Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Specter shift puts Dems near filibuster-proof mark

WASHINGTON – Veteran Republican Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania switched parties Tuesday with a suddenness that seemed to stun the Senate, a moderate's defection that pushed Democrats to within a vote of the 60 needed to overcome filibusters and enact President Barack Obama's top legislative priorities.
Specter, 79 and seeking a sixth term in 2010, conceded bluntly that his chances of winning a Pennsylvania Republican primary next year were bleak in a party grown increasingly conservative. But he cast his decision as one of principle, rather than fueled by political ambition as spurned GOP leaders alleged.
"I have found myself increasingly at odds with the Republican philosophy and more in line with the philosophy of the Democratic Party," he said at a news conference. He added, "I am not prepared to have my 29 year record in the United States Senate decided by the Pennsylvania Republican primary electorate."

Newest Democrat

Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter and his wife Joan walk through the corridors of the Capitol to a Senate Appropriations Committee emergency meeting in Washington. Specter announced that he was becoming a Democrat, boosting President Barack Obama's ability to drive his audacious agenda through Congress.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Dear Friends,
Over the past few weeks I've lunched with students at SIU-Carbondale, paraded on St. Patrick's Day in downtown Chicago, and spoke with labor friends in Springfield. I've encouraged groups of excited Democrats in Winnebago, McHenry, Monroe, Kankakee, Logan and Douglas counties to continue their awe-inspiring work. I've met business leaders, doctors, lawyers, and teachers from across the state to understand what it is that troubles them most and what can be done to help.Last week alone I spoke to the Illinois Democratic Women Convention in Springfield, met with elected officials in Taylorville, and hosted a conference in Decatur. On Friday, I attended the 113th general meeting of the Southern Illinois Editorial Association in Makanda to discuss transparency in government and the media's role as a watchdog. "Judging from the reaction of the crowd, state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias was preaching to the choir as he called for more transparency in government," stated the Southern Illinoisan. As I've said many times before, communication is the most vital component of public service. Please feel free to contact my office at info@alexiforillinois.com with any questions, concerns, comments, or invitations. Thank you again for all of your support.

