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Question of the day

Thursday, Dec 23, 2010

* House Speaker Michael Madigan recently received a contribution solicitation from the Better Government Association. The BGA’s Andy Shaw says this was an oops. They don’t take money from politicians and Madigan has been removed from the mailing list. In the fundraising letter, Shaw says the BGA is “watching” the politicians. Madigan sent a letter in reply

Dear Andy: Concerning the enclosed solicitation where you state “we’re watching.” Andy, who is watching you. With kindest personal regards, I remain, sincerely, Mike.

Shaw’s response…

I appreciate [Madigan’s] endorsement of a transparent process that encourages a vast audience of Illinois residents to watch all of us—that’s the civic engagement we so desperately need to clean up the mess we call Illinois government. So I invite Mr. Speaker and everyone in Illinois to watch what we’re doing at the BGA, as we attack waste, fraud, patronage, cronyism, nepotism, pay-to-play and inside deals with every tool at our disposal—media partners, TV, radio, website and social media

I also encourage the speaker to mobilize his considerable power and expertise in concert with other political, business, labor and civic leaders to forge longterm solutions to the state’s budget and pension crises. The BGA is eager to join the discussion, and we hope that Illinois residents will be watching this process closely because no government challenge is more important as we turn the calendar on another year.

* The Question: What do you make of Madigan’s letter?

Snark is not discouraged.

…Adding… I posted this in comments, but then I figured I should probably put it here so nobody misses it…

People, c’mon. It’s Christmas. A little more jocularity and a little less jugular, please.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - bored now - Thursday, Dec 23, 10 @ 10:54 am:

    speaker madigan doesn’t like being watched. and he’s not above intimidating those who might be watching. pretty telling, if you asked me…

  2. - How Ironic - Thursday, Dec 23, 10 @ 10:55 am:

    I think that he’s basically asking for a staring contest to be held before next session. In the rotunda in ‘full view’ of the people.

  3. - Bring Back Boone's - Thursday, Dec 23, 10 @ 11:00 am:

    Thunderdome- two men enter, one man leaves

  4. - I'm Just Saying - Thursday, Dec 23, 10 @ 11:01 am:

    I agree with MJM 100%, when did Andy become so Holier than Thou,…..

    He’s way too full of himself………

    Cowboy boots and all….

  5. - lakeview man - Thursday, Dec 23, 10 @ 11:02 am:

    I thought the speaker didn’t have an email account…

  6. - Spliff - Thursday, Dec 23, 10 @ 11:02 am:

    The Speaker does not appreciate being treated as a criminal (who would). Andy Shaw belives that all politicians are corrupt and that the system is broken to its core. A system Madigan helped draft with the State Constitution (one of many who helped). So he is basically saying “Those who live in glass houses shouldn’t thrown stones!”

  7. - Wensicia - Thursday, Dec 23, 10 @ 11:05 am:

    If Madigan’s aim was sarcasm, it was a stupid move. If he’s serious, he should welcome scrutiny by any and all into state matters.

  8. - Coach - Thursday, Dec 23, 10 @ 11:05 am:

    The speaker used a period, rather than a question mark, to complete the question/statement “Andy, who is watching you”.

    So, while the message is otherwise classic Madigan and perfectly appropriate (somebody should watch Shaw and his henchmen), this line seems to fall flat without the question mark that one would expect to see at the end.

    Then again, Madigan is deliberate if anything. If he intended to use the period, thereby turning a question into a statement, that’s a curious technique. Not sure it works, but it’s cuirious nonetheless.

  9. - Cassiopeia - Thursday, Dec 23, 10 @ 11:06 am:

    The speaker is developing a sense of humor. Andy doesn’t appear to have one.

  10. - Quizzical - Thursday, Dec 23, 10 @ 11:07 am:

    Maybe the friendly, snarky tone of the letter is a ‘kiss on the cheek while I grab and twist lower’ sort of gesture. Madigan is probably right now submitting a bill, ‘Exempt from any law to the contrary, to appropriate funds for a sewage incinerator in a residential area next to the home of somebody who watches’.

