Over the past week there have been a couple of things that should make Morton Grover’s shake their heads in wonderment.
Last week, a mailing was sent out to Morton Grove businesses in a hand-addressed envelope that showed the return address of Village President DiMaria. Inside the envelope was a message that began; “Mayor Daniel P. DiMaria cordially invites you to the 2017 Business and Leaders Forum to discuss the Progress, Opportunities and Challenges for Morton Grove businesses…” Later on it states; “Meet the Candidates for the 2017 election…”. It is only after reading the back of the invitation and the enclosed card that it becomes apparent that this is a fund-raising ploy aimed at squeezing money out of the businessmen and businesswomen of our village under the guise of a Business and Leader’s Forum. Accidental “bait & switch”? Not likely.
Also last week the “Winter edition” of the Morton Grove village newsletter was delivered to the homes in town. Interestingly, the content of the village newsletter mirrors the content on the first page of the Action Party web site, (including the use of the outline of the tree which is part of the village logo and the use of the village motto which first appeared on the village stickers). Use of village communications for private political activity is prohibited by not only village ordinance, but also by Illinois ethics statutes, ( ELECTION CODETITLE 15. REGULATING POLITICAL FUNDS AND CAMPAIGNSCHAPTER 255. REGULATING POLITICAL ADVERTISING AND CAMPAIGN COMMUNICATIONS ).
What DiMaria and the Action Party seems to have done bears a resemblance to what passed for politics as usual in Chicago in the 1950s. Richard J. Daley, who was mayor at the time, used to offer a succinct piece of ethics advice to newly elected aldermen. “Don’t take a nickel,” Daley told them. “Just show them your business card.”
Even the greenest of political newcomers understood exactly what Daley meant. He was telling them that people with an interest in city council decisions would be happy to throw an alderman a little cash on the side to help bring about a favorable outcome. They just had to find an acceptable way to do it.
A law office was a good place. Petitioners who needed a favorable council vote could be depended on to pay generously for a little legal work. An insurance agency was even better.
It was all considered quite legal, at least in the ethical climate that existed in Chicago at the time. There was no quid pro quo, or any need to discuss out loud what the petitioners might want the city council to deliver for them. That part was understood. If a landlord or a building contractor or a labor union wanted to flatter a public official by doing business with him, they had every right to do so.
The Hobbs Act, passed by Congress in 1946, says that perfectly voluntary transactions can qualify as extortion as long as one of the parties is acting “under color of official right.”
So now, apparently, Village President DiMaria and the Action Party are not satisfied with shaking down village businesses “under color of official right”, but they are blatantly making use of materials that have been paid for by the taxpayers of Morton Grove no matter if they support the Action Party or not.
Bathhouse John Coghlin and Hinky-Dink Kenna, (two old-time Chicago machine politicians) would be proud… maybe the residents of our village, not so much.