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Oddities and ends

Thursday, Jan 26, 2012

* Groups often give stipends to people who agree to attend an event, like a few dollars and a box lunch to travel to Springfield for a day of “lobbying” or a protest event. It’s a common practice, but can sometimes do more harm than good because the bused-in folks are just bodies designed to fill a room. They don’t usually know what the heck they’re doing there. Remember when ComEd worked with Chicago-area ministers to send a bunch of people down to Springfield to demand a rate increase? I talked to some of them and they had not one clue why there were at the Capitol.

But I can understand why folks are upset that some ministers bused in protesters to a community event in order to loudly support the Chicago Public Schools’ position of closing a school, . The Sun-Times editorialized on the issue today


There is no other way to describe the practice, revealed by the Sun-Times and other media, of ministers hiring “rent-a-protesters” to advocate for proposed Chicago public school closures.

Reporter Rosalind Rossi on Tuesday told the story of two men who said they were offered $25 to $50 to support the closures of two schools. Both men said they were asked to attend two separate closure hearings this month after they showed up to apply for financial help with their energy bills at the Englewood office of the HOPE Organization.

The Rev. Roosevelt Watkins III, who runs the group, denies they were paid to protest, saying the money paid was for training. The facts say otherwise, including testimony by many who watched the so-called protesters, many of whom switched from pro-closure to anti-closure by the end of the hearings, along with the container of envelopes filled with cash seen at the HOPE office after the hearings. WBEZ profiled a third protester allegedly paid by HOPE and a fourth who said she was among a busload of rent-a-protesters paid at a different hearing by another church.

We hope the outing of these rent-a-protesters will be enough to kill the practice.

It might “kill the practice” on the school closure issue, but the rent-a-body game has a long history in Illinois because it brings in revenues. What nobody has asked yet is if Rev. Watkins is using indirect taxpayer cash for these actions.

Rev. Watkins, by the way, was part of AT&T’s Statehouse “citizen lobbying” effort in its legislative fight against Comcast a while back.

* Props to Tim Furman for shooting this video of the rent-a-protesters at a West Side school closing hearing. The protesters are completely ignorant of why they are there, including one person who says to Furman that she’s there to “save our school for the children”


* Furman wrote about the protesters on his blog last weekend, before the source of their funding was known

With the exception of a lone “boo,” the paid people were silent until near the end, when one of them - I believe it was this fellow on the right - gave an incendiary anti-teacher, anti-Crane, anti-union speech. I’ll dig up that audio later. In any event, the audience was howling, and a bit of a shoving match followed. A lot of people out of their chairs, but it ended quickly. I’m not sure who’s paying these people to come in but I can’t imagine that bringing in these obvious fakes is in anyone’s interest. If I were a charter operator busing in ringers for a public hearing, I’d want better ringers.

Good ringers are hard to find.

…Adding… WGN also has video of the rent-a-protesters.

* Meawhile, go get ‘em, Lisa

The Illinois attorney general filed a lawsuit Wednesday accusing Standard & Poor’s of misleading investors by assigning its highest ratings to risky mortgage-backed investments during the years leading up to the crash of the housing market.

The lawsuit from Lisa Madigan’s office alleges the agency compromised its independence by issuing high ratings for unworthy or risky investments as part of a strategy to boost revenue and market share. The lawsuit cites internal emails and conversations, including an instant messenger exchange in April 2007 in which an employee tells another that an investment “could be structured by cows and we would rate it.”

“Publically, S&P took every opportunity to proclaim their analyses and ratings as independent, objective and free from its desire for revenue,” Madigan said. “Yet privately, S&P abandoned its principles and instead used every trick possible to give deals high ratings in order to retain clients and generate revenue.” [Emphasis added]

But, now, of course, S&P’s ratings are supposed to be akin to the word of God when it comes to Illinois finances.

* Did Congressman Don Manzullo scrub his website? From a Congressman Adam Kinzinger press release…

For years, members of congress came to Washington with one goal: let’s start spending. Some like Congressman Don Manzullo even bragged about it. The times have changed leaving long-time politicians to decide one thing: stand by their past spending record or run away from it. Congressman Manzullo decided not only to run away from his record but also to erase it.

Just last week, under Don Manzullo’s biographical page of his governmental website, he proudly highlighted a laundry list of earmarks totaling millions of dollars. The disappearing language came after the Kinzinger campaign questioned Congressman Manzullo’s record on earmarks. Now, in order to find any mention of what was once proudly and easily found on his congressional website, one must now dig through thirty-nine pages of past press releases.


