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Top license plates go to those with clout

Updated: August 6, 2012 12:07PM

Just as they have for more than a century, political insiders have gobbled up most of Illinois’ low-digit and single-letter license plates.

Two former governors — Jim Edgar and James R. Thompson — now have plates No. 4 and No. 8.

Edgar, who was once secretary of state, also has license plate letter E, while his brother, Fred Edgar, has JE, and the former governor’s nephew, Todd Edgar, has TE.

The children of the late former Gov. Otto Kerner and now-imprisoned ex-Gov. George Ryan, another former secretary of state, have plate No. 2 and No. 61.

The widow of former Gov. William Stratton has No. 6.

Political insiders such as Thomas Benigno, chief of staff for Secretary of State Jesse White — whose office issues the state’s license plates — and Steve Brown, House Speaker Michael Madigan’s press secretary, have No. 15 and No. 69. And Marylee Freeman, wife of Illinois Supreme Court Justice Charles Freeman, has ZZ.

The clout plate lists also contain enough felons to fill at least part of a prison wing.

Lawrence Warner, a one-time Ryan confidant who went to prison for three years for accepting commissions from state leases and contracts that Ryan’s office awarded, has plate No. 29, and his wife, Cynthia, has O.

Felon William Cellini, who participated in a $1.5 million campaign fund-raising shakedown on behalf of imprisoned former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, has BC. One of his attorneys, Kathleen Vyborny, has KV, and his sister, Janis Cellini, has OM.

Robert Hickman — a close friend of and onetime chief fund-raiser for Edgar — who was convicted in a 1997 tollway kickback scheme, has three coveted plates: H, JR and RH. And Dominic Longo — a vote-fraud felon who was a campaign worker for Blagojevich, Ald. Dick Mell (33rd) and former Mayor Richard M. Daley — has DL.

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