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Open thread

Friday, Sep 18, 2020

* I’m taking the morning off to run some errands. I think I told you before that as part of being a responsible adult (first time for everything) I took Dr. Ezike’s summertime advice and am having literally everything checked out in case this awful virus comes back with a vengeance and we can’t make doctor’s appointments for non-emergency issues. What I didn’t realize is how long it takes to schedule some appointments. You can’t just bunch them up all at once. And it’s not just doctors. I also have like a half-dozen factory recalls on my truck that I never dealt with (oops), and my service appointment date is finally here.

Anyway, I’ll be back after lunch.

In the meantime, did you hear that the White Sox clinched a playoff spot yesterday?

* Whatever you talk about, please be nice to each other and keep the discussion Illinois-centric. You can use this thread to talk about any breaking news as well. Talk to you soonish.

- Posted by Rich Miller   3 Comments      

House investigative committee coverage roundup

Friday, Sep 18, 2020

* Background is here if you need it. Rachel Hinton at the Sun-Times

Federal prosecutors gave the state House committee investigating Speaker Michael Madigan’s dealings with ComEd the “green light” to proceed on Thursday — but not without flashing a cautionary yellow light.

U.S. Attorney John Lausch wrote to the top state representatives on the panel — Democratic chair Emanuel “Chris” Welch of Hillside and Republican Tom Demmer of Dixon, telling them his office did not “have a general objection” to the House Special Investigative Committee seeking documents or testimony related to the federal probe of the utility company during the course of its proceedings.

But Lausch also set some parameters. The six-member panel can’t ask witnesses about their participation in grand jury proceedings or request they produce materials disclosing grand jury activity.

In the letter released by Republicans, Lausch also objected to the committee asking witnesses about any contact they’ve had with prosecutors or federal law enforcement related to the criminal investigation into the utility or to share information learned from the feds during the investigation.

And, should the committee steer too close to his own ongoing investigation into ComEd, Lausch said his office “might raise objections to particular testimony or document requests” as the two parallel probes go forward. Lausch said he was not currently raising that objection.

* Peter Hancock at Capitol News Illinois

The Special Investigating Committee was formed after House Republican Leader Jim Durkin, of Western Springs, and two other Republican House members filed a petition Aug. 31 to commence disciplinary proceedings against Madigan, a Chicago Democrat and the longest-serving state legislative speaker in U.S. history.

Madigan was implicated in a bribery scheme when ComEd officials entered a deferred prosecution agreement with Lausch’s office in which they admitted that, from 2011 through 2019, they awarded no-work jobs and lobbying contracts to close associates of Madigan in an effort to win his favor for legislation that benefitted the company.

Madigan so far has not been charged with any crime and has staunchly denied any wrongdoing.

The legislative probe, however, is not focused on whether he committed a crime, but whether he “engaged in conduct which is unbecoming to a legislator or which constitutes a breach of public trust.” If his fellow lawmakers find that he did, disciplinary action could range from a reprimand or censure to expulsion from the House.

* Jamie Munks at the Tribune

The partisan jockeying continued after Lausch’s letter came out Thursday. Welch issued a statement that said the letter “confirms our understanding that while this committee can call individuals to voluntarily appear, they would be limited in what they can discuss.” […]

“We also see clearly that Republican members of this committee attempted to go beyond what has originally been discussed with the U.S. attorney,” Welch said, adding that he won’t allow it to be “used as a stage for political theater.”

Ron Safer, the attorney representing Durkin through the process, said in a statement that Lausch’s office gave the testimony “the green light to pursue all avenues of the investigation, including testimony and documents, that were articulated in the petition.”

The six-person special investigating committee has an equal number of Democrats and Republicans. Authorizing a charge against Madigan would require a majority vote.

* Tony Arnold at WBEZ

But there remain very different — and partisan — takeaways from Lausch’s guidance that will affect the tenacity with which the House panel will conduct its investigation into Madigan, who also chairs the state’s Democratic Party. The committee is evenly split between three Democrats and three Republicans.

State Rep. Chris Welch, D-Hillside, chairs the House panel and has accused Republicans of “using the committee as a political stunt.”

