|Question of the day
Monday, Nov 18, 2019
* Last week, the Tribune editorialized that the Senate needed someone much different from John Cullerton as its next Senate President…
The next Senate president could insist on a fair redistricting process. He or she could acknowledge that a state with an unfunded pension liability of $137 billion ought to rethink the rigid pension clause of its constitution. The next president could insist on a more responsible budgeting process that begins in January, not mid-May. The next president could answer the call of voters to put term limits on the ballot.
* The SJ-R editorial board took a much different approach…
As the various candidates make their cases for why they should be the next to take up the mantel, we encourage them to model themselves after Cullerton. Illinoisans need people who can be a leader not just for their party, but for the whole state. Serious issues remain to be addressed in Illinois, including the underfunded pension liability, teacher shortfalls, economic development, taxes and a host of other problems that only get worse the longer lawmakers wait to tackle them.
The next leader should pledge to continue to be like Cullerton, in that he or she can see the beauty and benefit of compromise with those with different political ideologies, and who will know when to dig in and when to sit down to hash out a deal on a given issue. Best of luck to Cullerton as he starts a new chapter in his life, and thank you for often being the adult in the room.
* The Question: Without naming any names, what qualities do you think are most important for the next Senate President?
- Posted by Rich Miller
* Here’s one I missed the other day. From Jon Seidel at the Sun-Times…
Federal prosecutors want a judge to send a longtime Dorothy Brown worker to prison for more than two years after they said she lied to a grand jury, “threw a wrench in the wheels of justice and ground them to a halt.”
They also said the lies Beena Patel told the grand jury investigating job-selling allegations in the office of Brown, the clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County, “directly impacted the government’s ability to charge those most culpable in the illegal activity.” […]
The feds’ investigation centered in part around a $15,000 payment by Sivasubramani Rajaram allegedly to land a job at the clerk’s office. The feds say Rajaram made a $5,000 cash payment at a meeting at the Corner Bakery across from the Daley Center. But when prosecutors asked Patel about that meeting in front of the grand jury, they said Patel gave misleading answers.
“She attempted to minimize her own involvement by stating that Rajaram slid the envelope containing $5,000 in cash directly to the Clerk,” McShain wrote in Tuesday’s memo.
Prosecutors said it was Patel who accepted the cash.
I just don’t know enough about this to say one way or another, but this piece does bring up questions about whether the feds might have possibly chased the wrong person because of Patel’s testimony.
* Tony Arnold and Dave McKinney at WBEZ…
The federal criminal probe into Commonwealth Edison is one of the most aggressive anti-corruption efforts to permeate Illinois politics in a generation.
Exhibit No. 1 is the middle-of-the-day FBI and IRS raid of Democratic state Sen. Martin Sandoval’s office in the Illinois Capitol in late September. Investigators sought information about four unidentified officials at Exelon, ComEd’s parent company, and documents pertaining to utility rate hikes.
The federal scrutiny even has extended all the way up to the state’s most powerful politician, Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan, though the veteran lawmaker has not been accused of criminal wrongdoing.
No one has been charged with a crime. But the investigation is broad, complex — and moving fast. Here’s what you need to know to catch up.
I know I’ve been saying this a lot today, but go read the rest.
Today, the Illinois Republican Party is launching DemCorruption.com, a website to expose the Illinois Democrat Crime Ring as a wide-ranging network of lawmakers, lobbyists, and party bosses whose sole purpose is the personal financial benefit of those within the ring. Whether the public benefits from their government service is of no concern to them.
The individuals atop this network of criminals and cronies are in the most powerful positions within state government and our state’s largest city:
INDICTED on federal charges
Tom Cullerton, State Senator
Ed Burke, Chicago Alderman
Luis Arroyo, State Representative (former)
Under federal investigation
Mike Madigan, Speaker of the House & Chairman of the Democratic Party of Illinois
JB Pritzker, Governor
Martin Sandoval, State Senator
Carrie Austin, Chicago alderman
Daniel Solis, Chicago alderman
Jeff Tobolski, Cook County Board
Only in Illinois would so many elected officials be indicted or under federal investigation. Some are tied up in the same scheme; others are being investigated for their own personal insider dealings. The thing that binds them together is that they serve in high-ranking leadership roles in the Democratic Party of Illinois.