* What happens when you quietly give a former alleged mob bookie a state job and then have to quickly fire him when word leaks out? He gets reinstated, of course

According to IDOT, an arbitrator recently ruled the state did not have “just cause” to fire Peluso. The arbitrator ordered him reinstated to his job, including back pay totaling more than $103,000.

IDOT said in a statement that it is disappointed: “The department aggressively defended its position and strongly disagrees with the arbitrator’s decision.”

“Why would the collective bargaining agreements protect someone like this?” Rep. Ed Sullivan asked.

The Republican state representative is asking for an investigation into Peluso’s re-hiring, as well as how the ex-mobster got the job in the first place.

* Usually, one can expect one’s attorney to stick up for him when a reporter calls. Sam Cahnman’s lawyer kinda threw his client under the bus when the SJ-R asked him about his attempts to have a civil “no-contact” order dismissed against Cahnman, a Springfield alderman who is running as a Democrat for the Illinois House…

Through his attorney, Dan Fultz, Cahnman, 57, is requesting that the case be tossed because, when filing her petition for a no-contact order, the 23-year-old who sought it didn’t allege sexual conduct between herself and Cahnman was “non-consensual.” The motion to dismiss states that “non-consensual sexual conduct or non-consensual sexual penetration” is a requirement under the Civil No Contact Order Act.

Peggy Ryan, the woman’s attorney, has asked that the motion to dismiss be denied. She says non-consensual sex can be alleged not only through the petition but also through sworn testimony.

“Mr. Cahnman, seven months after an emergency civil no contact ordered was entered, is asking the court, despite (her) sworn testimony before the court and statutory provisions requiring that testimony to be taken into account, to dismiss the petition because a pro se petitioner did not use the words ‘non consensual’ in her petition,” Ryan wrote.

Fultz said Wednesday that Ryan’s response is “well taken,” and he will meet with Cahnman to decide how to proceed. [Emphasis added.]

That’s all you got, dude? Really?

* Other stuff…

* School watchdog probes reports of paid protesters

* Paid protesters a new force in school closings debate - Protesters say they were paid $20, $25 to attend hearings

* Standoff Between City Colleges And Their “Frontline” Employees

* Illinois Humanities Council board member resigns in protest of auctioning a dinner with Bill Ayers

* City watchdog accuses Emanuel administration of stymying probes

* ‘Disturbed’ Preckwinkle announces changes at Cook County morgue

* City stumbles with damage control on NATO/G8 summits

* Jesse Jackson Jr. Absent During State of Union

* Illinois Commerce Commission executive director departing

- Posted by Rich Miller   10 Comments      

Question of the day

Thursday, Jan 26, 2012

* This article about complete partisan opposite Congresscritters Joe Walsh and Jan Schakowsky led me to this video, from which this screen cap comes…

* The Question: Caption?

- Posted by Rich Miller   45 Comments      

Cartoonist Chris Britt booted by SJ-R

Thursday, Jan 26, 2012

* This is just a huge loss for Illinois

Chris Britt, editorial cartoonist for the State Journal-Register, has been fired.

Britt was let go this morning.

“I was just informed,” Britt said.

Britt, who began his career as an editorial cartoonist in 1990 and joined the State Journal-Register staff nine years later, said he wasn’t sure whether he was given a reason for his firing.

“They may have – I was just in a little bit of a daze,” Britt said. “Economic re-structuring, or something like that.”

The newspaper last week informed copy editors that their jobs would be eliminated this summer, with a net loss of ten full-time positions. Two days later, the newspaper began firing other people, with at least eleven people laid off in various departments, sources have told Illinois Times. The newspaper shut down its press last year, moving printing to Peoria with a loss of more than 50 jobs in Springfield.

Bean counters tend to put editorial page cartoonists on the lowest rung of the food chain. I’ve always thought that was odd, believing a good cartoonist can draw lots more people to an editorial page than the actual editorials or columnists. Britt is one of the best. He’s gonna be missed.

- Posted by Rich Miller   63 Comments      

Surgeons operate again on Sen. Kirk

Thursday, Jan 26, 2012

* Sen. Mark Kirk underwent a second surgery last night. From the Sun-Times

Dr. Richard Fessler said doctors at Northwestern Memorial Hospital removed two small pieces of brain tissue that were destroyed by the stroke.

Fessler said Wednesday’s surgical procedure is commonly performed in similar cases and meant to create more space around the brain to accommodate “the expected peak of swelling.