“Lausch’s letter today confirms our understanding that while this committee can call individuals to voluntarily appear, they would be limited in what they can discuss,” Welch said in a statement. “In particular, information underlying the deferred prosecution agreement beyond what is already public could be met with objection by federal investigators, and any further information collected by the federal government that informed that agreement is explicitly off limits.”

But that appears to contradict what Lausch wrote in his own letter Thursday.

“[If] a witness explained certain facts to prosecutors or federal law enforcement agents, we do not object generally to the witness explaining those same facts to the [committee],” he wrote. “We object, however, to questions about whether the witness shared those (or any other) facts with prosecutors or federal law enforcement agents, as such questions could reveal confidential information about the course of our investigation and could deter cooperation with our investigation by that witness and others.”

* Mark Maxwell at WCIA

However, Lausch’s letter never stated that witnesses could not repeat the facts of their testimony or their recollection of events, only that they could not reveal whether or not they had already shared that same information with federal investigators, and also could not reveal what information federal investigators may have shared with them.

“We do not object generally to the witness explaining those same facts to the SIC,” Lausch wrote. “We object, however, to questions about whether the witness shared those (or any other) facts with prosecutors or federal law enforcement agents, as such questions could reveal confidential information about the course of our investigation and could deter cooperation with our investigation by that witness and others.”

After Lausch clarified his position in a letter on Thursday, Rep. Grant Wehrli (R-Naperville), who sits on the committee, said, “This is exactly how we interpreted the phone call. It is clear we can call witnesses and have testimony regarding the [deferred prosecution agreement]. The things [Lausch] requested we not ask about are things we have no intention of asking about.”

House Republicans said they intend to call Madigan, former ComEd lobbyists Mike McClain, Fidel Marquez, John Hooker, Jay Doherty, Michael Zalewski, and former ComEd CEO Anne Prammagiore to testify before the committee.

- Posted by Rich Miller   Comment      

Question of the day

Friday, Sep 18, 2020

* Evanston Roundtable

An Evanston resident for more than a decade, Daniel Biss has announced that he is planning to run for Mayor of the City of Evanston. He is currently a consultant for the Energy Foundation.

The RoundTable asked Mr. Biss five questions about his candidacy. His answers appear below.

Asked why he wishes to be Mayor of Evanston, Mr. Biss said, “We’re experiencing a long-overdue national reckoning on issues of racial justice, policing, and segregation — and Evanston is a progressive community that wants to be at the forefront of addressing these subjects. It would be an honor to spend the next four years helping our community make critical but difficult strides toward justice, and to lead our neighbors down that same path.” […]

The Mayor’s foremost duty, Mr. Biss said, “is to bring all of Evanston together. This means bringing in all voices to formulate a bold vision for our city, and then working relentlessly in pursuit of that vision. The Mayor must also lead the City Council to ensure that it is both a highly functioning legislative body and an effective instrument to transmit concerns from all nine wards. Finally, the Mayor must communicate very clearly and transparently with residents to ensure that when the City acts, everyone has a clear understanding of what is happening and why it’s happening — and this has to be done in a timely manner so that residents can weigh in when it still matters.”

* The Question: Daniel Biss’ mayoral campaign slogan?

- Posted by Rich Miller   1 Comment      

Hang in there, Maggie!

Friday, Sep 18, 2020

* Ted Slowik at the Southtown

Maggie Crotty is stepping down from her elected post as supervisor of Bremen Township for health reasons, officials said Wednesday.

Mary Margaret “Maggie” Crotty, 71, of Oak Forest, has been township supervisor since 2005. She previously held elected positions as a state senator, state representative and Democratic Party committeeman for Bremen Township.

“Right now Maggie doesn’t feel like she can continue,” said Rondal Jones, who serves as office manager and deputy clerk for Bremen Township and as an elected alderman in Markham. “We pray for her health.” […]

Crotty is credited with leveraging her political connections and influence in Springfield to benefit local communities after she retired from the General Assembly. Crotty helped secure $2.5 million in grants that helped pay for a new Metra station that opened in Oak Forest days before Christmas in 2013. […]

Crotty served 16 years in the state legislature. She served three terms in the House, from 1997 to 2002. She represented the 19th District in the Illinois Senate from 2002 to 2012. She was known for her work on health care and education legislation.

