Opinions Editor

Jim Dey is a staff writer for The News-Gazette. His email is jdey@news-gazette.com.

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Time once again to dive in to another round of quick takes on the events being talked about over the past week:

Bouncing around

Rivian, the electronic-vehicle manufacturer whose production plant is located in Normal, last week held one of the most successful initial public offerings in stock-market history.

Its initial stock price of $80 per share skyrocketed from the get-go, jumping to as high as $160 a share. But what goes up can come down, especially when buying is driven by hopeful expectations instead of profits.

The amazing display of optimism drew a skeptical response from the Wall Street Journal, which wrote that “the EV truck maker is worth $120.5 billion” but had only “sold 156 vehicles.”

“Twelve-year-old Rivian is being hailed as the next Tesla. Yet when Tesla went public in 2010, it reported $93 million in revenue and was valued at $1.7 billion,” a Journal editorial stated.

The paper attributed the company’s astounding stock-market value to “euphoric investors” who made Rivian “the fifth-largest automaker in the world by market value.”

“Ponder that one,” the Journal advised, suggesting that the federal government’s support for electric vehicles is underwriting a “new industry before our eyes, steering capital to EV makers, come what may.

Investors hope to take advantage of the situation. But with profits far down the road, Rivian’s share price is being driven by speculation that already has produced some individuals who are ahead of the price they paid and others who are behind.

Feds’ dragnet continues

Wheels are turning behind the scenes, but all is quiet on the public front in the Commonwealth Edison bribery/conspiracy investigation.

But when it comes to corruption, Chicago, Cook County and Illinois are a target-rich environment.

That being the case, it’s important to note that the feds got wins in two other separate public corruption cases.

One relates to bribery of the late state Sen. Martin Sandoval, D-Chicago, who succumbed to the coronavirus, but not before pleading guilty and identifying his cohorts in crime.

The other case involves bribery of municipal officials to win their approval to put revenue-producing red-light cameras in Cook County municipalities outside Chicago.

Crestwood Mayor Louis Presta this week resigned his office after pleading guilty to taking $5,000 from a red-light-camera company.

He was mentioned in this space a couple weeks ago after working out a shady deal to remain on the city payroll after his forced resignation as mayor. Public outrage forced city officials to quash their agreement with the mayor.

Red-light cameras are cash machines for municipalities and the companies who sell them. They illustrate perfectly the concept that government can be the enemy — as well as the friend — of ordinary citizens.

According to new accounts, Presta, a not-so-selfless public servant, bragged to a representative of the camera company that their joint venture would be lucrative because “you got a new sheriff in town.”

The new sheriff, however, wasn’t counting on drawing the attention of the FBI. Presta, who faces a Feb. 23 sentencing hearing, pleaded guilty to a variety of charges including bribery and filing false income-tax returns.

Safe Speed, the red-light-camera company, has denied all suggestions of wrongdoing. But its representative, former company partner Amar Maani, has entered into a deferred-prosecution deal and is working with the FBI as the investigation continues.

In the Sandoval-related case, suburban businessman Vahooman Mirkhaef pleaded guilty to paying “at least $15,000” to Sandoval to help secure the purchase of state-owned property near his company in McCook.

Because he was chairman of the Illinois Senate Transportation Committee, Sandoval was able to influence the Illinois Department of Transportation’s decision on the sale.

Other politicos have been implicated in Sandoval-related misconduct. A notorious figure, Sandoval was considered by his Senate colleagues to be the most likely among them to someday be indicated.

That’s why it was big news in September 2019 when FBI agents raided Sandoval’s home and Senate offices. He quickly reached an agreement to tell all to the feds in exchange for a reduced sentence. But after months of cooperation, he contracted the coronavirus and died.

Mirkhaef faces a prison sentence of more than two years. But no sentencing date has been scheduled because he is assisting investigators in the hope of getting a reduced sentence.

In it to win it

State Rep. Dan Brady, R-Bloomington, made it official this week, announcing that he’s seeking his party’s nomination for secretary of state.

So far, he’s the only GOP candidate in the race. At the same time, a handful of Democrats are vying for their party’s nomination to succeed retiring Secretary of State Jesse White.

A former funeral director and coroner in McLean County, Brady had an unusual entrée into politics, working as an intern in the funeral business owned by the late state Sen. Stan Weaver,

R-Urbana.

Brady has jokingly told colleagues that he earned Weaver’s backing in his political future by, among other things, mowing the lawn of Weaver’s funeral home.

Jim Dey, a member of The News-Gazette staff, can be reached at jdey@news-gazette.com or 217-393-8251.

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