“The procedure — which removed two small pieces of tissue previously destroyed and rendered non-functional by the senator’s stroke — was completed successfully and without complication. The procedure is unlikely to have any impact on his physical or neurological prognosis.”

Fessler said that, on Thursday morning, the Republican from Highland Park “was alert, responsive and gave us the thumbs-up on request,”

* Lynn Sweet has the full statement

“Senator Kirk continues to progress as expected and remains in serious but stable condition this morning with no change in his neurological or physical prognosis. Late yesterday, we performed a common surgical procedure to create more space around the Senator’s brain in order to accommodate the expected peaking of swelling. The procedure, which removed two small pieces of tissue previously destroyed and rendered non-functional by the Senator’s stroke, was completed successfully and without complication. The procedure is unlikely to have any impact on his physical or neurological prognosis. Upon examination this morning, the Senator was alert, responsive and gave us the thumbs up on request,” said Richard Fessler, MD, PhD, neurosurgeon at Northwestern Memorial Hospital and professor of neurological surgery at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

Don’t panic or worry too much. These things can happen. It’s best to just let the docs do their work. Northwestern is a fine hospital and they know what they’re doing. And while the growing speculation in the press about Kirk’s future in the Senate is expected, it’s way too premature. Let him have a little space, for crying out loud.

- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      

Campaign battle over pension reform begins to heat up

Thursday, Jan 26, 2012

* I told subscribers about this last week

Ty Fahner, the head of the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club, over the holidays quietly put together a big-bucks political action committee that raised $142,750 in its first week of operation and likely will raise a ton more in this election year. […]

In its statement of purpose, We Mean Business PAC — catchy name, no? — says it’s function is to “reform public pensions in the state of Illinois through non-federal political activity.”

Translation: It’s going to bankroll candidates who are willing to cross labor unions and vote to reduce pension benefits and/or require workers to pay more for them.

Insiders say the goal is to emulate what school reform forces did in the last election — putting hundreds of thousands of dollars behind legislative candidates who promised to be independent of the teachers union. That strategy worked when the unions came to the table and agreed to things such as a longer school day and year.

You can read through the list of We Mean Business PAC’s donors here. The Crown family contributed most of the PAC’s startup money. But, as I told you already, this is just one of many new pro-business PACs that will be flooding campaign coffers this year.

* Speaking of the wealthy and powerful, there is quite a bit of overlap between Ty Fahner’s pro-reform Civic Committee board of directors and Aon’s board. Aon, of course, recently decided to move its corporate headquarters from Chicago to London for tax purposes, but the company also more than just implied that London was a better center of commerce than Chicago.

Eden Martin, the Civic Committee’s former president, sits on Aon’s board. Aon’s President and CEO Gregory Case sits on the Civic Committee’s board. Lester Knight, the founding partner of RoundTable Healthcare Partners, sits on both boards. Andrew McKenna, the McDonald’s Chairman, sits on both. Ariel Investments CEO John Rogers, JRr. also sits on both boards.

That’s a fine example they’re setting for the rest of us.

* Related…

* Aon employees face tax hit in HQ move to London

* Illinois Issues: Pension reform across the country

* Illinois Issues: Part 2: A look at pension reform across the country: Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley pitched a proposal this month that follows in the lines of Quinn’s statements. Under O’Malley’s plan, local governments would pick up half of the cost of teachers’ retirement benefits, including Social Security contributions. Currently, districts pay about one third of the cost. If O’Malley’s plan were approved, local governments would pay almost $240 million more, but they would get some funding — from the proposed elimination of a tax break for top earners — to help with the transition.

* Illinois Issues: Part 3: A look at pension reform across the country: “I think what happened in Vermont is that the governor and others sat down with labor and said, ‘We’ve got this problem. There’s only so much money to go around, and something’s got to give,’” Brainard said. The state is facing a deficit, a pension funding shortfall and, according to Vermont Public Radio, 25 percent of Vermont state workers will be eligible to retire by 2015. Other key factors in the negotiations may be the fact that Vermont is a small state and has a tradition of public civic engagement.

* Municipal pensions eat more, but they’re still hungry

* Kadner: No state plan to treat mentally ill

* Dozens protest CME Group incentives - Activists chant slogans decrying CME Group Inc.’s ‘corporate welfare’ as they deliver a golden toilet to its headquarters

- Posted by Rich Miller   9 Comments      

Madigan clears the field for Degnan son

Thursday, Jan 26, 2012

* Yesterday’s Sun-Times story about House Speaker Michael Madigan’s speech to Elmhurst College included this graf

Madigan refused to answer questions about any role he may have had in four judicial candidates — including slated sitting Judge Tom Carroll — dropping out of a primary election in a Southwest Side judicial district Madigan controls so that Dan Degnan, son of former Mayor Richard M. Daley top adviser Tim Degnan, wins unopposed.

