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Blogging forecast: Very light - And a request to donate to LSSI

Tuesday, Mar 26, 2013

* Blogging will be very light today. It’s my birthday, but a breakneck session schedule the past two weeks has meant that I fell behind on lots of personal and business errands that I just have to deal with. Plus, my daughter is coming for a visit. I see a few stories online that I want to talk about, but unless something big breaks, don’t expect much by way of the blog today.

The only reason I mentioned my birthday is because I’d like to encourage you to donate to Lutheran Social Services of Illinois. We started this last year and I decided I want to help them again this year. No party this time around, though. Just a link. Click here to give, please. Dig as deep as you can and report back in comments. Thanks!

* Meanwhile, the National Journal’s Hotline made me a “Friday Feature” last week

Rich Miller runs the Capitol Fax newsletter, an IL politics newsletter/blog. He was born in Kankakee, IL and spent his early years on a farm in Iroquois Co. His mother was a Defense Dept. employee, which led the family to live in Utah and Germany. He later returned to IL, attended what was then Sangamon State University in Springfield (now the University of IL Springfield), worked construction, did telemarketing, sold knives and fire alarms. By 1990, Miller was working for Hannah Information Services, which gathered and disseminated legislative information for lobbyists in Springfield. He wrote a series for Hannah that year on the GOP’s inability to make a dent in state House Speaker Michael Madigan’s Dem majority. Miller wrote a series of pieces on GOP House Leader Lee Daniels. For Miller, the Daniels showdown convinced him there was a market for that kind of ground-level political reporting. In April 1993, he quit Hannah and started Capitol Fax. He initially charged $250 a year, grabbing customers through direct-mail marketing and sending the daily fax out himself. By October of that year, he had paid back the loan from his parents and bought a house. As the client base rose, he branched out with an Internet version of his newsletter. He moved to Chicago for a while, commuting to Springfield during legislative sessions. He pieced together a group of small newspapers to fund reporting trips to Kosovo (in 1999) and Baghdad (in 2003). Capitol Fax has subscribers throughout state gov’t including the General Assembly, large corporations media organizations and politicians. Today, he’s our Friday Feature!

Where’s your hometown?

    I was born in Kankakee, but we moved around a lot growing up (Department of Defense parents), so I don’t really have a home town.

What were you like in high school?

    A kinda/sorta bridge between the nerds and the jocks and the, um, partiers. I was eclectic and tried to have as many experiences as possible. Good grades, played in a rock band. Theater, wrestling. Party at the lake after lunch, college classes at night. Mime troupe, football. Also, I couldn’t wait to get outta there. I enjoyed high school, but I almost never look back with great fondness. Been to one reunion.

What’s your favorite story that you’ve had for Capitol Fax?

    Rod’s [Blagojevich] arrest. Finally, somebody listened.

What does downtime look like to you?

    Illinois never seems to stop, so I can’t ever completely shut down. I went to Miami a few years ago for a little winter R&R and Blagojevich appointed Roland Burris to the US Senate. Totally harshed my South Beach buzz.

How’d Capitol Fax start?

    I was making almost no money doing something similar for somebody else, so I quit and went out on my own.

Favorite IL politician ever?

    George Ryan, who’s from my hometown. We had the weirdest relationship. He wanted to love me because we were from the same small city. George loved everybody from Kankakee who wound up in Springfield. But that meant I was supposed to be on the team. I wasn’t, and he’d always get so angry at me over what I wrote about him. We had a real throw-down in Cuba at the ambassador’s mansion during a trade mission. Whew, that was something. His wife (may she rest in peace) even joined in. He was one of the most effective governors of my lifetime, but then there was that crookedness. His downfall was an all-around tragedy. Such a waste of talent.

Who do you look up to as a journalist?

    Bob Novak. Yeah, he had his share of problems and whatnot. But he stomped on the terra, man, and helped set the DC agenda for years. He also had a private newsletter. He was my inspiration and a personal hero. One of my greatest regrets is that I never tried to meet him.

What’s something about IL that outsiders don’t get?

    We don’t want nobody that nobody sent. Period. End of story. Go away.

Best pizza?

    “Chicago style” pizza sucks. That being said, there are lots of great pie shops all over the state. My personal favorite these days is Gabatoni’s.

