CHICAGO – Gov. Rod Blagojevich's (search) father-in-law has signed on to help raise money for one of the governor's most vocal critics, although the two men claim it has nothing to do with their public family feud.
Chicago alderman Richard Mell (search) said he decided to help with a political fund-raiser for state Rep. Jack Franks (search), a possible Blagojevich opponent in the Democratic gubernatorial primary next year, because Franks is a longtime friend and the son of a fishing buddy and political ally.
"I've known Jack since he was a little boy," Mell said. "He asked if he could use my name, and I said sure."
Mell said he has no plans to back anyone against his son-in-law and that Franks didn't ask for help in the context of running for governor.
Franks blasted Blagojevich during legislative hearings to investigate allegations of mismanagement by the current administration. A committee headed by Franks demanded a list of everyone hired in the Department of Central Management Services' effort to cut government expenses so it could be compared with records of Blagojevich donors.
Despite these criticisms, Blagojevich said Thursday he supports Franks for re-election.
He said he wasn't sure why Franks was raising money. If Franks' fund-raiser is for a potential run for governor, Blagojevich said, "It's a free country and you can be for whoever you want to be in a democracy."
"I support Representative Franks for re-election. If others are helping him raise money for his state rep race, I think that's fine," Blagojevich said. He said the media is "reading other things into it."
The family feud blew up publicly in January when Blagojevich temporarily shut down a landfill run by a distant relative of his in-laws. Mell then told reporters his son-in-law was destroying the family.
Mell also accused Blagojevich's chief fund-raiser of trading government appointments for campaign contributions, an allegation that prompted a government investigation. Mell later retracted his statement.
In May, Blagojevich boasted that he has the "testicular virility" to make tough decisions, even involving family members.
Franks said he hasn't ruled out a run for governor, but he said he's not trying to deepen the Blagojevich-Mell dispute.
"I don't think the flames can be fanned any more," Franks said. "I'd love for them to come together. I suggested to them to get counseling, just for the grandkids' sake."