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Very little fire behind the smoke

Thursday, Feb 6, 2014

* The Tribune has a long and involved story about a Bill Brady family investment

State Sen. Bill Brady voted in November for tax subsidies that helped revive his family’s struggling real estate investment in a central Illinois town, raising issues of potential conflict of interest as Brady seeks the Republican nomination for governor.

A developer building an assisted-living complex in Gibson City said the subsidies are crucial to making the project work. And he paid Brady’s family a premium for the land he needed, just a few months before the senator’s vote.

Illinois law allows lawmakers to vote on matters that could benefit their private interests, requiring only that they consider whether to abstain. Brady says he saw no conflict of interest in his Nov. 7 vote because his mother, a real estate agent, owned the land at the time.

“I had an interest, but I don’t have an interest now,” Brady told the Tribune recently when asked about his vote. But the assisted-living developer told the newspaper he dealt only with Bill Brady when he bought the land.

Nancy K. Brady had acquired the property after the business run by her sons could not develop the land and turned it over to the bank that lent them the money.

* The trouble with this story is that the reporters relied on the appearance of impropriety, but didn’t talk to any of the bill’s actual sponsors to see how this played out at the Statehouse.

The proposal was originally sponsored in the House last August by Rep. Josh Harms (R-Watseka), who represents Gibson City, where the TIF district is located.

Rep. Harms told me he never once heard about the Brady family involvement in that TIF and never spoke to Sen. Brady about the legislation. The town’s mayor asked him to sponsor the bill, which extended the TIF district’s life. The mayor wants to build the first assistive living center in Ford County, so it’s kind of a big deal locally.

* In November, the House rolled several TIF district extension proposals into one bill, which was co-sponsored by Rep. Harms. Sen. Napoleon Harris was the chief Senate sponsor. Sen. Harris said today that he never talked to Brady about the bill.

The hyphenated co-sponsor of the Senate bill is Sen. Jason Barickman, who, like Rep. Harms, represents Gibson City. Barickman was the Brady family attorney for several years, so he was naturally aware of the family’s interest in that land.

But, Barickman said that Gibson City’s mayor asked him to pass the TIF extension bill. Barickman said that at no time did Brady ever say he needed this bill to benefit his family, or words to that effect. He said either Sen. Harris or a Senate staffer told him “that his bill was going to move and I had an opportunity to attach Gibson City to it.”

Sen. Brady voted for the bill, but it passed the Senate unanimously.

I agree he should’ve voted “Present,” but there’s no state law requiring that.

- Posted by Rich Miller        


17 Comments
  1. - Illinois taxpayer - Thursday, Feb 6, 14 @ 12:06 pm:

    Little fire behind most Trib stories these days. Same edition has front page scoop that Mayor Emanuel’s beat cop force is down 10 percent, until you read buried on the jump page that the Trib’s number doesn’t include 515 cops who haven’t been permanently assigned to specific districts. Later, it says “the department has 20 fewer cops than in December 2011.”

    So Brady is not the only politician having the facts massaged by the Tribune to make them fit into a “story.”


  2. - VanillaMan - Thursday, Feb 6, 14 @ 12:07 pm:

    What this means is that there are many people who would not like another repeat of Brady’s failed 2010 gubernatorial campaign and would rather see him on the sidelines this time.

    As does everyone living in Illinois with a pulse who is not related to Mr. Brady.


  3. - Jake From Elwood - Thursday, Feb 6, 14 @ 12:11 pm:

    The bill passed unanimously. Brady did not sponsor it nor directly benefit from it. TIF extension bills are fairly routine stuff when the development did not occur within the initial TIF window. At most, this is an appearance of impropriety, not a conflict of interest.

    Certainly pales in comparison to some of the other accusations charged against two of his fellow Republican candidates.


  4. - Not Rich - Thursday, Feb 6, 14 @ 12:11 pm:

    the Trib has become a 2nd rate paper with poor reporting after the flashy headline.


  5. - Siriusly - Thursday, Feb 6, 14 @ 12:11 pm:

    Rauner is totally pushing his opposition research out there now to make sure there is no viable “alternative” at the exact moment when his TV spend is finally making a positive polling impact. it’s a very smart strategy, he has good campaign people with him that’s for sure.

    I still think he’s phony and unlikeable, but as a campaign strategy - he is clearly being successful at destroying them all at this point.


  6. - vole - Thursday, Feb 6, 14 @ 12:18 pm:

    Not the first time conflict of issue has been raised about real estate or development deals involving Brady directly or Brady family businesses. I seem to recall a similar thing happening in the Champaign area the last time Brady ran for governor.


  7. - Not Rich - Thursday, Feb 6, 14 @ 12:23 pm:

    I can’t wait for the Repub primary fight: You kill puppies/you kill old people…


  8. - wordslinger - Thursday, Feb 6, 14 @ 12:26 pm:

    He should have taken a pass, but it was a unanimous vote. Not an issue to me.


  9. - Curious - Thursday, Feb 6, 14 @ 12:28 pm:

    It’s surely not as bad as the headline wants it to be, but I still think there’s something to be said for the fact that he took this vote. He didn’t have to, and he had to have known that, right? The roll call was unanimous. Did he not want his “P” vote to call attention to the fact that this bill likely helped his company, knowing he was going to run for Gov? Did he not realize at the time the implications of his vote? It’s a minor issue, but it still raises some worthwhile questions, IMO.


  10. - Curious - Thursday, Feb 6, 14 @ 12:30 pm:

    Siriusly, not to nit-pick here, because BR is definitely peddling OR on everybody right now, but I don’t think Heinzman typically works off that kind of material. Maybe he got a slight tip and then investigated it, but I don’t think he was spoon-fed.


  11. - vole - Thursday, Feb 6, 14 @ 12:37 pm:

    ‘Conflict-of-interest votes, ethics questions dog Bill Brady at WBEZ debate’
    Oct. 18, 2010
    http://www.examiner.com/article/conflict-of-interest-votes-ethics-questions-dog-bill-brady-at-wbez-debate


  12. - CYR - Thursday, Feb 6, 14 @ 12:42 pm:

    Rich hit the nail on the head. A unanimous vote and the Trib tries to make to make a point that Brady voted to help his family business? What a joke. Rich Maybe you could hold a seminar for them on reporting facts within context.


  13. - Mokenavince - Thursday, Feb 6, 14 @ 1:05 pm:

    The nit-picking by the Republicans is nuts. Who in their right mind would want to run as a Republican?

    Their lucky they have Rauner who has gobs of money
    to throw into a campaign.


  14. - sal-says - Thursday, Feb 6, 14 @ 1:21 pm:

    Did the Tribbies story on “Nursing home problems may dog Rauner - GOP candidate’s business deals, accusations of patient neglect scrutinized” get ‘featured’ on the front page like this one?

    The ’story’ read like a lot of work went in to explaining it away. Or did I miss that too?


  15. - A guy... - Thursday, Feb 6, 14 @ 2:08 pm:

    Hindsight is 20/20, but knowing it passed unanimously, he could have even voted against it. A present vote or declaring a potential conflict and not voting obviously would have been smarter looking back.


  16. - dupage dan - Thursday, Feb 6, 14 @ 3:14 pm:

    He benefits from the legislation. His vote was not needed - unanimous. He should have passed.


  17. - Nearly Normal - Thursday, Feb 6, 14 @ 7:47 pm:

    It would have been better that Brady voted present on this issue. He did not personally benefit from the action but a family member did. Not a big issue unless there can be shown a pattern of similar votes. I am aware of the Champaign issue that came up in 2010. Two votes out of a twenty year career is minor in Springfield.


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