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Dillard campaign says he was confused about Cosgrove vote

Thursday, Oct 31, 2013

* First, some background from the Champaign News-Gazette

Terry Cosgrove, who cut his political teeth long ago as a leader of the Gay Illini group on the University of Illinois campus, was the target of some heated rhetoric last week on the floor of the Illinois Senate.

Cosgrove, the president and CEO of the pro-choice Personal PAC political action committee in Chicago, was up for reappointment to his $46,960 a year position on the Illinois Human Rights Commission.

He won reappointment on a 36-30 roll call, with no Republicans supporting the appointment and only two Democrats (southern Illinois senators Gary Forby and William Haine) voting no. All area senators voted no, except Sen. Mike Frerichs, D-Champaign.

But the vote came after Sen. Dan Duffy, R-Barrington, delivered a blistering attack on Cosgrove, calling him “unethical and immoral” and a liar.

“Besides being on the Human Rights Commission, he will not leave the Personal PAC, the PAC that he’s set up and where he’s worked since 1989. So he’s been conducting this unethical and immoral behavior, according to himself and his own testimony, since 1989,” Duffy said. “He is also a highly paid lobbyist and he’s worked as a lobbyist for decades with Personal PAC. As you all know it’s against our ethics code in the state of Illinois to appoint anybody to a board who has been a paid lobbyist. Now Terry Cosgrove will tell you that he’s not actually a paid lobbyist.”

Duffy also said that Cosgrove lists himself as a political independent but has voted in only one Republican primary election in the last 25 years.

* Not mentioned is that Sen. Kirk Dillard voted for Cosgrove in committee. Dillard’s campaign spokesman explained the vote… kinda

GOP gubernatorial candidate State Senator Kirk Dillard says there was confusion about the qualifications for Human Rights Commission appointees, and that while he voted in committee to approve an pro-abortion activist for the spot, he opposed the nomination on the Senate floor.

“Senator Dillard voted ‘no’ on the floor to Terry Cosgrove … the actual or ‘real’ recorded vote,” Dillard campaign spokesman Wes Blood told Illinois Review. “There was some confusion over qualifications in committee. Sen. Dillard definitely opposes Mr. Cosgrove’s appointment to the Human Rights Committee.”

During the October 15th Executive Appointments hearing, Senator Dillard was the only Republican that joined the Democrats in approving abortion activist Terry Cosgrove for re-assignment to the Human Rights Commission. Cosgrove, who actively raises campaign funds for abortion supporters through Personal PAC, will be paid $46,960 annually for serving on the commission from March 2013 until November 2017.

- Posted by Rich Miller   24 Comments      


Different ADM tax break proposed

Thursday, Oct 31, 2013

* Sen. Andy Manar has worked out a deal with ADM on its tax break request

Under the new version, both the 100 headquarters jobs and the 100 tech jobs would have to be created for ADM to get its tax incentives. They would be in Chicago.

Beyond that, the company would have to relocate at least 100 full-time positions from out of state to Illinois — specifically to “an Illinois municipality that is a county seat and has as population” of 50,000 to 100,000: Decatur. And ADM in Decatur would have to hire at least 100 new full-time workers a year for at least five years. Those could be either replacement or net new jobs.

Mr. Manar said his goal is to ensure that jobs now in Decatur do not slowly trickle up to a Chicago headquarters and are, at a minimum, replaced.

The additional Decatur jobs would be eligible for EDGE credits under the bill. Mr. Manar said he does not yet know how much that would get the company, but believes it would be well under the $1.2 million per year for the headquarters jobs since they’d pay less.

Thoughts?

…Adding… Manar press release…

State Senator Andy Manar (D–Bunker Hill) today filed legislation that will help create hundreds of new jobs across the state, including Decatur, and keep ADM headquarters in Illinois.

ADM announced in September its intentions to relocate its world headquarters and sought state incentives to keep it in Illinois. Manar opposed the initial bill filed in the House citing its failure to provide adequate assurances that investments would be made and jobs would be created to offset the loss of jobs and economic activity in Decatur created by the move.

Working with ADM executives and local officials in Decatur, Manar crafted a bill that will allow ADM to keep its headquarters, along with 100 corporate headquarter jobs, here in Illinois. In addition, ADM will move 100 jobs from other states to Decatur and, over the next five years, is committed to adding or filling 100 full-time positions annually in Decatur.

“I’ve been in office less than a year, but it is abundantly clear that Illinois faces major challenges,” Manar said. “Illinois’ unemployment rate is 9.2 percent – two points higher than the national average. Decatur’s unemployment rate is even higher, which is why we have to begin addressing chronic unemployment that has plagued certain areas of the state by investing our resources where it will have the greatest impact.”

“Throughout this process, I have said that keeping ADM in Illinois was a priority but not at the expense of taxpayers and jobs,” Manar continued. “The bill I have introduced will allow ADM to continue their long and valued partnership with Illinois, while growing and creating much-needed jobs here.”

Manar’s legislation also creates a job task force to create even more downstate jobs by promoting ADM’s new Midwest Inland Port intermodal facility. Taking advantage of three class one railroads that intersect in Decatur, a coalition of public sector officials and private business leaders will work to maximize and improve our transportation infrastructure, which will lead to long-term economic growth for Decatur and Downstate Illinois.

To ensure taxpayers are protected, strict accountability measures have been included in the proposal. If job creation and investment provisions are not met, ADM will return incentive funds to the taxpayers.

“I appreciate ADM’s willingness to listen and work with both myself and local elected officials to create this important job creation legislation,” Manar concluded. “Our state still has a tough hill to climb and faces many challenges that demand our disciplined attention, but this bill is a step in the right direction – solidifying ADM’s current and future presence in Illinois while helping create jobs in a balanced way throughout the state.”

- Posted by Rich Miller   30 Comments      


Question of the day

Thursday, Oct 31, 2013

* State Sen. Jim Oberweis talked to the Daily Herald about his likely US Senate race, which would be his third run at the office, fourth statewide campaign and sixth major campaign since 2002, all but one of which he lost

He said he’s aware he might take some heat for making another bid.

