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Claypool and the big heat

Tuesday, Apr 6, 2010

* I just checked with the State Board of Elections about Forrest Claypool’s soon to be announced bid for Cook County Assessor as an independent candidate.

Claypool will need about 20,000 25,000 valid signatures. But nobody who circulated a petition in the recent partisan primary cycle can circulate for him. That’ll seriously cut down on his base of volunteers, but he could just end up using paid circulators (which haven’t always proved to be all that reliable in Chicago).

People who took partisan primary ballots in February can sign Claypool’s petitions, according to the Board.

* Claypool has apparently hired AKPD, the consulting firm once run by David Axelrod. Axe is gone, but they kept the “A” in the name. David Plouffe is also gone, but the “P” remains as well. Gov. Pat Quinn and failed US Senate candidate David Hoffman were both AKPD clients during the primary cycle.

* I’ve been saying for months that Speaker Madigan’s support of Board of Review Commissioner/Cook County Democratic Party Chairman Joe Berrios for Cook County assessor was gonna come back to haunt him but good, and the Claypool race is just one manifestation of that.

Last week, Assessor Jim Houlihan claimed Madigan and Berrios were in cahoots to delay property tax bills until after the November election, although the evidence seems to contradict that claim, as a Sun-Times editorial rightly pointed out.

For me, though, it was the fact that the two other Board of Review commisioners, Brendan Houlihan (no relation to the assessor) and Larry Rogers, both sided with Berrios and Madigan. Commissioner Houlihan was elected in 2006 over a Republican incumbent with big contributions from both Assessor Houlihan and Commissioner Rogers. Those two commissioners are not considered Berrios guys at all, so siding with him against the assessor was a telling moment for me. Instead, it looks suspiciously like a setup for Claypool’s announcement against Berrios, and the media ate it up.

* A Sun-Times editorial summed up the appearance of conflict of interest between Berrios and Madigan pretty well

[Berrios] sits on the county’s Board of Review, where he shamelessly collects political contributions from the very same lawyers looking for tax assessment breaks from the board.

And who are these lawyers?

Many of the biggest tax attorneys in town work for Madigan & Getzendanner, the law firm of Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan.

But wait. It gets worse.

When Berrios is not wearing his Board of Review hat, he’s wearing his paid lobbyist hat. He goes down to Springfield — or to some fancy restaurant in the Loop — and lobbies state legislators on behalf of such clients as the video poker industry.

And whom must Berrios lobby most?

He must lobby Madigan — the same man looking for help from him, Berrios, when the petitioner’s shoe is on the other foot.

We have no evidence Berrios and Madigan have ever swapped a single lucrative favor, but anybody can see this is far too cozy a relationship.

But wait. It gets even worse.

Madigan and Berrios are also a political tag team. Madigan is chairman of the Illinois Democratic Party and Berrios is chairman of the Cook County Democratic Party. Nobody gets slated for the party ticket — certainly nobody like Claypool — without going through them.

The G has looked at Madigan’s firm in the past and came up empty. The Tribune spent about a year looking at thousands of cases involving Madigan’s firm and came up with nothing earth shattering - and zippo on the Berrios/Madigan stuff.

But the appearance of impropriety is just far too much for the columnists and editorial writers and reporters to ignore. Madigan really screwed up and the big heat is coming.

* Related…

* Forrest Claypool announces independent bid for Cook County Assessor Tuesday

* Claypool to Enter Assessor Race Tuesday

- Posted by Rich Miller        


30 Comments
  1. - Skeptical Cynic - Tuesday, Apr 6, 10 @ 10:02 am:

    With Claypool, Berrios and a Green Party candidate on the ballot, the GOP candidate might stand a real chance in this race, whoever that person is…


  2. - One of the 35 - Tuesday, Apr 6, 10 @ 10:03 am:

    Aw, come on Rich.This is Illinois and the Speaker is the Speaker. I’m sure everything is above board.


  3. - Loop Lady - Tuesday, Apr 6, 10 @ 10:36 am:

    it’s good to have you back…your comments about Speaker Madigan and Mr. Joe just brought a big smile to my face and a song to my heart…:)

    BTW: DuPage Dan, I TOLD you that Quinn would get his pick for LG…:)


  4. - Carl Nyberg - Tuesday, Apr 6, 10 @ 10:37 am:

    It says in the candidate guide, people should not rely on the information, but instead should read the law and consult an attorney.

