Illinois is a Democratic state, but anything but a role model for the red and purple states surrounding it. The state's politics stinks of corruption-- and has since I was a child. Mike Madigan, the state House speaker, is a paragon of corruption and he doesn't just run the legislature but also the state Democratic Party. He's controlled the legislature longer than any other man has controlled a legislature in the U.S.-- in the country's history. He's been in the state House since 1971-- representing a Hispanic-majority district-- in the southwest part of Chicago-- and is a living advert for term limits. He's been speaker since 1983 (with a 2 year interregnum when the GOP won control in 1995). He draws the congressional and state legislative district maps for Illinois, a one man gerrymander machine. He has two nicknames: "the Real Governor of Illinois" and "the Velvet Hammer."
Yesterday, Chicago Tribune reporters Ray Long and Rick Pearson wrote that Democrats are abandoning Madigan in the light of his latest corruption scandal. Other legislators now "see him as detrimental to the party and their own political livelihoods because of his ties to a ComEd bribery case. His longtime friend, lobbyist Michael McClain, was indicted in the ComEd bribery case. Long and Pearson reported that "Federal prosecutors allege that ComEd engaged in a yearslong scheme to win Madigan’s favor by putting his political friends on the ComEd payroll, hiring interns from the speaker’s Southwest Side 13th Ward, where he has been committeeman for half a century, and placing his candidate on the utility’s board.
Madigan says he's running for Speaker again but 18 House Democrats say they won't support him at the January 13 caucus election. Madigan needs 60 votes of the 73 House Dems and if those 18 stick to their guns, he only has 55. There are more Dems who supposedly won't vote for him but are keeping that on the down low right now. He has between 45 and 50 supporters.
Poor Democratic performance in the elections have been blamed on Madigan's scandal-- including the near losses of Lauren Underwood (50.6-49.4%), Sean Casten (52.8-45.4%) and Cheri Bustos (51.9-48.1%) and the loss of Dick Durbin pet candidate Betsy Dirksen Londrigan, who only pulled 45.5% against Republican incumbent Rodney Davis, despite out-spending him $4,115,832 to $3,206,660 and despite the DCCC having invested over $6 million in the race. In 2018, Londrigan had come within 2 thousand votes of winning (49.6%) and this race was seen as "in the bag." This is the ad that is widely believed to have lost her the election:
Blue America is backing two progressives candidates in high profile mayor races-- John Laesch in Aurora (Illinois' second largest city) and Daniel Biss in Evanston, just north of Chicago. Both are strong and well-known reformers and both have called for Madigan to retire. Please read their statements below and consider contributing to their campaigns by clicking on the Chicagoland ActBlue thermometer on the right.
Biss was an Illinois legislator for 8 years, during which time he often clashed with Madigan and what's left of the old-school Democratic machine. This summer, after some revelations in the current scandal, but well before Wednesday's indictments, he helped organize a group of nearly 100 Democratic leaders calling for Madigan to step aside. This morning he told me that during his time in the legislature, he "saw up close how much power Madigan wielded, and how he managed to accomplish that-- by using government to dole out favors and mete out punishments. It was profoundly dangerous, both because it was undemocratic and also because that kind of money-driven transactional politics is about helping the chosen few over the rest of us, which is to say that it's antithetical to progressive goals. Now that we've learned just how far he and his allies went, I hope Illinois can finally turn the page and have a progressive legislature that matches the progressive values of the populace."
John Laesch, largely considered the man responsible for the downfall of Republican Speaker Denny Hastert, told me that "Madigan represents a broken, corrupt political system that works for the wealthy and powerful few who can buy access to the decision-makers. He is part of the past. The sooner Madigan resigns, the sooner the next generation can take the reigns of power and guide our state forward. The more pertinent question is who will we back to lead the Illinois General Assembly. I personally like Will Guzzardi or Carol Ammons. Both challenged Madigan early, won, and inspired others to run. They both embrace the populist idea that government belongs to everyone, not just the wealthy and powerful. I’m pulling for a new speaker who will work for everyone, shut down the pay-to-play system, and be a powerful voice for working families in Illinois. I stand with those who are urging the Speaker to resign and let us turn the page in Illinois government."