The Strange Case of Donne Trotter
State Sen. Donne (pronounced “Donny”) Trotter was until last week an innocuous, obscure, cog in Chicago’s old South Side political machine—a patronage stooge of the late Cook County Board President John Stroger. The 62-year-old Trotter, who holds a health-administration and law degree, was elected state representative by the Machine in 1988, then state senator in 1993. He hewed to a straight party line and finally worked his way to a minor leadership post where he earns nearly $90,000.
In one modest show of independence, he challenged 1st District Congressman Bobby Rush in the primary of 2000. Another obscure state senator named Barack Obama was also in the race. Rush got more than 60 percent of the vote, crushing Obama two-to-one, leaving Trotter single digits.
While Obama went on to other things, Trotter hung back until a few weeks ago when he declared for Jesse Jackson Jr.’s vacant seat. Because of party loyalty, Trotter was expected to receive the blessings of many of the district’s committeemen—possibly even win all-out slating, although this district has a history of independent voting and slating is no guarantee of victory. It would certainly, however, be helpful in the forthcoming multicandidate donnybrook.
But now Trotter is no longer innocuous and obscure. Last week he was arrested at O’Hare airport for trying to bring an unloaded handgun and clip of bullets aboard an airplane. As you may have heard, this is a federal and local no-no. Charges are pending.
He says he forgot he had the Beretta with him, which he says he uses while serving as a security guard for AllPoint Security, a clout-heavy detective firm that has $350,000 in city contracts and has donated $500 to Trotter himself. Trotter had most of the documents to carry the weapon, but he somehow forgot one big one: registering it in Chicago.
He neither listed this moonlighting gig in his ethics statements nor did friends and colleagues know he held such a job—if he really holds it.
Questions are being raised about his relationship to the firm, such as whether he has a paid sinecure there through his own clout or whether the firm is a front for handing out weapons for politicians to cling to.
Based on Trotter’s past performance as a double-dipping pol, my guess is he just wants to tote a gun.
You see, Trotter once moonlighted in a different patronage sinecure as a “senior” hospital administrator at Stroger (nee Cook County) Hospital where he was supposed to expedite moving patients from the ER to rooms. Like many patronage hacks he rarely performed his duties properly—if at all—according to hospital sources.
What he often did, however, was throw his weight around, telling doctors what they could and could not administer to patients—a role for which he had no qualifications or authority except the protection of Stroger, his sponsor.
Innocuous, obscure Donne Trotter likes throwing his weight around. Small wonder he wants to tote a gun. Small wonder he wants to be a congressman.
Should he be?
Don Rose is a regular columnist for the Chicago Daily Observer
image Speaking of strange, gratuitous image of Jan Schakowsky and Mike Quigley in Old-Timey Clothes