Wednesday, September 16, 2015

What does a slated judicial candidate get for $40,000?

A couple of comments to posts on Page One of the blog deserve a post of their own.

An anonymous commenter wrote:
"Chutzpah" is a Yiddish term that loosely means "shameless audacity" and on this Rosh Hashanah I can think of no better term than to describe the arrogance and imprudence of the Cook County Democratic Party.

First, the slating contribution was $30,000, then by mid-summer they raised it to $35,000, and finally by slating the party upped the contribution to a whopping $40,000. The reason for this 34% from one year to the next? Well, there was none. No explanation was offered.

Then today, the most galling e-mail was sent out by the party telling candidates that in addition to their $40,000 ... they needed to get petitions signed with 1,500 signatures!! If you got just 700 more signatures on your own, you can get on the ballot and save yourself $40,000!!

What exactly does the $40,000 get you? The party does not supply a lawyer, does not get your signatures, and does not pay for any ballot challenge you file or defend. Then on top of it, you are still shaken down by half the committeemen who invite you to attend their birthday party ... for $250, or ask you to join them for a day at the horse races ... for another $500, or invite you to attend their picnic ... for another $250, and on and on it goes. Then there are the extra charges you get from your "campaign consultant," even though you don't know what the hell she did with the first $6,000 you gave her. Then come election time, if you are in a tight race, committeemen will expect candidates to pony up more money if they want to be on that ward's palm cards, and some committeemen will tacitly imply that if you don't cough up a substantial amount of money, they will in fact offer you zero support ... that's zero with a "Z." Oh, and don't forget that there are some notorious committeemen who will also shake down the your opponent and print several sets of palm cards, just enough to make it look legit when you stop by. And there they will sit, in a back room of some ward or township party office gathering dust and mildewing.

Shanah Tovah everyone! May you be inscribed for a good year. That will be $1,500.
That comment is not just bitter, it's funny and, I think, thought-provoking. As was this subsequent comment, which read:
I echo what has been said above. I just received an invitation to Louis Arroyo's "candidates forum" and the "entrance fee" is $750!! In return, you will get to step up to a microphone with 20 other candidates and over the din of the talking guests tell them your name, bar association ratings and mention some charity work you did 17 years ago. No one will hear you or remember you. Arroyo will not know your name when you come in, will not know it when you leave, and will not remember it tomorrow. On election day, you will get nothing for your $750. [Read that last sentence again.]

The Cook County Democratic Party is also holding a fundraiser that you are expected to buy tickets to and attend within days of writing them a $40,000 check. Bigwigs from the CFL will be there, so if you don't attend you do so at your own peril. More money down the drain. It is usually around this time of the campaign when candidates begin trying to convince their kids that Dartmouth is really no better than Moraine Valley Community College.

It is all a big gamble. If you win election, or lose election, at some point you will be in a mortgage foreclosure courtroom as either the judge or the defendant.

I do disagree that the Party does nothing for the $40,000. A week before election, they will send out a mailing with a life sized photograph of Toni Preckwinkle's face on the cover, and inside will be your $40,000 thumbnail photo and name. There will be a number of candidates running for office also listed in the mailer, and most of them will not have paid anything for the mail piece which you have happily subsidized.
I believe these comments raise valid questions and I'd like to see the discussion continue.

So let me add my own two cents. Even if I can't be as amusing.

I suppose I'm being Dr. Pangloss again, but I submit that slating by the Democratic Party in Cook County (and the concomitant $40,000 pledge) buys a judicial candidate two things: (1) Credibility and (2) Access.

Kitchen table candidates can and do win judicial races -- occasionally -- particularly if the candidate is blessed with a sonorous appellation (for any Ivy Leaguers in the audience, that means 'has a good ballot name'). Or if the candidate winds up the only female in a race with three males. Or maybe vice versa.

But slating, at least countywide slating, immediately confers a mantle of credibility on a candidate: This man or woman has some serious pull. This man or woman will be a formidable opponent.

Now, in the bad old days of patronage, when no one got a city or county job without a letter from one's sponsor, frustrated applicants found that there were two types of letters -- one that got you the job and another that merely got you an interview. So it is these days with slating: Some candidates are more slated than others; we can see this in the election results in every recent election cycle. Some candidates get dumped by ward or township organizations that are supposed to be promoting them, no matter what ads they buy for the adbook or how many holes they sponsor at the golf outing.