    Rich, I suspect the person who gave you information gave you different information than you’d get if the attorneys hashed it out in court.


  5. - CircularFiringSquad - Tuesday, Apr 6, 10 @ 10:38 am:

    Given the Tribune’s “Get Madigan” debacle it seems like it might be time to at least suggest the guy is honest and it is possible not to mix government, politics and business.
    It is something akin to looking at Prof Dick Simpson’s study and come away thinking that nearly everyone who is elected, works or does business with government is honest.
    Try it. We promist you won’t get whiplash.
    Meanwhile let’s all hope Capt.Fax’s head clears up real soon.


  6. - Anonymous - Tuesday, Apr 6, 10 @ 10:44 am:

    The whole Madigan/Berrios relationship is incestuous, more like double-secret incestuous. I suppose it’s possible to follow the letter of the law and stay clean, but words and actions can be interpreted so many different ways.

    Best to not use the U.S. mails or the telephones and invite a federal excuse, because you sure know there’s federal interest.

    Claypool’s surveyed the wards and townships, done the math and probably has a decent shot if he can get and stay on the ballot. He should have gone Green and saved himself the trouble.


  7. - roscoetom - Tuesday, Apr 6, 10 @ 10:47 am:

    Isn’t Claypool reaaly getting into this because his backers for his “noble’ health care business took a walk and he had no place to go?


  8. - Pioneer P. - Tuesday, Apr 6, 10 @ 11:14 am:

    Nobodys talking about the Claypool tax increase that will appear on these “late” tax bills. These guys are pretty smooth operators but the newspapers won’t like it when they figured out they’ve been has. Maybe they are too understaffed and gutless to care. Thanks to RM for bothering to call the Board of Elections and get that 411 printed … The dailies couldn’t be bothered… Too busy fawning apparently.


  9. - 47th Ward - Tuesday, Apr 6, 10 @ 11:20 am:

    Good for Forrest. If he can qualify for the ballot, he’ll win. That is going to be very difficult and you can bet Berrios will have Mike Kasper and lots of volunteers combing over every signature on every petition. This is going to be the mother of all petition challenges. If Forrest can get past that inevitability, he starts the race with strong name recognition and the endorsements of every editorial page in Cook County.

    He doesn’t need to worry about field work or endorsements from other pols (he won’t get many), just raise a million or so and let TV and direct mail do the trick. The free media will be there and is worth at least another million.

    Get on the ballot Forrest. That’s all you need to do. It won’t be easy, but that’s the whole ballgame.


  10. - Cosmic Charlie - Tuesday, Apr 6, 10 @ 11:38 am:

    Claypool can win but it won’t be easy. Not at all.

    First, he will have to figure out if there is a way to get at least some African American votes. And considering he ran against Stroger the Elder, that will be tough. While Todd was a joke, the Old Man is still loved in the community. So getting voters in that community to vote independent will be tough if not impossible. I don’t think he will be able to do it frankly.

    Therefore, his only shot here is to create a Republican/Independent coalition and pick off enough regular white Dems to eek out a W.

    I think he has an up-hill climb with no money (for now), no organization, and no public interest in the office. He will need to make voters care about the Assessor’s Office which is not an easy thing to do. When you look at the numbers it becomes clear how difficult his road is and he has zero margin for error.

    And that’s not even discussing the difficulty of getting on the ballot.


  11. - shore - Tuesday, Apr 6, 10 @ 11:44 am:

    The north burbs gop sends its best wishes to rich miller, grandma miller and father miller for a speedy recovery and happy and healthy recovery and spring.


  12. - Redbright - Tuesday, Apr 6, 10 @ 11:50 am:

    Cosmic Charlie - Why would the black community line up behind an hispanic candidate vs a caucasian? Is there a special relationship?

    It’s my guess that the downtown biz community is behind FC’s move; they don’t want the machine –Berrios and Madigan– controlling their assessments anymore. That’s where FC’s money will come from - in big chunks.


  13. - dupage dan - Tuesday, Apr 6, 10 @ 11:50 am:

    Yes, LL, you were right about that. I wasn’t necessarily saying it wouldn’t happen that way, I was wondering how it would look if the committee went against him. Note that MJM didn’t vote. Interesting, isn’t it. Telling, no?


