The Chicago Syndicate: Richard Daley
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Showing posts with label Richard Daley. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Richard Daley. Show all posts

Sunday, September 28, 2003

Duff Indictments a Story You Can Sink Teeth Into

When the friends of the mayor of Chicago--friends from a family with connections to the Chicago Outfit--are about to be indicted by a federal grand jury in a $100 million affirmative-action contract fraud scheme, word gets around fast.

So last week, word about the Duffs fanned out from City Hall. But there were a couple hours to kill before U.S. Atty. Patrick Fitzgerald's Thursday news conference about the Duff financial empire. It was time for lunch; I was hungry and wanted to think this through. There was only one place to go. "You've just got to go to Gene's," said a friend and colleague. She meant my favorite steakhouse, and the Duffs' favorite steakhouse, Gene & Georgetti's.

Gene's is a hangout where information is traded, among politicians, insiders, reporters, wise-guys, salesmen, consultants, from the buttoned down to the gold chains crowd. And what makes it work is that they serve the Best Steak in the City, period. The service is impeccable without being showy and the drinks are honest. Gene's is a part of the old Chicago, the city as it was before so much of the downtown was turned into a theme park.

It's also the place where the Duffs came up to me about a year ago, their tough, hard eyes smiling. They asked me why they don't ever see my children playing in the front yard of my home in the suburbs. They asked it twice. But the columns didn't stop and neither did the news stories by the investigative reporters, or Tribune editorials about the mayor's friends. And here's why: This is not about getting personal with the mayor or the Duffs. Though the mayor has been a frequent target in my column, what drives the criticism is the obscene amounts of taxpayer dollars that go to his pals. In deal after deal after deal, the attitude is that his guys can take what they want and the people in the neighborhoods better shut up about it, while higher taxes put more and more pressure on families to pay for the deals.

It's not personal, it's business, and it's your money.

Mayor Richard Daley is an able politician and has done some good things, including taking personal responsibility for trying to improve the public schools. But he must also take personal responsibility for his friends who get rich on government contracts he controls, paid for by our tax dollars.

The Duff stories broke in 1999, when Tribune investigative reporters Ray Gibson, Andrew Martin and Laurie Cohen wrote about the Duffs' City Hall deals and their connections to Daley and the Outfit. You can find the archive of the stories available on the Tribune's Web site.

Much of what was alleged in the indictments was laid out in those stories: that the Duffs, who are white, ran phony front companies that got $100 million in city contracts that should have gone to firms owned by women or minorities.

Daley knew the Duffs were not minorities, even when he was a crime-fighting Cook County state's attorney. A Duff sits across from you, gives you campaign cash, pours a drink, it's reasonable to assume that even the mayor could tell whether the person was white or not.

Think back to how the media treated the late Mayor Harold Washington, when Washington's buddies were involved in contract scandals. Back then, even minor stories about corruption got sustained media attention, particularly from TV and radio, even if the dollar amounts were only chump change. Washington faced constant media pressure on corruption issues. TV crawled all over him for years.

"If I was white, you wouldn't be doing this to me," Washington said once, in a private moment, as he filched a smoke from me and we stood in a parking lot after a campaign stop. We argued about it, and I told him that since we were off the record, he didn't have to play the race card. "You don't know anything, do you?" he said. He was right. I was a kid, then. I didn't know. But when the Duff stories first broke, involving a white mayor and white guys getting rich, the Chicago media scrutiny wasn't as intense. TV news didn't hound Daley the way it hounded Washington. The mayor must appreciate the kindness.

I'm sure he also appreciates the new federal prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald. The feds have already outflanked former Govenor George Ryan's Republicans. Ryan himself is a target. And now the feds are moving toward Daley's Democratic City Hall.

The Daley-Duff relationship is not just a Tribune story anymore. A group of citizens--sworn as federal grand jurors--looked at the evidence. They didn't find a flaw in the system, as the city claims. They found a crime.

