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Behind the numbers

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

* The Tribune has a story today that will surely get plenty of media play

House Speaker Michael Madigan swayed the University of Illinois to admit the relatives of public officials, political allies and donors who contributed $115,200 to campaign funds he controls, a Tribune investigation has found.

Only five of the 28 applicants helped in three recent years by the state’s most powerful lawmaker lived in Madigan’s district, and many would not have been admitted on their own merit.

Among the beneficiaries: North Shore attorney Steven Yonover, a longtime contributor who has donated $71,800 to Madigan-related campaign funds. Three of Yonover’s relatives enrolled at the U. of I. in 2008 and 2009 after being sponsored by Madigan. The two who applied for 2009 had been wait-listed, and one had the lowest possible rating given by the admissions office.

Madigan also helped a relative of Thomas Ryan, who in 2005 was convicted of stealing more than $100,000 from the south suburban school district he oversaw. Between 2002 and 2005, Ryan gave Madigan $1,000 and was treasurer of a state school organization whose political arm gave the speaker an additional $30,000. That’s around the same time his relative vied for a spot, then enrolled in the U. of I. law school in 2004.

The Trib said it has identified 28 Madigan-backed applicants to the University of Illinois. 23 of those were accepted. However, the paper does not indicate how many families of those 28 applicants contributed campaign money. Reading the story, it looks like ten or so, but I’m not quite sure of the exact figure there. Maybe you can do better. Also, Madigan’s personal campaign committee has raised over $12.4 million since January of 2002, which appears to be the earliest year of contributions in the story. So, the U of I contris would be less than one percent of the total amount he raised in just that one fund over the years.

Still, the appearance isn’t good, and Madigan ought to quickly divest himself of those contributions.

* Sometimes, it’s just too easy to tee off on the General Assembly

The Illinois House has just voted to form a task force to study why bedbugs have made a comeback in the state. Yes, really. […]

No budget discussions so far. We’ll keep you posted.

If you’ve ever had bedbugs, you know what a horrific thing it can be. A buddy of mine accidentally brought some home after staying in an upscale out-of-state hotel and it was a freaking nightmare. He and his wife were basically living in one room of their house for weeks while the exterminator painstakingly killed all the little critters. The best solution is DDT, but that’s been outlawed in the US for a long time.

Also, contrary to the story, budget negotiations have been going on for weeks between the leaders and the governor.

* And the Illinois Policy Institute is in the news again

This year Illinois will spend millions trying to attract visitors to the state — a business officials say brings in more than $30 billion a year. But critics say when the state is broke, that’s part of a failed strategy. […]

“We’re taking taxpayer money to build a statue of Lois Lane and to acquire a piece of property in Yorkville,” said John Tillman, Illinois Policy Institute. “I think it’s beyond belief and I think it should stop immediately.”

Tillman says the state shouldn’t be in the tourism business.

“This is why we have such a terrible problem in the state of Illinois…is that the people who dole out the money through the favor factory of state government or the tourism bureau think it’s their money when it’s actually the taxpayer’s money,” said Tillman.

He has a point, but all states spend money on tourism and there are legitimate, proven reasons to do so.

I often give Tillman and IPI a hard time here, but I will say this for them: At least they’re identifying problems and offering solutions, in some cases quite comprehensive solutions. I don’t always agree with them or their numbers, but I do very much appreciate the fact that they’re engaging in ways that others simply are not. For instance, today’s Peoria Journal Star editorial just whines and whines about the early adjournment without once mentioning what the hard budget choices it wants legislators to make would actually entail. Bogus.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - George - Wednesday, May 5, 10 @ 11:08 am:

    I would be less hard on the Illinois Policy Institute if they focused on accuracy over sensationalism.

    Really have yet to find anything done of theirs that shows they understand even the basics of State budget issues.

  2. - Siriusly - Wednesday, May 5, 10 @ 11:16 am:

    Chicago Tribune going after the Speaker and the U of I ? Yawn.

