Beware the ides of January in primary season

It isn't often that two members of the Illinois General Assembly can directly save individual taxpayers a few bucks so quickly or easily.

Yet that is just what state Rep. Randy Ramey of Carol Stream and state Sen. Carole Pankau of Itasca have done.

Ramey and Pankau have saved you the $9.50 it would cost to see the movie “Ides of March” starring George Clooney.

While the big screen political thriller involves sex (of course) and not just drinking and driving, and Democrats and not Republicans, and although Ramey bears scant resemblance to Clooney, the plot is the same: Primary elections can be nasty.

In case you missed it last week, Ramey, who is also the chairman of the DuPage County Republican Party, was seen and heard in a police videotape taken when he was stopped and cited for driving under the influence.

The video just surfaced even though the incident, in Carol Stream, occurred last August and the charges were widely reported. Ramey pleaded guilty in September, took his licks, and has apparently been doing the penance that included 100 hours of community service and a $1,750 fine.

The political strategy of getting past it quickly and figuring that voters have short memories came to an abrupt halt last week when the police dashboard video was obtained by ABC 7's enterprising newsman Ben Bradley and first featured in my I-Team's Intelligence Report on the 6 p.m. news last Thursday.

On the tape, Ramey's truck is seen being curbed by a Carol Stream patrol cruiser after crossing over the centerline, according to police. Ramey, who appears to be jovial throughout the field sobriety test, nonetheless fails to pass the requirements administered by a very patient and impressive Carol Stream patrolman.

Then, as he is being taken into custody and about to be handcuffed, Ramey says to the officer: “Do you know who I am?”

It isn't clear whether Ramey was referring to his position in the general assembly, status in the GOP, or that he is a stepson of Pate Philip, the former powerhouse president of the state Senate. The cop cut him off quickly by stating that he couldn't care less who he was.

When we contacted Ramey's attorney on Thursday afternoon concerning the clout-heavy “do you know who I am” statement, he said that he'd get back to us. He didn't. But Ramey's angry press spokesman George Bogdanich did.

Bogdanich was perturbed that we would go with the videotape story on short notice when another TV news organization had already interviewed Ramey and planned to broadcast the story in a few days.

Bogdanich said there was a bigger story to the tape. He said that an operative for Ramey's opponent in the GOP primary, Pankau, had initially obtained the police tape and was offering to keep it private if he'd drop out of the race.

“Randy refused to submit to blackmail. He never asked for special favors. The policeman knew who he was because of his license plate” Bogdanich said, referring to Ramey's plate, “55 REP.”

Ramey himself sent me an email just before we broadcast the story, questioning whether we had “a fair perspective on the situation in question. It is unfortunate that this happens 4 months after the fact.”

His email reiterated the blackmail allegation and he refined it in comments to the Daily Herald: “This wouldn't even be out there if they didn't (submit a Freedom of Information Act Request for) the video and release it after first threatening me,” Ramey said.

Pankau's campaign denied approaching Ramey with a step-aside-or-else-demand but admitted obtaining the police DUI video and turning it over to GOP leaders “for the good of the Republican Party.”

Late Sunday, when pressed for more information about the alleged blackmail, the Randy Raney campaign provided these details for this column: “an adviser to Ramey was contacted on the 5th or 6th of January by an operative of the Pankau campaign. Randy's adviser thereafter told Randy of this blackmail attempt in a face-to-face meeting that same day. Randy's campaign manager suggested he take a day or two to think it over. Randy decided to move forward with his campaign on the 9th.”

Of course, Rep. Ramey's first and most significant mistake was drinking and driving. Whatever happened after that is trumped by the DUI.

His second mistake was thinking that the video wouldn't get out.

His third mistake was not reporting the alleged blackmail to police and the public ... if it actually occurred. When asked why Ramey didn't go to the police, a campaign spokesman Sunday night insisted that the blackmail happened but said they didn't want to make a “legal issue of the Pankau campaign's actions at this point, but these actions by the Pankau campaign fit the popular definition of ‘blackmail'.”

George Clooney would never have been so timid.

Ÿ Chuck Goudie, whose column appears each Monday, is the chief investigative reporter at ABC 7 News in Chicago. The views in this column are his own and not those of WLS-TV. He can be reached by email at and followed at and

Carole Pankau
George Clooney
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