Most Astounding

Of all the astonishing news to come out of Illinois today, one particular item shocked me most. No, not that Rod Blagojevich aparently tried to sell an open Senate seat to the highest bidder. Not that the Governor taunted the press (a la Gary Hart) to try to catch him, just the day before. Not that the Governor used an unbelievable amount of profanity in his professional conversations.

Nope. All that is par for the course for Illinois politics, and those of us who worked on Jim Ryan’s gubernatorial campaign in 2002 are at last feeling vindicated today. (I can’t think of a man in public life with more personal integrity and higher ethical standards than Jim Ryan, and I hope he comes out of retirement soon.)

This news item was what most surprised me:

The bond specifies that Blagojevich will forfeit $4,500 on bond if he fails to make his next court appearance. He was also ordered to turn in his passport and firearm owner’s identification card.

Rod Blagojevich, perhaps the most anti-gun governor in Illinois history, has a Firearm Owner ID (FOID) card? Huh? When did that happen? This is the man who, as a state legislator, introduced a bill to raise the fee for a FOID card from $5 every five years to $500. Since an Illinois resident can’t legally purchase or possess a firearm without a FOID card, or even purchase ammunition, Blagojevich’s bill would have effectively eliminated legal firearm for all but the wealthy. And as Governor, he has supported a wide range of anti-gun legislation, and earned consistent “F” ratings from the NRA.

The story doesn’t mention whether Blagojevich actually owns a firearm or not, or whether the FOID card was a campaign gimmick designed to ingratiate himself with rural voters. But trust me: when I lived downstate, even our least politically active neighbors knew during the 2002 campaign that Blago was “that guy who tried to make the FOID card cost five hundred bucks.”

Obviously, that issue wasn’t enough to save the 2002 election for Jim Ryan. Neither were the corruption issues we raised about Blagojevich’s past. But many of us who have tried in vain to stop Rod Blagojevich in the past will be going to bed happy tonight. Vindicated at last.

But still wondering when — and why — he ever got that FOID card.

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