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The purpose of the Illinois Office of Communications and Information should be to keep the public informed - either directly or through the news media - about the happenings of state government.

Its job is not - or should not be - to bolster the career of Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

If Blagojevich wants to use this office to praise the great job he is doing as governor, let him use campaign funds to pay for it.

The office was created by the governor as a supposed cost-savings measure by moving public information officers at various agencies into a single communications office.

At first, the primary fear of those who opposed the move was the loss of "institutional memory" from people who had worked at agencies for years.

These experienced individuals could easily answer questions or direct the public and reporters to the person who could. They generally worked just down the hall from the agency head - or at least in the same building - and knew what was going on.

But other problems have arisen.

Recently, it has been reported that parole officers and other state employees have been asked to distribute letters touting the achievements of the Blagojevich administration. The governor's staff has described these letters as simple efforts to inform the public about changes in laws and programs. But the governor figures prominently in them.

It is reminiscent of the old practice of other elected officials inserting themselves in promotional ads for such programs as organ donation or college-savings plans. That practice has been curtailed by state law.

It shouldn't take a state law to tell the governor that public information officers and other state employees aren't his personal public relations flacks.

The Blagojevich administration claims that consolidating the public information function has saved the state $1.8 million. But even if that's true, it is no bargain if the office is doing more to serve the governor than the public.

The change seems to be as much - if not more - about controlling the state's message as it is about controlling costs.

Among other things, the office rates the news coverage Blagojevich receives and whether it is positive, negative or neutral.

Bet we can guess how this editorial will be rated.

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