorango developed, and at what point did he learn that Giorango, whom he described as a “colorful character,” had a criminal background. “I learned of it primarily when I was running for the office of state treasurer (in 2006),” Giannoulias said. “I mean, I don’t remember the exact date, whether it was during the primary or during the general. I think it was during the primary.” He was promptly reminded that on April 27, 2006, during his campaign for treasurer, he told Tribune reporters that he had discussed Giorango’s criminal past with him. The discussion took place as Giannoulias worked on millions of dollars’ worth of bank loans for Giorango. It was years before Giannoulias’ entry into politics.”
As always, it’s useful to employ the “Bush test” when considering the way the mainstream media has, or in this case mostly has not, covered a story. On its face, the tale of Alexi Giannoulias would seem to have all the makings of a spectacular, national scandal. Consider:
Friend of the president? Check.
Big businessman making huge personal profits while screwing the public? Check.
Questionable dealings with shady characters? Check.
Lying to the public? Check.
If the above described a buddy of a George W. Bush, is there any doubt that the mainstream media would be lathering at the mouth to take such a candidate down? The only thing that keeps the Giannoulias story from getting more press is the fact that he owes allegiance to the political party that the old media is convinced is saving the nation. Sure, they’ll happily look the other way. After all, Giannoulias is merely a greedy, incompetent liar who lends millions to criminals. It’s not like he’s a Republican for Christ’s sake. That would be more than the MSM could stand.
But, Illinois being Illinois, it probably doesn’t matter. Giannoulias has the support of the Chicago machine, so he’d probably have a better than even chance of getting elected even if the MSM was carrying this story every hour, on the hour. Clout matters, not integrity or performance. That’s the Chicago way.