“Oh, I’m sure I will, as did Abraham Lincoln,” Oberweis said.

* More

Oberweis says he’ll tell voters about his success in the dairy business. But he argues what’s different this time is his 2012 election to the Illinois Senate, where he grabbed attention this year for winning approval of an increase in the rural interstate speed limit to 70 mph. He points to that success to show he got a proposal through a General Assembly controlled by Democrats.

“One of the criticisms of me in the past has always been, well, he’s just a businessman and he won’t be able to get along with Democrats,” Oberweis said. “I’ve got more Democrat friends now that I’ve ever had before.”

* The Question: Do you think Sen. Jim Oberweis will help or hurt the statewide ticket next year? Take the poll and then explain your answer in comments, please.


survey tools

- Posted by Rich Miller   50 Comments      


Today’s numbers

Thursday, Oct 31, 2013

* Crain’s

Earnings at Exelon’s Commonwealth Edison Co. were responsible for much of the upside surprise. ComEd generated operating earnings of $127 million, or 19 percent of Exelon’s total, up 41 percent from $90 million during the same period last year, when ComEd accounted for 14 percent of Exelon’s earnings.

The primary reason: higher revenues at ComEd thanks to the 2011 formula rate law enacted in Illinois over Gov. Pat Quinn’s veto, according to Exelon’s earnings release.

Exelon’s CEO Christopher Crane also said that the Clinton nuke plant could be shuttered in a year if wholesale prices don’t improve.

- Posted by Rich Miller   17 Comments      


The Department of Spin

Thursday, Oct 31, 2013

* Twitter’s embed function doesn’t appear to be working right now, so we’ll have to settle for a screen cap

What does he want, a medal?

- Posted by Rich Miller   29 Comments      


Adventures in governance

Thursday, Oct 31, 2013

* Blogger and retired teacher Fred Klonsky is not at all pleased with the way the state is rolling out the new Medicare Advantage program. Reprinted in full with permission

The deadline for deciding what our retiree health care will look like – whether we go with Medicare Advantage or op out – is December 13th.

Central Management Services is co-sponsoring informational seminars across the state between November 11th and December 11th.

The one for retirees who live in Chicago is at the Thompson Center on December 6th.

That gives me seven days to figure out what I will do. And if I opt out I can’t get back in. And all the money I paid into the plan over thirty years is gone.

For good.

Seven days.

If you live in Belleville the seminar is at Southwest Community College on December 11th.

That will allow you one day to decide.

One day.

If you live in the north suburbs of Chicago you can attend a seminar on the far north side. Or Palatine.

That’s it. It is an area in which thousands of Illinois teacher retirees live.

More seminars are being held downstate. But teachers tell me that in some cases they will have to drive more than two hours each way to attend one.

CMS is willing to set up additional seminars if we pay for them.

Over $300 bucks a pop.

And we find the space.

Fred’s a pretty informed guy, but he does have a point about everybody else.

- Posted by Rich Miller   21 Comments      


Extension nutritionist downplays impact of SNAP cuts here

Thursday, Oct 31, 2013

* From the Illinois Hunger Coalition and Voices for Illinois Children…

More than 2 million low-income people in Illinois who will have their food assistance cut when a boost to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps) expires this Friday, Nov. 1. SNAP benefits will average only about $1.40 per person per meal after the cut.

The cut will affect all of the nearly 47 million Americans, including 22 million children, who receive SNAP. For a family of three, this cut will amount to $29 a month. That’s a serious loss given SNAP’s already low benefit levels and the very low incomes of SNAP participants — over 80 percent of SNAP households live in poverty. “I cannot imagine what the proponents of this cut are thinking since we know that SNAP has provided an important stepping stone for struggling Illinois families and the 886,000 children who will be affected by this cut,” says Diane Doherty, Executive Director of the Illinois Hunger Coalition.

In Illinois, the benefit cut through September 2014 will total $220 million, which will further undermine the economy in communities across our state as families reduce their spending at local stores. These cuts will most certainly result in more households seeking help from the Illinois emergency food network, which is already strained. A caller to the IL Hunger Coalition’s state-wide Hunger Hotline, Ms. Bunny Patterson, a senior citizen living in Lake County says, “even though I get the minimum SNAP benefit of $16, this cut will make it more difficult for me to get by. I do not understand why they would cut this benefit even more.” Ms. Patterson is one of the 349,000 elderly or disabled individuals in IL who will be affected by the cuts on Nov. 1.

On top of the across-the-board cut that will take effect on Friday, the U.S. House of Representatives recently passed legislation cutting $40 billion from SNAP, potentially eliminating assistance for nearly 4 million people nationwide, including at least 182,000 people in Illinois – representing families with children, seniors, people who have lost a job and are unable to find work, and veterans.

“SNAP has been a powerful tool in helping to keep families out of poverty,” stated Gaylord Gieseke, president of Voices for Illinois Children. “The House-passed SNAP cuts on top of the cuts beginning this Friday would deal another significant blow to millions of Americans who continue to struggle to make ends meet as the economy continues to slowly recover. Our representatives in Congress must not ignore the hundreds of thousands of Illinois children whose nutrition and healthy development depends on SNAP. When Congress cuts SNAP, it undermines the well-being of some of the most vulnerable children and families in America.”

The legislation would provide strong financial incentives for states to reduce their caseloads, making it significantly harder for struggling families to put food on the table, and would eliminate assistance for some of the poorest Americans. The House-passed SNAP plan coupled with the November 1 cuts would deal a significant blow to millions of Americans who continue to struggle to make ends meet.

* But that’s not a problem, says a nutritionist with the University of Illinois’ Extension service

Illinois is reducing EBT payments for two million families in Illinois who get the assistance, but the smaller benefits are neither a surprise nor a problem.

The 2009 federal expansion of the SNAP program, what most people call food stamps, has expired, forcing reductions across the country, Illinois Department of Human Service’s spokeswoman Januari Smith said.

Benefits for family of four in Illinois could decrease by $36 a month, she said.

