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Karen Heller: And now, a few senatorial licks

The butler didn't do it. Unlike in a Agatha Christie mystery, he failed to provide drama, and was merely a walk-on.

The butler didn't do it. Unlike in a Agatha Christie mystery, he failed to provide drama, and was merely a walk-on.

Time to reenter Fumoworld, the alternative space-time continuum in federal court, to hear the British butler. Not every recovering state senator has a valet. Then again, not every legislator has a 33-room mansion, a staff that does plumbing, a charity or two at his beck and call.

Matthew Fonseca was Fumo's butler for a year. I was expecting Alec Guinness. Instead, he wore jeans and a leather jacket, looking like a member of Tony Soprano's crew. An amiable bloke, Fonseca is a professional polo player for Tommy Lee Jones' team. Honest, you can't make up this stuff.

The last few witnesses provided few fireworks as the prosecution's case winds down before FBI agents testify. Couldn't the trial be put on fast forward to get Fumo on the stand?

This week, we learned that Fumo owns 20 paintings of ships in storms. Defense lawyer Ed Jacobs said some observers believe the art is a sign the legislator "was doomed."

Art, mallet-wielding majordomos, psychoanalysis. It's the drama HBO is searching for.

Enter the Blago

Our Fumo pales next to Illinois Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich who, this week, reclaimed his state as the epicenter of sleaze and Chicago as the city of deep pockets.

In the last half-century, an Illinois governor had a .333 chance of being convicted. Blago appears up for the challenge.

The federal indictment alleges that he was selling Barack Obama's Senate seat as though it were a playoff ticket on eBay, bartering for money, cabinet positions, and corporate board appointments, those marvelous phantom jobs that pay already rich people to tell CEOs how wonderful they are.

With his wife, the Lady Macbeth of Expletives, egging him on in the background - only her prepositions are printable - the governor reportedly threatened to hold up the sale of the Cubs unless Tribune editorial writers were fired.

Please, the newspaper business is in enough trouble without some pol dictating beat assignments.

People have a hard time taking Blagojevich seriously because, despite being 52, he looks like the guy who played Skippy on

Family Ties


The man responsible for Blago's holiday woes, for knocking air out of Chicago's Obama helium-high, is U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, the alpha slayer of sleazebags and author of the best indictments of our time. In a recession, it's nice the feds aren't cutting back in investigations because, certainly, there's been no reduction in indictable behavior.

Oh, to be a senator

Naturally, Blagojevich couldn't help himself. He was caught up in the fervor of America's newest parlor game:

Who Wants to Be a Senator?

Apparently, everyone.

Caroline Kennedy has long been admirable as the only one in her family uninterested in politics. Instead, she committed her time to noble pursuits, philanthropy and New York City's public schools. Now Kennedy, along with everyone including the Yankees starting lineup, is eyeing the seat of Hillary Clinton, the only person who doesn't find the job enticing enough.

Hillary is moving on to secretary of state. Does anyone else find this loopy? Yes, she's visited many countries. So have the Spice Girls. She's wicked smart, but spent most of her career dedicated to children, health and families. She doesn't speak a single foreign language. Oh, and there's that Iraq war vote business.

But I forgot that nepotism, prohibited in most professions, is a prerequisite in politics.

Aspirations are like the flu. If you stand close enough to someone doing the job you want, that's enough to get it.

Obama is mostly breaking with precedent, selecting people who are absurdly qualified. Next week, he plans to name Nobel Prize-winning physicist Steven Chu to be energy secretary. Amazing. In the past, all it took was some rich guy who knew the right people and sat on corporate boards.