George Ryan & Cicero
IPSN, June 4, 1997
Political Hopefuls Willing to Brave
Cicero’s Hot Irons for Campaign Cash
When Secretary of State George Ryan decides whether he should seek the Republican nomination for the US Senate or for Illinois Governor, he will find himself consulting with the powers that be in Cicero.
It’s something he will not be able to avoid. Cicero will surface on his record as a blemish that, untreated, could scuttle his ambitions for higher office.
Ryan’s Cicero ties are so strong he can’t simply sweep them under the pre-campaign rug.
Despite a heavy mob influence, Cicero is still one of the strongest Republican voter bastions in suburban Cook County, boasting the largest campaign warchest, too!
The appeal of Cicero’s money and votes will keep Ryan on his toes.
As he keeps his distance from the subpoena-plagued administration of Town President Betty Maltese, he’ll eagerly reach into her massive campaign fund for support.
What else can a longtime Cicero pal do?
Ryan and “Baldy” Go Way Back:
Ryan’s ties to Cicero go way back to the years when he served as the Speaker of the Illinois House.
One of Ryan’s closest pals was then legislator Henry Klosak,
It was Klosak who introduced Ryan to Cicero’s mob controlled political mechanic, the portly Frank “Baldy” Maltese, affectionately called “bones” by Ferriola.
At that time, “Bones” or “Baldy” Maltese was only “suspected” of maintaining ties to the Ferriola crime family and to underboss Ernest “Rocco” Infelise.
So when Cicero Town President Klosak approached Secretary of State George Ryan to do his friend “Baldy” Maltese a favor, Ryan obliged. Klosak and the mob wanted to appoint “Baldy” as the Township Assessor, not a simple task even by the mob’s standards.
You see, in Illinois, Township Assessors are required to receive special certification, the equivalent of hundreds of hours of real estate classes and assessment studies and schooling.
Normally, one might expect to go through a series of classes under state supervision to qualify to even run for the position of Township Assessor, let alone be appointed.
In Cook County, where the County Assessor does all the work, suburban Township Assessors are ceremonial and political. They collect salaries that range around $65,000 a year.
The only things they assess are their political powers.
Maltese assessed his political ties to Ryan, and concluded he was a good person to know, working with him in each and every Cicero election after his qualification process was greased through.
In 1993, when Baldy was packing his bags to serve time in a federal penitentiary for convictions on charges of mob racketeering, Cicero’s boulevards were lined with “Welcome George Ryan” signs that were six feet tall and four feet wide. Legitimate businesses that actually pay taxes are not allowed to put up such signs.
No other Illinois politician received a similar honor from Cicero, other than the Mafia Princess herself. Ryan was the beneficiary of thousands of dollars in campaign donations from Maltese, whose wife, Betty, became the Town President after Klosak’s death in December, 1992. She became Cicero Township Republican Committeeman nearly one year later.
Ryan’s behind-the-scenes efforts helped motivate then Committeeman Allan C. Carr, also a county board commissioner, to “voluntarily” step down so Betty could take his place as GOP Committeeman.
Ryan’s Senate Bid:
Ryan cannot avoid turning to Cicero if and when he decides to launch a bid for the US Senate seat held by Carol Moseley-Braun.
The fact is, Betty Maltese has veto power over certain hirings in Ryan’s administration, and has vocally opposing the hiring of several people in recent months.
Her close friend, Larry Dalicandro, is a Ryan employee, and his job is protected. Ryan’s aides will do their best to keep that Cicero link as low key as possible, hoping not to give the Moseley-Braun staff campaign fodder.
It is hard to be “low profile” with a politician whose pre-election spectacle of waiving her urine sample high in the air on national TV is still “fresh” in the public’s senses.
Familiar with Betty’s volatile character and frequent public outbursts, and keenly aware of the intensity of the FBI’s probe of numerous scandals that have marked her first four years in office, Ryan will most likely work through Cicero’s defacto Town Attorney, Chicago political drop-out Edward R. Vrdolyak.
At one time in his life, Vrdolyak was always one step away from power. But a string of failed personal elections forced him into a more successful role as a consultant, making sure the rose petals of success are properly placed before the feet of others.
Any public appearances with Betty Maltese, including at her soon-to-be-held Golf Outing next month at the St. Andrew Golf Course, would certainly injure a US Senate campaign. Moseley-Braun’s staff will certainly want to keep an eye out for potential Republican rivals who attend.
The black clouds that swirl above because of her questionable investments in companies doing business with Cicero are only enhanced by her reckless track record of openly opposing the elections of Republican endorsed candidates who have sought her support.