But nobody on the outside -- meaning 99.99% of the population -- knows who's been SLATED and who's been merely slated until Election Day or shortly before. So even the candidate who's been merely semi-slated, with some major committeemen's fingers discreetly crossed, starts out with a perception of credibility.

The commenter's remarks about petitions should scare every slated candidate down to the marrow: Surely one of the major components of a candidate's credibility is the belief that his or her nominating petitions will be "bulletproof." And I certainly can't think of a slated candidate in Cook County who's been knocked off the ballot for defective petitions or insufficient signatures.

But I no longer believe it to be a fool's errand to think about challenging even a slated candidate's petitions. My belief is not based on empirical studies -- unless the MacArthur people want to throw some money my way, this judicial election watching must necessarily remain a hobby -- but I think a slated candidate would be wise to do more than the Party is apparently asking for, petition-wise, if he or she wants to be assured of "bulletproof" ballot status.

But my perception, or the Party's asking for candidates to help in circulating their own petitions, will not damage the credibility of a slated candidate unless and until one of them gets knocked off the ballot.

So $40,000, for now, at least, buys credibility.

It also buys access.

The commenters are clearly frustrated that, after coughing up $40,000, or promising to, they find they still have to pay for every imaginable event that they might wish to attend (which, if they are serious candidates, should be every imaginable event).

It's like paying to enter Six Flags and finding out that every single ride, even the merry-go-round (do they have a merry-go-round at Six Flags?), costs extra.

So $40,000 does not guarantee admission to anything -- it buys only an invitation to everything.

When I ran for judge in the mid-90s, I would go anywhere I could, see anyone I could. In a good week, I'd get out to two or three events. The slated candidates, however, can go to two or three events a night, and more on weekends, especially if they're smart enough to have, or hire, a driver.

I noticed, when I ran, that I kept running into the same people, over and over again, many of them committed to one of my opponents. In fact, many of those same people were my opponents at any event I was fortunate enough to attend (I ran in crowded races). But I could only go to events that I knew about, whether because someone (one of my opponents, perhaps) tipped me off, or the event was one of the few advertised to the general public. I was on nobody's mailing lists in those days, so I never even heard about most political events, and most of the ones I did hear about had already happened.

You might think that the act of filing petitions alone would put a candidate on at least 80 mailing lists (50 ward and 30 township organizations) -- but, even when politicians are raising money, they apparently still don't want nobody that nobody sent.

And, let me tell you, I was that nobody.

I'm sure it must be numbing for the slated candidate to run into so many of the same people, night after night, often on the same night. But it is in seeing and being seen that the slated candidate can turn the initial perception of credibility into virtual invincibility. Especially in these days of social media, where the candidate takes a few quick selfies with the host at each event, and any other worthy willing to pose, and posts them on Facebook and Twitter and whatever else the kids are into these days. Social media is like a force multiplier: Whatever buzz may be generated for a candidate who shows up at everything, paying a la carte, is magnified by posting the pictures on Facebook. Sure the other candidates and other careful observers may get tired of seeing your face 16 times a day in their 'News Feed' -- but the random 'likes' and reposts from friends, family, law partners, fellow candidates, or whatever, puts your mug on all sorts of people's screens. Half, or maybe three-quarters of the people who vote for you may not remember your name by the time they leave the polling place on Primary Day, but when they're making their mark, they mark you, Mr. or Ms. Social Media, because yours is a name they've seen before.

And you can't get that sort of exposure without being at everything (and letting the world know about it) -- and you can't find out about anything unless you're given access -- and $40,000 gets you that.

Maybe that's too high a price. But what is a better alternative? Readers, what am I missing?

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Shoeless Joe Jackson denied reinstatement. Again.

Several news outlets had this story today: New MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred has denied the latest attempt at reinstating White Sox great Shoeless Joe Jackson (ESPN, SB Nation). The Shoeless Joe Jackson Museum Facebook page has reprinted Commissioner Manfred's July 20, 2015 letter. I've grabbed it and reproduced it below:

As you'll note, the letter recites that Manfred asked his staff to "research what can be learned from the historical record of the 1919 World Series and its aftermath," concluding, "The results of this work demonstrate to me that it is not possible now, over 95 years since those events took place and were considered by Commissioner Landis, to be certain enough of the truth to overrule Commissioner Landis' determinations."