  11. - Bring Back Boone's - Thursday, Dec 23, 10 @ 11:07 am:

    ==Then again, Madigan is deliberate if anything. If he intended to use the period, thereby turning a question into a statement, that’s a curious technique.===

    A little tinfoil hatty coach. Don’t you think you’re reading too much into his use of punctuation? He is a busy man.

  12. - Gregor - Thursday, Dec 23, 10 @ 11:08 am:

    I took it more as a playful joke from the Speaker, at Andy’s expense for the mix-up. With just a hint of undertone to it to help put Andy in his place. If Madigan wanted to make a stronger statement, he would have, or he’d have had is spokesperson make it.

  13. - Phineas J. Whoopee - Thursday, Dec 23, 10 @ 11:12 am:

    “as we attack waste, fraud, patronage, cronyism, nepotism, pay-to-play and inside deals with every tool at our disposal”

    C’mon Andy, without those staples of Illinois Govt. we would have anarchy.

  14. - cassandra - Thursday, Dec 23, 10 @ 11:13 am:

    Funny. And I suspect Madigan has always had a sense of humor. We just don’t see it out here in the weeds. But then, we don’t see much of any of the operations and machinations of state government. More than in the 19th century probably. But not much more. Still, there is Wikileaks….

  15. - Coach - Thursday, Dec 23, 10 @ 11:14 am:


    The entire substance of Madigan’s letter is two sentences (14 words). So, no, I don’t think it’s too much to expect that he gave thought to the most appropriate punctuation.

    The speaker certainly understands the importance of detail. And, as I’ve noted, the detail in this case turned a question into a statement. That’s not insignificant.

  16. - BGA Dave - Thursday, Dec 23, 10 @ 11:16 am:

    Agree completely with Gregor. A little harmless fun. Not exactly the first time an email solicitation went to someone who shouldn’t be on the list and certainly won’t be the last.

    Seems to me that Andy and Madigan both took it with a smile. Obviously BGA did since we posted the exchange on our web site!

  17. - Big D - Thursday, Dec 23, 10 @ 11:33 am:

    Good for the Speaker. If the Speaker had accidentally sent a contribution solicitation to one of his current employees, Andy Shaw would be screaming and hollering on the news and on the front page of every newspaper.

    I get tired of guys like Andy, Pat Collins, Dave Hoffman, who think they are the “seal of approval” for everything ethical and moral.

    If they really think they know what’s good for everybody, let them run for office. As Pat Quinn has shown us, it is a lot easier throwing stones from the outside than it is actually governing.

  18. - CircularFiringSquad - Thursday, Dec 23, 10 @ 11:33 am:

    It seems like the response was designed to expose Shaw’s continued, demeaning effort to solict more and more cash for his little club house.Every email that BGA sends out demands money.

    If Terry Brunner were dead he would be rolling over in grave over the never ending fundraising.

    Furthermore Shaw lacks any real background to contribute to budget crisis. For instance, he fails to understand the legislature’s biggest challenge in recent years was to prevent the GOP inspired shutdown efforts.

    He also seems to believe the simplistic Simpson study is meaningful.

    Finally if the BGA wants to try to regain a shred of credibility it might want to:
    1. Provide full disclosure of all of its funders.
    2. Start asking IL corporations how much they have sent to groups like the RGA, Crossroads, etc. to pay for the secretly funded smear campaigns we just saw in IL.

  19. - just sayin' - Thursday, Dec 23, 10 @ 11:33 am:

    I wanna be like Mike.

  20. - Bigtwich - Thursday, Dec 23, 10 @ 11:34 am:

    “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?”

  21. - Lost Downstater - Thursday, Dec 23, 10 @ 11:35 am:

    Rare humor from Madigan. But Shaw doesn’t have enough resources or powers to watch Madigan. Only the Feds do.

  22. - Jaded - Thursday, Dec 23, 10 @ 11:36 am:

    I think it was just sent in humor.

    Remember a couple of years ago at the end of session when the speaker went after Shaw’s tie and Shaw got upset that the Speaker was making jokes instead of answering his questions. I think the Speaker just likes to poke him and this was the perfect opportunity.

