Opinion: Mike Madigan Says Sun Is Too Bright, Claims It Has Political Agenda - NBC Chicago
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Opinion: Mike Madigan Says Sun Is Too Bright, Claims It Has Political Agenda

House Speaker reacts to investigation uncovering political patronage



    It’s an old political trick: when you’re caught red-handed, try and smear the people who uncovered the corruption:

    Stung by a weekend report on foot soldiers in his political army, House Speaker Michael Madigan delivered a harsh counter punch against a government watchdog group and its head, former broadcaster Andy Shaw, for engaging in a campaign to “impugn the Democratic Party.”

    Madigan sent a letter on Democratic Party of Illinois letterhead to the 71-member House Democratic caucus and to members of the Democratic State Central Committee bashing Shaw and the Better Government Association for trying to “become a kingmaker in Illinois politics” and “tarnish Democratic candidates.” 

    What’s gotten Speak Madigan so upset? Just a little investigation into political patronage by the Better Government Association (BGA) and the Chicago Sun-Times:

    [Patrick] Ward was a small but important cog in the Madigan re-election effort — one of 30 people who circulated the nominating petitions he needed to get on the 2012 ballot.

    As many as 29 of the 30 people work or previously worked in government; a dozen acknowledge working for local governments. Another 17 appear either to currently be getting a government paycheck or to have been as of last year, based on payroll records that match their names and dates of birth or home addresses.

    A close examination of the 2011 Madigan petition circulators — as well as payroll records, pension records, campaign-finance reports and interviews — shows the campaign foot soldiers:

    • In many case hold jobs for which politics isn't supposed to be a factor in hiring, including sanitation laborer, plumber, truck driver, cashier and court reporter.
    • Collectively were being paid roughly $2 million a year in their government jobs as of 2012.
    • In some instances — Ward, for example — are drawing a government paycheck and a public pension.
    • Contributed more than $200,000 altogether to political funds for Madigan or his daughter, Attorney General Lisa Madigan.
    • Work for arms of government including the Cook County sheriff's office, the Chicago Department of Water Management, the City Council Committee on Finance, the Illinois Department of Transportation, the CTA, the Cook County recorder of deeds and the state comptroller's office.

    As I am a busy blogger and you are a busy reader, neither of us has the time to go over all of the ways Mike Madigan has been accused of, involved in, found out by or suspected of corruption, patronage, scandal, influence peddling, or you name it.

    He’s like a little black hole in Springfield which almost everything in Illinois politics has to pass through before it can be allowed to exist.

    But that’s not how Speaker Madigan sees it, of course.

    Rather than work for positive change and reform in Illinois government, [BGA head] Andy Shaw has resorted to using bullying tactics against working men and women in an attempt to suggest they have done something improper,” the speaker and state Democratic Party chairman said. “The only thing these men and women have done is work to provide for their families while exercising their constitutional right to support Democratic candidates for office.”

    So, let’s see: by identifying the details of political corruption and patronage, Shaw and the BGA are trying to bring down the entire Democratic Party of Illinois. That's actually kind of funny, if you think about it. 

    I have an idea how to make this all better for Speaker Madigan. If you want to protect the good name of the Democratic Party in Illinois and truly help honest candidates seeking office, don't put so many damn political workers on the government payroll.

    That way, you don't have to worry about Andy Shaw and the BGA.

    See? Problem solved.