* Some very good points in Tony Arnold’s article for WBEZ…
Two former top Commonwealth Edison executives now facing scrutiny from federal investigators helped Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan defend a cornerstone of his political power in 2016.
That’s when former ComEd CEO Frank Clark and the utility’s one-time top lobbyist, John Hooker, were the lead plaintiffs in a lawsuit that quashed a proposed constitutional amendment to change who draws legislative boundaries in Illinois. A citizens’ group wanted the redistricting process in the hands of an independent body instead of politicians like Madigan, who also chairs the Democratic Party of Illinois.
But Hooker and Clark’s legal victory struck the question from the 2016 ballot — before voters ever got a chance to weigh in. That cemented the speaker’s power to influence who wins elections. […]
The Supreme Court decision came down in August, three months before ComEd’s parent company, Exelon, scored a gigantic legislative victory in Springfield.
Exelon won a bailout for its struggling nuclear power plants. It was one of the few major pieces of legislation to pass both the Democratic-controlled legislature and to be signed by then-Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner as he and Madigan were in the middle of a bitter budget impasse. […]
[Cindi Canary, senior adviser to the Support Independent Maps group] said that during the redistricting legal fight, she thought that Hooker was just a front for Madigan. Now, she thinks there was more behind the legal challenge.
Hooker was almost certainly a front for Madigan while being a bigtime lobbyist for ComEd. Hooker and Frank Clark - two very smart men - essentially used this PR push and lawsuit to build up what’s known in the parlance as “good will” with the House Speaker. Not a bad thing to do when your company is about to push through a gigantic subsidy package.
* Their public relations push also included these points…
The People’s Map – as the Hooker-Clark group was called – accused the organizers behind the reform effort of being a front for Republicans who wanted to limit minority representation in Springfield.
Their main argument was that black Chicago residents would be “packed” into city-only districts as a result of some language in the proposal. There was some substance to that argument, so the men also built up good will with African-American legislators and Democrats in general (who almost always fret about the remap process) ahead of the nuclear power plant subsidy vote.
The fact that Hooker was lobbying with Mike McClain at the time is also mentioned in Tony’s piece. McClain was the best at playing long games like this. He knew what Madigan wanted and needed and he knew how to make those things happen while simultaneously serving his clients’ best interests. That’s a huge reason why he was the ultimate Madigan insider.
* But, in the end, race wasn’t what this case ended up being about. The remap folks were almost certainly doomed to fail from the beginning. From the Supreme Court opinion…
Based on the Framers’ concerns, article XIV, section 3, provides only for amendment of the legislative article, article IV. Further, not every aspect of the legislative article is subject to amendment through the initiative process. Rather, “ ‘ “Amendments shall be limited to structural and procedural subjects contained in Article IV.’ ”
But, the high court ruled, the remap reformers went outside the Legislative Article when they required important remap duties by the Auditor General. The Auditor General is created by and mentioned only in the Finance Article (Article VIII).
We conclude that the duties assigned to the Auditor General by the ballot initiative at issue in this case do not comport with the strict limitations in article XIV, section 3 (Ill. Const. 1970, art. XIV, § 3). Therefore, the proposition submitted by Independent Maps must fail.