* Earlier this month, Chuck Goudie wrote a column about Patrick Collins’ new book. Collins had made a startling allegation about the House Speaker’s office…
“One of our commission members received an unexpected call from a top aide to Speaker Michael Madigan” writes Collins. “The aide essentially proposed that the [Illinois Reform Commission] cut a deal with the legislature” to avoid meaningful reform.
Even though Collins ignored the alleged shakedown attempt, in the end - to use the terminology of infamous Chicago Alderman Paddy Bauler - Illinois “ain’t ready for reform.”
“With none of the major Democratic power brokers willing to champion our cause or seriously consider our proposed legislation” writes Collins, “the most significant proposals were rejected or simply ignored.”
* Madigan’s spokesman Steve Brown checked around the office and determined that he was the only one who had met with a commission member in the timeframe given by Collins. So, Brown responded to the Collins allegations in the Daily Herald today…
Collins named neither the Madigan aide nor the commissioner. I determined Collins referred to a meeting I had with Brad McMillan on Jan. 26, 2009, at the One World Cafe in Peoria. This is a total distortion of our discussion. Furthermore, a distortion of this magnitude casts a troubling light on Collins’ credibility.
I had contacted Mr. McMillan because I wanted a better understanding of the institute he heads at Bradley University, to determine it if it could be a resource for the legislature and if I could be of service.
My other goal was to share my personal concern over many members of Collins’ commission and their general lack of campaign experience. Common sense suggests those who prepare rules for an activity have some experience. Aside from Mr. McMillan, who once ran for judge and served U.S. Rep. Ray LaHood, and Ms. Sheila Simon, few members of the commission had worked in a campaign or even made a donation to a political committee. It struck me that this was akin to asking novice Metra engineer to develop rules for Illinois’ high-speed rail line.
Mr. McMillan focused on reapportionment reform and further limiting legislative candidate’s ability to raise funds from outside their district. I mentioned the current Congressional remap plan was the product of an agreement between his former boss, former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert and former U.S. Rep. William Lipinski. The outside donation issue was an outgrowth of efforts to support former state Rep. Rica Sloan from an expensive attack campaign.
At no point did I suggest a backroom deal or predict a confrontation. Mr. McMillan suggested I might want to testify at commission hearings. I find it unlikely that Mr. McMillan might believe any part of our conversation fits into Collins’ description. Since the commission had not begun its work, I think it actually strains credibility to even hint anyone was talking to anyone about deals.
I raise these issues because it seems Mr. Collins plans to continue to press for additional changes in state law concerning ethics and campaign law. I fear his distortion of my meeting with Mr. McMillan might become part of his characterizations and a tool to gain support. His conduct seems like an act that should disqualify him.
* Meanwhile, Brad McMillan is now pushing for the Illinois Fair Map constitutional amendment, and spoke in Jacksonville recently about the issue…
“Why should politicians in secret, and that’s key, behind closed doors, be allowed to choose their own voters? What’s democratic about that?” said Brad McMillan, a former member of the Illinois Reform Commission and now director of the Institute for Principled Leadership in Public Service at Bradley University. […]
“I would argue strongly that what we need in Illinois is a competitive two-party system in order to ensure accountability,” McMillan said. “The truth is it doesn’t matter if it’s Republicans or Democrats controlling the process, they draw safe districts. … They know they’re in safe seats and they don’t necessarily have to make the hard decisions to turn things around here.”
He said the gerrymandered districts in Illinois are partly responsible for a 98 percent re-election rate among incumbents. […]
McMillan said some districts aren’t always gerrymandered for political reasons. He said the 38th Senate District in the north was drawn to include the residence of the incumbent’s fiancee.
Again, many, if not most, of the current lopsided House and Senate districts will still be lopsided even if this amendment is approved. You’re not gonna get a Republican district on the South Side, and you’re not gonna draw a Democratic district in Bloomington.
What a change like this will do, however, is prevent districts from being drawn to benefit individual incumbents or candidates that the leaders want to run against the other party’s incumbents.
Also, it’s telling to note that McMillan knew about the situation in former Sen. Pat Welch’s district. The Senate Republicans are surely feeding the reformers all the dirt they can right now.
* Congress not part of Fair Map Campaign: I apologize for misleading readers in previous columns, but I was under the impression that congressional districts would also be covered by the amendment.