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Conspiracy theorists

Thursday, Sep 27, 2012 - Posted by Rich Miller

* The Tribune ran an editorial this week entitled “Mr. Madigan’s bill, Ms. Purkey’s pension.” It was regarding an earlier Trib story

A former lobbyist for a powerful teachers union is reaping a $100,000-a-year state pension thanks to wide-ranging retirement legislation sponsored nearly six years ago by her former boss, House Speaker Michael Madigan, and his legislative allies.

The 2007 law let Gail Purkey, who worked at two state jobs in the 1980s, receive a state pension based mostly on her long career and six-figure salary with the Illinois Federation of Teachers, the Tribune has found.

* From the editorial

So let’s reflect on three facts that may or may not be related to Democratic lawmakers’ desire to take kind care of IFT personnel during the lame-duck legislative session after the 2006 general election. According to an analysis for the Tribune by Kent Redfield, a campaign finance expert from the University of Illinois at Springfield:

• The IFT had contributed about $567,000 to Madigan, the state Democratic chairman, and his rank-and-file candidates. Democratic victories assured Madigan’s continued role as speaker.

• The IFT had contributed about $388,000 to Senate Democrats, and their victories kept Senate President Emil Jones in charge of that chamber.

• The IFT had contributed more than $515,000 to Rod Blagojevich, who had been re-elected governor.

What can you do about this?

If your legislators were in office six years ago, be sure to ask each one how he or she voted on this pension bill.

* Not mentioned in either the editorial or the news article are some inconvenient facts.

First of all, Senate Republican Leader Frank Watson became a co-sponsor of the bill after it cleared the House on a 109-6 vote. Leader Watson’s co-sponsorship likely meant the bill passed the Senate with a nearly unanimous 55-0-1 vote.

House GOP Leader Tom Cross voted for the bill as well.

So, if this was some grand Democratic conspiracy, then the Republicans were either complicit or ignorant. And I’m not sure how they could’ve been ignorant if they’d even skimmed the bill synopsis

Provides that an individual who represents or is employed as an officer or employee of a statewide labor organization that represents members of the State Employees’ Retirement System of Illinois may participate in the System and shall be deemed an employee under specified circumstances


  1. - Yossarian Lives - Thursday, Sep 27, 12 @ 11:50 am:

    That synopsis doesn’t indicate that someone in Gail Purkey’s position could receive a six-figure pension; she worked for IFT, which represents members of TRS, not SERS.

  2. - Hat Trick - Thursday, Sep 27, 12 @ 11:54 am:

    It would be interesting to know who worked in the “Macon-Piatt Regional Office of Education in a birth-through-age-three pilot program” at the time and who wanted that provision. That’s a pretty darned specific reference to take care of someone.

  3. - Rich Miller - Thursday, Sep 27, 12 @ 11:57 am:

    ===That synopsis doesn’t indicate that someone in Gail Purkey’s position could receive a six-figure pension===

    No, but it did say that some people who worked for statewide unions could get a public pension. Nobody asked?

  4. - Crime Fighter - Thursday, Sep 27, 12 @ 11:57 am:

    Again some basic fact-checking by Rich has debunked another false conspiracy accusation by the Trib. You think they would start being embarrassed at some point as either a time, or fact-checking proves them to be wrong, over & over again. - but the Tribbies keep getting crazier.

  5. - Cook County Commoner - Thursday, Sep 27, 12 @ 11:59 am:

    The Trib in its partisan zeal should remind everyone in Illinois that the government employee pension debacle is truly a bipartisan train wreck.

  6. - walkinfool - Thursday, Sep 27, 12 @ 12:01 pm:

    This 2006 story is relevant how?

    Is the Trib trying to argue that Madigan, and the Dems (who automatically follow him like sheep), are still focusing on helping the IFT during the lame duck session now?

    Did Madigan cause the pension debacle with special individual deals, while the IFT bought Dem legislators’ votes?

    The GOP had no part in it?

    No other sweet individual pension deals requested pushed thru by Republican leaders?

    So wrong on every count!

  7. - wordslinger - Thursday, Sep 27, 12 @ 12:14 pm:

    The idea is to convince everyone that every pensioneer is a clouted hack.

    I don’t like these greased buy-ins, but they’re really not the problem.

  8. - lake county democrat - Thursday, Sep 27, 12 @ 12:31 pm:

    Rich - who says that if you oppose Speaker Madigan you’re saying the GOP isn’t corrupt or that their leaders would automatically do a better job? It’s called “The Combine” for a reason. Just ask Peter Fitzgerald how much support he got as a social and fiscal conservative GOP member when he pushed for reform. Both parties have fleeced the taxpayers and when it was Pate Phillip and Michaels doing the fleecing I’d be after them tooth and nail. But today the ramrod is Madigan.

  9. - lake county democrat - Thursday, Sep 27, 12 @ 12:31 pm:

    Oops, not Michaels, Daniels - my geezerly memoryincreasingly fails

  10. - amalia - Thursday, Sep 27, 12 @ 12:39 pm:

    greased buy in. it may not be the main problem, but it sure is piggish.

  11. - capncrunch - Thursday, Sep 27, 12 @ 12:56 pm:

    This legislation did not just spring out of thin air. Who wanted it and why did they want it?