  14. - Lakefront Liberal - Tuesday, Apr 6, 10 @ 11:52 am:

    This will be a fascinating test for many of local Dem leaders who market themselves as “progressives” and “reformers” but who will be loath to openly support an independent candidate against the Democratic nominee/Chair of the Cook County Democratic Party. I could see this becoming an issue in the 2012 Democratic Committeeman races possibly going either way — some will feel that the Dem Committeeman should support the nominee no matter what and will want to punish those who do otherwise, others will feel that we need clean our own house when given an opportunity like this and will want to oppose those who supported Berrios. And if Berrios looses to Forrest, can his replacement as head of the Cook County Democratic Party be far behind?

    And yes, I know, I am getting ahead of myself here — first he has to get on the ballot and as Rich points out it will not be easy and it will require paid passers.


  15. - The Doc - Tuesday, Apr 6, 10 @ 11:58 am:

    ==It’s my guess that the downtown biz community is behind FC’s move; they don’t want the machine –Berrios and Madigan– controlling their assessments anymore==

    Uh…you know what MJM does for a living when not in Springpatch, right?


  16. - AJK - Tuesday, Apr 6, 10 @ 12:01 pm:

    When is the deadline for Claypool to turn in the petitions?


  17. - Redbright - Tuesday, Apr 6, 10 @ 12:06 pm:

    The Doc - yep. It’s a vicious circle if you own property.


  18. - Corey - Tuesday, Apr 6, 10 @ 12:32 pm:

    AJK, I believe the filing deadline for independent candidates is “Not more than 141 nor less than 134 days prior to the General Election (June 14 – 21, 2010).”

    Rich, I believe the minimum is 25,000 signatures, unless I am mistaken.

    INDEPENDENT CANDIDATES
    “An Independent candidate for county office (including Chairman of the County Board and county board members elected from the county at large)must submit nomination papers signed by qualified voters of the county equaling not less than 5%, nor more than 8% (or 50 more than the minimum, whichever is greater) of the number of persons who voted at the 2008 General Election in the county or county board district, (for county board district, the LAST time the district elected a member). Where 5% is greater than 25,000, 25,000 is the minimum number of signatures required.”
    (10 ILCS 5/10-3)


  19. - Anonymous - Tuesday, Apr 6, 10 @ 12:35 pm:

    * Claypool has apparently hired AKPD, the consulting firm once run by David Axelrod.

    Considering it’s his firm, it’d only be news if he DIDN’T retain them.

    Claypool bio on his health firm’s Web site: “In l984, he co-founded AKPD Message and Media, with partner David Axelrod. The firm grew from a startup to the leading Democratic media-consulting firm in the nation. Rejoining that firm in 2002, Forrest helped client Barack Obama win election to the United States Senate and ultimately the Presidency.”

    In other words, at the same time he was serving on the county board, Claypool had a separate career as a political consultant. Insiders knew this but there is practically zero public knowledge of it. A good reporter should tell this story now that he is trying to move up in the political world. Who did he work for? What did he do? Etc.

    Not implying anything nefarious. Simply, these are unanswered questions that deserve public scrutiny.


  20. - AnnonyDonny - Tuesday, Apr 6, 10 @ 12:54 pm:

    Anyone else who giggled a little when Claypool brought JJJ ( the man who did or did not try to buy a Senate seat) to this massive independent reform launch.

    I am sure the media asked about that and the reporting will appear shortly


  21. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Tuesday, Apr 6, 10 @ 1:06 pm:

    === First, he will have to figure out if there is a way to get at least some African American votes. ===

    The answer is “No.”

    The second question is, “Is there a way for him to get atleast some Republican votes?”

    The answer is “Not likely.”

    Democrats vote Democratic, and Republicans vote Republican.

    The third question is “Are there enough truly independent voters in Cook County for Claypool to win?”

    That’s a tougher question. Claypool has three things working against him.

    1) Organized labor hates his guts. While they lean Democratic in Cook County, about 40% of organized labor are still Independents.

    2) All signs point to this being a record low turnout election, a Base Election. With Democrats vilifying Brady along partisan lines and Republicans vilifying Quinn along partisan lines, and Independents staying home.