Sunday, April 26, 2009


For Immediate Release Contact: Amaya Smith 202-637-5018
AFL-CIO’s 2009 Executive PayWatch Highlights 10 of the Worst CEO Pay PracticesPopular Website Includes Latest CEO Pay Data;
Bailout Bonuses www.paywatch.org
(Washington, April 14)- Retention bonuses. Golden coffins. Turbo-charged pension plans. Hefty severance packages. Lavish “executivephysicals.” These are some of the outrageous CEO pay practices highlighted in the AFL-CIO’s 2009 Executive PayWatch website launched today at www.paywatch.org ( http://www.paywatch.org/ ). Despite the worst economic slump in decades, companies continue to heap millions of dollars in pay, bonuses and perquisites on CEO for poor performance, according to the latest data for 2008. The 2009 PayWatch site highlights 10 of these worst CEO pay practices through case studies and includes a comprehensive database of new CEO pay figures.“Americans are rightly angered by CEOs who haven’t learned their lesson,” said AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Richard Trumka. “After driving the economy into the ground and gambling with the nation’s retirement savings, these same corporations are giving out huge bonuses for bad behavior.” The 2009 PayWatch includes a new section on pay practices at companies which received taxpayer assistance under the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). The new PayWatch also includes companies which are actively lobbying against workers’ ability to form unions and bargain collectively for fair pay and benefits.
Corporations and pay practices featured in the 2009 Executive PayWatch are:‘Super-Sized’ Stock Options: SunTrust (STI) received $4.9 billion from the TARP bailout fund and wants shareholders to approve a mega-grant of $7.7 million in stock options for James Wells, its chairman and chief executive officer, even as investors have lost billions of dollars.Pay for Failure: Bank of America Corp’s (BAC) board of directors subscribes to a philosophy that rewards executives regardless of performance. Experts say this practice encouraged CEO Ken Lewis to make risky acquisitions of troubled financial companies such as MerrillLynch and Countrywide Financial.
Retention Bonuses: American International Group A.I.G. (AIG) has been kept afloat by more than $170 billion in federal assistance since September 2008 - about $1,500 for every household in the nation. But the New York-based giant insurer that nearly brought down the global financial system paid out more than $500 million in salaries and bonuses to hundreds of senior employees even as it was being bailed out by the government.Executive Physicals: Employees of Wal-Mart (WMT), the world’s largest retailer, have a strong incentive to stay healthy. Only 48% are enrolled in Wal-Mart’s health care plan for its employees, according to an internal company memo, and 46% of Wal-Mart employees’ children are either on Medicaid or uninsured. To put that in perspective, 11% of children in America were uninsured in the U.S in 2007, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Meanwhile, the CEO and top executives receive an annual “senior executive physical” examination paid for by the company. While Wal-Mart doesn’t list the exact cost of the executive physical it is listed as part of the $431,446 received by former CEO H. Lee Scott Jr. under the category of “all other compensation.”Moving the Performance Goalposts: Toll Brothers (TOL), the nation’s largest luxury home-builder, benefited from the housing bubble. As the housing market cratered in 2007 and it became clear that Robert Toll, the founding chairman and chief executive officer, would not qualify for a bonus under the existing plan, the company decided to move the performance goalposts. Instead of linking Toll’s bonus to the company’s net income, the new plan is tied to a percentage of the company’s income before taxes and bonus, revenues of at least $1.5 billion, and several squishy factors such as “management enhancement and efficiencies, and financial market visibility and access.”Job Security for the CEO, insecurity for workers: FedEx Corp.’s (FDX) Frederick Smith, the chairman, president and chief executive officer, receives a generous salary, assurance of a severance if the company gets bought, perks and a traditional pension. Yet FedEx has a double standard for its workers. FedEx Ground classifies drivers as independent contractors so it doesn’t have to provide them with basic benefits, such as overtime pay or expense reimbursements. FedEx Ground drivers also are required to pay for their own delivery trucks, as well as for the insurance, repairs, gas and tires they need to do their jobs. By arguing that the drivers are independent contractors, not employees, FedEx maintains they can’t unionize. FedEx even opposes the Employee Free Choice Act, legislation that would ensure all workers can have the freedom to form unions to bargain for fair pay and better benefits. Lavish Perquisites: While most working Americans struggle to file their federal tax returns by April 15, that’s one thing Ray Irani, chief of Occidental Petroleum (OXY), doesn’t need to worry about. In 2008, the company provided Irani with more than $400,000 in tax preparation and financial planning services. That’s nearly eight times the $50,233 median U.S. household income in 2007, and more than the $400,000 salary of the President of the United States.‘Golden Coffin’ Death Benefits: Americans have lost nearly one-fifth of their household wealth in the past year, leaving many wondering about the legacy they will leave their children. But James Bernhard’s heirs are well taken care of. When the founding chairman, president and chief executive officer of the Shaw Group (SGR)dies, the Baton Rouge, La. construction giant will pay more than $40 million to his heirs through “golden coffin” benefits, including pay, stock awards, life insurance and health benefits.‘Golden Parachute’ Severance Benefits: Workers laid off by companies in these tough economic times are lucky if they receive more than their last paycheck and their legal right to extend healthcare benefits, but chief executive officers at many of America’s largest companies often receive a “golden parachute,” or a generous severance package, when they depart. Richard L. Bond, president and top executive of Tyson Foods Inc. (TSN) until January 5, stood to collect more than $14 million in severance.Turbo-charged Pension Plan: Deere & Co. (DE) workers and pensioners have good reason to fret over their retirement. Deere expects to earn 8.3% on its pension plan investments in fiscal 2009, but the stock market decline makes that highly unlikely, jeopardizing the company’s$683 million pension surplus.Overall, the nation’s pension funds lost roughly $1 trillion in assets by last summer alone. But CEO Robert Lane’s retirement income is secure: the value of his total pension benefits increased $5.5 million in fiscal 2008 to $22.5 million - or about $1.6 million annually. Lane and other senior executives participate in not one, but three different pension plans.The AFL-CIO launched Executive PayWatch in 1997 to draw attention to runaway CEO pay packages and the widening gap between the compensation of corporate chieftains and workers. In 1980, CEOs of large U.S. companies made 42 times the wages of the average worker; by 2006 the gap had widened to more than 364 times. The AFL-CIO represents 11 million workers in 56 unions nationwide and works to advance the interests of America’s working families.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Amtrak Joe

President Barack Obama , Vice President Joe Biden and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announce a push for a high speed passenger rail system during an event at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington. Biden achieved some fame for his daily train commutes from Washington to his Wilmington, Del. home during his more than three decades in the U.S. Senate. Because of his frequent train travel, some have labeled Biden "Amtrak Joe." Today, Mr. Obama called him "America's number one rail fan."

Saturday, April 11, 2009

From Our "You have got to be kidding me" File...