  3. - soccermom - Wednesday, May 5, 10 @ 11:19 am:

    Bedbugs are a huge deal, and incredibly expensive to combat. They can have a huge impact on businesses, particularly hotels. They’re also a public health threat.

  4. - cassandra - Wednesday, May 5, 10 @ 11:28 am:

    So, more evidence that Illinois is for sale, for campaign contributions. Fortunately for the politicians involved, it is Illinois. There is so much corruption around that that the individual bits that get published usually don’t cause a lot of outrage.

  5. - Bill - Wednesday, May 5, 10 @ 11:38 am:

    Isn’t taking contributions and then providing a quid pro quo what got Rod in hot water? Do you think the same thing will happen to the Speaker?

  6. - wordslinger - Wednesday, May 5, 10 @ 11:39 am:

    Study after study have shown that state tourism expenditures, particularly TV and radio buys, pay for themselves many times over in tourism-related taxes and economic activity.

    Just this morning watching the news I saw spots for California, Montana, Wyoming and Vegas. They work.

  7. - VanillaMan - Wednesday, May 5, 10 @ 12:09 pm:

    Talk about a perk!
    Contribute to the Speaker, get your kid into the state university! That is a lot better than what you normally get with campaign contributions. Last time I got a 10% off coupon for Red Lobster, but not on their Early Bird specials.

    Illinois should spend some money to get Chicagoans to go Downstate. “See where your tax money goes! - visit Little Egypt!”

  8. - Jackson - Wednesday, May 5, 10 @ 12:34 pm:

    Probably a safe bet that had the U of I clout list story been about Bill Brady it would have received more than the ho-hum treatment here. But that wouldn’t be surprising.

  9. - Rich Miller - Wednesday, May 5, 10 @ 12:38 pm:

    Jackson, you wrote on another post that you’d “focus on the Speakers U of I clout list.” But that pathetic little whine is all you got? Please. Poor little girl.

  10. - shore - Wednesday, May 5, 10 @ 12:38 pm:

    Since when does a probation officer who makes 40k a year have $20k to give in political donations?

    Obama had a bed bug conference that the washington post ridiculed in a column. 3 days in san diego discussing the matter.

  11. - Steve Brown - Wednesday, May 5, 10 @ 12:41 pm:

    Actually the contributions, which have no impact on the Speaker’s effort to refer not sway span back into the 90s. I think that makes the story an even more tortured attempt to smear someone

    BTW the 17 students who did go there after being declared “unqualified” have graduated or are progressing in their classes.

  12. - Rich Miller - Wednesday, May 5, 10 @ 12:43 pm:

    Shore, that’s a total of all contris since 1998. And I wouldn’t be too sure about that annual salary you surmised.

  13. - LevivotedforJudy - Wednesday, May 5, 10 @ 1:05 pm:

    Either the IPI needs to think their positions out more or they need to disguise their agenda better. The shots at tourism don’t fly when you look at ROI. In fact, most of the things they have developed do not take into account the parts of government that do have an ROI. They seem to look at everything as an outlay instead of the positive/multiple return that areas like tourism provide.

  14. - Jackson - Wednesday, May 5, 10 @ 1:07 pm:

    Whine? I didn’t say anything about the Tribune. Didn’t call anyone names either. But if I’m going to dish it out, I wil certainly take it in.

  15. - BigTwich - Wednesday, May 5, 10 @ 1:12 pm:

    The Illinois Policy Institute is taking on Metropolis and Yorkville? Couldn’t they find a Democratic area that got some money?

  16. - Rich Miller - Wednesday, May 5, 10 @ 1:18 pm:

    Also, Jackson, Brady did give a scholarship to a large contributor. That was looked at here, but it wasn’t given more attention than this story. Lots less, in fact. So, you’re wrong again.

  17. - conservative - Wednesday, May 5, 10 @ 1:52 pm:

    It’s not the states job to pay for tourism? Then who’s is it? Sell the state park land to some one or get the Feds out of grabbing land then. Tourism brings in jobs, jobs bring in tax money.

