* You knew this had to happen sooner or later. From a blast e-mail…
BGA dismisses Madigan’s bullying accusations, vows to continue watchdog work.
How do you know your watchdog work is having an impact? The most powerful lawmaker in the state writes a letter warning his colleagues about you.
Illinois House Speaker & State Democratic Chairman Mike Madigan is accusing me and the BGA of “using bullying tactics” to gather information for a Sun-Times story on the fact that as many as 29 of Madigan’s 30 campaign workers had or have government jobs that collectively pay nearly $2 million a year, and they’ve contributed more than $200,000 to political funds for Madigan or his daughter Lisa.
Madigan says, in a letter to dozens of state Democratic leaders, that the BGA is trying to “impugn the Democratic Party.”
Sorry Mike–we’re just doing our job, which is to shine a light on government and hold public officials accountable.
This is a story about the intersection of government, politics and money. Watchdogs tell those stories because citizens of Illinois deserve to know how their government works.
The BGA is a nonpartisan watchdog that investigates public officials and public policies, and recommends reform. We’ve been doing it for 90 years and sometimes our work ruffles a few feathers. Our only agenda is better government, and we invite everyone, including Mike Madigan, to join us in this effort.
Mike Madigan is a powerful political leader and we’re a small watchdog organization, so you decide who’s the bully. And if you believe Illinois government needs a strong watchdog, please consider supporting the BGA with a generous contribution.
President & CEO
- Posted by Rich Miller
|Question of the day
Wednesday, Oct 30, 2013
* Sen. Bill Brady and other Republicans have joined with House Speaker Michael Madigan to oppose appropriating money during the veto session to fund some state employee pay raises going back to 2011. Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka, however, believes the money should be allocated…
“I think you’ll probably have to have a supplemental appropriation,” Topinka said at a Springfield news conference. “I don’t know how else you do it. Where else are you going to get the money? It’s not like it’s lying around. I don’t have bags of it sitting around the office.” […]
That includes $112 million needed to pay back wages — plus 7 percent interest — to about 25,000 union workers who were denied raises they were due under their previous labor agreement. Quinn suspended the raises, saying lawmakers did not approve money to pay them. The issue was taken to court, and a judge sided with the unions and said the state had to honor the back wages with interest. […]
House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, has balked at the idea of approving a supplemental budget to pay the wages. He has said agencies should cover the back wages out of the spending plan approved by lawmakers in May.
Keep in mind that the fiscal year revenue forecast has been revised upward by about $360 million.
* The Question: Should the General Assembly vote to appropriate $112 million plus interest to fund the back pay, or should agencies be told to find the money within their own budgets and the $112 million+ be used to pay off other old bills? Take the poll and then explain your answer in comments, please.
- Posted by Rich Miller
* Bruce Rauner was interviewed on WJBC radio the other day. Listen to the whole thing…
* A couple of things stood out for me. He is apparently convinced that if he spends enough money and attends enough events, he will win this race.
According to Rauner, his polling shows him ahead by 20 points among people who’ve been exposed to his ads or seen him speak.
If he’s convinced of that, then we can expect a lot more spending.
* He was also asked how he differed from failed presidential candidate Mitt Romney, another rich guy in a similar business. His response…
“He was an analyst, I’m a salesman.”
* He continued…
“I’m not Mitt Romney. You know, my grandparents lived in a double-wide trailer and didn’t speak much English. I drink a beer and I smoke a cigar and I ride a Harley, I use a gun, I’m a self-made guy. I still do ranching and farming myself and I come from a small-town farming family. I’m a very different person and I’m connecting with the voters and we’re going to win this race.”
- Posted by Rich Miller
* I can totally understand why some folks want to try and pass the gay marriage bill next week. They’ve worked hard, and they want to finally know who’s with them and who’s against them.
But if you’re a gay couple eager to get married as soon as possible, then waiting until January to hold a vote is a better option.
Why? Well, there’s no way the bill could get three-fifths in both chambers next week, but three-fifths is a constitutional requirement for any bill with an immediate effective date. A bill requiring a simple majority with an immediate effective date can only be approved after the first of the year. Passing an amended bill now means waiting until next June for the law to take effect.
* So, if you’re more into politics, making a “statement” and revenge, then go ahead and keep pushing for a vote next week without knowing whether you have enough votes to pass it. The risk, of course, is that the bill might actually be defeated and won’t come back for a floor vote until well after next year’s election. Maybe you’re feeling lucky. If so, go ahead and roll the dice. Just know that your bill won’t become law for seven more months.