I knew her when she was in the legislature and covered her first race. She was part of the south suburban group that helped put the House Democrats back into the majority.

Unlike a lot of politicians, her smile comes from a real place. She was ambitious, but was also like everyone’s favorite aunt. Sometimes, I’d drop by her office just because I needed to cheer myself up. Maggie was the type of legislator who gave you hope for what that body could be. I sure hope this is a temporary setback. We need more people like her in this world.

- Posted by Rich Miller   4 Comments      

Pritzker to sit down with stakeholders after uproar over cannabis lottery process

Friday, Sep 18, 2020

* A good first step

Amid a flurry of complaints that the marijuana licensing process is flawed, Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s office announced Wednesday that his team will meet with those affected to address the issue.

“The Governor’s office is currently working to schedule meetings with interested stakeholders, however, meeting dates and times have not been finalized,” Pritzker’s press office wrote in response to a Tribune inquiry. “The goal of the Governor and the administration is to take time to ensure that the process is fair and equitable.”

Just 21 of some 700 applicants qualified for a lottery to determine who will get 75 new recreational marijuana retail licenses. Since the finalists were revealed early this month, state regulators said they have indefinitely delayed the lottery to review objections.

State Rep. La Shawn Ford said the governor’s office will meet with lawmakers who’ve objected to the process, including members of the Black and Latino caucuses. Many of the finalist companies involve politically connected or big-money businessmen, including former Chicago police Superintendent Terrence Hillard, and restaurant owner Phil Stefani, which critics say flies in the face of the program’s goal of adding marginalized newcomers to the largely white-owned industry.

- Posted by Rich Miller   Comment      

Rep. Mason claims she received a “rather threatening note” on her car

Friday, Sep 18, 2020

* 46 days…

- Posted by Rich Miller   Comment      

Federal judge rules against Cook County GOP lawsuit to block new vote by mail program

Friday, Sep 18, 2020

[Bumped up to Friday morning for visibility.]

* Rick Pearson

A federal judge on Thursday rejected a bid by the Cook County Republican Party to block the state’s enhanced vote-by-mail program, rejecting as conjecture allegations that the program was a scheme aimed at disenfranchising GOP voters.

U.S. District Judge Robert Dow ruled the Cook County GOP also was tardy in filing its lawsuit in August seeking a preliminary injunction over the law approved in May as an effort to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic by offering an alternative to traditional in-person voting.

Dow’s ruling also noted existing state statute is aimed at preventing so-called ballot harvesting by political operatives, requiring a voter authorization signed on the exterior of vote-by-mail ballots that are dropped off to election authorities or at drop boxes as an alternative. […]

“Looking at the record compiled to date in this litigation, however, Plaintiff (the Cook County GOP) has provided no basis for concluding that its alleged harms are anything but speculative and therefore fails to demonstrate that ‘irreparable injury is likely in the absence of an injunction,’” Dow wrote.

Judge Dow was appointed by President George W. Bush.

* Bloomberg

The disputed measures include expanded use of secure ballot drop boxes and requiring officials to accept ballots without enough postage, among others. Republicans cited news articles and isolated cases of election fraud to back their claim.

But the allegations “rest primarily on unsupported speculation and secondarily on isolated instances of voter fraud in other states and historical examples from Illinois during the prior century,” the judge wrote. “Plaintiff cannot demonstrate either that it is likely to suffer irreparable harm or that it has some chance of success on the merits.” — Erik Larson

- Posted by Rich Miller   4 Comments      

Protected: SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - Supplement to today’s edition and some campaign updates

Friday, Sep 18, 2020

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

Friday, Sep 18, 2020

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Friday, Sep 18, 2020

* Follow along with ScribbleLive

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* Open thread
* House investigative committee coverage roundup
* Question of the day
* Hang in there, Maggie!
* Pritzker to sit down with stakeholders after uproar over cannabis lottery process
* Rep. Mason claims she received a "rather threatening note" on her car
* Federal judge rules against Cook County GOP lawsuit to block new vote by mail program
* SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - Supplement to today's edition and some campaign updates
* SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - Today's edition of Capitol Fax (use all CAPS in password)
* Yesterday's stories

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