"No, YOU'RE more corrupt!" "Am NOT!" "Are TOO!"
Blago/Topinka cage match.
In a feisty debate, Republican Judy Baar Topinka chided Gov. Rod Blagojevich on Friday for having "the most investigated administration" in state history, while Blagojevich said the state treasurer's hypocrisy on ethics made it hard for him to breathe.Hide the women and children, this could get ugly.
Marking the first formal face-to-face appearance of the two major candidates in the Nov. 7 election for governor, Topinka repeatedly jabbed at Blagojevich for elevating "pay to play" politics to "an art form." The first-term Democrat has faced criticism over administration contracts that went to his allies and donors.
Topinka also noted allegations, raised in a federal plea agreement, that a prominent government official cited only as "Public Official A" had orchestrated a scheme to siphon campaign cash and reward donors.
"I still have a name. You're `Public Official A,'" she told Blagojevich.
"He is the new George Ryan," Topinka said, referring to Blagojevich's Republican predecessor, who was recently convicted on federal corruption charges. "Do you think the U.S. attorney spends his time just doing this for kicks? No. Because there is so much there and we've seen it come down."
Blagojevich has consistently denied any wrongdoing in his administration and said he doesn't know the identity of "Public Official A." He also said he instituted ethics reform laws after taking office, in response to Ryan practices that he said Topinka did little to stop.
The governor said Topinka had taken more than $500,000 in campaign cash from banks her office does business with, as well as having previously accepted donations from her state workers. He also said her office had faced the scrutiny of federal investigators over allegations that state workers did political work on taxpayer time.
"The hypocrisy here is so thick, I'm having a hard time to breathe," Blagojevich said. "She can criticize me, but when she criticizes me about things that she, herself, does, it's astounding."
Topinka has said her office has not heard from federal investigators in three years.