There's a local connection to the corruption train wreck that is the Rod Blagojevich administration. But he wasn't saying much last Tuesday.
"Like all Illinoisans, I am saddened by today's news," read a statement quietly released by Blagojevich's pal, State Rep. Jay Hoffman (D-Collinsville). "I have no knowledge concerning the allegations, and for any comment you should contact the governor's office directly."
Blagojevich friend or foe, it's hard not to empathize somewhat when our sitting governor is arrested in his home at 6 a.m. by federal agents, then ushered downtown in his sweatpants for arraignment on corruption charges.
But that second sentence reads a bit curious to us--the one about Hoffman's having "no knowledge." Why would any of us think a state representative from the state's horseradish mecca, some 300 miles away, would know anything about Blagojevich's case?
Maybe because Hoffman's been of real service to the governor these past seven years as much as he has been to his Metro-East constituents. And he knows we know it.
There's no allegations that Rep. Hoffman knew or did anything in cahoots with our governor. But reading the transcripts of Blagojevich's hideous, expletive-laden shake-down exploits caught on tape, it's hard to imagine anyone so close to such a man would not have seen or heard anything questionable.
Consider that Hoffman helped get Blagojevich elected, supporting the long-shot, liberal, strange-named son-in-law of the Chicago Machine become the candidate of choice in gun-loving, conservative-minded Southern Illinois. After the election Hoffman became a trusted member of the governor's "kitchen cabinet," according to sworn court testimony in the Tony Rezko trial earlier this year. And he served as the governor's floor leader in the legislature, standing up to heavies like House Speaker Mike Madigan (D-Chicago) at Blagojevich's behest.
Through the roughest patches of Blagovich's years in office, in the face of numerous corruption allegations, Hoffman remained a staunch defender.
Maybe that's because Blagojevich made Hoffman into the vaunted insider that he's become, his name bandied about for every position of political power that comes available, from U.S. Senator to Illinois Secretary of State.
Maybe that's because without Blagojevich, Rep. Hoffman would be regarded like most of his colleagues by the power brokers and lobbyists in Springfield--just one of 118 faceless legislative members outside the inner circle of political power.
Hoffman looks doomed to become faceless again, relegated to piffling duties like every other rank-and-file House member. In the face of this debacle, that sounds like a best-case scenario for his constituents.
As for our representative himself, we hope he isn't bugged about it.