The Chicago Sun-Times article on Barack Obama’s state pork won’t exactly surprise veteran political watchers. After all, as even their lede states, pork was a well-known perk for state legislators in Illinois, and Obama used it to shore up his standing with locals on parks, libraries, and schools. However, he also showered a few of his friends with the money as well, including one who recently suggested castrating him:
He also pumped cash into St. Sabina Catholic parish, the South Side church whose pastor is the Rev. Michael Pfleger, the outspoken supporter whose comments in a May sermon about Obama’s former Democratic presidential rival, Hillary Clinton, landed the priest in trouble with Cardinal Francis George. St. Sabina got $100,000 to help rebuild its community center.
And a venture capital fund linked to the Rev. Jesse Jackson — who apologized last week after making a crude remark about the Democratic presidential hopeful — got $200,000, thanks to Obama.
In all, Obama doled out more than $3.6 million in state grants in just the last half of his state legislative career, records show.
Englewood got $100,000 for its botanical garden even though it was outside of his state Senate district. Obama needed votes from the neighborhood when he ran for Congress — but after he lost, he reneged on a promise to complete the project. Nothing but a plywood gazebo and a field of weeds sits on the garden plot now.
The biggest issues in this story are the earmark to Pfleger, which had already been discussed, and the grant for Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow/PUSH organization. Neither cross over into anything illegal or even exotic, which is perhaps the most unfortunate thing one can say about modern American legislation, but they do tie Pfleger and Jackson closer to Obama than Obama would like. Of the two, Pfleger is the most problematic, but Jackson’s recent attack on Obama suggests that the latter will get more attention.
However, this underscores the superficiality of Obama’s claims to be a reformer. He played the game in Chicago as well as anyone plays it on Capitol Hill, and Obama certainly didn’t shy away from pork in Washington DC. The notion that he has any kind of track record in New Politics gets eaten by the pork that the Sun-Times lists on its site.