Has Helped More Democrats:
Instead of backing the Republican hopeful for Congress, Jim Nalepa, in 1996, Betty Maltese supported and financed Chicago Democrat and US Rep. William O. Lipinski.
She has sent her promiscuous financial kisses to other Democrats, like former County Board President Dick Phelan who considered running for governor several years back against Gov. Jim Edgar. She found no discomfort nestling during photo shoots at a GOP fundraiser in Cicero with Circuit Clerk Aurelia Pucinski, a Democrat who also received Maltese campaign cash.
Betty Maltese burned bridges with powerful DuPage Republican and Illinois Attorney General Jim Ryan. When Ryan came to the west suburbs to tape a campaign TV commercial depicting his fight against crime, he chose crime-ridden Cicero for the spot.
Although Betty Maltese kept Jim Ryan steaming in his campaign car for more than an hour, her aides quietly lined up a police squad car to use as a prop for the shooting. Jim Ryan was escorted by the man Maltese later dumped as Town Clerk, Mark Moro, a former George Ryan aide.
When Moro tried to return to a job with Ryan’s staff, it was a vindictive Betty Maltese who petitioned Ryan to say “No!”
Politicians can be excused for the occasional brush with mob controlled colleagues. After all, they all play ball on the same corrupt field. In many cases, details of mob ties are often little more than rumors.
But once those rumors surface, as they did loud and clear for Betty Maltese in 1996 when her investment in a mob linked company that did business with her town surfaced, those contacts should have been broken.
In 1996, the “reputable” lawyer-for-hire William Kunkle declared the Betty Maltese government overpaid a mob-linked insurance contractor more than $4.5 million over a two year period from late 1993 to early 1995. There is evidence to believe an additional $4.5 million was overpaid by the Town to the same company from 1995 through 1996 when Betty’s investment was finally made public.
Can a candidate like George Ryan publicly embrace Maltese today, in the wake of these disclosures?
And, can that candidate continue to accept cash from the Betty Maltese organization which cattle-prods Cicero businesses and Town employees to purchase hundreds of thousands of dollars in tickets to her annual July Golf Outing?
Those are questions Ryan and his campaign strategists must answer.
FBI Probe Still Pushing Forward:
The Cicero Golf Outing has been the subject of an FBI investigation since 1991, when Baldy Maltese was first indicted. It can be expected to raise anywhere from $400,000 to $600,000 in cash, the most remarkable ticket sale system in suburban American politics and the cause of so much FBI attention over the past six years.
In its first year in 1996, the Golf Outing “Ad Book,” also called “the Cicero’s Bible,” exceeded 450 paid-for Ad pages, rivaling both the Yellow Pages and the adbook published by the late 25th Ward Chicago Alderman and Committeeman Vito Marzullo.
As in past years, Republican political heavyweights like Governor Jim Edgar and former States Attorney Jack O’Malley have avoided public appearances at the golf outings, where ticket sales out-distance actual attendance by more than 20 to 1.
At one event late last year, the staff of Gov. Jim Edgar pointedly asked Betty Maltese not to attend an appearance he planned in nearby Berwyn citizen breakfast. But fashioning herself as a modernday Ma Barker, Betty Maltese barged in causing Edgar to drop his breakfast bacon.
How could Ryan avoid, as the state’s chief librarian, the dedication of a new library in one of his suburbs, even if it was in Cicero?
Ryan attended the dedication with Maltese months back, but only at the behest of Cook County Commissioner Allan C. Carr, whose disdain for Maltese is no secret. Carr’s loyalty to Republican interests is solid and his district encompasses a large swatch of the Western suburbs, including mob controlled Cicero where Carr carefully balances responsibility to his constituents against Maltese pressures against his own widespread interests.
Standing with a shovel in his hand, Ryan was careful not to get too close to Betty, making sure there was always someone standing between them when photographed. A photo appearance with Maltese can serve as ammunition in a hotly contested election.
Gone are the days when Cicero could groom congressmen like Henry Hyde or miraculously avoid the “bullet” of politically sensitive US Attorneys. Jim Thompson, whose prosecution of Chicago Democrats zinged close but above the heads of bigger hoodlums in Cicero, helped get him elected Governor. It’s amazing that till this day, Thompson hobnobs with Cicero’s mobbed-up political elite, chumming it in the company of Ed Vrdolyak.
How could Jim Thompson have missed such an easy target as Cicero during his early quickdraw prosecution days?
If Betty Maltese wants to help get George Ryan elected Illinois’ new US Senator, she would be better off by endorsing and giving her money to Democrat Moseley-Braun.
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