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Head of abortion rights group that donated to Quinn wins spot on state board

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM

SPRINGFIELD — In a partisan feud that required two senators to be separated, the Illinois Senate Thursday narrowly approved Gov. Quinn’s choice for a seat on the state Human Rights Commission over “pay-to-play” allegations from Republicans.

The Democratic-led Senate voted 30-25, with two members voting present, to confirm Terry Cosgrove, president and CEO of the abortion-rights group, Personal PAC, to a $46,960-a-year slot on the state human rights panel.

“Mr. Cosgrove’s organization donated over $400,000 to the governor’s campaign, the person who’s giving him this job. Mr. Cosgrove and his association were integral players in making sure he kept his seat as governor. That does not pass the smell test back home,” said state Sen. Dale Righter (R-Charleston).

Earlier, before the Senate Executive Appointments Committee voted to move Cosgrove’s appointment to the Senate floor, the debate turned hostile.

State Sen. Dan Duffy (R-Lake Barrington) launched into a series of questions about Personal PAC campaign fliers that he said “distorted” his position on abortion and alluded to the group’s website, which directed viewers to a phony website purporting to be Duffy’s.

Eventually, the committee’s chairman, state Sen. Tony Munoz (D-Chicago), cut off Duffy’s questions, and the two senators got into a heated face-to-face discussion in a corner of the committee room and wound up being separated by state Sen. Tim Bivins (R-Dixon), a former sheriff.

“I was telling him about protocol,” Munoz said, when asked what he said to Duffy. “I don’t have a problem with any senators’ questions. There’s just a way to do it.”

Duffy shot back: “I was elected to represent the people and ask questions about appointments like this, and that’s what I was doing.”

Cosgrove, meanwhile, dismissed the pay-to-play talk from Republicans and Duffy’s criticisms about Personal PAC’s tactics.

“I really think it was just political theater on their part,” Cosgrove said of his GOP critics. “Honestly, this was another day at the office for me. I didn’t take it personally at all.”

Elsewhere in the Capitol, the House passed a measure that would make people arrested of a serious felony submit a DNA sample that would be catalogued in a state database.

The bill, which passed 99-9 with two voting present, applies to people arrested with probable cause, not convicted, of first-degree murder, criminal sexual assault, home invasion and two other offenses.

“DNA is the fingerprint of the 21st Century,” said Rep. Susana Mendoza (D-Chicago), the bill’s chief House sponsor and the incoming city clerk. “It is by far the most important and concise and effective identification tool that we have.”

Her bill is a scaled-back version of one she passed previously that would have applied to all felonies, but that failed in the Senate last year by one vote.

But critics argued the bill reaches too far and threatens the rights of individuals who have not been tried or convicted of a crime.

House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie (D-Chicago), who voted against the bill, said DNA samples at arrest include personal information about individuals who have not yet faced a jury for their accused actions.

“The fact that conviction is one thing, arrest is something entirely different, we need to protect people’s privacy,” Currie said.

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