He was just 28 when first anointed, slated in the 1990's equivalent of a "smoke-filled room" at the Collinsville Holiday Inn.
The Madison County Democratic Machine hand-picked Jay Hoffman, then a young and connected if unaccomplished lawyer already on the St. Clair County payroll. He would run that year for state representative, vying to do its bidding at the State House.
16 years later, we finally know for sure. The call of public service will never trump Rep. Hoffman's appetite for personal power and money.
How else to explain his continuing "quiet," but personally lucrative association with the Lakin Law Firm of Wood River?
The salacious accusations against its name partners-- that firm founder Tom Lakin sexually abused teenage boys while his son, Brad Lakin, tried to cover up the incident-- have been well-publicized for months. But other than dubiously insisting he didn't know Lakin the elder, Hoffman hasn't muttered a word on the matter. And his silence is deafening.
Hoffman, a genial man tight with Governor Rod Blagojevich and seemingly well-connected in state politics, might have had us fooled into thinking he was his own man. He almost had us convinced that he had the strength and fortitude to represent us independently in Springfield; that he wasn't still just an empty suit, there to represent the interests of the Metro-East's trial lawyer money men.
Call it an illusion. Despite our hopes and dreams, career politicians do not ripen. And Jay Hoffman, who has collected a taxpayer-funded paycheck virtually his entire adult life, is the same as he ever was.
Pride, principle and the people-- from a lawyer who professes to be "tough on crime"-- play a distant second-fiddle when his personal bank account is at stake.
Why won't Rep. Hoffman publicly disassociate with the Lakin Firm? Why won't he give up the fat paycheck they still give him, in return for the credibility of posting this public official's name on their letterhead and Web site?
Because that money and the lifestyle it affords is what Hoffman's career was all about in the first place.