  23. - Oh, please.... - Thursday, Dec 23, 10 @ 11:37 am:

    I’m not sure what to make of it, but I love it.

  24. - amalia - Thursday, Dec 23, 10 @ 11:43 am:

    Hell freezes over….Madigan makes a mistake!!! In a rare display of error, Mike Madigan ended a sentence with a period instead of a question mark. Unless we think that he did it on purpose, after all, if he truly does not know the answer to the question, a good lawyer never asks a question for which s/he does not know the answer. Answer not known, question therefore not asked. curses, foiled again by the Madigan mind melt.

  25. - SR - Thursday, Dec 23, 10 @ 11:48 am:

    Not a bad question to ask, really. Whether elected or self appointed, those who put themselves in leadership positions and solicit donations should be watched.

  26. - Solomon - Thursday, Dec 23, 10 @ 11:51 am:


  27. - CircularFiringSquad - Thursday, Dec 23, 10 @ 11:51 am:

    Actually Madigan had a little fun with Flannery’s tie. Flannery used this for at least 3 stories which helps to explain rating drops for TV news in Chicago.

  28. - Rick J. - Thursday, Dec 23, 10 @ 11:53 am:

    Some serious saber rattling…probably makes the speaker feel good, but he might live to regret it.

    Nonetheless, there are some serious questions about the direction Andy Shaw has taken the BGA. Are they journalists or advocates? Can they be both?

    The BGA has taken positions on political issues and they’ve raised a lot of money. Who is making those donations and what sort of political agenda might the contributors have?

    I saw Shaw and one of his new “reporters,” Bob Reed, on Chicago Tonight a couple of months ago. Despite being Gov Quinn’s former press secretary, Reed and Shaw saw no potential conflict of interest in Reed “investigating” the Quinn administration. Sorry guys, basic journalism ethics – not to mention common sense — would demand Reed’s recusal from such assignments. If he goes easy on Quinn, it will look like he’s giving his old boss a break. Conversely, if he does a big investigative expose on the Quinn administration, some might wonder if his short stint with the governor was simply an effort to dig up damaging information.

    Joe Berrios tried to raise some of these points in defending himself against a BGA onslaught earlier this year, but no one paid attention to him. Obviously, Berrios isn’t well positioned to question the BGA’s modis operandi given his extreme ethical problems, but the questions about the BGA are legit.

    Andy Shaw will surely be aghast that anyone has even the faintest thought about questioning his motives. Sorry, Andy, but being so righteous does carry a few burdens.

  29. - Feech - Thursday, Dec 23, 10 @ 11:55 am:

    I am the only one to realize “Who’s watching you.” should be “Who’s watching you?” with a question mark.

    Just sayin’…

  30. - Selena - Thursday, Dec 23, 10 @ 11:58 am:

    I took it as a humorous response. In my opinion, the exchange does not merit all the analysis.

  31. - dupage dan - Thursday, Dec 23, 10 @ 11:59 am:

    MJM employs the MadiganMindMeld stare on Andy Shaw who subsequently eats his feet on national TV.

  32. - CircularFiringSquad - Thursday, Dec 23, 10 @ 12:10 pm:

    Once we are done making fun of Shaw, it might be good to look at who from the IL congressional delegation made it to the vote on benefits for 9-11 workers.
    It appears only Jackson, Quigley and Schakowsky got there.
    I am sure the rest of our patriots can explain themselves

  33. - Anonymous - Thursday, Dec 23, 10 @ 12:11 pm:

    This State wouldn’t be in any better shape if Andy Shaw had his way. I am not defending our current power structure, but Andy is not a reasonable statesman.

  34. - Anonymous - Thursday, Dec 23, 10 @ 12:14 pm:

    Read Big D at 11:33, the first paragraph is spot on.

  35. - wordslinger - Thursday, Dec 23, 10 @ 12:15 pm:

    No, “who’s watching you” is a statement, not a question.

    Madigan was referring to his faithful manservant and driver, Oddjob who-San.

    Andy, next time you’re at the Goat, if you see a short, thick-necked Korean gent wearing a bowler down the bar, be nice. Make sure all your city licenses are in order, too.