But the family won’t go hungry, still getting more than $600 each month to spend on groceries. The maximum food stamp benefit for a family of four is set to slide from $668 to $632, each month.

McKenzie Riley, a nutritionist with the University of Illinois Extension office, said that’s well above an average monthly allowance for food.

“A lot of places, (the average) is $100 per person, per month,” Riley said. “Depending of course … on what your household is made up of.”

Riley says it will cost a little more to feed two teenagers than to feed two children younger than 5.

Illinois’ average food stamp family — a parent and a child — gets $367 a month for groceries, but that falls to $347 Friday.

Cook your own food and do a little bargain shopping, and that should be plenty, Riley says.

Discuss.

- Posted by Rich Miller   50 Comments      


“The intersection of government, politics and money”

Thursday, Oct 31, 2013

* From Chicagoist

Government watchdog group The Better Government Association is getting under Michael Madigan’s skin. At least that’s how we see it after the Illinois House Speaker sent a letter to fellow Democratic lawmakers accusing BGA and its President and CEO Andy Shaw of trying to “become a kingmaker in Illinois politics” and having an agenda to “impugn the Democratic Party.”

Madigan, himself a kingmaker in Illinois politics, probably wrote that without irony.

Madigan sent the letter on Illinois Democratic Party letterhead—because that’s what a political power broker does—to the House Democratic caucus and members of the Democratic State Central Committee. Madigan wrote the letter in response to a Sun-Times/BGA investigation into how 29 of 30 people who circulated petitions in 2011 to get Madigan on the ballot for re-election either had or have government jobs. Those 29 people cost taxpayers nearly $2 million a year; contributed $200,000 to the campaign funds of Madigan or his daughter, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan; and some are drawing public pensions while still working for government agencies.

Madigan’s “kingmaker” claim is just plain laughable, as I’ve already discussed at length today in the subscriber-only section.

* But let’s also take another look at what Shaw said in his fundraising letter yesterday

This is a story about the intersection of government, politics and money. Watchdogs tell those stories because citizens of Illinois deserve to know how their government works.

The irony of fundraising off a story that’s supposedly about “the intersection of government, politics and money” is pretty darned rich, particularly considering Shaw’s own contributors.

* Some commenters were busy bees and looked at Shaw’s organization. From an anon commenter

In 2008, Jay Stewart (then Executive Director), was paid $57,765.

In 2009, When Andy Shaw took over the reigns, Shaw was paid $76,667 to be Executive Director.

In 2011, Andy Shaw was paid $174,175 to be executive director.

It all jives with my theory that the BGA is only interested in creating headlines that will help its fundraising so that they can boost their own salaries at the “non profit” BGA.

* “Juvenal” followed up

Anonymous: You omitted that Shaw received an additional $19K in non-salary compensation. Oh yeah, and BGA pays his social club membership dues too.

Look, I don’t begrudge nonprofit employees being compensated. But guys who make more than the governor should not be casting themselves as “a small watchdog organization”.

From the BGA’s tax return

The most recent BGA disclosure report is here.

* Others looked at the backgrounds of some of the BGA’s top funders. From hisgirlfriday

Only $200,000 to MJM or Lisa by the workers?

Well if that makes the workers corrupt, how corrupt does that make the honorees, co-chairs and hosts of the BGA’s 90th anniversary luncheon who have donated wayyyyyyyyyyyy more than $200,000 to Democrats and Republicans over the years?

Here’s a link to a list of these folks:
http://www.bettergov.org/events/90th_anniversary_luncheon.aspx

Just a sampling…

BGA honoree RICHARD DRIEHAUS donated $100,000 to Richard M. Daley in 2007, even after Hired Truck and Bob Sorich’s conviction. What a hero of better government!

Co-Chair RON GIDWITZ has personally donated more than $200,000 to one GOP governor candidate and now is raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for another GOP candidate. Oh and he gave $30,000 over the years to Lee Daniels, whose chief of staff was convicted of public corruption.

Co-chair J.B. PRITZKER donated $100,000 to the campaign of former governor Rod Blagojevich, who was sent to prison for 14 years for public corruption.

Co-chair ANNE GRIFFIN made a mockery of campaign finance limits by funneling her contributions to Republican candidates via Downstate Republican county party chairmen.

Oh and the people on this list have donated at least tens of thousands to Madigan and his daughter too.

* Wordslinger

To add to HGFs list of the BGA annual meeting co-chairs and honorees and their experiences at “the intersection of government, politics and money.”

There’s John Canning, grand poohbah of Madison Dearborn, one of those private equity firms that hustles public employee pension fund money to invest (taking 1.5% off the top, and 20% of returns).

His Better Government bona fides in recent years include dropping $100K on Richard M. Daley, $30K on Emanuel, $50K on Anne Burke and $40K on Claypool.

And $25K on Michael J. Madigan.

Canning also is the subject of an FEC complaint for blowing the doors off last year on individual contribution limits to candidates, parties and PACs, primarily Republicans, including Romney, Boehner, Cantor and Illinois GOP congressional candidates including Walsh.

http://www.citizensforethics.org/page/-/PDFs/Legal/Letters/FEC/05_08_13_CREW_CLC_FEC_Excessive_Donor_Complaint.pdf?nocdn=1

* More Wordslinger

Other interesting names from the BGA invite for their annual luncheon. These guys know their way around the “intersection of government, money and politics.”

Lester Crown, of the BGA Civic Leadership Committee. General Dynamics. Material Services Corp. From the Trib:

–Crown was an unindicted co-conspirator in the 1972 scandal in which construction executives bribed (Illinois) state legislators in an attempt to get highway weight limits raised for ready-mix concrete trucks. Crown was chairman of Material Service Corp., a major ready-mix company.

He received immunity from prosecution in return for testimony used to convict the politicians. At the 1976 trial, Crown admitted contributing $23,000 to a fund that financed the bribes.–

Jerry Reinsdorf. Nice ballpark. Nice restaurant. How much did they cost you? Who paid for it? Pay a lot in rent? Sweet.

Bruce Rauner, Civic Leadership Committee. Who?

