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Brown fights back

Wednesday, Feb 24, 2010

* 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.

* Related…

* 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.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

32 Comments
  1. - Al Swearengen - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 10:04 am:

    Wow, I think Brown just gave him a serious pasting. I’m glad people are starting to get sick of the “reformers” who really only reform facts.


  2. - wordslinger - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 10:07 am:

    – “The aide essentially proposed that the IRC cut a deal with the legislature” to avoid meaningful reform.–

    How so? Details, please. Sorry, we just can’t take your word for it.

    –Even though Collins ignored the alleged shakedown attempt, in the end - –

    Where’s the shakedown? As I understand the word, it means to be forced to give up something of value duress under duress.

    Save us from the White Knights.


  3. - Rob N - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 10:12 am:

    McMillan stated, “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.”

    …That seems entirely counter-intuitive. I also don’t think one leads to the other anyway.

    Being in a safe seat would, in theory, encourage legislators to make tough choices, being that they should feel confident in being re-elected.

    Human nature is human nature though so even those who are currently in “safe” seats are not making those hard decisions. I just don’t see the correlation McMillan assumes to be there.

    PS - There are these little things called “primaries”. :) We just had one. Even in “safe” districts (D or R) the incumbent can be removed by the will of the people.

    Just ask Rep. Suzi Bassi.


  4. - VanillaMan - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 10:13 am:

    You don’t spin a spin, Mr. Collins, and expect that the resulting opinion relates to the truth. My gosh, you were dealing with rumors and hearsay. You were not dealing with the primary source of information on this controversial issue. Consequentially, you end up only reporting an unsubstantiated conversation you were not a part of. That is downright crazy.

    Do you even understand how you screwed up?

    We have to give some credibility to those designated to speak officially for others over those without that authority. We have to give some credibility to those who have years of experience dealing with similar issues, and have a record of dealing with past issues successfully, over an individual without that experience. Not only is that approach respectful, but it is a far more constructive approach with a more valuable source of information.

    Now look what you’ve done. You’ve been exposed as a sincere, yet opinionated and gullible man over his head on this issue.

    I don’t consider Mr. McMillan guilty. He is merely acting as he should. He couldn’t have known the weight his comments would be given or know that his comments would outweigh Mr. Brown’s.

    This is clearly Mr. Collin’s major blunder.


  5. - HMMM - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 10:22 am:

    Where is the diversity on the Fair Map Commission, no hispanics or african americans have signed on as supporters?


  6. - Ray del Camino - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 10:25 am:

    HMMM- That is a dumb strategic oversight on their part, but the federal Voting Rights Act–and Democratic-appointed Justice Dept. lawyers– will protect minority representation. Seriously.


  7. - Obamarama - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 10:26 am:

    ===Where is the diversity on the Fair Map Commission, no hispanics or african americans have signed on as supporters?===

    Why would they WANT to reform redistricting? As of right now, it looks like the GA might be able to pass a map legislatively for the first time in decades. Excuse me, the Democratically controlled GA. Why push for reform during a redistricting in which your people are in a position to increase their influence?


  8. - hawksfan - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 10:26 am:

    the fairmap amendment states that the ninth member and thus deciding vote of the redistricting commission will be elected by a majority of the appointed members. How do they expect this to happen? One would think it would a constant 4-4 stalemate.


  9. - cassandra - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 10:33 am:

    Actually, I think it’s more than just having districts redrawn to benefit individuals, although a remap based on the incumbent’s significant other is beyond outrageous.

    Chicago suburbs like Oak Park, instead of being part of an all-suburban district, with at least somewhat similar issues, are split up and gerrymandered into Chicago’s ultra-corrupt West Side. Once and a while our legislators toss us
    a few thousands bucks for, say, a garden project, but basically, they represent the West Side. It’s where the votes (and the Democratic $$$$$$$) are.


  10. - Siriusly - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 10:44 am:

    Collins has lost a lot of credibility. His anti-Madigan comments are becoming boring.

    Steve Brown’s detailed response puts Collins vague paranoid Kass-esque accusations to shame.


  11. - Quinn T. Sential - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 11:02 am:

    {“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.”}

    Given his concerns; why would he limit his recommended solution to just two parties. It seems like what he is advocating might be better achieved through th strength of a strong third; and perhaps a fourth party, which could seve to dillute the power of the entrenched two that are currently loosely sharing control.


  12. - Quinn T. Sential - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 11:12 am:

    P.S.

