Ward Room
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Madigan Stands Up For Nepotism

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Madigan Stands Up For Nepotism
Jack Higgins

Michael Madigan is a man who believes in the eternal values. Bossism. Cronyism. Nepotism. If a powerful politician such as Madigan can get his daughter elected attorney general, is it really fair for him to prevent less-privileged politicians from aiding their own friends and relatives? Of course not.

Perhaps that is why Madigan will not allow the House to vote on Gov. Pat Quinn’s amendatory veto of a bill to reform the General Assembly scholarship program, which allows legislators to distribute two free rides at a state university each year to constituents.

This spring, legislators passed a bill prohibiting themselves from giving those scholarships to family members. In August, Quinn used his veto to send back a bill abolishing the entire program.

“For the second consecutive year, I am compelled to return a measure to the General Assembly that fails to comprehensively reform the way legislative tuition waivers are awarded,“ Quinn wrote in his veto message.

“As I have repeatedly advocated in the past, college scholarships -paid for by Illinois taxpayers - should only go to those that have true financial need for them. I cannot in good conscience sign any legislation that continues to allow legislators to bestow this benefit on a select few. … Last year, I vetoed Senate Bill 365 and asked the General Assembly to abolish the tuition waiver program. In February, I called upon the legislature to again eliminate these favors. Still, today, the program remains in place. It is past time for it to come to an end.”

Madigan believes that so radical an edit of the original bill and won’t allow his legislators to vote on it. Which means the bill -- which passed the Senate 57-0 and the House 113-3 -- will die. Nothing will change. The Tribune editorialized that this is a cynical ploy to maintain a legislative perk.

Countless other outrages are perfectly legal. Lawmakers have given scholarships to their campaign workers, their secretaries, their business associates, even their own children. Last year, the Tribune looked at five years worth of scholarships and found 140 went to campaign donors and at least 87 went to people with other political connections. Did you get one?

In August, the Sun-Times reported that Rep. Dan (Brother of Ed) Burke had violated the law by giving a scholarship to the daughter of his legislative secretary. The girl is from Downstate Chatham but used an address in Burke’s Southwest Side district to apply for the scholarship.

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