* Walkinfool summed it up

Some of the biggest, (some would say “worst”) examples of the “intersection of government, politics, and money”, are key supporters, and honorees of BGA itself.

Using Andy Shaw’s own logic, they should be a major target of an “investigation” in the name of “better government.”

Have at it Andy, and prove you are who you claim to be.

And then there’s a story told by Joe Berrios and pointed to by another commenter. Click here to read that one.

* Look, despite what some commenters may have implied above, there is absolutely nothing wrong with taking money from those folks. There’s also nothing wrong with having your organization pick up your “social club” membership dues, or making a decent buck.

The point, I think, is that if the BGA was a campaign organization, the media might be all over this stuff and impugning the leader’s integrity. Smoke, fire, etc. It’s usually just nonsense, but that’s how it goes.

Another point, I believe, is that there is also nothing intrinsically wrong with a government employee or retiree circulating nominating petitions and contributing rather smallish amounts to the organization for which he or she volunteers. Yet, that’s a story.

- Posted by Rich Miller   64 Comments      


*** UPDATED x1 *** Today’s quotes

Thursday, Oct 31, 2013

* Joe Walsh interviewed Sen. Kirk Dillard this week for his ongoing series about Republican gubernatorial candidates. Listen to the whole thing if you have time

* Silliest question…

“Do you like freedom, and why?”

* Silliest claim by the candidate…

“i ran an administration that left a billion and a half surplus.”

It left that surplus six years after Dillard left the chief of staff job.

* Something I don’t think I knew: Dillard’s law school classmate was Tom Paprocki, who is now Springfield’s Catholic bishop.

* Best hit on an opponent: The far right is freaking out over the Obama administration’s “Common Core” learning program. One of Walsh’s callers referred to it as “Communist Core.” Dillard then connected Bruce Rauner to Common Core through Rauner’s financial support of Stand for Children.

*** UPDATE *** The Rauner campaign passed along some OR…

From Tribune Questionnaire: http://primaries2012.elections.chicagotribune.com/editorial/kirk-w-dillard/

    “I support many of the proposals of Stand for Children. When I ran for governor in the 2010 primary, I offered a lengthy plan called “”Best in Class - Helping Children Succeed for the Jobs of Tomorrow”" which included improving student performance and closing the achievement gap, developing a 21st century workforce, and raising the bar on higher education. I believe in merit pay, and we must not renege on our commitment on rewarding teacher excellence. We need to encourage corporations and foundation to establish funds to reward our best teachers.”

He also took $10,000 from stand with children and was endorsed by them: http://www.wbez.org/story/stand-children-endorsed-candidates-sweep-elections-97524

[ *** End Of Update *** ]

* A quote that could come back to haunt him: “I thank Dave Smith of the Illinois Family Institute and those who came down to Springfield” for the anti gay marriage rally. Those were his first public remarks about the rally, which featured some pretty darned hateful comments by some speakers.

* Most pandering Dillard comment: A caller lambasted Dillard for not being a true conservative like Walsh. Dillard responded…

“[Joe Walsh is] someone I look up to and model myself after.”

I kid you not.

- Posted by Rich Miller   59 Comments      


Great return, higher unfunded liability, lower contribution

Thursday, Oct 31, 2013

* First, the good news from a TRS press release

Teachers’ Retirement System investments generated a positive 12.8 percent rate-of-return during fiscal year 2013, net of fees, a result that exceeded internal custom benchmarks set for the $40 billion portfolio.

* Now, the bad news

Yet, despite these high returns for the year ended on June 30, the System’s unfunded liability officially rose during the 12 month period to $55.73 billion from $52.08 billion at the end of FY 2012. The TRS funded ratio at the end of FY 2013 was 40.6 percent as calculated under state law and 42.5 percent using the market value of the System’s assets. The higher unfunded liability reflects another year of contributions from state government that fell short of full, actuarially-based funding. […]

“The contribution from the state that is required by the law continues to be far short of the amount required to ensure our long-term sustainability,” Ingram said. He noted that in order to prevent any increase in the unfunded liability during FY 2015, the state contribution would have to be $5.3 billion.

“Without changes to the pension code to ensure sustained and adequate funding, TRS faces the very real possibility that in a few decades the System will not have enough money to pay benefits to retirees. We cannot guarantee that TRS will have enough money to pay the pensions promised to every member in the System.”

In other words, we’re not yet at the top of the ramp.

* But

Based on the System’s funded status, the TRS Board of Trustees gave preliminary approval to a $3.412 billion state contribution for fiscal year 2015, a contribution that is slightly lower than the $3.438 billion state contribution for the current fiscal year.

Total TRS assets at the end of FY 2013 were $39.479 billion, an 8.7 percent increase in total assets from one year ago at the end of FY 2012 — $36.311 billion. At the end of September TRS assets totaled $40.97 billion.

And here’s why

The statutory state contribution for FY 2015 is calculated under a state formula that does not meet the requirements of standard actuarial practices used in other states.

Because of that difference, the state’s statutory pension contribution never matches the funding level that an actuary would recommend to fully cover the cost of pension in that year. In FY 2014, the state’s statutory contribution to TRS is $3.438 billion. Using actuarial standards, the contribution to TRS would be $4.046 billion. In FY 2015, while the statutory contribution is $3.412 billion, the actuarially-calculated contribution would be $4.062 billion.“

- Posted by Rich Miller   41 Comments      


Credit Union (noun) – not-for-profit, consumer-focused cooperative

Thursday, Oct 31, 2013

[The following is a paid advertisement.]

Credit unions are not-for-profit financial cooperatives. They were first exempted from federal income taxes in 1917 to fulfill a special mission as valuable and affordable cooperative alternatives to for-profit banks. Even though credit unions are exempt from income tax, they still are subject to, and pay, property, payroll, and sales taxes, and a host of governmental regulatory supervision fees. Since their inception, credit unions have more than fulfilled their mission, as evidenced by Congressional codification of the credit union tax exemption in 1951 and 1998. Though the range of services has evolved to effectively serve their members in an increasingly competitive financial marketplace, the cooperative structure, which is the reason for their tax exempt status, has remained constant. Nationally, consumers benefit to the tune of $10 billion annually because credit unions are tax-exempt. In Illinois, by most recent estimates credit unions annually provide more than $185 million in direct financial benefits to almost three million members. In an era that continuously poses economic and financial challenges, credit unions remain true to one principle - people before profits - and represent a highly valued resource by consumers during these uncertain economic times.

