Caught making an apparent clout request during a media event, Illinois Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka has learned a valuable lesson: Always think before you speak, especially when your mic's still hot.
Video emerged last week showing Topinka, a Republican and former State Treasurer, whispering something about her son's "qualifications" into the ear of Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn as the two staged a July 7 event for tornado relief.
in the clip below, via the Sun-Times, Topinka can be heard telling Quinn " ... get my son to SIU? He loves to teach." To which he responded: "Oh, really?" Topinka replied: "Yeah. And he's got the qualifications too."
Democratic Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon -- angling to unseat Topinka in November's comptroller election -- swiftly pounced on the public gaffe, implying that Topinka was pushing Quinn to get her son a job at Southern Illlinois University.
"Only someone who has been a politician in Springfield for 30 years would show up at a bill signing to benefit the victims of tornado damage and ask for a job for a family member," sniped a Simon spokesman. "The Office of Comptroller cannot be entrusted to a person who treats taxpayer-funded jobs like bargaining chips."
Simon, daughter of former U.S. Sen. Paul Simon, followed up on that statement with an anti-Topinka Facebook advertisement posing the question: "So did Illinois Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka really appear with Gov. Pat Quinn at a bill signing then ask the governor to help her son get a job?"
Allow Topinka to explain, via her representative: "The comptroller recalls mentioning that her son just completed 20 years of service in the military, that he has multiple degrees, including his J.D., and is interested in returning to Illinois, preferably southern Illinois. It was no different than a million other conversations she’s had about her son in the last few months. Like any mom and grandma, she would like to have her family closer to home."
Let's assume she'll never make that mistake again -- at least not while wearing a live microphone! As for Simon, it's somewhat baffling that she would knock Topinka for an alleged clout-related offense given her status as the offspring of a respected Illinois senator. That connection certainly helped Simon advance in Springfield politics but it remains to be seen whether her name will be enough to fell Topinka at the ballot box Nov. 4.