  36. - state mope - Thursday, Dec 23, 10 @ 12:15 pm:

    Madigan’s getting old (literally and figuratively). Illinois needs new leadership across the board. IL would be better off without mm but nobody has the political nerve to try to oust him

  37. - The Fox - Thursday, Dec 23, 10 @ 12:31 pm:

    Andy’s got a nice racket with a beautiful income to add to his pension. He keeps them checks rolling in and the gig provides cheap news items local news shops are too chinzy to investigate or even check out.

  38. - Zora - Thursday, Dec 23, 10 @ 12:34 pm:

    Well, it is clear who is the better writer.

    Interesting that several people assume the solicitation was by e-mail.

    And also interesting that Shaw closes his florid, redundant To Do list with the announcement that he’s taking the next week and a half off.

  39. - Rich Miller - Thursday, Dec 23, 10 @ 12:46 pm:

    People, c’mon. It’s Christmas. A little more jocularity and a little less jugular, please.

  40. - Beowulf - Thursday, Dec 23, 10 @ 12:57 pm:

    Madigan was just having a little fun with Andy. It was a small mistake by Andy’s group and Madigan got a chuckle out of it. Mike Madigan just wanted to let Andy know that he didn’t miss it.

  41. - Wonder..... - Thursday, Dec 23, 10 @ 12:57 pm:

    It’s scary…. But I liked Madigans response… It was humorous.

  42. - Anonymous - Thursday, Dec 23, 10 @ 12:58 pm:

    Good Christmas stories are character driven. I did love the note, it would have been a nice stocking stuffer.

  43. - CircularFiringSquad - Thursday, Dec 23, 10 @ 12:59 pm:

    Capt Fax
    why not brighten the mood by announcing where you will be hosting the elaborate Golden Horseshoe Awards banquet and which network will carry the ceremony

  44. - Small Town Liberal - Thursday, Dec 23, 10 @ 1:07 pm:

    I’d say he was just poking a little fun. I think if he really wanted to threaten him he would have went with a severed pig head or two asian carp in a vest.

  45. - Draznnl - Thursday, Dec 23, 10 @ 1:11 pm:

    Mike & Andy need to work on their routine before taking it on the road. Mike’s line was not original and Andy was pretty stiff, wordy, and had no sense of timing. Head to the bar when these two get the stage on open mike night.

  46. - zatoichi - Thursday, Dec 23, 10 @ 1:19 pm:

    Some of these people would have a coronary if Madigan changed his lunch routine and went to Coney Island. Every change/’goof up’ is not a disguised plot nor a news item. Hey, look the world is still spinning.

  47. - Rich Miller - Thursday, Dec 23, 10 @ 1:23 pm:

    ===Some of these people would have a coronary if Madigan changed his lunch routine and went to Coney Island.===

    Now THAT would be news.

    If MJM discarded his one apple at exactly noon for a chili cheese dog at 12:15 it would rock the very foundation upon which our government is built.

  48. - wordslinger - Thursday, Dec 23, 10 @ 1:26 pm:

    Andy should have made like DeNiro in “Meet the Parents:”

    “I’m watching you Madigan (fingers to eyes). And if I find out you’re corrupting my homestate, I will take you down, I will take you down, baby, I’ll take you down to Chinatown.”

    Madigan, response by the same character: “Andy, did I not adequately explain to you the concept of the circle of trust?”

  49. - just sayin' - Thursday, Dec 23, 10 @ 1:27 pm:

    What does Andy Shaw’s group even do? When I do hear anything from them it’s just a repeat of the same old tired cliches and generalities. No specific plans or teeth to what they do. Same deal with that Cindi Canary woman. Always the same old Illinois is bad and has a lot of corruption blah blah blah. Yeah we get it. But what are you really doing about it?

  50. - ANON - Thursday, Dec 23, 10 @ 1:30 pm:

    I took it as humor, but everyone who deals with Madigan does so with protective thin skin.

    ==People, c’mon. It’s Christmas. A little more jocularity and a little less jugular, please.==

    It’s not Christmas for a few more days. Today is Festivus, a time to let people know how you REALLY feel.