The ILGOP has created DemCorruption.com to expose the misdealings of each politician and to help keep all the ongoing scandals straight. We even created helpful nicknames to make it easier to remember all the corruption, grift, and greed. Some of the infamous members of the Illinois Democrat Crime Ring include The Velvet Hammer, Junior Blagojevich, and the Red-light Baron. Information about the rest of the crime ring can be found at the website.
“DemCorruption.com will serve as a central clearinghouse for information on Democrat corruption in Illinois,” explained ILGOP Chairman Tim Schneider. “Voters can stay up to date, learn how to fight back, and get involved in exposing the Illinois Democrat power structure for what it is: a criminal enterprise.”
…Adding… Missed this one…
* Diminished and preoccupied, indicted Ald. Edward Burke no longer a dominating presence at City Council meetings
*** UPDATE *** From Eileen F. Boyce at the Democratic Party of Illinois…
As we watch the parade of Trump administration officials who are convicted of a variety of crimes, Illinois Democrats are continuing our work to protect workers’ rights, access to affordable health care, and a woman’s right to choose from attacks by dangerous politicians in Illinois and Washington. Democrats are working to strengthen ethics laws while Illinois Republicans are simply trying to distract from their own poor record and a failed President
- Posted by Rich Miller
* Joe Mahr at the Tribune…
SafeSpeed came to dominate the suburban red-light camera market during the last decade by developing deep relationships with public officials.
Consider the company’s dealings in southwest suburban Justice, where court records show the firm not only was getting a new contract but was enlisting the police chief to act as a consultant to get other towns to do the same for a cut of the proceeds.
SafeSpeed officials instructed him to invite fellow police chiefs to hear a red-light camera presentation at a River North Brazilian steakhouse. Later, records show, the chief had a meeting at a Countryside cigar shop with SafeSpeed officials, including its rainmaker, Omar Maani. As the meeting wrapped up, the police chief had a couple questions: Were his business cards ready? And could he get one of the company’s red polo shirts to wear when he pitched their business to his fellow police chiefs?
Justice officials would fire their top cop, Robert Gedville, for what they said was an obvious conflict of interest, soon after the Tribune disclosed his dealings with the village’s red-light vendor in 2012.
Go read the rest.
- Posted by Rich Miller
* You should read Mark Maxwell’s entire story, but here’s a small excerpt to get you started…
On the political side of his operation, the four separate campaign funds [Senate President John Cullerton] controlled sit in varying degrees of debt and disarray. Several members of the party complained to Cullerton about what they perceived as a “mismanagement of funds.”
Records filed at the State Board of Elections show the Senate Democratic Victory Fund took on $630,000 in debt in the final weeks of the 2018 election cycle. The risk paid off. Voters delivered Cullerton unprecedented political power with a supermajority of historic proportion. […]
However, despite strong financial backing, boosted by an extra $2.5 million from billionaire Governor J.B. Pritzker, the Victory Fund burned through so much money, it took most of 2019 for Cullerton’s team of political fundraisers to fill that hole.
In addition to taking on more than half a million dollars in debt, Cullerton’s campaign accounts lost tens of thousands of dollars in risky investments, paid out high fees to brokers, navigated through software glitches, and submitted campaign finance reports that Cullerton now acknowledges were littered with discrepancies and inaccuracies that, on the surface, appeared to some Democratic senators to look more like sleight of hand than transparent disclosure.
Again, go read the rest.
- Posted by Rich Miller
* Alex Nitkin at the Daily Line…
Ald. Ariel Reboyras (30) defied county and state party leaders on Friday by wrangling the voting power of former State Rep. Luis Arroyo to appoint Peoples Gas official Eva-Dina Delgado as Arroyo’ successor in the legislature.
