Brown: Beavers, Jacksons show Chicago politics is a small, sad world
BY MARK BROWN March 21, 2013 8:28PM
Cook County Commissioner William Beavers speaks after being found guilty on all counts at the Everett M. Dirksen U.S. Courthouse in Chicago, Ill., on Thursday, March 21, 2013. | Andrew A. Nelles~Sun-Times Media
Updated: April 23, 2013 2:41PM
I’d totally forgotten how Cook County Commissioner William Beavers got that nickname, The Hog with the Big Nuts, but in the wake of his tax conviction Thursday, a reminder is in order.
It started with a federal lawsuit brought against Beavers by a sheriff’s office supervisor. The guy claimed he’d been demoted for reprimanding two deputies who allegedly performed illegal campaign work for Beavers and County Board President Todd Stroger.
The sheriff’s employee said he’d had a conversation with Beavers in which the veteran Democratic politician had called himself the “hog with the big nuts” in an effort to intimidate him.
Beavers admitted to reporters he used the phrase, but denied any effort to intimidate, leaving the true context to our imagination.
What I’d never noticed until rereading the story Thursday is that the lawyer who sued Beavers was one Vickie Pasley, more recently in the news as the campaign treasurer for Jesse Jackson Jr.
It was Pasley who was asleep at the switch while the congressman and his wife Sandi looted his campaign funds and hid it from the IRS. At the time of that lawsuit, Sandi was running for 7th Ward alderman against Beavers’ daughter, Darcel, who had been appointed to the position to replace her father after he helped engineer Stroger’s election.
Now it’s Beavers who has been found guilty of using his campaign funds as a personal piggybank without giving the IRS its share.
Small world. Small, dysfunctional world of Chicago politics.
I spent that Election Day 2007 in the field with Darcel and William Beavers, an old-time political machine facing down a new-fangled one in the Jacksons.
Beavers was confident his daughter would win as we toured the precincts, so confident he convinced me. He was stunned when Jackson won easily.
The voters in the 7th Ward thought they were ushering in a brave new world of reform politics. Instead, Sandi Jackson and Beavers are now probably looking at similar prison sentences.
On the outside at least, Beavers took that 2007 loss much harder than the one dealt him in court Thursday — seeing his dreams dashed of starting a family political dynasty apparently being a tougher pill to swallow than the prospect of incarceration.
That could change as Beavers starts to come to grips with the fact that this conviction isn’t likely to go away on appeal.
After being indicted, he called former U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald a “rooster without nuts, a capon,” in furtherance of his barnyard imagery.
He once called Cook County Clerk David Orr “a little poop butt.”
Lucky for him, he didn’t go quite that far in insulting U.S. District Judge James Zagel as “really unfair” in his handling of the case.
“What can the judge do to me?” Beavers asked rhetorically while discussing the verdict.
He can put him in prison for three years, for one thing, and while I wouldn’t anticipate a sentence quite that long for the 78-year-old Beavers, he might want to rethink his approach between now and that day.
Beavers may be too proud to show any contrition.
“Listen, I ain’t got no regrets at all. I take my lumps,” said Beavers, who has contended from the start that he was only targeted for prosecution because he refused to cooperate in a separate federal investigation.
“I’m not a stool pigeon, never will be,” he repeated.
Beavers also told reporters that “I haven’t lost a dime” gambling, despite Horseshoe Casino records showing he dropped nearly a half million dollars in three years. I remember on that election night he was having trouble doing the percentages, too. Maybe it’s a math thing.
Beavers also boldly proclaimed: “There’s no law against what I did. There’s no law against gambling with campaign funds.”
Technically, the second sentence is correct.
Illinois law does not expressly prohibit politicians from using campaign funds to gamble, an oversight that should be fixed immediately.
Nor does it expressly prohibit them from borrowing money from their campaign funds, enabling them to use it as an off-the books personal piggybank as Beavers did. That should be changed, too.
But as the jury verdict should have made clear to Beavers, a politician who does either of those things without reporting it to the Internal Revenue Service or disclosing it to the State Board of Elections is playing with fire.
Beavers’ burns are entirely self-inflicted.