  51. - Jake From Elwood - Thursday, Dec 23, 10 @ 1:33 pm:

    What MJM could have said:

    Dear Mr. Shaw:
    Some dimwit signed your name to a rather idiotic letter soliciting funds to continue watching the activities of state government.
    Thought you would want to know.

  52. - lake county democrat - Thursday, Dec 23, 10 @ 1:34 pm:

    What, humor isn’t a tool of the devil? Sorry dude, anything to do with Mike Madigan is the lump of black coal of our Illinois Christmas.

  53. - Former Titan - Thursday, Dec 23, 10 @ 1:36 pm:

    I think, the Speaker, is now, King Comma, too.

  54. - watcher - Thursday, Dec 23, 10 @ 2:05 pm:

    Honestly, I wish the BGA would act a little more like the Civic Federation. A bit more investigative horsepower on really serious policy issues would be helpful. But instead the BGA is acting like crazy sensationalists, and I don’t think it helps solve problems, it just increases the cynicism people have for government. The joint investigative thing with the Suntimes is kinda odd — the Suntimes can’t file a FOIA to dig into Michael Scott’s personal problems on its own? So the BGA does it for them? Next thing you know the BGA will endorse candidates and attend campaign fundraisers.

    Oh wait … they already do that. ;-)

    So what MJM was really saying is, when Shaw basically endorsed Claypool over Berrios, who is watching BGA’s tax-exempt status?

  55. - Park - Thursday, Dec 23, 10 @ 2:20 pm:

    His note says “I’m untouchable and everyone knows it. Despite having one governor in prison, and another (that I supported) headed there, I’ve defeated all meaningful reform. Merry Christmas Andy”.

    Mike, we’ve come to accept it. Just keep Quinn in line and maybe we’ll survive the next 4 years.

  56. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Thursday, Dec 23, 10 @ 2:21 pm:

    Madigan is of course making a direct reference to the classic Latin:

    “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?”

    Modern translation:

    “Who watches The Watchmen?”

    More deeply, the phrase refers to Plato’s Republic and the Noble Lie. Protectors are set out to guard The Republic, in the BGA’s case, to ensure government ethics. But Socrates wonders who ensures that the guardians are ethical?

    The Noble Lie is that the Guardians — the BGA of today — convince themselves that they are above and beyond transgression or human fault.

    Which of course works fine, until it turns out that they are not.

    The BGA’s solicitation of Madigan just goes to show you how this plays out. The BGA just spent months criticizing Berrios, Madigan and Cullerton for conflicts of interest. And then they make a solicitation that is clearly a conflict of interest by the BGA’s definition — soliciting funds from the very elected officials you’re supposed to be watching over. But when they do it, it’s an innocent mistake.

    More damningly, the BGA stretched, bent, and some would say crossed the ethical boundaries when Shaw penned his non-endorsement endorsement of Claypool for the Chicago Tribune. The Tribune and the rest of The Press ignored it.

    Who watches The Watchmen? Santa Claus, I guess.

  57. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Thursday, Dec 23, 10 @ 2:27 pm:

    “They don’t take money from politicians”

    That’s interesting…I guess they think that taking money from those with a direct interest in what goes on in Springfield creates a conflict of interest.

    Do they take money from:

    - Registered lobbyists
    - State-regulated industries or their principals
    - Partisan political donors

    “Transparency” is a watchword at the BGA…I’d like to see them meet the disclosure requirements elected officials are required to meet: capping big contributions, reporting contributions over $150.

    If the BGA is going to hold themselves up to be The Watchmen on the public’s behalf, I’d love to hear their argument for why the public shouldn’t know where their money comes from.

  58. - waitress practicing politics. . - Thursday, Dec 23, 10 @ 2:52 pm:

    It is funny that no one here other then MM can be funny.