Most underreported story currently going on right now?

    Down-ballot maneuvering ahead of the 2014 primary.

What’s your guilty pleasure TV and last good movie you saw?

    White Sox baseball. Actually, there’s no guilt involved whatsoever with that. I don’t watch much TV other than sports and movies. And NO cable TV “news” - the bane of our existence as a democratic republic.

    “Caine Mutiny” - just watched it again on cable a couple of weeks ago.

If you weren’t running Capitol Fax, what would you be doing?

    I’d probably be unemployed and homeless. I discovered a long time ago that I really can’t do anything else. My dream job used to be war correspondent. But I’d likely be dead by now.

In one sentence, your best advice to young, fresh-out-of-college journalists?

    Go to law school, but if you absolutely insist upon a career in journalism, then work sales for a while because nothing trains you to get what you want from sources better than that.

Finish this sentence, today I …

    Today I wasted way too much time trying to think of the last good movie I saw. I blogged a lot and, despite making several calls, I don’t yet have a good story for tomorrow. So it’s 4:51 pm and now I have to go out and find something to write about at tonight’s legislative cocktail receptions or I’m screwed because I spent too much time on this stuff that nobody cares about.

And, yes, next month will mark 20 years of Capitol Fax. There won’t be a big party. I’m saving that for the 25th anniversary. But I may do some more charity fundraising here.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Levois - Tuesday, Mar 26, 13 @ 8:54 am:

    Happy birthday and congrats Rich. May there be many more!

  2. - Anon. - Tuesday, Mar 26, 13 @ 8:56 am:

    Anyone who thinks there is any good pizza south of I-80 is from there. Anyone who wants to go to an “Eye-talian” restaurant hasn’t a clue. Deep dish pizza is for tourists and “Chicagoans” who just got here from somewhere else and love the Cubbies and Mr. Beef.

    Milton Rakove’s daughter had clout jobs with the City of Chicago.

  3. - Rich Miller - Tuesday, Mar 26, 13 @ 8:58 am:

    ===is from there===

    Well, I am. Also, I own a pickup truck and have applied for a FOID card. So sue me.


  4. - dang - Tuesday, Mar 26, 13 @ 8:58 am:

    Happy b day. Nice post. Good for you helping Lutheran Social Services. Too bad not everybody gets involved

  5. - Rich Miller - Tuesday, Mar 26, 13 @ 8:58 am:

    Levois, thanks. Now please go donate:

  6. - Stones - Tuesday, Mar 26, 13 @ 8:59 am:

    Happy Birthday Rich! I am surprised you never had the opportunity to meet Bob Novak somewhere along the way since he is from Joliet. He did visit his hometown from time to time.

  7. - Ken_in_Aurora - Tuesday, Mar 26, 13 @ 9:05 am:

    Happy Birthday, Rich! I don’t think I knew you played an instrument - which one? Bass player here.

  8. - Belle - Tuesday, Mar 26, 13 @ 9:05 am:

    Have an amazing birthday!

  9. - boat captain - Tuesday, Mar 26, 13 @ 9:12 am:

    Happy birthday Rich! Am also a Sox fan and liked Bob Novak. Used to watch him on The Macglachlin (maybe mispelled) Group, he was very good and gave good information, like you. Carpe Diem.

  10. - Roadiepig - Tuesday, Mar 26, 13 @ 9:17 am:

    Happy birthday Rich- may you have many more !

  11. - Rich Miller Sr - Tuesday, Mar 26, 13 @ 9:25 am:

    Happy Birthday! I wanted to post the grade school picture of you in a Cubs T-shirt but your Mother stopped me. I gave LSSI $51.00 in your name. See ya next week for our party!

  12. - Res Melius - Tuesday, Mar 26, 13 @ 9:27 am:

    Happy birthday Mr. Miller. Your efforts have advanced the discussion and, dare i say it, the decision making. Thank you.

    I also admire Mr. Novak. I met him briefly once His autobiography is a great read. A credit to Illinois.

  13. - illinifan - Tuesday, Mar 26, 13 @ 9:27 am:

    Happy birthday…

  14. - Samurai - Tuesday, Mar 26, 13 @ 9:39 am:

    Happy birthday Rich and best of health for the next year.

