Tim Johnson Watch

Representative Tim Johnson was elected to represent the residents of Illinois' 15th Congressional District in Central Illinois. His constituents should know what he's doing.

Location: 15th Congressional District, Illinois, United States

A concerned citizen of Central Illinois.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Tim Johnson Puts Our Safety in Crony's Hands

Despite the Harriet Miers and Michael Brown fiascos, Tim Johnson seems not have gotten the memo -- citizens want competence, not cronyism.

Instead, in an act of blatant cronyism, Johnson is pushing retiring state Senator Rick Winkel for U.S. Attorney for the Central District of Illinois, the top federal law enforcement position in Central Illinois. While TJW has no opinion concerning Winkel's legal acumen in his area of expertise -- civil litigation -- by his own admission (see print edition of News-Gazette, 11/9/05 at A-10), Winkel has absolutely no experience as a prosecutor, or even a defense attorney. In other words, Johnson wants to put our safety in the hands of a complete novice because he is Johnson's political ally.

This is not a partisan issue. The current U.S. Attorney for this district, Jan Paul Miller, was appointed by George Bush and was a man of unassailable qualifications, including graduating cum laude from Harvard Law School, thirteen years' prior experience as a federal prosecutor, and a host of achievements in criminal law. Patrick Fitzgerald, the Bush-appointed U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, also graduated from Harvard Law and had thirteen years' prior experience as a federal prosecutor, including prosecuting members of al Qaeda and the terrorists behind the 1993 World Trade Center Bombing. Ronald Tenpas, the Bush-appointed U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Illinois, had six years' prior experience as a federal prosecutor, was the editor-in-chief of the Virginia Law Review, a Rhodes Scholar, and a former clerk for Chief Justice William Rehnquist.

Rick Winkel in laughably unqualified in comparison to Miller, Fitzgerald, and Tenpas. Illinois' current Republican-appointed U.S. Attorneys had prior achievements that placed them among the elite attorneys of their generation and that gave them enormous law enforcement expertise. Winkel, in contrast, has had a perfectly respectable legal career, but hardly one that qualifies him for a job of this importance.

Beyond Winkel's manifest lack of qualifications, his close ties to indicted former Governor George Ryan make him particularly unsuitable to law enforcement. According to the News-Gazette, Winkel took $24,500 from Citizens for Ryan -- which was convicted in March 2003 under federal racketeering laws -- almost twice the amount taken by any other state legislator. While Winkel eventually disgorged the money, he did so reluctantly and slowly: Again the News-Gazette: "While many of those lawmakers returned donations from Citizens for Ryan when the fund started to get into legal trouble, Winkel resisted political pressure to follow suit", waiting almost two years after Citizens for Ryan's conviction. To make matters worse, Winkel appears four times on the secret favors list maintained by Ryan's Chief of Staff Scott Fawell. (See here for discussion of Johnson's own starring role in Fawell's favors list.)

Even if Mr. Johnson genuinely believes Winkel has been a great state legislator, how can he believe Winkel is the best person to protect the citizens of Central Illinois from racketeering, terrorism, and narcotics?

Related Stories: UIUC College Dems review the Winkel appointment and conclude the "whole situation reaks of shady dealing". Champaign-American asks, "are you kidding me?" Ol' Guy thinks it smells.


Blogger Champaign American said...

It is absolutely a moronic decision if it goes through and get approved. I know I won't sleep any better at night.

12:55 PM  

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