Sunday, September 09, 2007

Steve Guerra, convicted FALN supporter, top Illinois state government official and protege of Congressman Luis Gutierrez (D-Il).

Hyperbolic charges are thrown with great regularity and unfairness in American politics. Character assassination is a form of art and negative campaigning is the norm. Most of the time, it's a useful rule of thumb to take whatever perjoratives are commonly used with a grain of salt. And then there are the exceptions that are so absurd as to make the usual slander an understatement.

Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich - who hired Steve Guerra as his $ 120,000 a year deputy

The Chicago Sun-Times on Saturday ran a front page expose on Steve Guerra, a top official in the administration of Democratic Governor Rod Blagojevich, who was hired despite having gone to prison for refusing to testify before a Federal grand jury about what he knew regarding a terror bombing campaign carried out by the Puerto Rican terrorist group, the FALN. The revelation has caused an uproar among the family members of the victims of the FALN terrorists and only slightly less outrage among Illinois Democrats and Republicans in the legislature who were already unhappy with Gov. Blagojevich.

Why would Governor Blagojevich, currently floundering even among his own Democratic supporters, take a risk and hire a sinister figure like Guerra, a felon who obstructed a murder investigation of one of the FALN's victims with his refusal to testify ? Two reasons:

First, Illinois politics is replete with shadowy tough guys, mobbed-up businessmen and fixers with criminal pasts who cracked a few skulls here and there in their youth. Such folks, who like Mr. Guerra, often appear to lack a neck, are not rare here. From, Taylor Street in Chicago to Cicero to Rosemont to small towns in the collar counties, you have lots of people in both political parties involved in retail politics who are "connected". Granted, they usually mean to men nicknamed "Big Tuna" or " the Clown", and not to Marxist terror groups, but chances were that if Guerra had kept a low profile, no one living in a glass house themselves was going to be seen pitching stones any time soon.

Congressman Luis Gutierrez (D-Il) - a history of pulling strings for convicted FALN terrorists

Secondly, Guerra is a close, personal, friend of far-left but Daley machine-backed, Congressman Luis Gutierrez of Chicago. Representative Gutierrez has made constituent services to imprisoned FALN members something of a minor hobby during his years in Congress. It was also Gutierrez who helped persuade President Clinton to grant clemency to FALN terrorists convicted of bombmaking, sedition, robbery, conspiracy and other lesser charges. By hiring Guerra, the struggling Governor Blagojevich was reinforcing a political connection to an influential figure in the Daley machine and Chicago's Puerto Rican community.

The remarkable aspect of this episode is not that in this day and age, an American politician would knowingly hire or assist an individual with strong ties to a terrorist group but that the moral state of politics in Illinois is so low, that hiring Guerra raised no eyebrows among party insiders in Springfield.

At least until the story hit page one.

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Great post. Perhaps the lesson is that American politics has not changed as much as we typically think it has.

Connections like this -- and the mysterious fund-raising of convicted felon on the lam Hu -- are common in American history. Big politicos funded by mobs, or with strong connections with murders -- strike breakers or big ranchers who kill small competitors (e.g. the Johnson County War). Big politicos whose enemies suffer fatal accidents.

But we've forgotten so much of our past we cannot understand our present.

Thank you. Indeed - violence and crime was often a subtext to American politics and it has gone underreported in our textbooks.

Amysingly, at one time I lived near where the connected Palumbo Company ( "The Earth moves with Palumbo" -as did the legislature) had a major quarry. Apparently a number of Palumbos are still breaking rocks but are now doing it behind federal walls.
Sensational post! Its fun to learn about the infamous Illinois politrix, especially considering any unwieldy ties Obama may have to elements in it.

By the way, Rep. Peter T. King (R-NY) was once the IRA's point man in Congress, even to the point of refusing to condemn several IRA bombings. He was a keen supporter and fundraiser for the terrorist supporters and fundraisers at NORAID, was labeled an IRA collaborator by the British government, frequented and socialized at IRA spots on a daily basis when in N. Ireland and was an effective propogandist for the N. Irish cause.

Yet he is now an honored figure in his political party and a major exponent of the WOT. Ditto for the Cuban exiles who are Congressional reps. from S. Florida. They are widely known to be supporters (and accept fundraising from) of some rather nasty anti-Castro paramiliary groups that are now heavy into drug smuggling and other forms of organized crime across the state and abroad.

So in that sense, there you have 4 Republicans who really support terrorists, in actual positions of power, influence, leadership and honor.

Considering the flirtations that certain politicians in the early 90's had with the militia movements out West before the OKC bombings, perhaps a there are a few more that will for the time being escape public scrutiny.

With the larger view, your post deftly reminds us that our machine politics are still alive and well in some places, something we would do well to understand in depth when trying to understand local and regional governance, security and development in urbanized India, Bangladesh, Iran, Indonesia, Brazil, Mexico, etc.
Hi eddie,

How are you doing these days ?

Obama is tied to at least one, wealthy but shady, tough-guy, fixer. However, in all fairness to the junior Senator, that makes him squeaky clean by Illinois standards. There are so many trials and indictments goping on right now ( legendary Edward "Fast Eddie" Vyrdolyak - fmr Dem AND GOP Cook County powerhouse is the latest big name) that I cannot even keep things straight.

I never knew that about Rep. King -my assumption would have put the locus of IRA support with a Boston pol or two. Then again, you go where the money is and New York City beats Boston hands down.

The craziness of the Cuban fringe is well-known. Lot of bleedover in the 1960's and 1970's into CIA and merc activity. Were revitalized by the Marielitos generation of exiles.

Actually, this subject - the history of violent/terrorist/paramilitary movements connecting with mainstream American politicians - would make a fascinating book. The history would stretch back to the 18th century " Regulators" of the Carolinas. It would open eyes.
Hello Mark,

Stressing over immigration crapola, leaving the Navy in 3 months, etc. :-). Kaplan's new book is a welcome break from the storm of activity.

I also agree that this subject would make an excellent book. Indeed, the most relevant chapter would be on how widespread laundered drug money is in the political system, with its attendant influences and inferences, a sector explored with notable skill by that most incredible icon of television programming done right, "The Wire".

Also an area my father brought up re: his experience as an arson investigator in Philadelphia in the mid-70's, the use of arson as a development tool for ridding politically and economically profitable land of its unwanted current occupants, perhaps a hold-over from the big rancher days FM mentioned. This process has always seemed to rear its telltale signs in "urban renewal" or "special economic development" projects in places like Miami, Baltimore, LA and Houston, not to mention its widespread faithful use across the world's slums.
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