Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Lake County Grand Jury Indicts State Senator Terry Link’s Petition Circulators on Multiple Counts of Forgery and Perjury (UPDATED x5)

The Lake County State’s Attorney’s office has confirmed that two of State Senator Terry Link’s paid nomination petition circulators, Jerry D. Knight and Kenneth Davison, were indicted today by a grand jury on multiple counts of forgery and perjury. This is the first set of indictments resulting from a joint investigation by the Lake County States’s Attorney and the Office of the State Appellate Prosecutor concerning allegations of forgeries of the signatures of both living and dead people on Senator Link’s petitions that were needed to place him on the ballot for the 30th Senate District race, where he faces GOP challenger Keith Gray this November.

Knight and Davison were Link’s primary petition circulators, and were responsible for acquiring nearly 2,700 of the 3,378 total signatures on Link’s nomination petitions (1,000 valid signatures were needed to place Link on the ballot). Knight and Davison also acquired signatures for numerous other Democratic candidates, including all Democrats running for county-wide office in Lake (which includes the Dem state’s attorney and circuit court clerk challengers, and the incumbent coroner and recorder of deeds).

Team America has been following this story closely since we broke it in mid-November 2007, but for those of you just catching up, the allegations of petition fraud were first brought to light by Link’s democratic primary challenger, Jerry Johnson, former mayor of North Chicago. Johnson’s campaign discovered that several of the purported “signatures” of supposedly registered voters were those of dead people, including a former North Chicago police chief, a political editor of the Lake County News-Sun, and a member of TA’s former Rotary club. Johnson also noted other suspect names, such as that of Link’s GOP challenger from the last election, Shields Township Supervisor Charles “Chuck” Fitzgerald.

While Johnson filed a challenge to the legitimacy of these and many other signatures appearing on Link’s petitions before the State Board of Elections, Johnson did not initially have sufficient evidence of a ‘pattern of fraud’ to include this claim in time to meet the extremely short objection filing deadline. Thus, the SBE rejected certain individual signatures that were obviously false and invalid, but the board did not consider any ‘pattern of fraud’ allegations that would have thrown out all of the signatures collected by Knight and Davison, and therefore allowed Link to remain on the ballot for the February 2008 primary election.

As noted above, Knight and Davison were responsible for acquiring signatures of around 2700 people, out of around 3400 signatures filed by Link’s campaign. This amounted to over 100 pages (at 25 signatures a page) out of 139 pages of petitions filed, or over 75% of Link’s signatures. Given that Link required 1,000 valid signatures to remain on the ballot, had the broader fraud allegations been made and proven before the SBE, Link would have been removed from the ballot if all pages “circulated” by Knight and Davison had been rejected.

Nevertheless, Johnson and other concerned citizens (including, no surprise, members of the Lake County GOP) continued to review Link’s petitions for irregularities. Johnson’s campaign discovered that not only did the names of dead people appear on the Link petitions, a curious pattern emerged where the names on many of the petition pages were listed in alphabetical or reverse-alphabetical order. In addition, mistakes such as misspelling a voter's signature (hard to misspell one's own name, if the sig is legitimate) and transposing the address of a voter with the one that appeared directly above or below the entry in the Lake County telephone directory led to the conclusion that these signatures were generated by “roundtabling,” an old election trick where petition pages are passed around a table by a group of people to forge names out of the phone directory or old voter lists. The News-Sun decried this revelation and called for Senator Link to investigate the allegations. Senator Link, however, took no action.

The Lake County State’s Attorney began to investigate the allegations as a potential criminal matter in December 2007. At the time, Lake County State’s Attorney Michael Waller said that “In preliminary interviews, every person we talked to said it wasn’t their signature.” (Lake County News-Sun, 12/21/07). Even if we assume that Link had no knowledge of the alleged fraudulent activity, despite calls from the press and concerned citizens to investigate and take action, Senator Link chose to deny culpability and bury his head in the sand. At various times, Link called the accusations of fraud "nonsense," laughed them off and accused someone of "playing games," said "they’re shooting in the dark" or perhaps it was "a bunch of Republican operatives trying to interfere in a Democratic primary." (News-Sun article, 11/17/07). At the height of Link's hubris, he boldly stated that since "I never personally circulated one petition, so there's nothing [the state's attorney] can do to me."

Well, those words may come back to haunt Link.

Now that Knight and Davison have been indicted, Link has some interesting choices to make. Clearly, Link resisted acknowledging the issue and took no action himself that might have resulted in him having to admit that his petitions were irreparably flawed, and have to remove himself from the primary election that was held in February 2008. That would have been the honorable thing to do, and notably, was exactly what candidate James Gumm, the incumbent Milton Township assessor, did when he discovered that political operative Rodney McCulloch paid circulators to circulate petitions, which signatures the circulators then forged.

