Meet President Cullerton

Cullerton Lawyer, Lobbyist

North Side state Sen. John Cullerton won the sweepstakes to replace Emil Jones in what is a victory for Mayor Richard M. Daley and state House Speaker Michael Madigan -- and a loss for Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who is not a happy camper today.

So who is John Cullerton? A lawyer and lobbyist, of course.  

Cullerton is a partner at Thompson Coburn, where, according to a resume available on the firm’s Web site, he specializes in:

  • Government relations work with respect to real estate tax assessment and real estate tax appeals
  • Zoning, land use and annexation
  • Licensing and permit applications before local governments
  • Procedures and advocacy strategies for clients with matters being considered by legislators, regulators and policy makers.


And there’s more:

  • John has been successful in obtaining for clients: tax increment financing, tax abatements, special service areas, enterprise zones, special tax classifications, sales tax sharing agreements and industrial revenue bonds.
  • John also appears before the Chicago City Council, all state and local governmental regulatory agencies, local real estate tax assessment boards, and negotiates for clients with Aldermen and Alderwomen throughout Chicagoland.

Or, to put it more clearly:

“Cullerton is a lobbyist registered with the City of Chicago, and has in the past registered as a lobbyist with Cook County, Illinois. Cullerton lobbyist clients include real estate developers, restaurants, and the National Safety Council.”


Cullerton is a Chicago native wise in the ways of local political pathways. After graduating from Loyola’s law school, he worked as a public defender for five years before joining Fagel and Haber (which is now part of Thompson Coburn), according to his official biography.

Cullerton won election to the Illinois House in 1979, where he worked as Michael Madigan’s floor leader. In 1991, he was appointed to the Illinois senate seat vacated by Dawn Clark Netsch; a year later he won the seat outright.

The move to the state senate caused a “falling out” with Madigan, according to the Tribune, but “the rift has largely healed.”

In 1994, Cullerton “ran” against the embattled Dan Rostenkowski in the Democratic primary in order to preserve the seat for Rosty and prevent independent challenger Dick Simpson from winning.

“Mr. Cullerton, who is 45, initially said he would run only if Mr. Rostenkowski did not,” the New York Times reported at the time. “Then he announced that he was running because if he did not, Mr. Simpson would win - something the Chicago machine did not want to happen. Today, the machine dispatched hundreds of precinct captains to push and pull every last vote for Mr. Rostenkowski and the clout he has in Washington.

“Mr. Cullerton said everyone knew about Mr. Rostenkowski’s troubles but apparently overlooked them because ‘he brings home the bacon.’

“‘It’s a great victory for him,’ he said."

As the Times noted, Cullerton spent most of his “campaign” attacking Simpson.

Just to complete his Machine credentials, Cullerton is an investor in the popular restaurant Tavern on Rush.

Cullerton brags on his Web site about how many bills he’s sponsored, but his top legislative concern listed there is Traffic Safety.

Cullerton did sponsor the statewide ban of smoking in public places, and he’s been a strong advocate of gun control.

“[He once] individually mailed thousands of spent bullet casings to North Side residents,” the late Steve Neal once wrote. “Each envelope was personalized to suggest that they had better run for cover. Beneath the return address were the words: ‘Shots fired near the’ home of the bullet recipient who was identified by name and address.”

Now that I like.

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