In this incredible piece, the Chicago Sun-Times begins the long and arduous process of carrying water for the mob's favorite banker, Democrat Illinois Senate candidate Alexi Giannoulias. For those not familiar with Giannoulias's sordid recent past, Giannoulias has admitted to approving a number of high-risk loans to convicted mobsters when he was acting as Vice President of his family's bank (Broadway Bank); loans which contributed to Broadway Bank's current financial crisis. Furthermore, while the bank was in dire financial straits, the bank mysteriously paid the Giannoulias family a substantial dividend. Furthermore, Broadway Bank made loans to entities owned in whole or part by convicted influence peddler and Obama booster Tony Rezko during Giannoulias's tenure. And frankly, when it comes to Giannoulias this is just scratching the surface. However, if you thought the Chicago media couldn't at least attempt to cover up for Giannoulias's many, many indiscretions, think again. Check out this incredible article from the Chicago Sun-Times, which reads pretty much exactly like a Giannoulias press release:
But the truth is that Giannoulias has been answering questions about the loans for four years, ever since his first run for office. Never gleefully or enthusiastically. He often tries to beg off questions by noting he has not been at the bank in four years. But over the years, when pressed, he has admitted he made loans to mobsters and said if he had known they were mobsters he would not have made the loans.
Most recently in December, Giannoulias spent 12 minutes before Sun-Times editorial board members answering questions about the loans. Hear the full conversation at www.suntimes.com.
What has changed since Giannoulias sat and answered questions for the Sun-Times and Tribune editorial boards the last time is that his family's bank entered into a consent decree with state and federal regulators just before the election. While that development is new, the fact that Broadway Bank was struggling because it had relied so heavily on high-risk loans of the type Giannoulias approved as vice president was already well-known. His Democratic primary election rival, David Hoffman, hammered Giannoulias on the stump with that fact.
If you thought the Sun-Times was reading from a Giannoulias press-release before this point, check out the Sun-Times' apologia for the dividend payment to the Giannoulias family:
One question the e-mails from the Republicans and the Tribune editorial say Giannoulias should answer is whether he plans to give back any of the dividends paid out after his father's death. That was $70 million to $86 million the Giannoulias family took out of the bank as it was struggling. Giannoulias said that money went to cover taxes on his father's estate and the administration costs of handling that estate. Only $2.5 million of that went to Alexi Giannoulias and about $1.5 million of that went to taxes Giannoulias campaign has said. Will Giannoulias give back any of that $1 million?
"If my family asks me, sure," he told the Sun-Times.
Left unanswered, of course, is why the payment of these dividends in the face of the bank's financial insolvency is somehow more defensible because it went to pay the personal taxes of the Giannoulias family, or why it's less offensive because Giannoulias "only" received $2.5M personally, or why his family, which ostensibly received the lion's share of the (almost certainly) improper dividend would be in any position or have any desire to ask Alexi to pay it back. If the payment of the dividend affected the bank's balance sheet significantly enough to attract the attention of federal regulators, then the fact that it went to pay personal taxes doesn't make it any more defensible than if it had gone to pay for a personal yacht. But the Sun-Times isn't nearly done carrying the Giannoulias water:
Giannoulias approved about $12.9 million to convicted bookmaker Michael Giorango for a Miami Beach hotel and a Hollywood, Fla., restaurant, among other ventures. Broadway has sued Giorango and his partner, Demitri Stavropoulos, convicted of running a betting operation in Chicago, seeking to get the money back. Giannoulias initially down-played his relationship with Giorango, noting the loans to him started before he joined the bank. Later he had to admit he went to Miami to meet Giorango and inspect the property, and than another $3 million loan to Giorango was for a South Carolina casino.
"On of the mistakes I admit that I made running for state treasurer...I was cavalier about answering that," Giannoulias said of his earlier, flippant answers to questions about loans to Giorango before confronted with evidence that he flew down to inspect the properties.
"Cavalier," of course, being used in this context for "flatly dishonest." As the Sun-Times hints at, Giannoulias was not caught answering questions with insufficient detail, he was caught answering questions in a manner that directly contradicted evidence that later came to light about the loans. This doesn't make his initial answers "flippant," it makes them "lies" for which he got caught. Finally, the Sun-Times decides to close the article with Giannoulias's favorite talking point about Rezko (of course including no rebuttal from Republican Mark Kirk at all):
Giannoulias said he had no role in approving loans to convicted influence peddler Tony Rezko, a close confidant of Giannoulias' "mentor," Barack Obama. Broadway loaned $10.9 million to Chicago Hudson LLC, which was Rezko and his partner Daniel Mahru. Broadway Bank got back $9 million of the loan.
Asked if he may have been involved in servicing those loans, Giannoulias said yes, but added, "I'm one of the few elected officials who never received any contributions from Tony Rezko."
Referring to his opponent, Rep. Mark Kirk, Giannoulias said, "Some Republicans did. My opponent took contributions from Tony Rezko."
Of course, a person of even marginal curiosity might have inquried about or even perhaps mentioned what size donations Kirk received from Rezko, and whether he has repaid the money from those donations. One might also wonder whether funding Rezko's ability to influence-peddle is a more serious offense than receiving an on-the-books campaign contribution from Rezko personally. However, the Chicago Sun-Times is content to leave this piece of "political reporting" to end with this dishonest swipe at Kirk directly from Giannoulis's mouth, without a hint of the willingness displayed previously in the article to bend over backwards in acceptance of Giannoulias's ludicrous defenses to charges of corruption.
On a level playing field, a character like Alexi Giannoulis would have no chance against Mark Kirk, even in a state like Illinois. But as this article reminds us, Kirk won't be playing on a level playing field; he'll be playing against a media that is now willing to apparently carry water for the mob's favorite banker.