Even now, if Link tries to distance himself from the illegal acts of his paid petition circulators and tries to belatedly condemn their actions, he is essentially admitting that his candidacy is illegitimate, and he should withdraw from the senate race. Link is likely to again resist such demands, but the public pressure on Link as a result of this scandal may reach unbearable proportions, given Link’s position. Even throwing Knight and Davison completely under the bus at this point may not be enough. And, there's always the chance that Knight and Davison will roll over on Link and his right-hand man, "Sneaky" Pete Couvall, who was the one who actually hired and paid Knight and Davison to "collect" signatures.

This scandal may not stop with Link, either, as not only did other Dems have petitions circulated by Link, the Lake County Dems have stood behind Link, welcoming his assistance and money, and re-electing him Dem County Chairman this past March. Tenth Congressional candidate Dan Seals, for example, prominently touts Link's endorsement of him on Seals' website. Wonder how long it will take for that to get scrubbed, and other Dems to disavow Link? Will Lauren Beth Gash, Susan Garrett and the other Dem "do-gooders" finally seize this opportunity to depose Link from county leadership?

Folks, stay tuned for much, much more on this story in the weeks and months to come.

UPDATED 1:22 p.m.: The Daily Herald already has a web story up. Charles Zaler, an attorney for the state Appellate Prosecutor's Office stated in the article that "There is no evidence that the senator had any knowledge of these actions or condoned them. He has responded fully to our inquires in this matter."

That's nice, but doesn't let Link off the hook for failing to investigate last winter, before he was elected as the Democratic nominee in the primary.

The buck stops with you, Senator.

UPDATED x2 2:40 pm.: GOP challenger Keith Gray sent out this press release in the wake of today's indictments, calling on Senator Link to remove himself from the November ballot.

UPDATED x3 2:42 p.m.: Here's a Tribune web story.

UPDATED x4 4:19 pm.: And the Pioneer Press.

UPDATED x5 4:37 p.m.: And the News-Sun.


WaukeganWhispers said...

We should all commend Lake County State's Attorney Michael Waller. First, he indicted the head of the Lake County GOP -- then he indicted the team around the leader of the Lake County Democratic Party. He clear plays no favorites and is forcing corrupt politicians to follow the law.

He is a good public servant, similar in bravery to our crusading U.S. attorney, Patrick Fitzgerald.

Anonymous said...

This is the end of Terry Link.


Concerned4Waukegan said...

Unfortunately, I fear this will not hurt Link as much as we think. It seems that many voters turn a blind eye to his short comings. He is very powerful and, somehow, keeps getting re-elected. I will, however, continue to work hard for Keith Gray in our efforts to "BREAK THE LINK"

Anonymous said...

Once these guys look at jail time, they will squeal.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone else think Terry Link looks like the evil Emperor Palpatine from Star Wars fame or is it just me? TA, why don't you post a side by side so the voters can decide!

Don Castella said...

I trust this trial will finally put to rest the ridiculous and scurrilous claims by Link's surrogates that Republicans were somehow involved in these alleged Democrat crimes.

Anonymous said...

Waller nailed the Republicans first, then the Dems.

Link was arrogant and these guys will flip against him once convicted.

Goodbye Sen Link. Hello Sen. Ryg.

Anonymous said...


You deserve a share of the credit for steering justice toward Terry Link. His shenanigans would have gone unremarked upon but for your dogged pursuit of the truth. Congrats and keep up the great work!

Anonymous said...

I agree with you anon 9:13, and I would also like to give credit to - the thorn in the side of the Waukegan GOBs.

Anonymous said...

TA good work. We need an indictment against link. Though I don't think this will cause him to sLINK back into the hole he came from. If we get a Senator Ryg, 'Renyged on her promise to change springfield' would look really swell.

Keith, press releases are one page, with quote in second and fourth paragraphs otherwise what newsmedia hasn't been fired yet :) won't read them and a lot of times the second page gets cut off. People also won't open pdf's for fear they will get a virus.

Keith and Tim Stratton, could really give their campaigns a big boost right now by having some form of a media event on a saturday where they get a milk carton, some supporters and some media to ask where exactly Terry and Karen May have been in springfield, since you don't hear a lot from them explaining their failure. The media is tired of covering the democratic failure, and is practically begging for a republican to show some spleen so if done right this could get a bite from the trib.

Also, in tomorrow's wall street journal karl rove shows he should have listened to mark and what I hope will be a deepening trend in our party when he notes the need for the party to win liberal independent suburban districts in the midwest.

Anonymous said...

Even if Link is forced out, there will be a replacement quickly put in place (like Kathy Ryg-who has a fairly safe seat in the House and a successor would be appointed if she were to get elected). I have had the chance to meet Ryg on a few occasions and she has made a believer out of me--and I'm a lifelong Republican.

Anonymous said...

Ryg is now going to be tested -- silent on link's corruption?

Kathy - do you work for us or corrupt leaders like Blagojevich and Link?

Anonymous said...