    In the spirit of this lenten season

    “Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job”

    only seems appropriate for that verbal crucifixion.


  13. - Quinn T. Sential - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 11:19 am:

    {Once and a while our legislators toss us
    a few thousands bucks for, say, a garden project, but basically, they represent the West Side. It’s where the votes (and the Democratic $$$$$$$) are. }

    Cassandra, who are you crapping? If you referenced River Forest, then you might have some more credibility on this issue.

    While the votes may be consolidated on the West side, Oak Park proper while less dense (from a population perspective) has solid Democratic leanings and support, and plenty of left wing money in all shapes and sizes.

    I’ll give you points for sarcasm and won’t deduct for clasism or racism, because I don’t believe that was your intention, but there have been no shortage of benefits for Oak Park in the legislature.


  14. - Rich Miller - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 11:35 am:

    ===Being in a safe seat would, in theory, encourage legislators to make tough choices, being that they should feel confident in being re-elected.====

    You’re right to be skeptical of that theory. If it was right, more legislators would be a lot more courageous. In reality, it isn’t. Legislators often “compete” with their results from the last election. If they got 65 percent last time, they want at least 70 next time. It’s human nature.

    However, what the leaders, particularly in the House, do is to force the entire chamber to deal with issues in a way that “play” in targeted districts. No tax hike now because targets would be hurt.

    So, that attitude won’t change with this new map idea. It will probably only increase.


  15. - siriusly - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 11:50 am:

    You’re so right Rich. More swing districts = more legislators scared of their own shadows.

    More swing districts would create more partisan bickering, not less. The only upside to having more swing districts is that each one of them becomes individually less important.

    Redistricting is of course an issue that voters don’t know about or care about. Madigan and Cullerton can reject the reformers and the Tribune all day long because all of their whining won’t translate into any lost seats.

    What issue will lose seats this year? Income tax increase.


  16. - Pat Welch - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 11:54 am:

    Why does McMillan drag me into this. Its news to me that I had a fiancee in 2001! I didn’t. He obviously has not studied the facts of why the 38th Senate was redrawn. The 38th Senate District was redrawn to take care of the State Representative because she was engaged. House districts are within the boundaries of Senate districts. The District added parts of one of the most Republican counties in Illinois, Iroquois County. Obviously I was against that. McMillan should refer to the House District as being Gerrymandered, not the Senate district. I have to question McMillan’s familiarity with any redistricting after this.
    Apparently this is one the big example of why redistricting is all wrong, and McMillan can’t even get these facts right.
    It has always been amazing to me how these self proclaimed do-gooders act as if they know how politics works, and expect the legislators who live with these issues to ignore their expertise and jump on the “reform” bandwagon. What I learned in the legislature was never taught in college, and is unknown to most professors.


  17. - Quinn T. Sential - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 12:00 pm:

    {What I learned in the legislature was never taught in college, and is unknown to most professors.}

    All I really need to know about how to live and what to do and how to be I learned in kindergarten. Wisdom was not at the top of the graduate school mountain, but there in the sand pile at school.

    These are the things I learned:
    Share everything.
    Play fair.
    Don’t hit people.
    Put things back where you found them.
    Clean up your own mess.
    Don’t take things that aren’t yours.
    Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody.
    Wash your hands before you eat.
    Flush.
    Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.
    Live a balanced life - learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some.
    Take a nap every afternoon.
    When you go out in the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands and stick together.
    Be aware of wonder. Remember the little seed in the Styrofoam cup: the roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that.
    Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even the little seed in the Styrofoam cup - they all die. So do we.
    And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books and the first word you learned - the biggest word of all - LOOK.
    Everything you need to know is in there somewhere. The Golden Rule and love and basic sanitation. Ecology and politics and equality and sane living.

    Take any one of those items and extrapolate it into sophisticated adult terms and apply it to your family life or your work or government or your world and it holds true and clear and firm. Think what a better world it would be if we all - the whole world - had cookies and milk at about 3 o’clock in the afternoon and then lay down with our blankies for a nap. Or if all governments had as a basic policy to always put things back where they found them and to clean up their own mess.

    And it is still true, no matter how old you are, when you go out in the world, it is best to hold hands and stick together.

    (Robert Fulghum)


  18. - Springfield-DB - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 12:13 pm:

    - siriusly -

    More swing districts = more legislators scared of their own shadows = more legislative accountability.

