* The National Journal somehow snagged an interview with Fred Eychaner, one of the Democrats’ biggest campaign contributors both nationally and here in Illinois. Eychaner almost never grants interviews, so this is a very rare profile…
Eychaner decided to construct his own heavily funded lobbying and public-relations vehicle [to help pass gay marriage] instead of donating funds to existing gay-rights groups. To do his media, he hired ASGK Public Strategies, a Chicago-based PR firm with ties to Obama, and he enlisted several of the state’s top lobbyists. […]
Eychaner entrusted Mike Madigan—the powerful Democratic speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives and someone to whom he had been a generous donor over the years—to deliver the votes. This did not sit well with other advocates, who wanted to cast a wider lobbying net, as opposed to leaning so heavily on Madigan to round up support.
“I would go on the record with my respect for Mike Madigan, which will probably upset a lot of friends,” Eychaner says now. “He’s enormously skillful at what he does. The only speakers of any House who survive are the ones who can keep their majority and keep everyone going largely in the same direction. Mike Madigan is superb at that.”
When it appeared last summer that they didn’t have the votes, the Legislature’s gay-marriage supporters delayed calling the bill to the floor. The grassroots wing of the LGBT movement was upset, and some began blaming Eychaner. The most obstreperous of these critics, a longtime gay-rights activist named Rick Garcia, publicly chastised Eychaner for being in Madigan’s pocket.
But after a five-month delay, the bill was voted on and passed, marking a historic occasion as well as vindicating Eychaner’s strategy. Eychaner compared the process to 20 mad chefs cooking on 20 different burners. “The person to the left of you by one degree thinks you’re selling out,” he said. “You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do. I don’t think I’ll be in that position again.”
When I asked about his near-term plans, he indicated only his interest in putting money behind the reelection campaign of Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn whose self-funding Republican opponent, Bruce Rauner, busted the individual spending-limits cap in the primary. “I don’t expect to be among the top donors this year, but I will do my share,” he said. “I am not the progressive Koch brother.”
Go read the whole thing.