Interesting that not a single Democratic elected official or candidate for office with the exception of Rep. Washington, has released any statement on this matter since the indictments. And Washington's statement dates back to the primary. Senator Garrett? Senator Bond? Representative May? Representative Ryg? Coronor Keller? Vanderventer? Hello? Anybody home? Senator Garrett in particular knows how to contact the press to express her views.

By their silence they clearly condone the actions of the Link campaign, the Lake County Democratic Party, and their illegal process of gathering signatures. This includes those running for county-wide offices who Knight and Davidson also collected signatures for. Everyone on the ballot in Lake County who is running as a Democrat for a county-wide office had signatures collected for them by Knight and Davidson.

And these Democratic elected officials and/or candidates have had plenty of opportunities to speak out since prior to the primary election held earlier this year. Or drop out of their campaigns. Or do or say something. Or clean house.

They remain silent.

Not to mention the totally ineffective Illinois State Board of Elections, appointed by Governor Public Official A and confirmed by the same Democratic controlled State Senate that Link is a leader, not a mere member, of. Personally watching them vote on party lines to keep Link on the ballot is something I will never forget. Some gatekeepers they are for a fair and honest election process!

I personally know Senator Link. Although I have always stopped short of demonizing him like other Republicans do because of knowing him, I have found astounding about this whole mess from day one is his inaction in cleaning house to make sure that such illegal activities never occur on his watch again. He is the party chairman for the Democrats in Lake County. Peter Couvall, his long time vice-chairman, for example is still active in the Democratic Party of Lake County and was active during the last round of petition challenges for the "appointed" Democrat candidates who also didn't follow the rules.

Come on Senator Link! Step up to the plate and clean up your own house!

Silence isn't always golden in the face of such illegal activities which have so significantly affected our election process.

Senator Link needs to remember that these illegal activities and two law breakers put him on the ballot and put many local Democrats on the ballot. Without the help of these law breakers, he would have been short of signatures.

Gordon, Keller, Piram, Hewitt and other Democrats who benefitted from the activities of Knight and Davidson need to remember that these illegal activities and two law breakers help put them on the ballot. Without their help, they would have been short of signatures.

They have had plenty of time to do the right thing or accept responsibility for the actions of their campaigns and the two individuals who "assisted" them. They have had plenty of time dating back to well before the primary election.

Even today they remain silent!

Louis G. Atsaves

Anonymous said...

Once these guys cop a plea, they will give up Couvall and Link.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Louis, you don't hear a peep out of any of the 'leaders' in the Lake County Democrat organization. And Ellen Beth Gill is silent choosing to continue to rant and rave against Mark Kirk and John McCain. Reading the above the fold headline in my edition of today's Tribune made me angry. Link claims he 'knew nothing' because he was busy in Springfield. Busy? Doing what? And his professed ignorance of this illegal activity by his desginees is simply not acceptable. Let's see if anyone, including the Righteous Dr. Keller, will step up and speak out. Their collective silence is deafening.

Anonymous said...

Checked out the "news" section of the Lake County Democratic Party web site.

No surprise. No mention of this story at all.

The official Democratic silence continues.

Louis G. Atsaves

Team America said...

Lou- you knew checking that website looking for the story was a waste of a few mouse clicks even before you did it.

What needs to happen (but probably won't) is for the MSM to call all of the Dem incumbents and candidates, ESPECIALLY those who had Knight and Davison circulate for them, and get them on the record.

Anonymous said...

It looks like Russ Lissau of the Daily Herald has picked up on the fact that other Democrats in Lake County have tainted petitions. Check out the Daily Herald website. He also promises more to follow in the comments section.

Louis G. Atsaves

Blah said...


Have you seen this? Did Seals ever give back this money? You should stay on top of this like you did on Rangel...


Blah said...


Have you seen this? Did Seals ever give back this money? You should stay on top of this like you did on Rangel...


blah said...

Anonymous said...

These are the comments I have been posting at the Daily Herald, News Sun and other blog sites about the sudden Democratic revelations of this law breaking activity.

Louis G. Atsaves



These irregularities and violations of the law by Knight and Davidson occurred nearly 10 months ago and these Democrats who benefitted from it are now finally publicly stating that they are embarrassed and ashamed? Where were these statements 10 months ago? Why did they have to wait until now to become embarrassed and ashamed or claim that they were being conned by a couple of con men?

Where were their grassroots support for their candidacies? No volunteers available?

Did these candidates pay for Davidson and Knight to circulate petitions for them illegally or did the Lake County Democratic Party or just the Link for Senate campaign pay them to do this? They needed to get hired guns to circulate petitions?

Each candidate is ultimately responsible for the conduct of his or her campaign. Keller and Hewitt and the others had 10 months to condemn those actions. Other than being embarrassed, they should all own up to this behavior and accept responsibility for the actions of those who ultimately put them on the ballot.

Is this how they would run their offices if they get elected or reelected? Is this an indication of their hiring practices?

Enough! Vote Republican!

Anonymous said...

TA if you try to post links to the blog they get cut off.

This is encouraging.