* I Googled around and soon realized that John Kass had broken this Degnan story a few days ago. I don’t always read Kass, but apparently I missed a good one

Now, Daniel R. Degnan is running unopposed as a Democrat in the 3rd Judicial Subcircuit. In practical terms, that means he’ll have a job for life, with a six-figure salary and no heavy lifting and all those holidays off with pay.

Still, inserting a judge with little legal experience is quite bold, even for a guy like Mike Madigan, speaker of the Illinois House and absolute lord of the Midwestern state now known as Madiganistan. When it comes to making judges, all robes begin with Madigan, especially in his Southwest Side stronghold.

I asked around City Hall, wondering if Degnan’s kid even had 10 minutes in a courtroom.

“Ten minutes?” said a guy who knows. “You’re exaggerating. I’d say about eight minutes in a courtroom. Not bad for a judge.”

You can’t be serious, I said.

“It is what it is,” he said. “Madigan endorsed him.”

Degnan’s resume read like this: law school at Loyola, then about 31/2 years at the firm of Sullivan, Hincks & Conway ending in 1999. Then a series of political jobs, first with Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas, then with the county pension fund.

Somehow, it just doesn’t sound like “The Good Wife” to me.

The judicial candidates started dropping out on January 9th, according to the Board of Elections’ website. Judge Carroll, who had been slated by the Cook County Democratic Central Committee, was the last to withdraw, on January 17th. Two of the withdrawn candidates had their petitions challenged by the same guy, Peter Andrews.

That’s classic South Side Madigan politics, kids.

…Adding… So, Peter Andrews is Ed Burke’s guy. Burke, via Andrews, challenges to two other candidates’ petitions to get them out of the way. Degnan decides to put his kid in there. Madigan agrees. Burke beefs. Kass writes. That’s my theory, anyway.

- Posted by Rich Miller   49 Comments      

Rep. Mulligan bows out

Thursday, Jan 26, 2012

* I had been keeping this saga behind the subscriber firewall, but the AP picked up on Rep. Rosemary Mulligan’s retirement announcement, so we might as well discuss it in the open. Here’s the AP story

Mulligan’s decision came after House Republican leader Tom Cross on Friday said he wouldn’t back her in the upcoming primary election. The primary race is now between Susan Sweeney and Kelly Schaefer. Both Park Ridge residents are write-in candidates.

Mulligan says she decided to pull out of the race because she was “spending too much time getting angry about it.” She says she looked at what happened to U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk, who suffered a stroke over the weekend, and thought “life is too short.”

* As you already know, Mulligan failed to file enough petitions to make it onto the primary ballot. She withdrew from the race and ran as a write-in candidate. But then, as subscribers know, two other Republicans filed to run as write-ins last week and House Republican Leader Tom Cross decided to support one of those candidates, who is allied with a Penny Pullen organization. Ironically enough, the pro-choice Mulligan beat the pro-life Pullen in 1992.

Anyway, I was out of the office for a little while late yesterday afternoon when Rosemary’s press release was issued. So, the Daily Herald beat me to the story

“I watched the stuff going on with (U.S. Sen.) Mark Kirk (who suffered a stroke over the weekend) and I thought, you know, life is too short. You have to watch somebody like that and think, ‘Why am I racing my motor over this?’” […]

House Republican Leader Tom Cross said Friday he wouldn’t back Mulligan’s primary election bid, instead taking the rare stance of lending support to [Susan] Sweeney. […]

Cross spokeswoman Sara Wojcicki Jimenez has said Cross recruited Sweeney because House Republicans didn’t know for sure whether Mulligan would file as a write-in candidate by the deadline Jan. 19. Mulligan earlier had to pull her name from the regular ballot after conceding she did not have enough petition signatures to qualify.

If Mulligan didn’t file as a write-in, Cross feared the seat would have more easily fallen into the hands of Democratic candidate and Des Plaines Mayor Marty Moylan without giving the GOP a chance to put up a fight, Wojcicki Jimenez said.

I’ll have more from Mulligan for subscribers tomorrow.