A couple friends and I talked of this at Gene's, about the change in things, about the importance of an independent federal prosecutor, about how the bipartisan political clique that runs this state tried to stop Fitzgerald's appointment in hopes of installing one of their own.

Just then, the cell phones began chirping and word of the Duff indictments began to spread through the bar.

We had our steaks medium rare. And they were tasty.

Thanks to John Kass

Friday, September 26, 2003

Daley anti-crime message doesn't apply to Duffs

A few hours after his good pals, the Duffs, were indicted by a federal grand jury for defrauding city taxpayers out of more than $100 million--Mayor Richard Daley made like a comedian. He asked Chicago to stand with him to fight crime. Then he said the Duffs were hard-working guys. Excuse me for not laughing, but a joke that involved a $100 million contract--even as your property taxes skyrocket--isn't all that funny, is it?

Daley was on the Northwest Side, asking Latinos, African-Americans and others to bravely face down street thugs. All that was missing was a caped-crusader costume or a tiny and sarcastic court jester at his side. When the mayor talked about criminals, he wasn't talking about the Duff clan. They're pink and suburban and close to him, part of his clique, and some Duffs are friends of Chicago Outfit bosses.

"That's why you're here holding your child on your shoulders!" Daley shouted to the crowd Thursday night, which was ready to commence with an anti-crime march. "We're here to protect all the children! That's why [criminals] are enemies!"

It was an amazing display. At least it proves what he thinks of taxpayers. They're the suckers who get squeezed to fill the public troughs from which his friends eat.

Daley wouldn't hang out with drug dealers, obviously. But he'd show up at the Duff Christmas parties at the Como Inn, legendary affairs, glad-handing and back-slapping, letting political Chicago know the Duffs were his guys.

The parties were Daley declarations, that the Duffs were Daley's, so watch it. And everybody who's anybody got the message. But out in the neighborhood Thursday, he wasn't referring to the alleged Duff criminal masterminds. Instead, he was referring to neighborhood lowlifes, guys who take your money with a gun, not a deal.

What was also amazing was that the crowd at the anti-crime rally was largely minority.

Only a few hours before, the Duffs were indicted for ripping off minorities and women, by running phony minority businesses that got $100 million in city contracts, though the Duff men are not blacks or Latinos or women.

They're pinkish tough guys, with Daley clout, from a family that brags about ties to the Outfit bosses, including the late Anthony Accardo, and the imprisoned (but still vigorous behind bars) Rocco Infelice.

"I know a lot of people," Daley told reporters. "And they have to be on their merits. And that's what it is."

He was asked: Is it disconcerting to you that your friends and political supporters were indicted? "It happens, unfortunately, it does," he said.

The mayor did brag, though, once the Duff scandal became public--he forgot to mention that Tribune investigative reporters and editors made it public--that his administration denied minority contract certification to 880 companies.

A Tribune reporter asked: How many of those denied were political contributors?

"Geez, I don't know."

How many were your friends?

"Gee, I don't know. I don't really know. Doesn't matter if they're friends or not."


Daley made news, although some might miss it, by admitting Thursday that he knows the Duffs. When the Tribune first broke the Duff investigation in 1999, he didn't know them. "Oh, I know them. Sure," he said Thursday. "You know that. They're hard-working people. This is an unfortunate incident."

What about their ties to organized crime? "Geez. I don't know about that," said the crime-fighting mayor of Chicago.

Earlier, City Corporation Counsel Mara Georges said she was not surprised by the indictments, which is natural, since there were federal subpoenas issued first. And she had trouble explaining why the Daley administration couldn't find the fraud--she actually defended Daley's "investigation" of the Duffs--which found that, geez, pink guys got minority contracts.

"We took aggressive and affirmative action against them," said Georges, perhaps unaware of the pun.

She also explained why her investigation of the Duffs didn't find any fraud. "We do not have subpoena powers," she said.

Geez, Mara.

Tribune investigative reporters Andrew Martin, Laurie Cohen and Ray Gibson don't have subpoena powers. The editors don't have subpoena powers. But they figured out that the Duffs aren't minorities.

