Fanning the Flames: The Freedom Project Blog


The Mighty Quinn

By Shawn Healy
Last Thursday, the Illinois Senate voted unanimously to remove criminally-charged Governor Rod Blagojevich from office. Elevated in his place was then Lieutenant Governor Pat Quinn, a fellow Democrat and two-time running mate, but unquestionably of a different mold than his predecessor.

In retrospect, Blagojevich typified the "pay to play" political culture that continues to rapture this state. This corruption transcends political party, equating to what the Chicago Tribune's John Kass calls "The Combine."

Pat Quinn, by comparison, has made a career out of playing the proverbial political gadfly. A Chicagoan who has never claimed allegiance to the local Democratic machine, Quinn has mostly molded himself as a maverick reformer. His pet causes are many, and his knack for calling Sunday afternoon news conferences legendary.

Quinn enters a governor's mansion the previous occupant rarely visited with a daunting task from Day One. The state's budget deficit has ballooned to in excess of $2 billion, where a balanced budget is mandated. Some combination of tax increases and spending cuts are likely in order, and this is doubly difficult during these trying economic times. The statewide fiscal crisis has reached the point where hospitals and child care providers are not being paid for their services, and the state's capacity to borrow more is further crippled by a lowered bond rating spurred by the Blagojevich debacle.

Beyond the short-term fixes, Quinn is right to pursue reforms to state ethics laws and the means by which candidates seek office. The specifics remain vague, but probably entail limitations on donations to elected officials from those who do business with the state, more detailed disclosure and perhaps caps on individual contributions along with those made by corporations and labor unions, and possibly, but more controversially, some form of publicly-financed campaigns. The policy window of opportunity is wide open as state residents are eager to rein in a government seemingly more interested in serving its own interests.

Quinn even championed moving next year's primary election from February to September to enable our representatives in Springfield to begin digging us out of this aforementioned mess before asking for our vote once more. His proposal deserves consideration as job seekers will otherwise begin making the rounds this coming summer, including what is expected to be a full slate of individuals on both side of the aisle that seek the job he just inherited. Quinn's actions between now and then will go a long way toward determining whether his new lease is extended beyond 2010.


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Managing Director

McCormick Freedom Project

Shawn is responsible for overseeing and managing the operations associated with the McCormick Freedom Project. Additionally, he serves as the in house content expert and voice of museum through public speaking and original scholarship. Before joining the Freedom Project, he taught American Government, Economics, American History, and Chicago History at Community High School in West Chicago, IL and Sheboygan North High School in Wisconsin.

Shawn is a doctoral candidate within the Political Science Department at the University of Illinois at Chicago where he received his MA in Political Science. He is a 2001 James Madison Fellow from the State of Wisconsin and holds a bachelor's degree in Political Science, History, and Secondary Education from the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

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About Fanning the Flames and the McCormick Freedom Project

Fanning the Flames is a blog of the McCormick Freedom Project, which was started in 2006 by museum managing director Shawn Healy. The blog highlights the news of the day, in hopes of engaging readers in dialogue about freedom issues. Any views or opinions expressed on this blog represent those of the writers alone and do not represent an official opinion of the McCormick Freedom Project.

Founded in 2005, the McCormick Freedom Project is part of the McCormick Foundation. The Freedom Project’s mission is to enable informed and engaged participation in our democracy by demonstrating the relevance of the First Amendment and the role it plays in the ongoing struggle to define and defend freedom. The museum offers programs and resources for teachers, students, and the general public.

First Amendment journalism initiative

The Freedom Project recently launched a new reporting initiative with professional journalists Tim McNulty and Jamie Loo. The goal is to expand and promote the benefits of lifelong civic engagement among citizens of all ages, through original reporting, commentary and news aggregation on First Amendment and freedom issues. Please visit the McCormick Freedom Project's news Web site, The Post-Exchange at

Dave Anderson
Vice President of Civic Programs
McCormick Foundation

Tim McNulty
Senior Journalist
McCormick Freedom Project

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