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OUR VIEW: Lausch has big shoes to fill in Chicago

THE ISSUE: Lausch confirmed as new U.S. attorney based in Chicago

OUR VIEW: Bipartisan approval a good sign at outset of important task

Oftentimes readers of this newspaper see the word Chicago in a headline and almost involuntarily shudder. It’s understandable — the political and financial power the state’s largest city yields can and has caused headaches throughout the state.

However, it’s not wise to ignore news coming from the Windy City, especially when the connecting thread is the federal government. Case in point, the appointment of a new United States district attorney for the Northern District of Illinois. It’s based in Chicago, yes, but also covers the top half of the state.

As a matter of brief history, we turn back to the beginning of this century when on Sept. 1, 2001, U.S. Sen. Peter Fitzgerald, a Republican, nominated to the post a New York attorney named Patrick Fitzgerald. There was no relation between the two men other than the senator’s appreciation for the lawyer’s career and insistence that only someone with no political connections in Illinois could fill the job.

Patrick Fitzgerald was at the helm when his office brought down two governors — Republican George Ryan and Democrat Rod Blagojevich — on a smorgasbord of corruption charges. He also had a strong influence on Chicago City Hall, indicting several top aides to Mayor Richard M. Daley as well as the former city clerk.

And though it’s not directly relevant to Illinois, it should be noted that during his tenure here he also served as special counsel, appointed by acting Attorney General James Comey, for the CIA grand jury leak investigation that yielded federal indictments of Scooter Libby, chief of staff to then-Vice President Dick Cheney.

In other words, this office is a big deal.

Last week, the U.S. Senate confirmed John Lausch, a Joliet native, to run the office where he’s been an assistant for a decade, including working in a supervisory role under Fitzgerald. According to the Chicago Tribune, Lausch was a deputy chief in the office’s narcotics and gangs division and helped lead the Project Safe Neighborhood and other anti-gang efforts. He was also captain of the Harvard University football team as an undergraduate.

The job was open because the current presidential administration cleaned house in March, asking for resignations of all U.S. attorneys appointed under the former administration. Given that situation, plus the inherent importance of the office, White House comments about street violence in the city as well as the somewhat outsized attention given to many appointments under the current president, there was justified concern about the local vacancy.

At this stage, however, it appears Illinois will be in good hands.

After the confirmation, senior Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, a Democrat, issued a statement praising Lausch’s selection, invoking his junior colleague Tammy Duckworth.

“With all the partisanship and division in Washington, it’s critical that Chicago’s U.S. attorney be a nonpartisan professional — I believe Mr. Lausch is the right person for the job,” the statement said. “Sen. Duckworth and I were glad to work with the White House on Mr. Lausch’s nomination and I’m pleased the Senate has confirmed him.”

U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Channahon, was part of the vetting process along with his Republican House counterparts Peter Roskam, of Wheaton, and Randy Hultrgen, of Plano.

Hopefully the bipartisan approval is not a sign Lausch is under the thumb of the state’s political machine, but simply that he’s an honorable man suited for the job and prepared to walk in the impressive footsteps of his forebears. Launch now has the power to do a great many good things for the people of this state, and we wish him well as he undertakes the most significant responsibilities of his legal career.

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