If, on the other hand, you want gay marriage to be the law of the land as soon as possible, then all you have to do is wait to call the vote until January, or even after the March primary.
* Meanwhile, as you’ll recall, Springfield Bishop John Paprocki claimed some marriage equality supporters intended to stage a “loud” action at one of his churches last week, so he banned them from the grounds…
The Rainbow Sash Movement has encouraged Roman Catholics to come to Springfield to “have a loud Catholic presence for marriage equality.” They have announced plans to gather at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception at 4:30 p.m. just before the 5:15 p.m. Mass to stand in the Cathedral and indicate that they are there to pray the rosary for “marriage equality.”
It is blasphemy to show disrespect or irreverence to God or to something holy. Since Jesus clearly taught that marriage as created by God is a sacred institution between a man and a woman (see Matthew 19:4-6 and Mark 10:6-9), praying for same-sex marriage should be seen as blasphemous and as such will not be permitted in the cathedral.
People wearing a rainbow sash or who otherwise identify themselves as affiliated with the Rainbow Sash Movement will not be admitted into the cathedral and anyone who gets up to pray for same-sex marriage in the cathedral will be asked to leave.
Of course, our cathedral and parish churches are always open to everyone who wishes to repent their sins and ask for God’s forgiveness. [Emphasis added.]
* Springfield radio commentator Jim Leach strongly supports gay marriage, but he also sees Paprocki’s side…
The people who sought to stage such demonstrations are not helping their cause and are lending credence to one of the biggest allegations of their opponents. The anti-marriage-equality crowd sees the movement as a threat to their freedom to worship as they see fit. They are sure that allowing same-sex marriage is just the first step toward requiring them to modify their dogma to conform to political correctness. An absurd fear, to be sure – but protestors who seek to disrupt Mass or demand changes in Catholic orthodoxy make it seem far less absurd.
There are plenty of reasons to object to the bishop’s views and plenty of appropriate venues to do so. But a Roman Catholic cathedral during Mass is not one of them.
The bishop was correct to protect the sanctity of his church and to defend the legitimacy of its teachings. Just as religious freedom does not give the bishop the right to deny equal rights to gay couples, neither does it give marriage-equality proponents the right to deny the bishop and his followers the right to their own beliefs.
If you disagree with his view, you may wish to seek out a church that doesn’t see loving gay couples as “evil incarnate.” But if marriage equality supporters want Bishop Paprocki and others like him to live and let live, we have to be willing to do the same.
* Greg Hinz also weighed in…
To the extent anyone was going to disrupt services—I know of no evidence of that—the bishop was perfectly correct.
* Greg is right that there is little to no evidence of that intent. The Rainbow Sash folks did, indeed, say they planned to have a loud presence at the rally itself…
The Rainbow Sash Movement is organizing for the March on Springfield. We are encouraging Roman Catholics in the Parishes who support Marriage Equality to join us in Springfield so we can have loud Catholic Presence for Marriage Equality.
* But the object of the organizers at the church was to pray in silence…
The Rainbow Sash Movement is calling for silent prayer to begin 4:30PM just before the 5:15PM Mass at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. A rosary for Marriage Equality will be said in silence. By standing up in the Cathedral you will indicate you are there to pray the rosary for Marriage Equality. Let us come together as a spiritual family in prayer after the March.
* A subsequent statement from the Rainbow Sash group…
The Rainbow Sash Movement event was to be a silent rosary to be held in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception at 4:30PM in Springfield,. This would take place after the March for Gay Marriage in Springfield on October 22. We wanted this to begin prior to the 5:15 Mass at the Cathedral. The silent rosary would take about 10 minutes to say those present were invited to stand at 4:30PM and begin the mental recitation of the Rosary which would end at 4:40PM.
While the Bishop Paprocki’s statement was alienating and threatening to Catholic laypeople who support Marriage Equality, such as the Governor and other supportive Catholic politicians the Rainbow Sash Movement firmly believes the Church is more than brick and mortar.
How Bishop Paprocki could misrepresent this event in such a manner only points to a man who is clueless. His statement was both uncalled for and most certainly not in the spirit of Pope Francis general tone that we should stop obsessing about such matters.
The only charitable thing that can be said about the Bishops hysterical response is that it is misinformed, and I am sure most reasonable people would agree with that.
It is our opinion, his statement to the press should be challenged because of his misrepresentation of the facts. It was never our intention to either wear Rainbow Sashes at the 5:15PM Mass, nor were we going to wear them at the Rosary for Gay Marriage. The primary reason we called for this ancient prayer of the Church to be said is because October is also the month of the Rosary around the Catholic World, and we thought this prayer was appropriate in this setting.