- Posted by Rich Miller   30 Comments      

*** UPDATED x1 *** Duckworth poll shows huge lead over Krishnamoorthi

Wednesday, Jan 25, 2012

* Democratic congressional candidate Tammy Duckworth has released a poll showing her with a commanding 59-17 lead over her primary opponent, Raja Krishnamoorthi. From the pollster

Duckworth enjoys 83% name identification with 67% of the electorate rating her favorably and just 7% evaluating her unfavorably. This glowing assessment is enviable for any candidate but for one in the expensive Chicago media market, it is literally worth millions.

She leads former Illinois Deputy treasurer Raja Krishnamoorthi 59% to 17%. She holds a three-to-one margin with key constituencies: voters who say the will “definitely vote,” voters who voted in at least two Democratic primaries out of the last four, voters age 50 and older, liberals and pro-choice voters.

In addition to her solid vote support, Duckworth is also the choice of 65% of likely voters when asked who has the best chance to beat Joe Walsh in November. Just 13% opt for Krishnamoorthi.

After positives messages from both candidates are simulated, Duckworth maintains her 59% support while Krishnamoorthi is able to climb to just 23%. So while we expect the race to tighten somewhat as Krishnamoorthi communicates his message to voters he neither gains significant traction among undecided voters nor is able to cut into Duckworth’s support. It should be noted that this informed vote is nearly identical to the informed vote from our July poll, which showed Duckworth ahead 60% to 21%.

As veteran strategist David Axelrod said, “I have never seen anyone overcome a 42-point deficit this late in the race.”

Normington Petts did the poll of 400 likely Democratic primary voters. The poll was conducted January 10-12 and has a margin of error of +/- 4.9 percentage points.

* Meanwhile, for whatever reason, the House Majority PAC either didn’t test or is not releasing head-to-head November matchups in the same congressional district against Republican Joe Walsh. Politico has a bit on the PAC’s latest polling

32% say Rep. Joe Walsh deserves reelection, his approval rating sits at just 28 percent. While there are two Democrats in the race against Walsh, PPP tested a generic opponent. Walsh trails the generic Democrat 49 percent to 35 percent.

From the PAC’s press release…

In Illinois’ 8th Congressional District, only 32% of voters think Congressman Joe Walsh deserves to be reelected, while 57% think it’s time for someone new. Congressional Republicans have a 30/57 favorability rating and only 28% of voters approve of Walsh’s job performance while 44% disapprove. Walsh trails a generic Democratic opponent 49-35 and may be the most vulnerable Republican incumbent in the country. […]

Public Policy Polling conducted this survey on behalf of House Majority PAC between January 21st and 22nd. In IL-8 500 registered voters were interviewed with a margin of error of +/-4.4%.T

…Adding… Joe Walsh now has no Republican primary opponents

U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh of McHenry no longer has to worry about the primary election March 20 after both of his Republican challengers were removed from the ballot by the Illinois Board of Elections Tuesday.

Each of the candidates, Richard Evans and Robert Canfield, was more than 100 petition signatures short of the minimum 600 valid signatures required to run in the 8th District Republican primary, the board ruled.

*** UPDATE *** From the Krishnamoorthi campaign…

“This campaign has barely begun. If polls two months out predicted elections, Hillary Clinton would be the President, and Rick Perry would be the Republican nominee. Leaders in our district have overwhelmingly endorsed Raja as their choice and I’m confident that when voters get the chance to hear from both candidates, they’ll make Raja their nominee. Raja is the only candidate in this race with the economic experience and a detailed plan to turn our economy around by helping to create jobs for the middle class.” – Mike Murray, Deputy Campaign Manager

Mike Murray, of course, is a former Capitol Fax intern. Just thought I’d remind you again. I won’t be doing that every time I post on this race because Mike knows he’s in for the normal treatment. Still, it never hurts to remind y’all every once in a while.

- Posted by Rich Miller   28 Comments      

Madigan: Capital plan underfunded

Wednesday, Jan 25, 2012

* Speaker Madigan states an obvious point that few are talking about

Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan warned Tuesday that Illinois’ much-hyped public works program may run out of money before all of the promised construction projects can be completed.

Making a rare public speaking appearance Tuesday at Elmhurst College, Madigan said the main problem is the state has yet to launch video gambling at bars, restaurants and truck stops. That was a key funding source for the $31 billion building program Gov. Pat Quinn signed into law in 2009. […]

Spokeswoman Kelly Kraft said there is enough money to “continue the program into the foreseeable future” and added the administration has been careful to balance issuing bonds to pay for projects with available funds. […]

Madigan said he would support putting more money into the construction fund, but posed a familiar question amid the state’s ongoing budget woes: “Where do you find the money to pay for it?