- Posted by Advertising Department   Comments Off      


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

Thursday, Oct 31, 2013

This post is password protected. To view it please enter your password below:

- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      


BGA fundraises on MJM comments

Wednesday, Oct 30, 2013

* You knew this had to happen sooner or later. From a blast e-mail…

BGA dismisses Madigan’s bullying accusations, vows to continue watchdog work.

Dear Rich,

How do you know your watchdog work is having an impact? The most powerful lawmaker in the state writes a letter warning his colleagues about you.

Illinois House Speaker & State Democratic Chairman Mike Madigan is accusing me and the BGA of “using bullying tactics” to gather information for a Sun-Times story on the fact that as many as 29 of Madigan’s 30 campaign workers had or have government jobs that collectively pay nearly $2 million a year, and they’ve contributed more than $200,000 to political funds for Madigan or his daughter Lisa.

Madigan says, in a letter to dozens of state Democratic leaders, that the BGA is trying to “impugn the Democratic Party.”

Sorry Mike–we’re just doing our job, which is to shine a light on government and hold public officials accountable.

This is a story about the intersection of government, politics and money. Watchdogs tell those stories because citizens of Illinois deserve to know how their government works.

The BGA is a nonpartisan watchdog that investigates public officials and public policies, and recommends reform. We’ve been doing it for 90 years and sometimes our work ruffles a few feathers. Our only agenda is better government, and we invite everyone, including Mike Madigan, to join us in this effort.

Mike Madigan is a powerful political leader and we’re a small watchdog organization, so you decide who’s the bully. And if you believe Illinois government needs a strong watchdog, please consider supporting the BGA with a generous contribution.

Your watchdog,

Andy Shaw
President & CEO

Discuss.

- Posted by Rich Miller   66 Comments      


Question of the day

Wednesday, Oct 30, 2013

* Sen. Bill Brady and other Republicans have joined with House Speaker Michael Madigan to oppose appropriating money during the veto session to fund some state employee pay raises going back to 2011. Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka, however, believes the money should be allocated

“I think you’ll probably have to have a supplemental appropriation,” Topinka said at a Springfield news conference. “I don’t know how else you do it. Where else are you going to get the money? It’s not like it’s lying around. I don’t have bags of it sitting around the office.” […]

That includes $112 million needed to pay back wages — plus 7 percent interest — to about 25,000 union workers who were denied raises they were due under their previous labor agreement. Quinn suspended the raises, saying lawmakers did not approve money to pay them. The issue was taken to court, and a judge sided with the unions and said the state had to honor the back wages with interest. […]

House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, has balked at the idea of approving a supplemental budget to pay the wages. He has said agencies should cover the back wages out of the spending plan approved by lawmakers in May.

Keep in mind that the fiscal year revenue forecast has been revised upward by about $360 million.

* The Question: Should the General Assembly vote to appropriate $112 million plus interest to fund the back pay, or should agencies be told to find the money within their own budgets and the $112 million+ be used to pay off other old bills? Take the poll and then explain your answer in comments, please.


survey tools

- Posted by Rich Miller   69 Comments      


Rauner talks about his prospects and comparisons to Romney

Wednesday, Oct 30, 2013

* Bruce Rauner was interviewed on WJBC radio the other day. Listen to the whole thing…

* A couple of things stood out for me. He is apparently convinced that if he spends enough money and attends enough events, he will win this race.

According to Rauner, his polling shows him ahead by 20 points among people who’ve been exposed to his ads or seen him speak.

If he’s convinced of that, then we can expect a lot more spending.

A lot.

* He was also asked how he differed from failed presidential candidate Mitt Romney, another rich guy in a similar business. His response…

“He was an analyst, I’m a salesman.”

Good point.

* He continued…

“I’m not Mitt Romney. You know, my grandparents lived in a double-wide trailer and didn’t speak much English. I drink a beer and I smoke a cigar and I ride a Harley, I use a gun, I’m a self-made guy. I still do ranching and farming myself and I come from a small-town farming family. I’m a very different person and I’m connecting with the voters and we’re going to win this race.”

Discuss.

- Posted by Rich Miller   44 Comments      


One way or another, you’re gonna have to wait

Wednesday, Oct 30, 2013

* I can totally understand why some folks want to try and pass the gay marriage bill next week. They’ve worked hard, and they want to finally know who’s with them and who’s against them.

But if you’re a gay couple eager to get married as soon as possible, then waiting until January to hold a vote is a better option.

Why? Well, there’s no way the bill could get three-fifths in both chambers next week, but three-fifths is a constitutional requirement for any bill with an immediate effective date. A bill requiring a simple majority with an immediate effective date can only be approved after the first of the year. Passing an amended bill now means waiting until next June for the law to take effect.

* So, if you’re more into politics, making a “statement” and revenge, then go ahead and keep pushing for a vote next week without knowing whether you have enough votes to pass it. The risk, of course, is that the bill might actually be defeated and won’t come back for a floor vote until well after next year’s election. Maybe you’re feeling lucky. If so, go ahead and roll the dice. Just know that your bill won’t become law for seven more months.

If, on the other hand, you want gay marriage to be the law of the land as soon as possible, then all you have to do is wait to call the vote until January, or even after the March primary.

* Meanwhile, as you’ll recall, Springfield Bishop John Paprocki claimed some marriage equality supporters intended to stage a “loud” action at one of his churches last week, so he banned them from the grounds

The Rainbow Sash Movement has encouraged Roman Catholics to come to Springfield to “have a loud Catholic presence for marriage equality.” They have announced plans to gather at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception at 4:30 p.m. just before the 5:15 p.m. Mass to stand in the Cathedral and indicate that they are there to pray the rosary for “marriage equality.”