- Posted by Rich Miller
* The Sun-Times editorializes on pension reform…
Both scenarios being batted around by the state’s four legislative leaders and a 10-member pension committee rely on cutting retirement benefits, mostly by reducing annual cost-of-living increases for retired teachers, state workers, legislators and university employees.
The Republicans are right to push for more than $138 billion, to go for the greatest savings possible. This is the Legislature’s one chance to get this right. But push too hard and retirees are hurt unnecessarily and the final result will never pass.
The compromising begins with Senate President John Cullerton, who last week officially became one of the biggest impediments to getting a deal done. Cullerton said he embraced the $138 billion plan but he also made clear that he thinks pension reform is basically a waste of time. Cullerton said the state’s $100 billion unfunded pension liability wasn’t a “crisis” after all and suggested that Illinois could manage just fine without pension cost-cutting. That’s called talking out of both sides of your mouth.
But this week Cullerton is willing to play ball. He says he’s game for going higher than $138 billion — which is essential because that’s what the other three legislative leaders, including House Speaker Michael Madigan, want. Cullerton’s spokeswoman told us that “$138 billion seems to be the baseline” and “he’s looking for some fair way to get it higher.”
Getting from a baseline to a new, agreed plan is a delicate balancing act. But when we talk to lawmakers close to the negotiations we sense something almost unheard of in politics: optimism.
I didn’t hear a lot of optimism yesterday when I made a quick round of calls. But if the four leaders are committed to going higher than $138 billion, that could be a reason for some hope.
* Then again, maybe not…
“Next week, we got three days and I don’t anticipate yet again that much being accomplished,” said State Rep. Jim Durkin, minority leader. […]
Leader Durkin expects Quinn to miss several more paychecks.
“We can come back sometime before the first of the year or come back at the beginning of the year. I want to make sure we do it once, we do it right,” said Durkin.
What’s most interesting here is that Durkin appears willing to take the fall if nothing happens next week.
- Posted by Rich Miller
* I haven’t had a chance to play with this new site yet, but it looks interesting…
State Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka announced the launching of The Warehouse, a comprehensive online database that puts local governments’ financial information and tens of thousands of records at a single location for taxpayer review.
Topinka explained that the Comptroller’s Office collects financial reports from 5,200 counties, municipalities and special taxing districts across the state. The Warehouse makes those records and other pertinent local financial information collected by her office immediately available to residents. […]
“This user-friendly database allows taxpayers to scour our office ‘Warehouse’ from wherever they are located,” Topinka said in a news release. “There is no reason that residents should have to file Freedom of Information requests or sort through mountains of paper to see how their money is being spent. That information should be at their fingertips, and that’s what The Warehouse accomplishes.”
Warehouse visitors are able to search records by report type, unit of government or community name. Once a local government is selected, users will be taken to a landing page where they can view a snapshot of local finances, Annual Financial Reports and Audits. The site also offers a “compare data” feature allowing visitors to see how one government stacks up against another.
The comptroller’s office collects more than 9,200 reports from 5,200 local governments each year. Now, much of that information is available online. Dubbed The Warehouse, the site allows users to find financial reports and audits from counties; cities; special taxing districts, such as park districts; and other bodies of local governments. “We’re essentially allowing taxpayers to scour The Warehouse from wherever they are to seek whatever they want to learn,” Topinka said at a Chicago news conference. “It’s designed to be user friendly. In fact, we’re going to keep trying and trying and trying to make sure anything we put out [will] be as user friendly as possible.” She said the new site was made possible by a 2012 law that requires local governments to submit their information to her office electronically.
* The site could actually help local governments…
Sherman Mayor Trevor Clatfelter attended Tuesday’s news conference and said his town of fewer than 5,000 people has a limited staff available to deal with Freedom of Information Act requests that often seek the same information that will now be posted online by the state.
* Sheila Simon wasn’t impressed…
Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon, who is challenging Topinka for the comptroller’s office, has tried to lay recent cases of high-profile local corruption at Topinka’s feet because the comptroller’s office takes in local fiscal information. Simon said in a written statement today that the website would do little to prevent local problems. “It is the job of the comptroller’s office to be the fiscal watchdog over local governments. We’ve had far too many examples of corruption at the local level — along with missed opportunities to spot that corruption under Judy Baar Topinka,” said Simon. “Repurposing a Web address with the same information that could already be found on the comptroller website is too little and too late. Identifying and preventing local corruption will be a priority from my first day in office. It’s time we have a comptroller who provides not just accounting but accountability.”