The Gaming Board hates it when I say this, but they’ve dragged their feet on video gaming and that’s definitely had an impact on how much money the state can spend on capital projects. Illinois’ capital bill was by far the largest in the nation, but it’s not working as initially advertised because the video gaming law has not been put into action by the Gaming Board. Yes, there are some reasons for this. But, c’mon, guys, it’s the law of the land and it needs to be put into place.

* And speaking of gaming, Madigan was less than optimistic about the prospects for gaming expansion this spring

Gov. Pat Quinn has voiced strong opposition to plans that would allow slot machines at Illinois racetracks, a key component to a gambling expansion plan that stalled in the legislature last year because of the governor’s opposition.

In addition, some lawmakers have questioned Chicago’s desire for a city-owned casino license.

“You’d have a two-tiered system,” Madigan said during a government forum at Elmhurst College. “You’d have the existing casinos and then you’d have a different arrangement for the Chicago casino, because it would be owned by the government. A real tough issue and I don’t know what the end of it will be. I just don’t know.”

- Posted by Rich Miller   17 Comments      

Madigan on governors, Lee Daniels

Wednesday, Jan 25, 2012

* The Sun-Times has a very good piece on Speaker Madigan’s speech regarding his dealings with former governors

Madigan was most effusive in his praise for convicted former Gov. George Ryan, calling him “very flexible, very interested in just identifying problems and fashioning solutions.”

Ryan’s favorite approach was to gather all four legislative leaders in a room to work a deal, Madigan recalled. That would include Madigan; Daniels, who invited Madigan to speak and who fondly recalled the “two wonderful years” he wrested power from Madigan; former Senate President James “Pate” Philip, and former Senate Democratic leader Emil Jones.

“George would say, ‘We’ve got problems — what do we have to do to solve these problems?’ ” Madigan said. “A leader might want to evade the question, he might have a strategic plan they’re working and don’t want to answer today. And George would just pursue, persist, ‘I want an answer!’ ”

Recalling one meeting, Madigan said, “George Ryan wanted a capital program. There were going to be fee increases, tax increases. He started with me. I told him ‘I’m for it — I think you oughta make it bigger.’ He got to Pate Philip. There’s a favorite method in the Legislature with the legislative leaders. The leader doesn’t want to look at the governor and tell him ‘No.’ So they blame their caucus members: ‘Our caucus won’t agree to that.’ Pate used to refer to his caucus members as ‘gorillas.’ It’s true: ‘My gorillas don’t like that.’

“There was this pause. Ryan just looked at him and he said, ‘You said that to me after everything I’ve done for you?’ And then he took him out of the room, took him into a separate room, and closed the door. There was a lot of screaming and shouting. They both came back and sat down and George looked at Pate and Pate said, ‘Governor, there will be enough votes to pass your bill.’ That was George’s method — very effective.”

Madigan also talked about Gov. Pat Quinn a bit

After being asked to describe the governors he’d worked with over the years, Madigan told the crowd that Quinn was “well-intentioned” and that they were working through their many differences. True to form, he didn’t outright say whether he thought Quinn was a good governor.

Instead, he called him a former political “gadfly” who became governor.

* And, by far, the most off the wall portion of Madigan’s speech was when he urged former House GOP Leader Lee Daniels to run for governor

“Someone earlier today suggested that Lee Daniels is prepared to declare a candidacy for governor,” Madigan said. “He really would make a very good governor for the state of Illinois. Service as a governor of Illinois requires — No. 1 — that you know the operations of state government but especially the operations of the state budget, and that you be prepared to work with people when they make difficult decisions. So, Lee, give it some thought. Give it some thought.”

I could probably write ten thousand words about why I think Madigan said that, but instead I’ll turn it over to you.

- Posted by Rich Miller   20 Comments      

*** UPDATED x1 *** Madigan on the budget and pensions

Wednesday, Jan 25, 2012

[House Speaker Michael Madigan spoke at Elmhurst College yesterday for more than an hour, then held a brief press conference afterward. He almost never does that, so this will be the first of a few posts on his speech.]

* An AP reporter was obviously quite disappointed in Speaker Madigan’s speech

Madigan is arguably the most powerful man in Springfield, with the ability to make or break deals. But anyone hoping to find out specifically where he stands on some of the state’s most urgent issues wouldn’t have learned it from his address at Elmhurst College’s Annual Government Forum.