  12. - Ready To Get Out - Thursday, Sep 27, 12 @ 12:58 pm:

    ..if this was some grand Democratic conspiracy, then the Republicans were either complicit or ignorant..

    Maybe both????

  13. - Air-Is-Total - Thursday, Sep 27, 12 @ 12:59 pm:

    The fact that Rs joind in just makes it a bigger conspiracy, not evidence of no conspiracy.

  14. - dupage dan - Thursday, Sep 27, 12 @ 1:14 pm:

    =The idea is to convince everyone that every pensioneer is a clouted hack=


    We, the great unwashed (read: state employees), are being smeared by the Trib which is indicting all who work for the state by linking them to the rare individuals who are massaging the system.

    We are also getting it from our governor who is still governing by the press release sound bite.


  15. - Pot calling kettle - Thursday, Sep 27, 12 @ 1:44 pm:

    And then there is this clause: “An employee under this subsection (c) is responsible for paying to the System both (i) employee contributions based on the actual compensation received for service with the labor organization and (ii) employer contributions based on the percentage of payroll certified by the board;”

    Folks who buy in are, if anything, helping the system because the employer portion has actually been paid in full. They are much less of a liability than someone whose employer portion hasn’t been fully paid, like, say, everyone else in the system.

  16. - reformer - Thursday, Sep 27, 12 @ 1:45 pm:

    No wonder that neither the Trib’s front-page story nor the editorial mentioned the bill number to make it easy to look up the rollcalls. Nor did the Trib mention who else voted Yes besides Madigan. Now we know the REST of the story.

    Once again, we see bipartisan complicity in providing pensions for people who didn’t work long enough for the state to qualify.

  17. - Mouthy - Thursday, Sep 27, 12 @ 2:18 pm:

    Just for the record my Local’s membership passed this unanimously on June 6, 2006. Not everybody was asleep at the switch on the pension issues. Apparently, it took several tries and a last minute “phone vote” to get the money okay’d.


    The members of IFT Local 4717 are greatly concerned about their financial well being and stability during their retirement years. The State Employee’s Retirement Fund, and other retirement funds, have been deliberately under funded by over 2 Billion dollars in FY 06 and FY 07. This is the direct result of a plan championed by Governor Rod Blagojevich to supplement the State’s General Revenue Fund and balance the budget. The funding liability for FY 08 and FY 09 is over 7 Billion dollars with no plan in sight to insure that these full payments will be made or that the retirement payments already shorted will ever be made whole.

    IFT Local 4717 willingly supported and supplied nearly 50 volunteers through the IFT in Governor Blagojevich’s initial campaign for governor. We did so under the belief that helping Governor Blagojevich get elected would be good for our members.

    IFT Local 4717 believes that now after actions taken to severely weaken the State Employee’s Retirement even further that it cannot support the reelection campaign of Governor Rod Blagojevich unless concrete steps are taken to strengthen our retirement fund and bring relief to our concerns about the stability of our retirement years.

    IFT Local 4717, in the passing of this resolution, implores the IFT Executive Board not to make a political endorsement for the reelection of Governor Rod Blagojevich in this year’s campaign.

    Upon passage, this resolution will be sent to IFT President James Dougherty, so that this local’s concern about the future of it’s members can be documented and submitted to the IFT Executive Board at the appropriate time.

  18. - Jim - Thursday, Sep 27, 12 @ 2:33 pm:

    It’s doesn’t make it OK because there may have been a bipartisan betrayal of the public interest.

  19. - fed up - Thursday, Sep 27, 12 @ 2:39 pm:

    Didnt the Trib go Bankrupt and its management still demand bonus’s. I bet that was a grand conspiracy to enrichen the insiders.

  20. - capncrunch - Thursday, Sep 27, 12 @ 3:22 pm:

    Pot calling kettle

    Do you know who sponsored the bill and why? I’m also curious about why someone not in a State pension plan which was seriously underfunded wanted to join it.

  21. - Esquire - Thursday, Sep 27, 12 @ 3:27 pm:

    Can anyone explain why Illinois has two national teacher unions (AFT/IFT) and (NEA/IEA)? Many states managed to make do with a single entity and in some the bargaining units have merged.

  22. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Thursday, Sep 27, 12 @ 3:28 pm:

    === thanks to wide-ranging retirement legislation sponsored nearly six years ago by her former boss, House Speaker Michael Madigan, and his legislative allies. ===

    I’m sure its news to a lot of people that Iris Martinez, Rick Winkel and Frank Watson are “legislative allies” of Mike Madigan.

    I’m sure that Rick Winkel was especially surprised to know what a good friend he has in The Speaker, considering Madigan probably dumped about two million pieces of direct mail on Winkel across the better part of a decade.

    Maybe Winkel will add a lecture on SB 36 to his class at U of I?

  23. - Arthur Andersen - Thursday, Sep 27, 12 @ 3:45 pm:

    Not to be picky, but if someone was just skimming before voting they would see that COGFA found the impact of the bill to be “minor.”
    All in the eyes of the beholder, as they say.

  24. - Michelle Flaherty - Thursday, Sep 27, 12 @ 8:15 pm:

    Yellow Dog, please quit inserting unfortunate facts and reality into the debate.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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