Now, finally, a federal grand jury has figured it out. And it only cost you $100 million to make Daley's friends happy.

That's funny. Like a clown.

Thanks to John Kass

Sunday, February 11, 1990

Courtroom Tapes of Mob Boss Claim Cook County Undersherriff Accepted Payoffs to Protect Chicago Outfit

Three years after Cook County Republicans were giddily riding an unprecedented wave of popularity and political opportunity generated by President Ronald Reagan and an ex-cop named James O`Grady, the whole movement has spectacularly collapsed.

The Cook County sheriff, once the toast of the White House, a popular politician who happily fended off talk of a future in the mayor`s office or the governor`s mansion, faces the growing likelihood that his political career might be near an end.

The latest and most significant blow came on Friday when federal prosecutors in a court hearing played a tape of a reputed Chicago mob leader`s allegations that O`Grady`s former undersheriff, James Dvorak, chairman of the Cook County GOP, was taking payoffs to protect organized crime activities from the law.

The allegations are the unsubstantiated talk of a crime syndicate figure, and political leaders quickly rallied in support of O`Grady. But they hit him at a time that his political star has already been tarnished by previous incidents that raised questions about corruption in his office and political meddling by Dvorak.

Republican leaders, including Gov. James Thompson and Secretary of State Jim Edgar, remained publicly loyal to O`Grady. They suggested that the allegations by reputed gambling boss Ernest Rocco Infelice weren`t true, but should be investigated.

Sources close to O`Grady said that the allegations haven`t shaken the sheriff`s resolve to seek re-election. O`Grady huddled with advisers Friday afternoon-Dvorak was noticeably absent-and the subject of stepping down reportedly never was broached. But O`Grady allies anticipate that the allegations might force the sheriff to finally cut his ties to Dvorak, a longtime friend and business partner. They anticipate that Dvorak, who resigned only recently as undersheriff, would have to step down as party chairman, at least while an investigation of the matter is pending.

Even at that, some of O`Grady`s friends despaired that the unconfirmed allegations have killed his political fortunes. ''This is the final nail in the coffin,'' one O`Grady loyalist said.

As recently as six months ago, O`Grady was still the brightest light in local GOP politics. Although his political apparatus, led by Dvorak, had suffered a string of campaign losses after O`Grady`s election in 1986, he was still considered a strong favorite to win a second term. But O`Grady has spent the last few months fending off charges of corruption and political interference in his office that many local Republicans say have undermined his popularity. For O`Grady, the deluge seemed to be over, and the time to start repairing the damage had arrived. Then came Rocco Infelice.

The recording of Infelice`s remarks was played by government prosecutors as they sought to convince a federal magistrate that their racketeering case against him and four others is so strong that they should not be freed on bond.

The five co-defendants are among 20 people who were indicted Wednesday on charges they used murder, extortion and bribery to build bookmaking and casino-style gambling operations in the Chicago area.

In the tape, Infelice told William Jahoda, a bookmaker working as a federal informant, that his organization paid $35,000-a-month to law enforcement officials and imprisoned mobsters.

''Between you and I, 10 goes to the sheriff,'' Infelice told Jahoda.

''Yeah, with the Bohemian?'' Jahoda replied, in what a federal agent testified was a reference to Dvorak.

''Yeah,'' Infelice responded, ''five goes to another guy.''

Later in the discussion, Jahoda said, ''I got no right to ask you the question, what . . . do you get for 10 thousand a month.''

Infelice replied: ''Sheriff never bothers us, then we got a guy at the state`s attorney`s office. We got another guy downtown.''

Later on the tape, Infelice suggested that Chicago Police Supt. LeRoy Martin would consider transferring officers out of the vice crimes unit at his request and that organized crime figures aided the mayoral campaign of Richard M. Daley by scuttling former Ald. Edward R. Vrdolyak`s mayoral campaign in 1989.