Changing future pension benefits for current state employees would make an interesting national debate and ultimately could be decided by the courts, he told a packed room. Illinois’ underfunded pension liability now exceeds $85 billion and lawmakers already have changed benefits for future employees to help reduce the costs.

But Madigan didn’t mention that he had introduced legislation along with House Minority Leader Tom Cross to create a three-tiered pension system for current employees, and wouldn’t address reporters’ questions afterward whether there are enough Republican and Democratic votes to bring the bill to the House floor.

School districts don’t pay into teachers’ pension systems like other employers do, leaving that obligation to the state - accounting for half of the $4 billion the state pays into five pension systems annually, he complained. He said later that it would be reasonable to ask them to pay, but would not say whether anyone was planning to introduce legislation to force them to do so.

With Madigan, however, you gotta read between the lines. For instance, here’s CBS Chicago’s take on the pension issue

Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan says local school districts haven’t been paying into their teachers’ retirement systems, and he thinks it may be high time that they did. […]

“In the current budget, our payment is about $4 billion – $4 billion to those five (pension) systems. One half of the $3 billion is the TRS, the Teachers Retirement System,” Madigan said. […]

“I don’t think it’s out of line to ask the local districts ‘Why don’t you contribute to this cause? These are your employees,’” Madigan said.

And here’s WBEZ’s take on the same issue

Pension costs that are draining Illinois’ budget could be shared by local school districts.

The idea seems to be gaining steam among top Democrats, including Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, who gave a rare, hour-long speech at Elmhurst College Tuesday morning to talk about the challenges facing Illinois. […]

“I never found anybody who could tell me why the state of Illinois stepped up one day and said, ‘OK, school districts, we’ll just pick up all your pension costs,’” he said.

If the state made schools pay for their retired teachers, it would likely shift the cost to property taxes. It’s an idea that Senate President John Cullerton and Governor Pat Quinn have talked about, too, which means it could become part of legislation this spring.

* I listened to the full audio of the event (subscribe to hear it) and came away believing that Madigan was leaning toward this idea.

*** UPDATE *** Somehow, I missed this relevant story from Illinois Statehouse News

llinois’ 12 percent increase in higher education spending this year isn’t going to benefit students. Instead, the additional funding for fiscal 2012 is going into the State Universities Retirement System, or SURS, to address its underfunded pension program.

“These SURS appropriations do not go to individual institutions or agencies and are not available to be used for educational purposes,” according to the footnote in a study released Monday by Illinois State University, or ISU.

SURS, which is responsible for the pensions of the state’s university employees, is facing an unfunded liability — how much it owes in benefits compared with how much assets it has on hand — of $17.2 billion, according to its 2011 annual report.

[ *** End Of Update *** ]

* On the budget stuff, however, the AP reporter was spot on. From the Chicago News Cooperative

“We’ve got huge budget problems in this state. Why? Well, there was overspending in the past and many people engaged in the overspending. It wasn’t just one or two people,” he said.

Madigan blamed the shortfalls in part on Republicans, even though Democrats have held majorities in the House and Senate and controlled the governor’s mansion since 2002. Most budget votes, including budgets that delayed or skipped pension payments, have been carried with Democratic support.

Asked whether he should bear greater blame, having served in Illinois government in an influential position for nearly 30 years, Madigan said it took more than “one person” to drive Illinois into a pattern of spending beyond its means.

* Sen. Dillard was rather diplomatic

Madigan accepted some of the responsibility for the state’s financial woes. He said the legislature spent more than the state took in during many budget cycles, which led to the state owing millions of dollars in unpaid bills. Madigan has been House Speaker since 1983, with the exception of two years when Lee Daniels, an adjunct faculty member in Elmhurst College’s political science department, was speaker. As speaker, Madigan controls what bills come to the House floor, but said he was “one of many” who signed off on overspending.

“There are plenty of legislators from both parties who would rather spend than cut,” Madigan said following the event.

Sen. Kirk Dillard, a Hinsdale Republican, agreed with Madigan that there are numerous state lawmakers who share the blame for the state’s economic problems. He said he commends Madigan for shouldering some of the responsibility, but added that Madigan has been the one constant in the Illinois legislature throughout the economic decline.


- Posted by Rich Miller   12 Comments      

Question of the day

Wednesday, Jan 25, 2012

* From a recent op-ed by Dick Ingram, the executive director of the Teachers’ Retirement System of Illinois

The facts are indisputable. Over the next 30 years, the state will owe retirees in excess of $140 billion, but Illinois has less than $54 billion in the bank right now to meet those long-term obligations. The “unfunded” portion of that liability creates tremendous pressure on state government because it essentially triples the annual cost of public pensions to taxpayers; money that could be spent on other services.