* Topinka’s response…
Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka Tuesday said a new local government financial data feature on her website should not be considered a campaign event.
Topinka, who scheduled seven news conferences around the state over a three-day period to roll out the site, said it has been years in the making and is not a product of her re-election bid. […]
“That’s just not true,” Topinka responded. “There’s information here that you will not get anyplace else. I think it’s nonsense because we started working on this when Sheila Simon was still dreaming of becoming attorney general.”
Anyway, go check it out and tell us what you think.
- Posted by Rich Miller
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- Posted by Advertising Department
Wednesday, Oct 30, 2013
* Chris Kelly, Orlando Jones, Michael Scott and Phil Pagano. For a while, suicides were an all too common “exit strategy” for Chicago-area people under investigation for alleged corruption. The Daily Herald wrote about this disturbing pattern in 2010…
Suicide experts say the one common thread is that the victims likely felt a sense of being cornered and were unable to see other solutions to their problems. In reality, anyone contemplating suicide should call 911 or immediately contact an organization like the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention at (800) 273-8255.
“They felt that they were boxed in, that their world as they knew it was crumbling,” says Maris. “There is a lot of similarity in all of these.”
Dr. Lanny Merman, director of the American Association of Suicidology in Washington, D.C., says such deaths are called “executive suicide.”
“They can’t tolerate the loss of face,” he says. “So death becomes preferable to public disgrace.”
* And now, another one…
A prominent Bridgeport businessman who wore a wire for the feds, helping convict a former Cook County commissioner and a former Chicago alderman, was found dead of an apparent suicide in his plumbing business, authorities said.
Michael DiFoggio, 58, was found with a single gunshot wound to the head around 10 p.m. Tuesday at his family business, Difoggio Plumbing in the 3200 block of South Shields Avenue, according to the Cook County medical examiner’s office.
* Sneed tells us more…
DiFoggio had not been sentenced yet in his tax case and could have faced as little as probation given his critical cooperation.
Yet for that cooperation, DiFoggio had been shunned in his tight-knit community. He had been trying to sell his luxury home for about $1.5 million, which included an indoor pool, without any luck. He was no longer welcome at the Old Neighborhood Italian American Club, a nearby hangout for local businessmen and mobsters that his father had co-founded, along with mob boss Angelo “The Hook” LaPietra.
DiFoggio also had been having difficulties in his marriage, sources say. His wife filed for divorce less than two weeks ago, and DiFoggio had been talking with his wife on the phone at his office before he apparently killed himself.
His cooperation with the feds was a source of widespread speculation in the neighborhood and whether more indictments were in the works.
“According to my clients on the street, there was a Second Act coming,” said prominent defense attorney Joseph R. Lopez, who has represented many organized crime figures over the years.
- Posted by Rich Miller
Stung by a weekend report on foot soldiers in his political army, House Speaker Michael Madigan delivered a harsh counter punch against a government watchdog group and its head, former broadcaster Andy Shaw, for engaging in a campaign to “impugn the Democratic Party.”
Madigan sent a letter on Democratic Party of Illinois letterhead to the 71-member House Democratic caucus and to members of the Democratic State Central Committee bashing Shaw and the Better Government Association for trying to “become a kingmaker in Illinois politics” and “tarnish Democratic candidates.” […]
In his Oct. 24 letter, which is only now arriving in mailboxes but was penned before the Sun-Times/BGA story was even published, Madigan targeted the door-to-door reporting on the project that aimed to verify that every petition circulator, in fact, accurately matched up with names contained on state, county and municipal payroll records, campaign-finance reports and pension records.
“Shaw has turned the organization’s focus toward the volunteer work of Illinois citizens who have exercised their First Amendment rights by circulating nominating petitions for me in previous years. The organization has gone so far as to harass these individuals at their homes,” Madigan wrote.
“Rather than work for positive change and reform in Illinois government, Andy Shaw has resorted to using bullying tactics against working men and women in an attempt to suggest they have done something improper,” the speaker and state Democratic Party chairman said. “The only thing these men and women have done is work to provide for their families while exercising their constitutional right to support Democratic candidates for office.”
* The BGA’s response…
The BGA is a nonpartisan watchdog organization that investigates public officials and public policies, and recommends reforms. We’ve been doing it for 90 years and sometimes our work makes people uncomfortable. Our only agenda is better government. We invite everyone, including Mike Madigan, to join us in this effort.