  18. - Bill - Wednesday, May 5, 10 @ 1:57 pm:

    ==refer not sway==
    Now that’s really funny. You kill me, Brownie.

  19. - The Doc - Wednesday, May 5, 10 @ 2:18 pm:

    ETA on when the Chicago GOP slams Rich for carrying water for MJM?

  20. - Bubs - Wednesday, May 5, 10 @ 2:34 pm:

    Steve Yonover is married to Justice Frossard of the Appellate Court in Chicago. So there are reasons other than money.

    Given all the more substantial and legitimate points to raise on Mike Madigan, this one is a bit cheap.

  21. - Bubs - Wednesday, May 5, 10 @ 2:38 pm:

    My prior post was directed towards government service as a basis for U of I sponsorship, and not influence peddling.

  22. - Will - Wednesday, May 5, 10 @ 2:47 pm:

    Does anyone really believe the bed bug issue would be on the table if it weren’t for one particular How nice of the GA to deal with little personal issues while they destroy the livelihood of those who depend on a reasonable state budget.

  23. - Ron Del Festo - Wednesday, May 5, 10 @ 2:48 pm:

    “A constituent calls and asks for someone to help get a street paved or curb replaced or a kid get into college,” Brown said. “I think that’s perfectly appropriate.” — That’s what Steve Brown told the Tribune last year about his boss clouting kids into the Univ. of Illinois. Now it turns out 23 of these 28 didn’t live in Madigan’s district. Sounds like something more than “good constituent service” might have been going on.

  24. - Will - Wednesday, May 5, 10 @ 2:50 pm:

    Hmmm…here’s what I was trying to post…

    Does anyone really believe the bed bug issue would be on the table if it weren’t for one particular hotel near the Capitol building that has a problem? How nice of the GA to deal with little personal issues while they destroy the livelihood of those who depend on a reasonable state budget.

  25. - Going nuclear - Wednesday, May 5, 10 @ 3:02 pm:


    Beg bugs are back, primarily due to increased worldwide travel, increase in second-hand merchandize and the use of bait-based pest controls instead of traditional sprays. There is no magic bullet like DDT because of the capability of insects to adapt to poisons over time. That doesn’t mean newer pesticides won’t work, but we will probably need a more integrated approach to combat these pesky critters. There are some good tips on the Internet to help people check for beg bugs when they travel and steps they can take to minimize contact.

  26. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Wednesday, May 5, 10 @ 4:18 pm:

    Does the Tribune have any evidence that someone asked Madigan’s office for help getting their kid into college and was refused because they hadn’t made a contribution?

    Does the Tribune have any evidence that Madigan’s office was asked for help, and said they’d be happy to for a price?

    Or is this just more mudslinging at their favorite target?

  27. - titan - Wednesday, May 5, 10 @ 4:42 pm:

    There are several public health issues once largely solved in th US, but now making a comeback. Some of the problem relates to illegal immigrantion. If the study shows that connection in this regard, will attitudes change?

  28. - Edgar Schmedgar - Wednesday, May 5, 10 @ 4:51 pm:

    The IPI is an example of a privately funded think tank doing what the University of Illinois Institute of Government and Public Affairs should be doing but doesn’t.

  29. - Park - Wednesday, May 5, 10 @ 7:21 pm:

    Sorry to get a away from the bug issue…

    I thinke the most startling think in the Trib article was tying in contributions to Daughter Lisa to the school strong arming. I don’t know if that’s fair (Madigan should adress this), but that the first I recall of her ever (state sen. on) being splattered by Ill corruption mud. sad day.

  30. - ROIG - Wednesday, May 5, 10 @ 8:27 pm:

    Meanwhile the once excellent Illinois system of higher education is declining at a rapid rate. The best professors are being picked off by institutions in other states. Nothing will be left of the state system in 24 months unless it is spared draconian budget cuts.

  31. - Zoble71 - Wednesday, May 5, 10 @ 10:25 pm:

    Good, does this mean that we will start to take care of the state parks again? I was in the Kankakee State Park today and what a shame. No grass being cut, no clean up done, come on Quinn.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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