Please Representative Shimkus, stick with something you are knowledgable about!

Consumer Protection Bill Signed

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn and Illinois Atty. Gen. Lisa Madigan hold a press conference after Quinn signed a consumer protection bill, in Chicago.

CHICAGO – April 10, 2009. Governor Pat Quinn signed into law a bill that protects consumers against the misleading business practices of dishonest alternative gas suppliers. At the signing ceremony, Governor Quinn was joined by Attorney General Lisa Madigan, Representative Michael J. Zalewski (D - Summit), Representative Monique Davis (D - Chicago) and Representative LaShawn K. Ford (D - Chicago).
“The protection of everyday consumers is vitally important,” said Governor Quinn. “This law will allow state regulators to keep a closer watch on companies that want to take advantage of our citizens.”
Senate Bill 171, sponsored by Senator Don Harmon (D - Oak Park) and Representative Thomas Holbrook (D - Belleville), was drafted in collaboration with Attorney General Madigan in response to consumer complaints that some alternative gas suppliers did not provide the savings promised to consumers.
The new law prohibits alternative gas suppliers from using misleading marketing promises or false statements to lure customers. In addition, the law allows consumers to rescind a service agreement within ten business days after the first bill, limits termination fees to $50 and protects against unauthorized switching of gas suppliers without the consumer’s permission.
Should an alternative gas supplier violate the new law, the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) can impose stiff financial penalties and even stop them from doing business.
Also participating in the signing ceremony were David Kolata, Executive Director of Citizen Utility Board and William McNary, Co-Director of Citizen Action/Illinois.
( Will they be this friendly one year from now? )

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Dear Friends,
As you all know, I formed my exploratory committee for U.S. Senate on March 3, leaving only 28 days to raise money before the March 31 deadline -- the end of the first-quarter filing period. We had hoped to file with a strong fundraising number -- a number that would show that Illinoisans were ready to leave the politics of the past behind and move toward a new kind of leadership in Washington.But we never could have expected this. As a direct result of your support, we raised more than $1.1 million in 28 days!This number represents your choice. Your choice to stand with a candidate who says NO to corporate PACs and Washington lobbyists. Your choice to move Illinois politics in a new direction. Your choice to start restoring trust in how government operates.An article about out efforts appeared in today's Chicago Sun-Times (see below).This is just the beginning. There is more work to be done. But thanks to you, we're off to an outstanding start.
Thank you again.

Giannoulias raises 1.1 million for Senate bid

April 7, 2009By Abdon M. Pallasch, Chicago Sun-Times
He's still just at the "exploratory committee" stage, but Illinois Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias has already raised $1.1 million in the 28 days since he announced he was "exploring" a run for U.S. Senate.He is eyeing the seat formerly held by his friend and basketball court partner, President Obama."It's actually unbelievable on two counts: The sum of $1.1 million, in and of itself, is unbelievable, but the fact that it's in the worst political fund-raising environment that, I think, any of us have ever seen, makes it all the more extraordinary and impressive," said political activist and fund-raiser Michael Bauer.The Washington Post reported a week ago that political donations are down 26 percent across the board from two years ago, presumably because of the economic downturn. Giannoulias supporters said this big a haul -- with no Giannoulias personal or family loans, PAC or corporate money -- in the 28 days before the March 31 quarterly reporting deadline appears to be a record.Giannoulias had hoped to raise half a million dollars after announcing his exploratory bid March 3 to make him appear the prohibitive favorite in next year's Democratic primary for the seat. The amount of contributions surpassed his expectations, he said."We were thrilled and flattered by the outpouring of support that we've received over the last 3 1/2 weeks, and I think it's evidence that people are hungry for fresh leadership and new ideas in Washington, D.C.," Gannoulias said.Giannoulias got to know Obama on the University of Chicago basketball court while Obama was teaching law and Giannoulias, part of the family that owns Chicago's Broadway Bank, was studying for his MBA. Obama tried to shoot hoops with Giannoulias and other friends on primary election days for luck.The Senate seat is currently held by former Illinois Attorney General Roland Burris, controversial because he accepted the appointment from then-criminally charged, now-indicted former Gov. Rod Blagojevich. Burris at first said he had not lobbied Blagojevich aides for the seat but then said he had. Its unclear whether Burris will run in the primary. His spokeswoman, Delmarie Cobb, said Monday that Burris had not begun fund-raising yet.Mayoral brother William Daley and U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky have floated their names for the seat but have not mounted campaigns yet.On the Republican side, U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk is considered a potential candidate.
What others are saying...