Reboyras was one of four Democratic committeepeople who showed up to the meeting Reboyras had scheduled to pick Arroyo’s successor, in a process the alderman repeatedly said followed the letter of state law and party rules. But one of the committeepeople in attendance, Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35), called the meeting “corrupt” and walked out as soon as proceedings got underway.
Arroyo resigned his House seat Nov. 1, a week after he was arrested on a corruption charge that includes allegations that he bribed a state senator on behalf of a firm that hired him to lobby Chicago officials. But he refused to resign as 36th Ward Democratic committeeperson, giving him the largest share of the vote in the party-driven process of choosing his replacement.
Reboyras suggested during the run-up to Friday’s controversial meeting that Arroyo would assign his votes to a proxy, but the alderman repeatedly declined say who would wield that power. It was not until the meeting had already begun that Reboyras said, in response to a question from State Sen. Iris Martinez (D-Chicago), he had Arroyo’s votes, giving him more than 50 percent of the weighted vote and unilateral power to fill the seat.
* Rachel Hinton at the Sun-Times…
Arroyo, who held the largest weighted vote, had called the meeting at the Alliance of Polish Clubs.
But after he did, Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan sent letters to the other committeemen, warning them that any involvement from Arroyo “whether a direct vote or a vote by proxy would cause the candidate’s qualifications to be challenged by the full Illinois House of Representatives.”
Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa, who’s also the 35th Ward committeeman, walked out of the meeting Friday, saying the process had been tainted by the use of Arroyo’s votes.
“I’ve been urging Ariel Reboyras not to use Arroyo’s proxy for weeks — I told him that would put a cloud over the process,” Ramirez-Rosa said after he walked out. “It’s clear he’s hell-bent on filling the vacancy with the support and collusion of the disgraced former state rep.”
* Dan Petrella at the Tribune…
Reboyras said he did not coordinate the selection with Arroyo and that he arranged Friday night’s meeting with him through attorneys. […]
Because Reboyras used Arroyo’s votes to make the selection, other committeemen, including 35th Ward Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa and state Sen. Robert Martwick, the 38th Ward committeeman, boycotted the process. Several potential candidates also withdrew from consideration.
“I think it’s a disservice to all of these candidates to allow them to go through this process when it’s very clear that they are unlikely to be seated,” Ramirez-Rosa said before leaving the meeting. “And I would urge any candidate that wants the respect of the community, that wants to be trusted as a candidate to fill this vacancy, to also leave this process because ultimately this process appears to be corrupt.”
Martwick didn’t attend Friday’s meeting but had given his votes to Ramirez-Rosa.
* Shia Kapos at Politico…
Delgado now faces the unusual prospect of being challenged from within the party to hold on to her 3rd District seat before an election is held since House Speaker Mike Madigan is sticking to his guns about ousting any appointment that included Arroyo’s weighted votes.
“The speaker’s position has not changed,” Madigan Spokesman Steve Brown told Playbook on Sunday.
We’re now in uncharted territory because such appointments are usually perfunctory. Lawmakers we talked to don’t know what a challenge might entail.
Delgado, who would hold the seat until January 2021 if she survives Madigan’s opposition, spent the weekend calling lawmakers for their support.
- Posted by Rich Miller
* I told subscribers about this on Friday morning…
The heir apparent is already in line to fill the soon-to-be vacated seat of longtime state Sen. John Cullerton.
Within hours of Cullerton’s shocking announcement at the end of the fall veto session in Springfield Thursday that he plans to retire in January, signs were already pointing to state Rep. Sara Feigenholtz to replace her fellow North Side Democrat in the Illinois Senate.
Feigenholtz — who worked as Cullerton’s district chief of staff for more than a decade dating back to his time in the Illinois House of Representatives before she was first elected in 1994 — said Saturday she has contacted Democratic ward committeemen who will eventually vote to appoint Cullerton’s replacement once he steps down. […]
And as for who might eventually take Feigenholtz’s House seat, it’s too soon to say who might eventually land in that portion of the legislative game of musical chairs. Feigenholtz said she’ll still file to run for the House in the March election.