O`Grady, Daley, Dvorak and Martin each flatly denied that Infelice had any influence in their agencies. O`Grady called on Chief Judge Harry Comerford to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the charges. ''I am troubled and incensed by the allegations spread so broadly from the mayor`s office to the office of the superintendent of police and from the sheriff of Cook County to the state`s attorney of Cook County and all the way over to the federal building,'' O`Grady said. ''I take these allegations seriously because they definitely undermine the confidence of the people of this county and the confidence they should have and expect in their government officials.''

Dvorak, at a separate press conference, said: ''I have made countless arrests of major gambling operations, major call girl operations and prostitution and obscene matter investigations. There has never been a hint of impropriety in my 25-year work record as a Chicago police officer or as undersheriff.''

Gov. James Thompson, who launched his political career by investigating official corruption as U.S. attorney, also called for an investigation. ''To rock my faith in O`Grady`s office, it would have to also rock my faith in LeRoy Martin and Rich Daley, and I certainly don`t believe that about the three of them,'' Thompson said.

There has long been speculation about how pervasive the influence of organized crime is in the Democratic organization that has long ruled Chicago politics. Mayor Richard J. Daley, the present mayor`s father, once told reporters that his own telephones were tapped, although he suggested the eavesdroppers would only hear his conversations with his children and grandchildren.

And talk of the mob`s demise has surfaced almost routinely. It`s been nearly 20 years since Justice Department officials claimed that the mob had been nearly snuffed out in Chicago. And Richard J. Daley, as well, claimed the mob was dead, at least within the city limits. ''It isn`t here anymore,'' he said in 1976. ''It`s all out in the suburbs.''

Of course, it wasn`t gone from the city, and, in recent years, organized crime has publicly surfaced in political waters like the tell-tale fin of a predator.

The 1987 campaign for mayor was rocked by allegations that Vrdolyak had met with the late mob chief Joseph Ferriola, a charge that brought an angry denunciation from Vrdolyak.

In the tapes revealed Friday, Infelice says that Vrdolyak had ''good taste'' in his 1987 campaign, but when he ran again in 1989, Infelice boasted, the mob shut down his political fortunes by forcing a major contributor to abandon him.

For weeks, attention has been drawn to a federal investigation of corruption that has focused on several Democratic political figures, including Ald. Fred Roti (1st).

Ironically, after years of Democratic domination of Chicago politics-and corruption investigations spurred by Republican-appointed prosecutors-the most sensational charges are now leveled at two Republicans.

Although the Infelice tape also raises the names of Mayor Daley and Martin, suggesting that crime figures boosted Daley`s election chances and had a conduit to Martin, neither has been in the position of having to fend off such allegations in the past, as O`Grady has.

The immediate reaction from O`Grady`s political adversaries within his own party was that, at the least, Dvorak would have to resign. Some believe O`Grady, too, won`t survive until the November general election.

''The talk in the party right now is we need a couple of replacements,'' said Donald Totten, the former county GOP chairman who was ousted by Dvorak.

''The decision on a chairman is probably going to have to come from Jim Edgar.''

Edgar, a Republican candidate for governor, said through a spokesman that the allegations should ''be thoroughly investigated and resolved quickly, because there is nothing more important for a public official or party leader than to maintain their integrity and the public trust.''

Although O`Grady`s adversaries might consider pressing for him to step aside, the political reality is that the party almost certainly couldn`t elect anybody else as Cook County sheriff. O`Grady was the first Republican to win a countywide office in a decade, and he narrowly won in 1986 largely because Democratic Sheriff Richard Elrod was dogged by repeated instances of corruption in his department.

But several allies of O`Grady noted that his consultations with top aides Friday afternoon did not include Dvorak, and some speculated that the sheriff wants to put even more distance between himself and the party chairman, who has been the focus of charges that he has heavily politicized the sheriff`s office.

Republican leaders quickly floated three possible replacements for Dvorak as party chairman: Totten, 42nd Ward Committeeman Ron Gidwitz, and Northfield Township Committeeman Richard Siebel. But after the weeks of political battering that O`Grady and county Republicans have taken, culminating with the Infelice tapes, it`s not clear that anyone will be clamoring for the job.

Thanks to R. Bruce Dold.


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