  59. - Steve Bartin - Thursday, Dec 23, 10 @ 2:59 pm:

    Madigan’s quote “Andy, who is watching you. ” is very interesting. No one has to watch the BGA. If you don’t like them, don’t give them money. BGA funding is based on voluntary cooperation of donors. Unlike Mike Madigan’s operation which is based on coercion. High taxes are good for Madigan’s tax appeals business. Who needs an appeal with low property taxes? Something to keep in mind as pressure increases to raise property taxes in Chicago to pay for pensions. The BGA needs to watch that “political entrepreneur” known as Mike Madigan. No man is more responsible for Illinois’ unfunded pensions.

  60. - stooges - Thursday, Dec 23, 10 @ 3:09 pm:

    Norton! Norton!Come on down! I want to show you something, HEH HEH. Hey Ralphie Boy, what do you say there, pal of mine? You know Norton, I’ve been watchin’ you. And I know you been watchin’ me, Norton. You’re watchin in know. So Ralphie, waht are you gettin’ at?

  61. - wordslinger - Thursday, Dec 23, 10 @ 3:20 pm:

    Are property tax rates high in Chicago? That’s news to the rest of the state.

  62. - Rich Miller - Thursday, Dec 23, 10 @ 3:31 pm:

    Exactly, word. I just saw an article about a $1+ million house for sale in the city. Property taxes were something like $3,400. Eleven years ago, I paid several hundred dollars more than that for a $186K house in Sangamon County.

    Chicagoans who think they pay high property taxes really need to get over themselves. You have no idea.

  63. - "Old Timer Dem" - Thursday, Dec 23, 10 @ 4:23 pm:

    Property Taxes in Chicago are a bargain and the city services you get with your tax dollars far exceeds what you get outside the city with the possible exception of inferior public schools in the city.
    Madigans wise crack to Shaw is a result of him feeling good about his victory in light of the relentless onslaught from the likes of Shaw, Marin and Mr know it all John Kass. He is laughing at Shaw.

  64. - BGA Dave - Thursday, Dec 23, 10 @ 6:35 pm:


    Yes, we take money from registered lobbyists, partisan political donors and probably from state regulated industries, but I don’t really know. We are completely transparent and you can find all the information about our funding on our 990s which are highly detailed and publicly available.

    The difference is we don’t make laws. We investigate government corruption and inefficiency, advocate for better public policy and litigate when necessary, such as when we forced Rod to turn over his Fed subpoenas. Somehow that offends many people.

    As to Joe Berrios, I’m still waiting for anyone to identify one word of the 10,000 word Chicago Magazine/BGA investigation of him that was untrue. Given his immediate decision to practice nepotism in violation of county ethics ordinances and his response of “too bad, I won,” all I can say is you were warned.

    Happy Holidays.

  65. - Oh, please.... - Thursday, Dec 23, 10 @ 6:46 pm:

    Hey SR…those who “put themselves in leadership”? FYI…they are elected.

  66. - andy shaw - Thursday, Dec 23, 10 @ 6:47 pm:

    Wow—never realized I had so many detractors. But let me wish happy holidays to all of you, and leave you with two thoughts, before I take a vacation some have criticized even though we’re all entitled to some time off:

    I appreciate all of the criticism, which I’ve been getting from Presidents on down for nearly four decades. It’s an essential part of transparency and accountability. So bring it on!

    But more importantly, I’ve NEVER wasted your tax dollars. And, in fact, my fight is with public officials who think it’s their money, not ours. And that waste, fraud, patronage, nepotism, cronyism et al is just fine. Even though it results in a multi-billion dollar “corruption tax” that all of us pay. It has left our state on the brink or collapse and our business climate in ruin.

    So make it about me if you want. And go after our non-profit, apolitical nonpartisan civic watchdog organization if you wish. But we’ll keep on talking the talk, walking the walk and pushing our better government agenda. And yes—it takes money to do that so I’ll keep fundraising.

    I’ll also continue to sleep well every night. So I can strap it on and get back on the playing field of good government every day.

    Feliz navidad y buen ano amigos.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

* Kinda sorta slightly good news for the state, not so much for the city, CPS and Cook
* Question of the day: Golden Horseshoe Awards
* Caption contest!
* Illinois lost 45,116 people in one year
* But his e-mails...
* The hollowing-out of state government
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