It is blasphemy to show disrespect or irreverence to God or to something holy. Since Jesus clearly taught that marriage as created by God is a sacred institution between a man and a woman (see Matthew 19:4-6 and Mark 10:6-9), praying for same-sex marriage should be seen as blasphemous and as such will not be permitted in the cathedral.

People wearing a rainbow sash or who otherwise identify themselves as affiliated with the Rainbow Sash Movement will not be admitted into the cathedral and anyone who gets up to pray for same-sex marriage in the cathedral will be asked to leave.

Of course, our cathedral and parish churches are always open to everyone who wishes to repent their sins and ask for God’s forgiveness. [Emphasis added.]

* Springfield radio commentator Jim Leach strongly supports gay marriage, but he also sees Paprocki’s side

The people who sought to stage such demonstrations are not helping their cause and are lending credence to one of the biggest allegations of their opponents. The anti-marriage-equality crowd sees the movement as a threat to their freedom to worship as they see fit. They are sure that allowing same-sex marriage is just the first step toward requiring them to modify their dogma to conform to political correctness. An absurd fear, to be sure – but protestors who seek to disrupt Mass or demand changes in Catholic orthodoxy make it seem far less absurd.

There are plenty of reasons to object to the bishop’s views and plenty of appropriate venues to do so. But a Roman Catholic cathedral during Mass is not one of them.

The bishop was correct to protect the sanctity of his church and to defend the legitimacy of its teachings. Just as religious freedom does not give the bishop the right to deny equal rights to gay couples, neither does it give marriage-equality proponents the right to deny the bishop and his followers the right to their own beliefs.

If you disagree with his view, you may wish to seek out a church that doesn’t see loving gay couples as “evil incarnate.” But if marriage equality supporters want Bishop Paprocki and others like him to live and let live, we have to be willing to do the same.

* Greg Hinz also weighed in

To the extent anyone was going to disrupt services—I know of no evidence of that—the bishop was perfectly correct.

* Greg is right that there is little to no evidence of that intent. The Rainbow Sash folks did, indeed, say they planned to have a loud presence at the rally itself

The Rainbow Sash Movement is organizing for the March on Springfield. We are encouraging Roman Catholics in the Parishes who support Marriage Equality to join us in Springfield so we can have loud Catholic Presence for Marriage Equality.

* But the object of the organizers at the church was to pray in silence

The Rainbow Sash Movement is calling for silent prayer to begin 4:30PM just before the 5:15PM Mass at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. A rosary for Marriage Equality will be said in silence. By standing up in the Cathedral you will indicate you are there to pray the rosary for Marriage Equality. Let us come together as a spiritual family in prayer after the March.

* A subsequent statement from the Rainbow Sash group…

The Rainbow Sash Movement event was to be a silent rosary to be held in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception at 4:30PM in Springfield,. This would take place after the March for Gay Marriage in Springfield on October 22. We wanted this to begin prior to the 5:15 Mass at the Cathedral. The silent rosary would take about 10 minutes to say those present were invited to stand at 4:30PM and begin the mental recitation of the Rosary which would end at 4:40PM.

While the Bishop Paprocki’s statement was alienating and threatening to Catholic laypeople who support Marriage Equality, such as the Governor and other supportive Catholic politicians the Rainbow Sash Movement firmly believes the Church is more than brick and mortar.

How Bishop Paprocki could misrepresent this event in such a manner only points to a man who is clueless. His statement was both uncalled for and most certainly not in the spirit of Pope Francis general tone that we should stop obsessing about such matters.

The only charitable thing that can be said about the Bishops hysterical response is that it is misinformed, and I am sure most reasonable people would agree with that.

It is our opinion, his statement to the press should be challenged because of his misrepresentation of the facts. It was never our intention to either wear Rainbow Sashes at the 5:15PM Mass, nor were we going to wear them at the Rosary for Gay Marriage. The primary reason we called for this ancient prayer of the Church to be said is because October is also the month of the Rosary around the Catholic World, and we thought this prayer was appropriate in this setting.

- Posted by Rich Miller   35 Comments      


Sun-Times sees optimism, Durkin says wait

Wednesday, Oct 30, 2013

* The Sun-Times editorializes on pension reform

Both scenarios being batted around by the state’s four legislative leaders and a 10-member pension committee rely on cutting retirement benefits, mostly by reducing annual cost-of-living increases for retired teachers, state workers, legislators and university employees.

The Republicans are right to push for more than $138 billion, to go for the greatest savings possible. This is the Legislature’s one chance to get this right. But push too hard and retirees are hurt unnecessarily and the final result will never pass.

The compromising begins with Senate President John Cullerton, who last week officially became one of the biggest impediments to getting a deal done. Cullerton said he embraced the $138 billion plan but he also made clear that he thinks pension reform is basically a waste of time. Cullerton said the state’s $100 billion unfunded pension liability wasn’t a “crisis” after all and suggested that Illinois could manage just fine without pension cost-cutting. That’s called talking out of both sides of your mouth.

But this week Cullerton is willing to play ball. He says he’s game for going higher than $138 billion — which is essential because that’s what the other three legislative leaders, including House Speaker Michael Madigan, want. Cullerton’s spokeswoman told us that “$138 billion seems to be the baseline” and “he’s looking for some fair way to get it higher.”

Getting from a baseline to a new, agreed plan is a delicate balancing act. But when we talk to lawmakers close to the negotiations we sense something almost unheard of in politics: optimism.

I didn’t hear a lot of optimism yesterday when I made a quick round of calls. But if the four leaders are committed to going higher than $138 billion, that could be a reason for some hope.

* Then again, maybe not

“Next week, we got three days and I don’t anticipate yet again that much being accomplished,” said State Rep. Jim Durkin, minority leader. […]

Leader Durkin expects Quinn to miss several more paychecks.

“We can come back sometime before the first of the year or come back at the beginning of the year. I want to make sure we do it once, we do it right,” said Durkin.

What’s most interesting here is that Durkin appears willing to take the fall if nothing happens next week.

