A story about one of my favorite corruption fighters by one of my favorite journalists, a very good woman who has gone up against some of the most inane and some of the most insane during her career. The same story could have been written about her…
But forces of evil on federal level trying to thwart corruption foes
BY CAROL MARIN
It was so strange. My destination Thursday night was a dinner at the corner of Michigan and Monroe at the stately University Club of Chicago when, suddenly, I found myself hurtling through a magic portal into Harry Potter’s Hogwarts. Only Harry had been transformed into U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald.
It took me a while to get my bearings.
The event was the annual dinner of the Better Government Association, that venerable civic watchdog group formed in the days of Al Capone. For more than eight decades, the BGA, with a small budget and tiny staff, has wielded a mighty sword against the corruption and cronyism that still corrodes all levels of government in Illinois…And before us was Harry — Fitzgerald, rather — providing one of the best civic rallying cries I’d heard in a long time on what already was a portentous day.
Thursday, you’ll recall, was when former Gov. George Ryan got the news. The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, in a 6-3 decision, denied his petition for a rehearing on his federal corruption case. Minus the sorcery of the U.S. Supreme Court, Ryan, already an old man, will be in a prison camp in Duluth, Minn., before Thanksgiving.
“We basically ruin people’s lives,” said Fitzgerald matter-of-factly, referring not just to the Ryan prosecution but to all the governors, aldermen and judges who’ve been bought off and brought down before him.
The night was meant to properly honor the hard work and dedication of the U.S. attorney’s office under Fitzgerald, the Chicago FBI under the leadership of Robert Grant, as well as the investigative work of the Chicago Sun-Times by star reporter Tim Novak.
But as Fitzgerald spoke with passion and pride about the “ethic of the office,” of the sacrifice and service rendered by agents, prosecutors, paralegals and the press, it was impossible to drown out the sound of the fierce winds howling outside Hogwarts.
That’s because the current stories of the Justice Department for which Fitzgerald and Grant both work and the Sun-Times, where Novak and I are employed, are fraught with as much irony and allegory as anything author J.K. Rowling could ever commit to paper.
For months now, the evidence has been mounting that the former boss of Justice, the recently resigned Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, was more than willing to help the White House pervert the mission of his federal prosecutors, to pursue purely political witch hunts. It was reported that Chicago’s own Harry Potter, Patrick Fitzgerald, was once a candidate for Gonzalez’s chopping block.
Meanwhile, in September, a federal judge in New York ordered the FBI to stop abusing the Patriot Act and cease its warrantless wiretaps. They were, he said, the “the legislative equivalent of breaking and entering . . . the hijacking of constitutional values.”
And today, we at the Sun-Times continue to reel from the damage done by our own corrupt, federally convicted bosses, Conrad Black and David Radler, who robbed the paper and worse, just about took a wrecking ball to its reputation.
“Corruption,” said Fitzgerald, “is also the responsibility of people who decide not to know.”…There was a lot to celebrate Thursday. Great corruption fighting work by fine people firmly believing, in Fitzgerald’s words, that “honest government is not a dream but a fundamental right. Without it,” he added, “we should scream bloody murder…”