* Something quite interesting happened in comments yesterday. Several people claiming to be Madigan precinct workers posted comments about the original Sun-Times/BGA story. All of them had different IP addresses and none of them have commented here before using those IP addresses…
- Teddy - Tuesday, Oct 29, 13 @ 2:42 pm:
Remember when newspapers reported the news , not make it up ? How about you stick to your job, and stop harassing me and my family for your scoop . Last time I checked there is nothing wrong with helping out a candidate.
- Karen - Tuesday, Oct 29, 13 @ 3:28 pm:
These reporters are always trying to dig up dirt because they hate Mike Madigan. Well I don’t hate Mike Madigan because I know him, and that’s why I’ve knockef on doors and passed petitions for him. Have these people ever met him? He’s a nice guy who’s always been nice to me and appreciated my help. I thought reporters were supposed to be fair and unbiased, not pick out targets because they din’t like him.
- Ron Williams - Tuesday, Oct 29, 13 @ 4:21 pm
Now I am being harassed because I passed a petition for Mike Madigan. I have never been pressured to do so and have done it on my own time. I wonder why they didn’t include that fact even though it doesn’t fit the story they want to tell. These people don’t get it . Not everything is a scandal. Why don’t you go report some real news and leave me alone.
johnny o - Tuesday, Oct 29, 13 @ 5:02 pm:
these “reporters” just can’t stand that mike madigan outlasts and outsmarts everyone so they have to manufacture stories and theories to hurt working people like me. yes, i passed petitions for mike madigan because i wanted to. i was not forced too. can we expect these reporters to review the petitions of every other politician in illinois now? it would only be fair. if not, they’re nothing but a bunch of elitists with an agenda!!
- TMAC - Tuesday, Oct 29, 13 @ 10:12 pm:
I’ve passed a petition for Mike Madigan, I’ve passed petition for Mike Madigan for years. I was never pressured to do it. Interesting that they only report the “facts” that arer convenient for their story. They never report that I qork hard for my family and that I support Mike Madiganin my own free time. Last I checked we still live in America where I’m free to do this in my own time. I wonder when the article on other Illinois politicians will be published or if they’re only going to focus on Mike Madigan.
*** UPDATE *** Madigan’s letter in full…
Please allow me to take this opportunity to share some concerns with you about the apparent metamorphosis of the Better Government Association from a worthy, public advocacy group to an organization focused on partisan politics, lobbying and mustering opposition to Democratic candidates in Illinois.
Since 2010, the BGA has been on an unrelenting journey to become a kingmaker in Illinois politics through its campaign activities, despite rules prohibiting the group from engaging in political advocacy. Along the way, it has attempted to tarnish Democratic candidates while receiving financial support from my political opponents and opponents of the Democratic Party.
In 2010, the BGA’s top executive, Andy Shaw, made a self-admitted improper endorsement of a candidate for county office. More recently, Shaw has turned the organization’s focus toward the volunteer work of Illinois citizens who have exercised their First Amendment rights by circulating nominating petitions for me in previous years. The organization has gone so far as to harass these individuals at their homes. Rather than work for positive change and reform in Illinois government, Andy Shaw has resorted to using bullying tactics against working men and women in an attempt to suggest they have done something improper. The only thing these men and women have done is work to provide for their families while exercising their constitutional right to support Democratic candidates for office.
It is therefore not unreasonable to conclude that Andy Shaw has an agenda to impugn the Democratic Party. This hardly makes him an unbiased, impartial or independent observer.
Democratic candidates at all levels in Illinois will face many challenges in 2014, but I do not believe that these types of attacks from a government lobbying group posturing itself as a news organization should go unnoticed.
With kindest personal regards, I remain
MICHAEL J. MADIGAN
Chairman, Democratic Party of Illinois
- Posted by Rich Miller
* Chicagoan’s probably already know this, or at least feel this, but out of staters, suburbanites and Downstaters who don’t spend much time in the city and who rely mainly on news reports probably don’t. The city’s murder problem is highly localized…
Over the last few years, violent crime in Chicago has made international headlines. Though the city as a whole has seen a significant drop in crime since its early-nineties peak, analyst Daniel Hertz has demonstrated that significant areas of the West and South Sides actually experience more murders than they did even at the peak of the crack epidemic.
Unlike New York, where former war zones such as the South Bronx have made radical improvements in safety, many of Chicago’s most dangerous neighborhoods have only gotten worse.
Meanwhile, gentrified North Side areas are safer than New York City.
- Posted by Rich Miller
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