As our appointed senator Roland Burris went through a second day fumbling through questions aimed at clarifying his contacts with Rod Blagojevich’s office prior to his appointment, IL-5 contender, State Rep. John Fritchey might soon find himself under pressure to explain why he appeared to provide cover for Burris during his testimony before an Illinois General Assembly Committee.
Fritchey has made his rabid opposition to Rod Blagojevich central to his IL-5 campaign. For Fritchey, this strategy makes sense because a) everyone despised Blagojevich and
Fritchey wants voters to believe he was instrumental in removing him; b) it is an essential part of Fritchey’s argument to voters that he is the “good government” candidate among the crowded field of Democrats.
Fritchey is also trying to quiet allegations that he is the “Chicago Machine” candidate, given his connections to Blagojevich’s father-in-law, Dick Mel and the storied reputation of his own father-in-law, Ald. Banks. Fritchey, in fact, rose out of the exact same political machine as Rod Blagojevich – that’s tough to explain, but until now, it seemed like Fritchey was making a good case that he was a reformer.
As the national embarrassment of the Burris spectacle continues, Fritchey is standing at an odd place, threatening his IL-5 candidacy. Steve Rhodes at the Beachwood Reporter clarified a Chicago Sun-Times article today that stated:
A certain Chicago Democrat who would like to be a congressman and was a leader in the effort to impeach Blagojevich made it plain that day he didn’t want the impeachment panel investigating Burris, raising numerous objections to the Republican line of questioning.
Rhodes pointed out that the “Chicago Democrat” is John Fritchey.
Now, go back and check out the proceedings from the impeachment hearings and you’ll see this exchange:
REPRESENTATIVE DURKIN: I disagree. I think that it is highly relevant.
You’re speaking to the committee, but you’re also speaking to the
state of Illinois. I think it’s important to know what his response
would have been if he was aware of a quid pro quo with the Governor
and also for the appointment.
CHAIRWOMAN CURRIE: Representative Fritchey.
REPRESENTATIVE FRITCHEY: Madam Chairman, if I may, Mr. Burris had
already stated that he was not aware of any quid pro quo, which
answers that question and puts it to rest. What his response would
have been had there been something, which he stated did not occur, is
clearly irrelevant to this, and according to Mr. Burris, to speculate
on something that would have happened if another situation had
happened which he clearly says has not. Representative Durkin, I’m not
trying to stifle you whatsoever, and I understand the generalities
where you’re trying to go. But again, I think that we’re outside the
realm here of what’s germane to this hearing.
REPRESENTATIVE DURKIN: I think it’s germane, and I think in the
conduct of this committee over the past month that we’ve been given
significant leeway to try to find responses to individuals who are
sworn in before this committee, and I think that it’s a reasonable
request to ask what would have been Mr. Burris’s response if he was
aware of a quid pro quo for the United States Senate seat.
REPRESENTATIVE FRITCHEY: But the leeway has been with response to
representatives on behalf of the Governor and the Governor’s
administration, not with respect to third parties who have clearly
stated that they’ve had no involvement with those actions.
This transcript reveals John Fritchey not so much as the reformer but more as lacking responsibility. While Fritchey took on Blagojevich with the passion of a zealot, he was obviously not interested in hearing Roland Burris answer tough questions about his relationship with the former governor.
Fritchey clearly tried to cut off the line questioning towards Roland Burris which, if allowed to continue, may have forced the Senator to disclose contacts with Blagojevich’s brother. Now that Burris is caught in an apparent lie, all eyes fall on Fritchey.
One would hope that Fritchey must be seeing the Burris saga and feel somewhat responsible or ashamed that he helped enable Burris’ dishonorable appointment through his lack of thorough questioning that his Republican colleagues were seeking to administer.
If Fritchey’s performance during Burris’ hearing comes under scrutiny, the congressional candidate could find himself at the center of what will be a nasty political storm.