  15. - Rich's Mom - Tuesday, Mar 26, 13 @ 10:03 am:

    Happy Birthday to our first born son of whom we continue to be very proud. We wish you joy, wealth, but most of all health in the coming year and always. Have a terrific birthday and give Vanessa a hug from us. Looking forward to seeing you next week. Love, Mom

  16. - Ann - Tuesday, Mar 26, 13 @ 10:05 am:

    Donation done, and I resisted titling myself as “Admiral” or “Cantor and Mr.,” tempting as it was.

  17. - Rich Miller - Tuesday, Mar 26, 13 @ 10:09 am:

    Thanks, Ann. How “admirable” of you. lol

  18. - Bitterman - Tuesday, Mar 26, 13 @ 10:10 am:

    Happy Birthday Sir Richard. Your blog, by the way, is the bees knees. Keep up the outstanding work…and be healthy.

  19. - Just Observing - Tuesday, Mar 26, 13 @ 10:10 am:

    Happy birthday Rich! Although I disagree with your advice to go to law school…. the job market is terrible for lawyers ;)

  20. - Rich Miller - Tuesday, Mar 26, 13 @ 10:12 am:

    ===the job market is terrible for lawyers===

    Depends on the practice area.

  21. - Rich Miller - Tuesday, Mar 26, 13 @ 10:22 am:

    ===which one?===

    Trombone is school and bass guitar in rock band.

  22. - Ken_in_Aurora - Tuesday, Mar 26, 13 @ 10:27 am:

    Oh, gawd - a fellow rock bassist. ;)

  23. - Give Me A Break - Tuesday, Mar 26, 13 @ 10:50 am:

    Happy BDay Rich. It can’t be that long ago I was an intern and would see you in committee covering things for Hannah. The good old days you know, when you had to go the bills rooms (there were two) to get a real hard copy of legislation to review and what we now blog, was first heard on the rail or Play It Again Sams.

  24. - RNUG - Tuesday, Mar 26, 13 @ 10:56 am:

    Matched your dad. Happy Birthday.

    Watch out for falling snow as it melts …

  25. - Chavez-respecting Obamist - Tuesday, Mar 26, 13 @ 11:00 am:

    ===the job market is terrible for lawyers===

    Tony LaRussa has a JD. Cole Porter didn’t graduate, but went to Yale Law. So it depends on what you want to do with it whether or not law school is a good idea.

  26. - Just The Way It Is One - Tuesday, Mar 26, 13 @ 3:57 pm:

    Gee, 20 years–I only discovered this intriguing Illinois Haven of Political Commentary a FEW years ago. Didn’t realize you’d been at this THAT long. Way to go–you have much to celebrate here with your work alone…and as mentioned on your QotD segment, hearty best wishes for a very HAPpy 51st Birthday and God’s blessings upon you for providing such a fine Forum and your active support for LSSI…!

  27. - LSSI guy - Tuesday, Mar 26, 13 @ 4:19 pm:

    Thanks, Rich, for your support of LSSI. It means a lot to an organization that struggles everyday to keep providing some of the most difficult services to our Illinois neighbors in need.

  28. - LSSI guy - Tuesday, Mar 26, 13 @ 4:20 pm:

    Oh yeah, and HAPPY BIRTHDAy, RICH!

  29. - Northern Light - Thursday, Mar 28, 13 @ 6:14 pm:

    Here’s to many more years of stickin it to ‘em…. Talk about stomping on the terra! YOU DO! Can’t be more proud of you or admire you more (well maybe a little more…ha). Seriously, you have redefined political reporting, in my humble opinion and you did it on your own. A Rennaisance man you are…and crumudgeon of course, which we like even more. And you have done it on your terms. Was proud to contribute last year (still laughing from your roast)and thought it was a great coup to have attendees help such a fine organization. Maybe you could nudge them not to continue to cut the organization…they have reduced services, as I am sure that you know. All of us cannot possibly make up for the failures of the Legislature to pay its bills and fund agencies. Come on you deep pocket bloggers! Tip your hat to our mainline “artery” to the action in the Criminal Enterprise Called Springfield (with credit and praise to Dwayne Readus for that moniker) - and give generously to Lutheran Social Services…its Easter, you know. Keep at em Rich! You really do ROCK! And your family is the BEST!

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