The Chicago “Tribune” is hammering Cheri Bustos in editorials demanding that she give back 10% of her pay, as she supposedly promised in interviews with the “Tribune’s” editorial board.


John McCormack:  “If you’re elected, are you going to say to whoever the HR department is, “Keep 10% of my pay?”

“I’m saying—” she began.

“It’s yes or no,” McCormick interrupted. “Are you going to voluntarily give up 10% of your salary?”

“Yes,” Bustos said.  “And I would propose that there’s a vote to cut 10% of the pay for every member of Congress.”

End of remarks.

Despite the fact that the “Tribune” leans Republican and “seldom is heard an encouraging word” about any Democratic office-holder, from the President on down through the Mayor and/or local representatives, the “Tribune” first hammered her on Wednesday, September 24 with the headline “Promises, Promises,” on page 23, in an article written by Eric Zorn. (Schilling’s attack ads have also picked up the scent of blood in the water and capitalized on it, which makes what I am going to suggest much more plausible.)

Zorn has proven himself capable of pointing out inconsistencies in candidates of both parties and once wrote a rather scathing indictment of former Governor Small (a review of another’s book), so one shouldn’t dismiss his comments as partisan, out-of-hand. The second attack came on Friday, September 26th, just 2 days after the first editorial (which was larger with a  large picture) in a small piece on p. 20, Section 1, entitled, “When You Say It, Mean It.”

I think we’ve all had the misfortune to say something we later regretted. (Joe Biden, anyone?) I know I did, when I said, “That makes me mad enough to spit” within earshot of a reporter for the Moline “Dispatch”, which I quickly told the reporter was “off the record.”( It was in reference to a school board meeting in the seventies in Silvis, when I was leading the charge for recognition of our teachers’ group as Co-Chairman of the Silvis Education Association). Although I told the reporter the remark was NOT for attribution and that it was off-the-record, and the reporter agreed, she  printed it, anyway. (Too bad the reporter supposedly covering the recount vote during the 2005 election, Jenny Lee, when I had more votes than the incumbent, didn’t report those results at all!)

I was particularly impressed by Eric Zorn’s piece, because it was bigger, appearing on the Perspectives page under a large picture of Bustos, and he has shown at least some degree of objectivity in past articles. Plus, Zorn had what I consider to be a really good idea, which was phrased this way in his piece entitled “Promises, Promises:”  “One thousand dollars ostentatiously donated from Bustos’ personal account to each of 35 worthy charities in the district would repay her ostensible debt, put Schilling on the spot to make a similarly generous gesture, and mark her as ‘someone who can be trusted,’ as she says, instead of someone who will say anything ot get elected.”

Zorn went on to say: “All falling trees make sounds, just as all promises, no matter how quiet, create obligations  Politicians with skill know how to turn those obligations into opportunities.”

I wrote this as a Bustos supporter (full disclosure) and, given the fact that her husband recently received an unexpected career boost to acting Sheriff, (which probably comes with an increase in pay, I’m thinking), and because I feel confident that $35,000 would be obtainable for someone with her political connections, I would agree with Zorn. It’s what Spike Lee called (in his film of the same name), “Do the right thing.” I’m not suggesting that Bustos has done the “wrong” thing;  I’m merely pointing out what Zorn has already done so eloquently.

View this as an opportunity, Cheri.  I say this as the woman who ran the most active scholarship program in the country out of 900 Sylvan Learning Centers and received a Bi-State Literacy Award from then-sitting First Lady Barbara Bush as proof (a Republican leading lady, let it be noted). Did that cost me money? You bet! Was it more than $35,000? Probably, since it ran for close to 20 years and we never turned a poor kid away. Do some REAL good with the mean-spirited Schilling ad!

There are MANY worthy charities, locally, state-wide, and nationally, that would welcome $1,000 gifts, including my own old stomping ground (Sylvan). $35,000 would probably not derail the funding of your campaign, and I doubt if it would cramp your personal lifestyle, given your husband’s recent good fortune (at the expense of another Rock Island County officeholder biting the dust; by the way, whatever happened to Dick Leibovitz’s criminality? Just swept under the rug?)

I would suggest my own personal favorite non-profits, like the Midwest Writing Center, followed by various charitable and health organizations (Bi-State Literacy Council), followed by whatever health problem you care to support (diabetes, ALS, heart disease, breast cancer, etc.) There are homeless women’s shelters begging for funds, and I’d take a close look at them, as well. And just because Zorn says to make 35 different $1,000 contributions doesn’t mean you can’t divvy up the funds in some other manner.

All this simply means you should “carpe diem” and divvy up the funds in a timely fashion to prove your point.  I do think you can be trusted. I do think that it would be a savvy political gesture, but I also think it would enhance your political prestige and reputation as the very first woman to serve as representative of our 17th district.  I hope you and your political advisors consider Eric Zorn’s words carefully [and publicize your actions when you make good on the pledge].

Yes, the Republicans will decry your donation(s) as a “gesture” and as “politically motivated’ and as you being “shamed into it,” but the Republicans can’t really sit on too high a horse in the “shame” department these days, what with gridlock in Congress and all the partisan bickering the Sarah Palins of the world have brought us. You’re better than that, and your constituents should know it and see tangible proof of it.

Carpe diem. Seize the moment. If properly publicized (and you could  even allow residents to vote on who gets the donation) it could seal the deal on this election for you. Godspeed! And remember: the election is just about a month off, so get cracking!