    3) In Cook County, Berrios will be campaigning with Toni Preckwinkle as the “New Leadership Team” for Cook County. Preckwinkle is VERY popular among independents.

    The fourth question is: “Can Claypool raise the money?”

    I think the answer is “Doubtful.”

    The Friends of Daley he relied on in the past won’t buck the Democratic Party, and Berrios will have Daley’s explicit endorsement (if he wants it.)

    The anti-Stroger camp is getting everything they want from Preckwinkle, and doesn’t really have a skin in the Assessor’s race.

    Claypool will make this a more interesting race if he gets on the ballot, but he’s a loooong shot at best.


  22. - Reformer - Tuesday, Apr 6, 10 @ 1:27 pm:

    So Claypool is a pal of Axelrod and a protege of Daley, yet he’s posing as a political outsider to run against his party’s assessor nominee. Sweet.


  23. - MOON - Tuesday, Apr 6, 10 @ 1:32 pm:

    Not only is Claypool running under a reformer label, but his chief backer Mr. Houlihan is a cozy friend of Blago’s. So much for “reformers”.


  24. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Tuesday, Apr 6, 10 @ 1:41 pm:

    My projection based on 2006 election results:

    Berrios: 55%
    Claypool: 25%
    Strobeck: 20%

    I seriously doubt that Claypool can get Berrios under 50%. Stroger got 54% with all of his problems.

    And even if he did have the money to pound Berrios mercilessly, Strobeck will atleast get 17%, probably closer to 25% with all of the negative back-and-forth between the two.

    That means that Claypool needs to rock Berrios back into the 37-41 % range in order to beat Berrios.

    And that’s not even taking into account what’s sure to be a massive Latino GOTV effort.

    Nothing is impossible, but mathematically speaking, the Cubs have a better chance of facing the White Sox in the World Series AND prevailing this fall than Claypool has at an upset.


  25. - Just Observing - Tuesday, Apr 6, 10 @ 1:48 pm:

    This is, I think, an incredibly stupid move all around. First, this going to be a very uphill battle for him. Second, he’s going to have to convince potential supporters that all of a sudden he is very intersted in this single-issue office after declining to run for County Board Prez after he announced he is running for County Board Prez. I think he has some credibility issues he will need to work on — he is starting to appear erratic in his political decision making. Lastly, I just don’t see the value in this office. If he wins, it will not give him much of a platform to run for future office, and if he loses, his political credibility tumbles more. He is too smart for this nonsense.


  26. - old pol Mike - Tuesday, Apr 6, 10 @ 1:52 pm:

    If he makes it onto the ballot it will be interesting to see the Preckwinkle Campaign’s behavior. As the Democratic nominee she is connected to Berrios’ candidacy. But Claypool carries the reform banner.


  27. - Redbright - Tuesday, Apr 6, 10 @ 2:08 pm:

    YDD - Don’t confuse the dynamics of a general election with that of a primary. There are a lot of Repubs who won’t pull a Dem ballot but will vote for Claypool - even as a Dem.

    With the two big papers constantly attacking Berrios, I don’t see any other candidates aligning with him. He’s the new Toddler - the person who will be booed at public events.

    The Assessor campaign is based on a simple issue: fairness in the assessment of YOUR property …or not. There is a point at which even extremely-controlled voters will start voting for their interest.


  28. - Wizard of Ozzie - Tuesday, Apr 6, 10 @ 2:21 pm:

    25,000 petitions in 2 1/2 months. I’m also pretty sure if you signed for Berrios you can’t sign for Claypool so they’ll be able to challenge on those grounds in addition all the not registereds, printed not signed, and roundtabling.

    The most important number from the Board of Elections website is this:

    Funds available at the close of the reporting period $0.00

    He literally has no money in his campaign account. The attorneys alone will eat up what ever he can raise. I don’t see him getting on the ballot.


  29. - Pitty - Tuesday, Apr 6, 10 @ 2:48 pm:

    Claypool is a do nothing hangger on of Pat Quin’s. The last thingt Illinois needs is another corrupt political hack such as Claypool!


  30. - Tommy98 - Tuesday, Apr 6, 10 @ 3:50 pm:

    Claypool had his chance about a thousand times, get a new gig and a smaller ego…


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