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Cellini Praised, But Mostly Buried

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Reaction from politicians, editorial pages and reformer to William Cellini’s conviction for soliciting a bribe from a Hollywood producer.

    Andy Shaw, executive director of the Better Government Association (via Twitter):

    Cellini verdict huge victory for good gov’t in Illinois.
    When you can get an inside dealer like Cellini in court, that send a very important message.
    Pat Fitzgerald proven once again he's fearless. Also critical to have people blowing the whistle.
    Fearless prosecutors & whistleblowers are essential to rooting out corruption.

    Chicago Sun-Times editorial:

    By bagging Bill Cellini, who was found guilty by a jury Tuesday on charges of public corruption, federal prosecutors may have struck their mightiest blow yet for clean government in Illinois.

    Other targets, like Blagojevich and former Gov. George Ryan, were far better known. But Cellini, a mystery man to the general public, was the undisputed master of insider dealing in Illinois government for almost three decades.

    With his conviction, the feds have done more than chop down a rotting tree; they have dug up deep and smelly roots.   

    Tuesday’s verdict reminds us once again of how powerfully important it is to have a strongly principled and apolitical U.S. attorney such as Patrick Fitzgerald running the show in Illinois. State and local prosecutors, creatures of local politics themselves, will never dare take on certain jobs.
    Tuesday’s verdict also sends the message, sadly still necessary, that crooked pols in Illinois and their cronies risk a real chance of getting nailed, even late in life.

    Springfield State Journal-Register editorial:
    You can slice and dice the legalese all you want, but one message came through loud and clear in Tuesday’s conviction of William Cellini: Times changed, Cellini didn’t.

    Cellini became one of the most influential figures in Illinois politics during a time — over the last four decades — when influence-trading and deal-making were tolerated, even encouraged, as long as they were conducted in a smooth, quiet and gentlemanly manner. Staying “above the fray,” as Cellini put it in one of the conversations recorded by federal authorities, made Cellini a millionaire many times over in road construction, real estate and riverboat gambling, not to mention one of the most powerful string-pullers in Illinois politics.

    As taped conversations between Cellini and Levine repeatedly made clear at trial, Cellini knew the price of access and was willing to pay it. He didn’t like the bare-knuckle tactics of Rezko & Co., and told Levine as much. He was agitated that they were practicing these methods on movie producer and investment firm owner Tom Rosenberg — a man not inclined to tolerate a shakedown.

    But his agitation seemed to stem strictly from fear of drawing attention and getting caught, not from a sense that requiring a $1.5 million campaign donation in exchange for getting TRS investment business was wrong.
      
    Former Gov. Jim Edgar:

    “Bill has been a good friend for years. I’m very disappointed and feel bad for him,” Edgar told the Chicago Sun-Times. “I didn’t sit through the trial. I just know my dealings with Bill. He always acted very properly. I’m surprised at this point … I told him one time, no good deed goes unpunished. Rosenberg called him to help, he got in the middle and got blamed for it, and that’s unfortunate. The thing I was a little surprised on was that this was the one thing the Rezko jury acquitted Rezko on.”

    David Morrison, deputy director of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform:
        “Whether this conviction is the tipping point that makes everybody follow the rules, I can't say. ... There is a lot of fodder for cynics.”