- Posted by Rich Miller
* Subscribers received some updates on this topic today. Here’s my weekly syndicated newspaper column, which was written on Friday…
Much will change at the Statehouse when Senate President John Cullerton retires in January, a year before his term expires.
Unlike his House counterpart, Speaker Michael Madigan, Cullerton always wanted to find ways to get things done — and he got a lot done.
He’s a kind, approachable man who prefers bipartisan statesmanship but relishes partisan battle whenever the times call for it. He’s smart and funny and has managed to keep a diverse caucus together without resorting to intimidation, like his predecessor routinely did.
And, frankly, he’s been very good to me over the years, always taking the time to talk. If he disagreed with something I wrote about him, he’d call me himself and make his case instead of ordering some underling to do it or give me a cold shoulder. The state will be lesser with Cullerton’s retirement, but a lot of us will miss him.
OK, enough with the mushy stuff and on to the future.
Senate Majority Leader Kimberly Lightford (D-Maywood) told me she’s running for Senate President. She will be formidable because she’s well-liked, she’s already in the second position and she’d be the first woman of color to lead that chamber in Illinois history. Not to mention that she has strong leadership skills.
As a friend said, Lightford can either be the next Senate President or make the next one. If she can cobble together a coalition with one or more of the other people I’m about to mention, she may very well end up in the chamber’s top job.
One of the ways Cullerton convinced his fellow Democrats to back him for Senate President in 2009 was to demonstrate how much money he could raise. He took in more than $750,000 in the four months after Senate President Emil Jones announced his retirement. That may seem like a quaint amount these days, but it was enough to impress his colleagues back then.
On fundraising alone, Sen. Heather Steans (D-Chicago) should be considered a serious contender. She has the connections and the ability to raise big cash and helped Cullerton raise all that money in the run-up to his Senate President bid. She’s also an experienced budget negotiator and has serious policy chops.
Sen. Tony Munoz (D-Chicago) was perhaps the leading contender last year to replace Cullerton when he quietly told select members of his leadership team that they might want to start lining up support to replace him. Munoz appeared to be Cullerton’s favorite right up until Cullerton decided to rescind his announcement because it was dividing his caucus and damaging his ability to maintain power. Munoz had been expected to get a primary opponent this coming spring, but nobody has yet surfaced, so that helps his bid. Munoz is very popular within the caucus, has powerful allies, but he was close to Sen. Martin Sandoval (D-Chicago), whose Statehouse office was raided by the feds in September, so we’ll see how that plays out.
Sen. Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) was the other leading contender for Senate President last year. Since then, he was moved out of the Senate Executive Committee chairmanship and given a paid leadership job. It seems certain that he will throw his hat into the ring. He has policy, campaign and communication skills and has some support within the caucus.
Sen. Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill) is Cullerton’s former chief of staff, is perhaps the most media-savvy member of his caucus and is super-close to Gov. J.B. Pritzker, who could turn out to be an important factor here. A Pritzker negotiated Lightford-Manar ticket might work. Manar’s biggest hurdle is that he represents a swingy, Republican-leaning district. His people love him there, but he will technically be on the political bubble every time he’s on the ballot.
Sen. Melinda Bush (D-Grayslake) describes herself as a dark horse candidate mainly because of her relative newness to the chamber (elected in 2012) and her outspokenness on ethics. But she’s built a formidable political organization in Lake County, so she has campaign skills.
Sen. Elgie Sims (D-Chicago) also said he’s looking at the job. Sims worked his way up the Senate staff to run the appropriations team. He served in the House before moving to the Senate.
I’m sure there will be others, but the field will eventually winnow as deals are cut. And whomever wins the job will have to run again in a year, after the current General Assembly adjourns. The new president won’t have long to prove that s/he is up to the job.
- Posted by Rich Miller
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