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Lt. Gov. Quinn: Blagojevich Made Illinois An 'International Laughing Stock'

MICHAEL TARM   01/ 5/09 08:40 PM ET   AP

Quinn

CHICAGO — Illinois has become an "international laughing stock," the state's lieutenant governor said Monday in pledging to create an advisory panel to recommend ways to root out and thwart corrupt officials.

"We are going to have a year of reform in our state," Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn told reporters after delivering a speech in downtown Chicago. "We need to fumigate state government."

Dealing with the repercussions of Gov. Rod Blagojevich's arrest last month for allegedly trying to sell President-elect Barack Obama's U.S. Senate seat should be the state's No. 1 priority, he told an audience earlier at the City Club of Chicago.

Quinn would become governor if Blagojevich leaves office.

Quinn said he'll appoint former federal prosecutor Patrick Collins to lead the panel. Collins prosecuted the case that sent former Gov. George Ryan to prison for corruption.

The panel would be expected to issue its final report by early April. Other members must still be chosen.

Panel recommendations would be strictly advisory, carrying no legal force. Nothing in Illinois law explicitly provides for lieutenant governors to form advisory panels, but nothing prohibits it, said Quinn spokesmen Bob Reed.

"Just by virtue of the office, he can do this," Reed said. "It's not in conflict with any constitutional provisions."

Illinois Republican Party Chairman Andy McKenna said the panel was Quinn's attempt to "cultivate a newfound reformer image."

"If Pat Quinn was serious about reforming Illinois, he would have done it prior to being Rod Blagojevich's running mate in 2006 and before the governor's arrest 27 days ago," McKenna said in a statement.

Quinn said Blagojevich shouldn't have appointed former Illinois Attorney General Roland Burris as Obama's Senate replacement. But he also said he wants a "fair solution" to the dispute over the appointment. He declined to elaborate.

Senate Democratic leaders have said they would not approve of any Blagojevich appointment and a showdown looms as the new Congress convenes this week.

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Filed by Ben Goldberger  |