* I knew instantly when that bartender offered me a Jameson’s and soda before I said a single word that Kevin McDermott had his lede. Sure enough…
It’s a rainy December evening, and Rich Miller is still keyed up over the day’s top story when he arrives at the small, dark bar at Maldaner’s Restaurant in downtown Springfield. The founder, publisher, editor and sole reporter for the Capitol Fax political newsletter rejects the Jameson’s-and-soda that the bartender automatically offers. “Too early,’’ Miller declares — and he orders a Guinness instead.
Not that I blame Kevin. I would’ve used it, too.
And if you ever wondered where I am while I’m blogging…
The house is a spacious, immaculate structure full of collected art, antiques and political paraphernalia. A 30-acre nature preserve borders one side of the property; on the other is Lake Springfield.
There are views everywhere, except from the small, cluttered corner office on the second floor from which Capitol Fax is produced on a widescreen Mac monitor. Miller’s view is mainly of the William Crook Jr. drawing of the state Capitol that hangs over his desk. “I like it that way. If you’ve got a view, you get distracted by the damned view.’’
Hey, I actually cleaned my office before I let him into my house. Cluttered? I’m glad I didn’t let Kevin come by before I cleaned. Oh, man, the description would’ve been brutal.
Also, I have one of the smaller homes in my neighborhood. Yes, it’s a great ‘hood. No doubt. And, yes, it’s a nice home, but it’s no mansion.
This really is my day…
If the legislature is in session, he’ll drive to the Capitol by midafternoon and stop by a series of what he calls “watering holes.’’
“It’s like hunting — you know, you go to a watering hole, and you wait for the animals to come to you. You don’t go out in the middle of the desert searching for animals.’’ The watering holes include the brass rail outside the House and Senate chambers, certain hallways, certain lawmakers’ offices, “the little nooks and crannies of the Capitol.’’ And, later, the bars.
Todd knows me better than most…
“[Miller] is not an ideologue for any cause,’’ suggests lobbyist Todd Vandermyde. “He just has no patience for stupidity in government.’’
Yep. He’s right.
More from Todd…
To Miller’s fans, that kind of no-holds-barred, total-immersion reporting is what makes Capitol Fax urgent reading. “He’s different from you others in the mainstream media,’’ says Vandermyde, the lobbyist. “He actually spends time mixing and mingling with the politicos. He doesn’t just come in for the issue du jour.’’
Of course, Kevin goes on to overestimate my income, but he’s not alone. Just so you know, it’s not even close to what he or others think. And “$175,000 over the past decade” equals $17,500 a year. I don’t charge nearly enough.
I’ll let you in on a little secret: I’ve always wanted to be on the cover of Illinois Issues. That’s why I agreed to do this interview. Kevin is a heckuva writer, so I thought he could make my dream come true. The story came out pretty much as I figured. Kevin did a great job. But, alas, I didn’t make the cover. I’m not exactly photogenic, so some pension story fronted the mag.
Oh, well. Maybe when I die.