Despite what you may read elsewhere, the real problem here is not the actual cost of annual retirement benefits. It’s the amount the state owes to the future.

* The Question: Do you think the state should follow national norms and strive to have 90 percent of the next 30 years of pension payments on hand right now? Explain.

- Posted by Rich Miller   35 Comments      

*** UPDATED x1 *** Today’s Illinois charts

Wednesday, Jan 25, 2012

* Google has a great analytical tool that you can use to compare unemployment rates over the years. I’ve done screen caps to make them easier to load. Here is the US rate since 1950, for instance…

* And here’s the Illinois rate since 1990…

That last, big upward unemployment rate spike starts in April of 2011. You can’t see it so well here, but go to the site and check it yourself.

* Now, we overlay Illinois onto the US chart…

Notice how the Illinois rate spikes in 2011, while the US rate declines.

* So, I started comparing Illinois to other states. Here’s Indiana…

Indiana also has a 2011 upward spike, but it’s smaller than Illinois’ - at least, so far.

* Michigan…

Their rate heads down while ours goes up.

* Ohio…

* To make a long story slightly shorter, I went through every state last night and compared them to Illinois. Nowhere did I see the same sort of upward unemployment rate spike in 2011 that we saw in Illinois.

It’s not absolute proof that the January, 2011 income tax hike pushed up the unemployment rate here. The Illinois rate actually went down in December by two tenths of a point, which isn’t showing up on the above charts. And the unemployment rate can mean different things at different times (more people encouraged by the climate and returning to the job market, for instance). But it sure as heck is interesting.

* A commenter linked to this chart yesterday. It’s from the Illinois Department of Public Health and shows Illinois births to unmarried women over the years. Ratios are per 1,000 live births. So, the 2009 ratio of 407.6 is 40.76 percent of all live births…

Live Births
Unmarried Women
Number Ratio


*** UPDATE *** From the Sun-Times

Abortions reported in Illinois reached a 37-year low in 2010, a drop that abortion opponents attributed to more women shying away from the procedure while abortion-rights supporters pointed to an uptick in use of contraceptives.

In 2010, there were 41,859 abortions in Illinois, according to recently published data from the state Department of Public Health .

That’s the lowest total since 1973, when Illinois recorded 32,760 abortions. That’s the year the procedure was legalized in the United States in the landmark Roe vs. Wade decision by the U.S. Supreme Court.

- Posted by Rich Miller   91 Comments      

Protected: SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - Supplement to today’s edition and a campaign roundup

Wednesday, Jan 25, 2012

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Protected: SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - Today’s edition of Capitol Fax (use all CAPS in password)

Wednesday, Jan 25, 2012

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This just in… Cellini won’t get new trial

Wednesday, Jan 25, 2012

[Bumped up to Wednesday morning for visibility.]

* TUESDAY - 4:50 pm - A federal judge has decided there will be no new trial for Bill Cellini.

A bit of background for those who’ve been living under a rock

Cellini was found guilty in November of attempting to extort money from a Hollywood producer for then governor Rod Blagojevich’s campaign.

After the trial, the Chicago Tribune discovered one of the jurors on his case didn’t disclose her felony record as required on juror questionnaires.

* 6:09 pm
- And here’s why

U.S. District Judge James Zagel offered a strong defense of Chiles in his remarks.

“While Chiles may have had contempt for defense counsel, what Chiles didn’t have was contempt for the law,” the judge said.

Regarding Chiles’ tumultuous testimony, Zagel said her “buttons were pushed” and she did not have the luxury of having been prepared to handle aggressive questioning by Cellini’s lawyer. He also noted her lack of sophistication and education.

Zagel found that Chiles did not lie on jury questionnaires she filled out and that her failure to disclose her criminal history under direct questioning from him during jury selection was not deliberate.

She showed no bias toward Cellini in any way, the judge ruled.

- Posted by Rich Miller   26 Comments      

* *** UPDATED x1 *** *** LIVE *** Leaders meeting coverage
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* *** UPDATED x1 - Durkin responds *** Back to the future: Madigan demands "memorandums of understanding"
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* *** UPDATED x1 *** Moody's says Rauner veto is just one of many problems facing CPS
* *** UPDATED x4 - Mendoza responds - Munger calls suit "cowardly" *** Lawsuit filed over legislator pay
* The "green energy" side of the Exelon bill
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