CHICAGO – Former White House chief of staff Bill Daley ripped Gov. Pat Quinn Thursday for playing "the usual politics" by appointing an influential Democrat to a Chicago transit board – comments that drew a quick rebuke from Quinn that Daley should take a look at his own family before making accusations of political patronage.
The back-and-forth between the two Chicago Democrats was an early sign of what's to come in the 2014 Democratic primary for Illinois governor.
Daley, the only candidate so far to announce he'll challenge Quinn for their party's nomination, repeatedly linked him to former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who was governor when Quinn was lieutenant governor and who's now imprisoned on corruption charges. Quinn, meanwhile, sought to remind voters of the long history of patronage at Chicago City Hall when Daley's father and brother were mayor.
At issue is Quinn's appointment of Thornton Township Supervisor Frank Zuccarelli, of the south Chicago suburb of Calumet City, to a $25,000-a-year post on the Chicago Transit Authority board.
Daley called it "a disgrace" because he said the appointment violates at least the spirit of a law that says CTA board members shouldn't hold other government offices or jobs for which they are paid. He also said it reeks of political patronage because Zuccarelli – who represents the state's largest township as a Cook County Democratic party committeeman – is expected to endorse Quinn for governor when the county party's slating committee meets next week.
"We've all been around a very long time. We know the game. And this is the usual game. All I'm saying is that the usual politics has got to change," Daley said.
Quinn defended the appointment, which he made in June and which must be approved by the Illinois Senate. He said Zuccarelli would be a strong voice for Chicago's south suburbs, which he says have been overlooked for years by the CTA. And he said state law makes it "crystal clear" that township supervisors are allowed to serve on the CTA board.
"People who are complaining about Frank Zuccarelli, they should look in their own family," Quinn added. He then noted that former Chicago Mayor Richard Daley once appointed his former campaign manager to be chairman of the CTA board.
Asked by a reporter what he thought about cronyism under his brother, Bill Daley responded: "Last I checked he's not running."
He also said he wasn't in a position to speak up at that time because he wasn't in public office, and that voters should listen to what he has to say and not have "a preconceived idea about what may have been the case or the norm" years ago.
"I believe a leader's got to change things," Daley said. "Maybe people will learn that I'm not what they think I am."
Daley said if Quinn won't withdraw Zuccarelli's nomination, state senators should reject it.