William "the Pope" Cellini has amassed a large fortune by standing this/close to those in power. Even though his influence has been great, he never wanted to put himself into the public spotlight. I mean what the hell, what better way to avoid undue publicity? And as a result, William Cellini has been able to manipulate every Illinois Governor from Richard Ogilvie to the disgraced Rod Blagojevich. Naturally the movers and shakers familiar with William Cellini would probably view him as a sharp cookie and others, like me, simply view him as a Scheister. His manipulations have cost the taxpayers of Illinois plenty, and given that he has been described as a gazillionaire - and that is saying an awful lot. Cellini must now answer to charges for uncharacteristically coming out from behind the curtains to try and extract a bribe for the disgraced former Governor Rod Blagojevich in exchange for landing the lucrative Teacher's Retirement System (TRS) fund management business.
The funny thing is, though, he wasn't your typical Machine Politician. At least not a Chicago Machine Politician. After all he wasn't even a Democrat or from Chicago. But as a powerful Republican who knew that you just couldn't overcome the Chicago Democratic Party and its' power base he was also savvy enough to accept the old adage that if you can't beat 'em you may as well join 'em. And Voila' - Illinois has a Political Combine!
Naturally we shouldn't be so smug as to ever believe that the State of Illinois has ever had a traditional two-party political system either. The power that Chicago and it's collar counties exert on the politics of this state are great. The Metro Area, after all, was an industrial mecca since the turn of the century. Union Labor soon became strong enough to dictate what they wanted from government and in turn politicians established a cozy relationship. Of course that also translated into the area becoming the staunchly Democratic stronghold it has.
The Democrats have always been viewed as the champion of the worker and so long as people were gainfully employed - it was very easy for sleazy politicians to take their cut from the top and still convince the populace that their approach to government ensured their well-being. People bought their lines hook, line and sinker. Even going so far as accepting the normalcy of the graft as a cost of doing business. I mean everyone was working and you had to give some to get some. right? Unfortunately, politicians and their cronies took more and more while expanding the number of participants who would have to be subsidized, short and long-term, by the taxpayers of Illinois.
People like William Cellini learned how to pull the strings like a puppet-master when it came to getting state business. And let's not forget that he also stuck it to taxpayers with a very bad hotel deal in Springfield. Most people probably don't remember how Cellini and his investers forced the taxpayers into bailing out a very shady hotel deal, but trust me, the taxpayer were stiffed royally. However egregious that incident was, though, Cellini somehow continued to get more and more state business.
In addition to being the Pope - Cellini has also earned the name the Asphalt King of Illinois. That business alone has generated billions for the Asphalt Industry in recurrent business to repair, resurface and rebuild Illinois roadways. While many other states have refined how their roads are built, Illinois has continued to employ a technology that has a built-in failure rate. Sooner or later (and mostly sooner for some reason), those roads would need to be redone. Kinda makes you think what they were putting into that asphalt huh? But the bottom line is that our roads weren't being built to last.
Still, it kept the few, fortunate and very connected contractors and their union workers employed. And that was whether it was in good times or bad. Let's face it, the people in Illinois don't like decaying roads, you know? Now why the lawmakers kept handing out those contracts instead of looking at what other places were doing can only be described as malfeasance on their part. Seems to me that any lawmaker with a logical mind would question the enormous expenditures and demand that our roads be built to last using newer techniques and materials - but then again, this is Illinois.
Spreading the money around to a select few is just how its done around here. As for William Cellini facing charges that he attempted to extract a payoff in return for landing the Teachers Retirement System management contract, well that to me is just the tip of the iceberg with this man. Maybe it is even a bit ironic that he would put himself into a position to blunder so badly along with Stuart Levine, Joseph Cari, Steven Loren and Tony Rezko in order to get a hefty campaign donation kickback for former Governor Rod Blagojevich. Oh well, the Indictment speaks for itself and all the others have been convicted.
Hopefully the jury will show Cellini the same courtesy.
After all, what goes around comes around, you know?