Gov. ROD BLAGOJEVICH scored some points and took some heat a year and a half ago when, in the wake of a fire that destroyed a beautiful, historic church in Chicago, he promised a $1 million state donation to help with rebuilding.


Gov. ROD BLAGOJEVICH scored some points and took some heat a year and a half ago when, in the wake of a fire that destroyed a beautiful, historic church in Chicago, he promised a $1 million state donation to help with rebuilding.


Early 2006 was the beginning of an election year, so it was a good time for promises. Blagojevich likes to make promises.  It’s his follow-through that sometimes suffers.


And so it is in the case of the Pilgrim Baptist Church.


Newspaper reports said the Jan. 6, 2006 fire gutted the church, which was designed by Louis Sullivan and Dankmar Adler as a synagogue in the late 1890s and has been home to the Baptist congregation since 1922. Thomas A. Dorsey, considered the father of gospel music, was music director at the church in the late 1930s.


Three days after the fire, Blagovich spoke at another Chicago church and was quoted as saying “I’m committing a million dollars to the rebuilding of the Pilgrim Baptist Church.”


This generated protests from the Freedom From Religion Foundation and the American Civil Liberties Union, which said state money shouldn’t be used for church purposes.


Blagojevich, not one to shy away from a chance to use taxpayer money to make himself a hero in Chicago, stood firm.


“Consistently, government has partnered with religious institutions when appropriate to provide for social services,” then-deputy governor BRADLEY TUSK said at the time, as reported by ERIC ZORN in the Chicago Tribune. “In this case, this church had a school and provided different services to the community.”


Well, the remains of the church have been razed and money is being collected for the rebuilding. But as the for state money, said Pastor KEITH E. GORDON of the church last week, “We have not received it yet.”


I called the church because, it turns out, Blagojevich has apparently sent some money its way – but from his campaign fund, not state coffers.


The campaign finance report filed by Friends of Blagojevich for the six months ending June 30 showed that the Dallas-based Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation had given $44,846 to the Blagojevich campaign.


That seemed odd. But Blagojevich campaign spokesman Doug Scofield explained that, after Blagojevich fund-raiser TONY REZKO was indicted on corruption charges, money Rezko had donated to the governor was given to charity. Included was a big chunk to the Komen foundation. But the foundation later decided it didn’t want to take a campaign contribution, Scofield said, and it returned the money.


In turn, Scofield said, the campaign fund gave $10,000 to the American Legion in Chicago and $4,335 to each of eight entities – including Pilgrim Baptist Church.


The other recipients include Waters and Bateman elementary schools in Chicago, Carterville High School, Christo Rey Jesuit  and Benito Juarez high schools in Chicago, Skip-A-Long Child Development Center in Rock Island, and Crittenton Center, a family crisis agency in Peoria.


I contacted a few of those places late last week. Also oddly, nearly a month after checks were supposedly written, they apparently hadn’t arrived.


Rev. Gordon said that if his congregation had received the check, he wasn’t aware of it -- though he did say Blagojevich has been “very good to us as a church.” DON SMITH, principal of Carterville High (which was visited by Blagojevich during last year’s DuQuoin State Fair and which has been waiting for 3 1/2 years for state matching funds to build a new school building) said a $4,300 gift from the campaign was news to him. And LAUREL WALKER, executive director of the Skip-A-Long facilities in the Quad Cities – one of which was visited by Blagojevich early in his governorship – said none of those facilities have received a check.


“The checks have gone out,” Scofield told me of the campaign largesse, adding that things may not be moving quickly. “I don’t know that they were mailed June 30th.”








SETH WEBB, 32, who as special assistant to the governor has arranged events for Gov. Blagojevich and often accompanied the governor at public appearances, is on his way to a private sector job in New York.


Webb says he will help run a small marketing agency in New York City called Civic Entertainment Group. It represents public and private clients including municipalities, transit authorities, school systems, HBO, The History Channel, A&E, CNN and Showtime, creating promotions and special events and develops branding and sponsorship programs. In 2005, the business was named agency of the year by Promo magazine.


Webb has extensive marketing and promotions experience. He came to Illinois after being asked to do so by former deputy governor Tusk, who had worked with Webb at the parks department in New York City. Webb had produced dozens of events, including concerts, at Central Park in that city. He also served in the Peace Corps and is a marathon runner.


Tusk has also left state government for the private sector.


Webb’s name came up during a recent controversy. STEVE BROWN, spokesman for House Speaker MICHAEL MADIGAN, D-Chicago, said it was Webb who contacted various advocacy groups and asked them to distribute fliers at a gay pride parade in Chicago June 24 attacking a budget proposed by House Democrats. REBECCA RAUSCH, spokeswoman for Blagojevich, said at the time that Webb encouraged distribution of a generic flier about the budget, but not one that specifically tartgeted three House Democrats.

     Webb told me by email that he decided to leave in late May. That was well before the parade controversy hit. His last day was Friday.


“I am grateful to Governor Blagojevich for the opportunity to work for the state of Illinois,” Webb said.


He made $86,944 in the state job.








MARTIN NOVEN, deputy state treasurer under Republican JUDY BAAR TOPINKA and then under new Democratic Treasurer ALEXI GIANNOULIAS, has moved to a private-sector job.


Noven, 39, of Chicago, who made $112,320 with the treasurer’s office, is now regional vice president and associate general counsel for TIAA-Cref, a financial services firm involved with pensions, investments, 529 college savings plans and insurance.


Giannoulias spokesman SCOTT BURNHAM said the office didn’t do any business with TIAA-Cref, but that company did bid on managing the office’s Bright Start college savings program.


“Martin played a big role in scrutinizing the bids,” Burnham said. “Oppenheimer won the contract, but obviously, TIAA-Cref recognized his talents.”


Giannoulias sent his staff an email stating that Noven rose through the ranks because of his “innovative thinking, strong leadership skills and his willingness to tackle tough issues and take on added responsibilities.” He noted that Noven began as an intern under then-Treasurer PAT QUINN, now the Democratic lieutenant governor.


Noven told me by e-mail that he is convinced Giannoulias and his staff “will accomplish great things for the state,” but that the new opportunity was simply too good to pass up. He said TIAA-Cref has $428 billion in combined assets under management. He’ll be handing governmental relations in 10 states, including Illinois, so he should be visiting the Statehouse from time to time.






MELISSA HAHN has been named chief of the Illinois Radio Network bureau at the Statehouse.


Hahn, 40, of Springfield, has been with IRN for just more than a year, but has an extensive resume including earlier work in radio, being a reporter for WICS-TV and being a state spokeswoman. She also has a master’s degree in public affairs reporting from the University of Illinois at Springfield.


She takes the place of RYAN HERMES, now with WLS-AM in Chicago. She works in the Statehouse bureau with DAVE DAHL, who earlier this year moved from WMBD-AM in Peoria.


IRN provides news to about 55 stations heard in Illinois, including WTAX in Springfield.


“I’m ecstatic,” Hahn said of getting the promotion. “I’m happy to see more women in the Statehouse press corps, and it’s a great job for someone who prefers covering politics and government to other kinds of coverage – like crime.”





Bernard Schoenburg is political columnist for The State Journal-Register in Springfield. He can be reached at 788-1540 or bernard.schoenburg@sj-r.com.