Poor Rod Blagojevich. First, he gets pinched by the feds, and now – after he politely declined an offer to resign his governorship – Illinois legislators are beginning their own investigation into whether he should be impeached. Apparently, the legislature is trying to shake the impression that Illinois is to political corruption what Florida is to flamingoes.
Of course, defending Blagojevich is like defending rabies. However, while we all have a pretty good idea that he was trying to auction off Barack Obama’s U.S. Senate seat, he hasn’t yet been convicted of anything. But that hasn’t slowed the calls for his ouster from legislators looking for political cover. It’s gotten so bad, some Illinois legislators could improve their image by getting their picture taken with George Bush.
In fact, herein lies one of the true ironies of the whole Blagojevich scandal. It appears elected officials of all parties are falling over themselves demanding the Illinois governor be thrown out of his job before he’s convicted of anything, in order to disassociate themselves from him. It makes sense, given what the evidence shows to this point. (One wonders whether Democrats are going to demand that Blagojevich be spared prison time, as he is one of the “nonviolent” offenders of which they believe the prison system is overflowing.)
But while politicians are more than willing to fire colleagues that reflect poorly on them, they never extend that courtesy to private businesses. In Wisconsin, an employee cannot be fired, prevented from being hired, or otherwise have any action taken against them because of arrest or conviction record. So if Rod Blagojevich was working the drive-thru at Popeye’s Fried Chicken and charged with a felony, his coworkers would be stuck listening to his foul-mouthed tirades about f’ing biscuits and gravy in perpetuity.
In 2005, the University of Wisconsin System came under fire from legislators when it was discovered that the system employed 40 convicted felons. Most were unclassified positions, like janitors. Actually, this number seems fairly low for any organization that employs 32,000 people. Look in the cubicle next to you – chances are that little old lady next to you is either a felon or would beat you in the head with a rake if given the chance.
So what did the UW Board of Regents do as a response to this revelation? They passed a new rule saying that action could be taken against any employee that is merely charged with a felony. Forget due process – they’re a government entity and they have some face to save. Once passed, this rule completely disappeared into the ether, never to be discussed again – although it almost certainly contradicts Wisconsin’s fair employment law. But it’s state government – so they have special rights that those silly private businesses shouldn’t.
According to Wisconsin state law – passed by the Legislature, of course – felons are prohibited from serving in the state Senate or Assembly. Clearly, it is the one job that requires so much integrity that it shan’t even be held by someone convicted of a felony 20 year ago. Apparently, the Legislature was concerned that it would make them look worse if there were a felon in their midst. Yet while they forbid any of those dirty criminals from working in their place of business, they mandate that they have to work with you. Clearly, the integrity of your workplace isn’t as important as that of our elected officials. THEY HAVE A VERY HIGH PUBLIC IMAGE TO UPHOLD, YOU KNOW.
Just ask this guy.
-December 16, 2008