- Posted by Rich Miller   34 Comments      


New website unveiled, attacked

Wednesday, Oct 30, 2013

* I haven’t had a chance to play with this new site yet, but it looks interesting

State Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka announced the launching of The Warehouse, a comprehensive online database that puts local governments’ financial information and tens of thousands of records at a single location for taxpayer review.

Topinka explained that the Comptroller’s Office collects financial reports from 5,200 counties, municipalities and special taxing districts across the state. The Warehouse makes those records and other pertinent local financial information collected by her office immediately available to residents. […]

“This user-friendly database allows taxpayers to scour our office ‘Warehouse’ from wherever they are located,” Topinka said in a news release. “There is no reason that residents should have to file Freedom of Information requests or sort through mountains of paper to see how their money is being spent. That information should be at their fingertips, and that’s what The Warehouse accomplishes.”

Warehouse visitors are able to search records by report type, unit of government or community name. Once a local government is selected, users will be taken to a landing page where they can view a snapshot of local finances, Annual Financial Reports and Audits. The site also offers a “compare data” feature allowing visitors to see how one government stacks up against another.

* Background

The comptroller’s office collects more than 9,200 reports from 5,200 local governments each year. Now, much of that information is available online. Dubbed The Warehouse, the site allows users to find financial reports and audits from counties; cities; special taxing districts, such as park districts; and other bodies of local governments. “We’re essentially allowing taxpayers to scour The Warehouse from wherever they are to seek whatever they want to learn,” Topinka said at a Chicago news conference. “It’s designed to be user friendly. In fact, we’re going to keep trying and trying and trying to make sure anything we put out [will] be as user friendly as possible.” She said the new site was made possible by a 2012 law that requires local governments to submit their information to her office electronically.

* The site could actually help local governments

Sherman Mayor Trevor Clatfelter attended Tuesday’s news conference and said his town of fewer than 5,000 people has a limited staff available to deal with Freedom of Information Act requests that often seek the same information that will now be posted online by the state.

* Sheila Simon wasn’t impressed

Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon, who is challenging Topinka for the comptroller’s office, has tried to lay recent cases of high-profile local corruption at Topinka’s feet because the comptroller’s office takes in local fiscal information. Simon said in a written statement today that the website would do little to prevent local problems. “It is the job of the comptroller’s office to be the fiscal watchdog over local governments. We’ve had far too many examples of corruption at the local level — along with missed opportunities to spot that corruption under Judy Baar Topinka,” said Simon. “Repurposing a Web address with the same information that could already be found on the comptroller website is too little and too late. Identifying and preventing local corruption will be a priority from my first day in office. It’s time we have a comptroller who provides not just accounting but accountability.”

* Topinka’s response

Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka Tuesday said a new local government financial data feature on her website should not be considered a campaign event.

Topinka, who scheduled seven news conferences around the state over a three-day period to roll out the site, said it has been years in the making and is not a product of her re-election bid. […]

“That’s just not true,” Topinka responded. “There’s information here that you will not get anyplace else. I think it’s nonsense because we started working on this when Sheila Simon was still dreaming of becoming attorney general.”

Anyway, go check it out and tell us what you think.

- Posted by Rich Miller   22 Comments      


Credit Union (noun) – not-for-profit, consumer-focused cooperative

Wednesday, Oct 30, 2013

[The following is a paid advertisement.]

Credit unions are not-for-profit financial cooperatives. They were first exempted from federal income taxes in 1917 to fulfill a special mission as valuable and affordable cooperative alternatives to for-profit banks. Even though credit unions are exempt from income tax, they still are subject to, and pay, property, payroll, and sales taxes, and a host of governmental regulatory supervision fees. Since their inception, credit unions have more than fulfilled their mission, as evidenced by Congressional codification of the credit union tax exemption in 1951 and 1998. Though the range of services has evolved to effectively serve their members in an increasingly competitive financial marketplace, the cooperative structure, which is the reason for their tax exempt status, has remained constant. Nationally, consumers benefit to the tune of $10 billion annually because credit unions are tax-exempt. In Illinois, by most recent estimates credit unions annually provide more than $185 million in direct financial benefits to almost three million members. In an era that continuously poses economic and financial challenges, credit unions remain true to one principle - people before profits - and represent a highly valued resource by consumers during these uncertain economic times.

- Posted by Advertising Department   Comments Off      


Another one

Wednesday, Oct 30, 2013

* Chris Kelly, Orlando Jones, Michael Scott and Phil Pagano. For a while, suicides were an all too common “exit strategy” for Chicago-area people under investigation for alleged corruption. The Daily Herald wrote about this disturbing pattern in 2010

Suicide experts say the one common thread is that the victims likely felt a sense of being cornered and were unable to see other solutions to their problems. In reality, anyone contemplating suicide should call 911 or immediately contact an organization like the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention at (800) 273-8255.

“They felt that they were boxed in, that their world as they knew it was crumbling,” says Maris. “There is a lot of similarity in all of these.”

Dr. Lanny Merman, director of the American Association of Suicidology in Washington, D.C., says such deaths are called “executive suicide.”

“They can’t tolerate the loss of face,” he says. “So death becomes preferable to public disgrace.”

* And now, another one

A prominent Bridgeport businessman who wore a wire for the feds, helping convict a former Cook County commissioner and a former Chicago alderman, was found dead of an apparent suicide in his plumbing business, authorities said.

Michael DiFoggio, 58, was found with a single gunshot wound to the head around 10 p.m. Tuesday at his family business, Difoggio Plumbing in the 3200 block of South Shields Avenue, according to the Cook County medical examiner’s office.

* Sneed tells us more

DiFoggio had not been sentenced yet in his tax case and could have faced as little as probation given his critical cooperation.

Yet for that cooperation, DiFoggio had been shunned in his tight-knit community. He had been trying to sell his luxury home for about $1.5 million, which included an indoor pool, without any luck. He was no longer welcome at the Old Neighborhood Italian American Club, a nearby hangout for local businessmen and mobsters that his father had co-founded, along with mob boss Angelo “The Hook” LaPietra.