Monday, April 6, 2009

Governor Quinn Announces Economic Jumpstart; Job Creation through Capital Plan Legislation a first step to addressing overdue road construction projects
CHICAGO – April 3, 2009. Governor Pat Quinn today signed House Bill 289 to jumpstart Illinois’ economy and create thousands of jobs through much-needed road construction projects. “Illinois has suffered from 10 years without a capital plan. In just 10 weeks we were able to put a plan together that will get people working again this construction season,” said Governor Quinn. “The Jump Start Capital Plan is going to create jobs, strengthen our economy and address our State’s overdue road construction needs.” This milestone legislation grants the State $3 billion in bond authorization to make critical improvements to roads, bridges and mass transit. Together, the Jump Start Capital Plan and the first round of stimulus transportation funding, which Illinois is now authorized to start spending, will create and retain approximately 60,000 jobs. The Jump Start Capital Plan is the first piece of Illinois Jobs Now!, a $26 billion jobs plan that will support 340,000 jobs, and a part of the Governor’s comprehensive plan to lead Illinois to economic recovery. Illinois must use every available resource to quickly address this economic crisis, including a strong, honest budget; a long-overdue jobs program; and a targeted approach to leveraging national stimulus funds. The Quinn Administration looks forward to working with the General Assembly to pass the comprehensive Illinois Jobs Now! program.

Airman Returned to U.S.

A member of the U.S. Air Force carry team stands near a flag-draped transfer case holding the remains of Air Force Staff Sgt. Phillip Meyers of Hopewell, Va. during an arrival ceremony at Dover Air Force Base in Dover, Delaware. Staff Sgt. Phillip Meyers was killed on April 4 by an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan. A new policy that overturns an 18-year ban on news coverage of returning war dead allowed the media to cover Meyers' return. The policy gives families the choice on whether to admit the media.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

NATO Summit

First Lady Michelle Obama, President Barack Obama, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and his wife Carla Bruni-Sarkozy are pictured at Baden-Baden City hall on April 3, 2009 during a meeting of the heads of delegations at the NATO summit. The summit, which marks the organisation's 60th anniversary, is taking place on April 3 and 4, 2009 in Strasbourg, France and the neighboring German cities of Baden-Baden and Kehl.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Penn.) arrives at his crowded office Wednesday. Specter has been in office since 1980 and chairs the Judiciary Committee.

Spector Turns his Back on Working Families

On Tuesday, long-time supporter of working
families Sen. Arlen Spector (R-PA) announced he was
switching his position on the Employee Free Choice
Act and that he now plans to oppose the bill.
Spector, the only Senate Republican to cosponsored
the bill in 2005 and vote for it in 2007, now
says he agrees with the misinformation business
groups are espousing, calling the secret ballot “the
cornerstone of how contests are decided in a
Democratic society” and saying “mandatory arbitration
may subject employers to a deal they cannot live with.”
As an original co-sponsor of the bill, Spector is
well aware that the Employee Free Choice Act does
not remove the “secret ballot” but allows employees to
decide if they want a secret ballot – not the employer.
Spector, who is up for election in 2010 and faces
an opponent in the Republican Primary, has been
under attack from big business to flip his position on
the labor bill. The Associated Press reports that
business groups have spent more than $20 million to
defeat the legislation.
With 59 Democratic votes (when Al Franken is
seated) in the senate, one additional vote is needed
for cloture to allow the bill to come up for a full vote.
Spector could have just voted no on the bill but he now
says he’ll block the full senate from ever voting the bill
up or down.
President Obama, Vice President Biden, large
majorities in both houses of Congress and 73 percent
of the American people say they favor the Employee
Free Choice Act. It will be a shame if one vote in the
senate disallows this bill from advancing.
AFL- CIO President Sweeney said that Spector’s
announcement was “a rebuke to working people.” He
added that the Labor Federation will “not let a hardball
campaign from big business derail the dreams of
workers” and that in the coming weeks they will “be
escalating the EFCA campaign.”

The Illinois AFL-CIO
Michael T. Carrigan, President

Democrat Elected Officials

  • Effingham County Board Distric G-Doug McCain
  • Effingham County Treasurer - Steve Dasenbrock
  • Effingham County Board District C - Karen Luchtefeld

Effingham County Democrats Officers

  • Chairman - Audrey Griffith
  • First Vice Chairman - Dan Niebrugge
  • Second Vice Chairman - Allen Wente
  • Secretary - James Hammer
  • Treasurer - Shirley McEvers