    Having more competitive elections instead of incumbent entrenchment is something I’m willing to have even if it means more “bickering.” People should understand that though rules and regulations are in place legislating isn’t a neat or clean thing—and heated debate is a definite part of the process.


  19. - Budget Watcher - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 12:42 pm:

    I had to chuckle at Mr. Brown’s personal concerns over the comissioners’ experience at campaign reform. It made me wonder how many of our lawmakers had experience in “making laws” prior to running for the General Assembly.


  20. - L.S. - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 1:12 pm:

    It’s time to stop putting Pat Collins out there as some kind of independent voice for reform and call him what he is: A former US Atty trying to use his old title to settle a score. He can’t accept that a legislative leader isn’t corrupt and now he’s resorting to lies and uncredited stories. Read moby dick Pat, blind obsession isn’t healthy.


  21. - cassandra - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 1:39 pm:

    QT-

    You must represent the northwest side of Oak Park, where most of those well-off liberals live.

    Over here on the east side, we have to pay for this little social experiment ourselves.


  22. - Budget Watcher - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 1:49 pm:

    On campaign and redistricting reform issues, whose credibility do you suppose the public is going to question? A paid spokesman for the Speaker, or a former federal prosecuting attorney who has put elected officials from both parties in jail for public corruption. I think Steve Brown does himself and his boss no favors by trying to fight this guy.


  23. - Rich Miller - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 1:59 pm:

    ===Brown does himself and his boss no favors by trying to fight this guy. ===

    Maybe, but if he thought Collins was dead wrong (and judging by his reaction over the past few days, he does), he ought to speak out.


  24. - wordslinger - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 2:21 pm:

    ===Brown does himself and his boss no favors by trying to fight this guy. ===

    Collins and Goudie used very strong language in their allegations of sinister, anti-reform plots. But they didn’t back it up.

    Brown is well within his rights to have his say and demand an explanation for these murky, flippant accusations. Collins and Goudie are obligated to provide one.


  25. - Siriusly - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 2:37 pm:

    L.S
    Moby Dick indeed! Well said.


  26. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 2:53 pm:

    Pat Collins went from U.S. Attorney to a high-priced law firm where he advises corporations on how to avoid prosecution for white collar crimes.

    He has all of the moral authority of a Hessian mercenary.

    As for the Reform Commission itself, Brown is on-point that those who have never been candidates themselves, never donated to a campaign, never volunteered for a candidate are in the WORST position to try to fix the system.

    If you want to catch a thief, you hire a thief. Not a do-gooder. I do love my do-gooder friends dearly, but they don’t have all of the answers, or even half of them.


  27. - Goo Goon - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 3:52 pm:

    I haven’t read Collins’ book. Does it mention his firm’s work for Des Plaines casino owner Neil Bluhm? How about his no-bid contract with the State of Indiana?


  28. - siriusly - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 3:57 pm:

    Goo Goon - I would not assume that just because Collins’ firm does work for a casino owner and the State of Indiana that he has somehow compromised ethics. I would never make that assumption. Likewise Patrick Collins’ should stop assuming that because the Speaker is powerful that he is somehow corrupt!

    YDD - Hessian mercenary? That’s the best you can do today? Please go back to Komedy Kollege.


  29. - Will - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 4:22 pm:

    “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.”

    But you could have a more evenly divided district in Bloomington/Normal that Democrats have a chance of winning. Obama won McLean country. It’s a college town with a progressive mayor in Normal. Voters could at least have a choice instead of being stuck with any bump on a log that belongs to the same party as 65% of the voters in the district. It’s disingenuous to pretend that the lopsided districts we have now are inevitable.


  30. - Budget Watcher - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 5:56 pm:

    ===Brown is well within his rights to have his say and demand an explanation for these murky, flippant accusations. Collins and Goudie are obligated to provide one.===

    Collins didn’t name the top official…from what I can read, it’s Brown who says, “you must be talking about me”. Mr. Brown goes on to refute the content of a conversation that we’re not sure is the one referenced by Collins & Goudie. I don’t see where he’s owed anything. Mr. Brown issued his rebuttal, and yes, it’s well within his rights to do so. But, if in a public contest of who’s most credible, I’m not sure the Speaker’s paid spokesman wins.


  31. - wordslinger - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 6:25 pm:

    BW, Collins and Goudie are being awfully mysterious or incomplete. Clear your throat and spit it out so we know what you’re talking about.


  32. - steve schnorf - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 10:28 pm:

    Gotta go with Brown on this one, about 10-zip.


Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.


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