Updated: August 3, 2012 6:12AM
Finally, a little bit of good news.
In stark contrast to the glacially paced House Committee on Investigations, the panel charged with deciding indicted state Rep. Derrick Smith’s punishment looks like it will move forward with much more speed.
The investigations committee took two months to decide that there was enough evidence against Smith (D-Chicago) to warrant punishment. Smith was indicted for allegedly accepting $7,000 in cash bribes just before the March primary election. It was June before that committee took final action.
The two House leaders then appointed members to the Select Committee on Discipline, and that committee’s first meeting was last week. Smith’s attorney, Victor Henderson, strongly objected to the committee hearing evidence within a few days, claiming it was just too soon.
Henderson also complained that a federal judge has required him to first obtain permission before he can use any evidence to defend Smith before the committee. And Henderson said no rush to judgment should take place before the Nov. 6 election.
But the two House managers, who essentially are acting as prosecutors in the proceedings, dismissed Henderson’s concerns by pointing out that this was an internal House matter and not a court of law. There’s a big difference between the evidence required to kick a member out of the chamber and that required to convict a citizen and put him behind bars.
The House will have to reconvene to uphold any decision by the discipline committee. That return date can’t be set until the committee makes its final decision, which by the looks of things might not be that long from now.
Besides having Smith in their midst as a constant reminder to the public about Illinois’ ongoing corruption problems, House Democrats face the serious public relations problem of Smith refusing to withdraw from the general election.
But the Democrats got some good news last week when Lance Tyson said he had gathered more than 7,500 signatures to run as a third-party candidate in Smith’s 10th House District. He needed just 1,500 petition signatures, so he did quite well.
Tyson was picked to run against Smith as a third-party candidate by Democratic ward committeemen. He will run on the 10th District Unity Party ticket.
Tyson couldn’t run as an independent because a new state law prohibits that in light of Tyson voting as Democrat in the March primary.
And the Democrats believe they may be able to kick the Republican candidate off the ballot in the 10th District. They contend that Kimberly Small does not have enough petition signatures to qualify, and they’ve filed two different objections to her candidacy.
Small, who is white and running in a predominantly black district, was described as a “moderate” by local Republicans when she was appointed.
Small, who sells jets for a living, later drew some controversy when the Chicago Sun-Times reported that she had made some off-color jokes about President Barack Obama and his wife on her Facebook page.
Also in the 10th District, Joseph R. Sneed, a real estate broker and city worker, is running as an independent.
Tyson has not yet disclosed any large campaign contributions. Smith finally filed an amended campaign finance report for the first three months of the year. He did not disclose any campaign spending at all when he initially filed his finance report in April.
That was ridiculous and unbelievable because he obviously spent quite a bit of money on his campaign. Smith finally disclosed last month that he had spent about $58,000 during the first quarter and had almost $46,000 in the bank as of the end of March.
Smith also reported three in-kind contributions in June from House Speaker Michael Madigan’s Democratic Majority fund. The contributions apparently were made during the primary but were not disclosed until now.
Rich Miller also publishes Capitol Fax, a daily political newsletter, and CapitolFax.com