Ah, yes. Kenesaw Mountain Landis. The first Commissioner of Baseball -- and during the first 14 months of his tenure still functioning as a U.S. District Court Judge in Chicago.

Wikipedia is kind to Judge Landis on this issue (noting that Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer said there was no legal impediment to Landis holding down both jobs) and on the race issue as well. However, readers of Bill Veeck's autobiography, Veeck as in Wreck, will remember how Veeck wrote that he called Judge Landis, out of courtesy, when he put together a group to buy the Philadelphia Phillies in 1944. Veeck said he shared his plan to stock the team with Negro League players -- and he suddenly went from front-runner for the franchise to frozen out.

Cub-worshiping website One Bad Century lauds Landis as the man who saved baseball from the evils of gambling, but adds that Landis was "a Chicago Cubs fan long before he took over baseball, and remained a Cubs fan until his dying day. * * * While he was beloved as a trust-busting judge, Landis was also a regular at West Side Grounds, home of the Chicago Cubs. He openly rooted for the Cubs against the White Sox in the 1906 World Series, something White Sox fans never forgot. When the Cubs moved to what is now Wrigley Field, he was a regular there as well. He loved baseball and watched it intently, leaning forward in his seat, devouring every moment of the game."

Real Chicago sports fans understand the need to choose sides. The real scandal is not that Landis was a Cub fan who came down hard on Shoeless Joe and the other Eight Men Out. The real scandal is that Landis banned the Eight Men Out -- while leaving allegations of a similar fix of the 1918 World Series (that the Commissioner's beloved Cubs lost to Babe Ruth and the Boston Red Sox) safely in the realm of rumor. Yet Black Sox pitcher Eddie Cicotte swore that he and his co-conspirators got the idea for throwing the Series from the Cubs.

One Bad Century says that it was a minority stakeholder in the Cubs, Albert Lasker, who pushed for the appointment of Judge Landis in 1920 when a Cub pitcher, Claude Hendrix, was accused of conspiring with gamblers to throw a regular season contest against the Phillies. Landis banned Jackson and Buck Weaver and the other Black Sox -- but Henrdix was allowed to retire.


But Commissioner Manfred focused his alleged review very narrowly -- looking only at the 1919 Series and its aftermath, he said -- not at Landis' unequal treatment of players on teams he liked and teams he didn't.

And just for the record, in the 1919 Series, Jackson led all batters with a .375 average, going 12 for 32 -- including three doubles and a homer -- hitting 5 for 12 with runners in scoring position. He scored five times, drove in six runs and committed no errors. Evidence of Jackson's complicity in any conspiracy to throw the Series is thin at best, fraudulent at worst, and surely tainted.

And there's one other thing: Commissioner Landis was hired to free baseball from the grip of gambling. But times change. Fashions change. And gambling seems back in fashion with baseball bigwigs:

It's just Shoeless Joe Jackson's status that does not change.

Neil Steinberg's column makes a good point today

OK, so I'm taking the link to the column (and this picture) from Steinberg's blog -- have you tried using the Sun-Times' website lately? I read the column in the paper, on the train. Real newspapers never lose signal in the subway.

Anyway, Steinberg writes about his recent experience serving on a jury in a rear-end subro case. The jury wound up deadlocked (5-1 in favor of plaintiff) and jury foreman Steinberg wasn't pleased with that aspect of the experience. He concludes, however,
[I]t's a flawed system—the guy was negligent— but one person can derail the whole thing. Still, it works, sort of. Everyone was exceedingly polite, and thanked us for us doing our civic duty. Compared to the bloody chaos in most of the world, our justice system is a gift.
Our justice system is flawed -- and as lawyers we can't help sometimes but get focused on the problems that we see in our varying practices. But we need to keep in mind, and to keep proclaiming to the public, the larger, and far more important, point, that Mr. Steinberg makes this morning: "Compared to the bloody chaos in most of the world, our justice system is a gift."