Monday, August 18, 2008

Obama's Mentor Steps Down

Illinois Senate President Pro Tempore Emil Jones, Jr, fellow South Sider and mentor of Sen. Barack Obama, surprised politicos in Illinois by his sudden decision to step down from his position despite being on the November ballot for re-election. True to tradition, Jones announced that his son, Emil Jones, III, would take his place on the ballot and succeed him in the Senate. Jones, whose career began as a machine hack working in the city's sewers, recently got his son a $60,000 state job despite the young Jones lack of a college degree.

Is Jones stepping down to make way for his son? Or could the feds be hot on his trail? The Sun-Times has reported over the past year about how he steered $700,000 in state contracts to a firm owned by his step-son and fought utility rate decreases for ComEd, which also awarded contracts to his step-son's business. Jones' wife got a $70,000 pay raise at her state job. Jones loaned himself more than $100,000 from his campaign account free of interest. Jones is a close ally of Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who is also a target of a government corruption case brought by the federal government. That investigation has already led to multiple convictions for Tony Rezko, a close political supporter of Blagojevich, Obama and Jones.

According to the Sun-Times, Jones could soon begin drawing a pension of more than $80,000, which will jump to nearly $120,000 after a year under a grandfather provision of Illinois' pension code. He could also pocket more than $577,000 in campaign funds. I suspect he'll need every dollar of that amount and more for a good criminal defense lawyer. You can bet Patrick Fitzgerald is hot on this guy's tail. And what has Jones spent his last year in office trying to accomplish? A pay raise for state lawmakers, of course. Jones was miffed that he couldn't get enough of his colleagues to go along with the raise despite the dire financial crisis the state is facing.

Sen. Barack Obama had these kind words for the man who help make him in Illinois politics: "Senator Jones has been a passionate advocate who has fought for working families and the underprivileged for more than three decades, and Senator Obama is confident he will continue to serve the people of Illinois in retirement.” If Obama is elected president, Jones has quipped that he wants to be ambassador to Ireland. Let's hope the only people he serves is his fellow inmates at a federal correctional institution where he belongs.

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