DiFoggio also had been having difficulties in his marriage, sources say. His wife filed for divorce less than two weeks ago, and DiFoggio had been talking with his wife on the phone at his office before he apparently killed himself.

His cooperation with the feds was a source of widespread speculation in the neighborhood and whether more indictments were in the works.

“According to my clients on the street, there was a Second Act coming,” said prominent defense attorney Joseph R. Lopez, who has represented many organized crime figures over the years.

- Posted by Rich Miller   21 Comments      


*** UPDATED x1 - Madigan’s full letter *** Madigan fires back, and so, apparently, do some of his captains

Wednesday, Oct 30, 2013

* Sun-Times

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.” […]

In his Oct. 24 letter, which is only now arriving in mailboxes but was penned before the Sun-Times/BGA story was even published, Madigan targeted the door-to-door reporting on the project that aimed to verify that every petition circulator, in fact, accurately matched up with names contained on state, county and municipal payroll records, campaign-finance reports and pension records.

“Shaw has turned the organization’s focus toward the volunteer work of Illinois citizens who have exercised their First Amendment rights by circulating nominating petitions for me in previous years. The organization has gone so far as to harass these individuals at their homes,” Madigan wrote.

“Rather than work for positive change and reform in Illinois government, 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.”

* The BGA’s response…

The BGA is a nonpartisan watchdog organization that investigates public officials and public policies, and recommends reforms. We’ve been doing it for 90 years and sometimes our work makes people uncomfortable. Our only agenda is better government. We invite everyone, including Mike Madigan, to join us in this effort.

* Something quite interesting happened in comments yesterday. Several people claiming to be Madigan precinct workers posted comments about the original Sun-Times/BGA story. All of them had different IP addresses and none of them have commented here before using those IP addresses…

- Teddy - Tuesday, Oct 29, 13 @ 2:42 pm:

Remember when newspapers reported the news , not make it up ? How about you stick to your job, and stop harassing me and my family for your scoop . Last time I checked there is nothing wrong with helping out a candidate.

- Karen - Tuesday, Oct 29, 13 @ 3:28 pm:

These reporters are always trying to dig up dirt because they hate Mike Madigan. Well I don’t hate Mike Madigan because I know him, and that’s why I’ve knockef on doors and passed petitions for him. Have these people ever met him? He’s a nice guy who’s always been nice to me and appreciated my help. I thought reporters were supposed to be fair and unbiased, not pick out targets because they din’t like him.

- Ron Williams - Tuesday, Oct 29, 13 @ 4:21 pm

Now I am being harassed because I passed a petition for Mike Madigan. I have never been pressured to do so and have done it on my own time. I wonder why they didn’t include that fact even though it doesn’t fit the story they want to tell. These people don’t get it . Not everything is a scandal. Why don’t you go report some real news and leave me alone.

johnny o - Tuesday, Oct 29, 13 @ 5:02 pm:

these “reporters” just can’t stand that mike madigan outlasts and outsmarts everyone so they have to manufacture stories and theories to hurt working people like me. yes, i passed petitions for mike madigan because i wanted to. i was not forced too. can we expect these reporters to review the petitions of every other politician in illinois now? it would only be fair. if not, they’re nothing but a bunch of elitists with an agenda!!

- TMAC - Tuesday, Oct 29, 13 @ 10:12 pm:

I’ve passed a petition for Mike Madigan, I’ve passed petition for Mike Madigan for years. I was never pressured to do it. Interesting that they only report the “facts” that arer convenient for their story. They never report that I qork hard for my family and that I support Mike Madiganin my own free time. Last I checked we still live in America where I’m free to do this in my own time. I wonder when the article on other Illinois politicians will be published or if they’re only going to focus on Mike Madigan.

Discuss.

*** UPDATE *** Madigan’s letter in full…

Dear Friend:

Please allow me to take this opportunity to share some concerns with you about the apparent metamorphosis of the Better Government Association from a worthy, public advocacy group to an organization focused on partisan politics, lobbying and mustering opposition to Democratic candidates in Illinois.

Since 2010, the BGA has been on an unrelenting journey to become a kingmaker in Illinois politics through its campaign activities, despite rules prohibiting the group from engaging in political advocacy. Along the way, it has attempted to tarnish Democratic candidates while receiving financial support from my political opponents and opponents of the Democratic Party.

In 2010, the BGA’s top executive, Andy Shaw, made a self-admitted improper endorsement of a candidate for county office. More recently, Shaw has turned the organization’s focus toward the volunteer work of Illinois citizens who have exercised their First Amendment rights by circulating nominating petitions for me in previous years. The organization has gone so far as to harass these individuals at their homes. Rather than work for positive change and reform in Illinois government, Andy Shaw has resorted to using bullying tactics against working men and women in an attempt to suggest they have done something improper. 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.

It is therefore not unreasonable to conclude that Andy Shaw has an agenda to impugn the Democratic Party. This hardly makes him an unbiased, impartial or independent observer.

Democratic candidates at all levels in Illinois will face many challenges in 2014, but I do not believe that these types of attacks from a government lobbying group posturing itself as a news organization should go unnoticed.

With kindest personal regards, I remain

Sincerely yours,

MICHAEL J. MADIGAN
Chairman, Democratic Party of Illinois

- Posted by Rich Miller   72 Comments      


“Murder Neighborhoods,” not “Murder City”

Wednesday, Oct 30, 2013

* Chicagoan’s probably already know this, or at least feel this, but out of staters, suburbanites and Downstaters who don’t spend much time in the city and who rely mainly on news reports probably don’t. The city’s murder problem is highly localized

Over the last few years, violent crime in Chicago has made international headlines. Though the city as a whole has seen a significant drop in crime since its early-nineties peak, analyst Daniel Hertz has demonstrated that significant areas of the West and South Sides actually experience more murders than they did even at the peak of the crack epidemic.

Unlike New York, where former war zones such as the South Bronx have made radical improvements in safety, many of Chicago’s most dangerous neighborhoods have only gotten worse.

Meanwhile, gentrified North Side areas are safer than New York City.

More here.

- Posted by Rich Miller   36 Comments      


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