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Another reason ComEd got what it wanted in 2016

Friday, Dec 13, 2019

* 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).

* Conclusion

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.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

36 Comments
  1. - BLCF - Friday, Dec 13, 19 @ 9:09 am:

    John Hooker and Frank Clark were ComEd employees but also well known African American businessmen. They both went on to do more than just ComEd. They both had serious concerns with the remap proposals and protecting their communities. It’s a bit presumptuous to assume their involvement in the case was related to ComEd.


  2. - Say What? - Friday, Dec 13, 19 @ 9:14 am:

    Where is John Grisham when you need him?


  3. - Rich Miller - Friday, Dec 13, 19 @ 9:17 am:

    ===It’s a bit presumptuous to assume===

    Don’t pee on my shoes and tell me it’s raining.


  4. - JP Altgeld - Friday, Dec 13, 19 @ 9:22 am:

    @RM

    Legit LOL


  5. - Dumb - Friday, Dec 13, 19 @ 9:24 am:

    What’s the next story? Mike Madigan’s house is powered by ComEd? This is silly. The map initiative would have devastated minority representation because it required maps to be drawn based on municipal boundaries. That would lock in most blacks and Hispanics in districts in Chicago and a few burbs. You’d inevitably have less minority reps and senators. But, no, that can’t be why Hooker and Clark were against it. It must have been ComEd. Also, a good reminder Lightfoot was always on team Rauner.


  6. - Dumb - Friday, Dec 13, 19 @ 9:25 am:

    “Don’t pee on my shoes and tell me it’s raining.”

    Sometimes it’s just rain.


  7. - Oswego Willy - Friday, Dec 13, 19 @ 9:32 am:

    This part of the story is fascinating to the sheer politics swirling around the defense of a fair maps proposition that itself seemingly was a ham-handed attempt, not to force fair maps on the ballot, but drive a message in ads and collect voter information as its main purpose for existing.

    You (this is all alleged) have the Speaker concerned this could pass, and these folks taking to being the face and rationale for its defeat in the courts, to curry favor and collect a chit to cash later. That’s one side. Focusing to defeating this amendment, fighting its premise, knocking down the petitions to defeat fair maps.

    Ironically? Ironically, the game was never about getting it on the ballot at all.

    If it did, “cool”, but the mining of voter information and a vehicle to run ads with the amendment as a focal point of a campaign, and it’s defeat in the courts, a flimsy worded amendment that was never going to pass muster if challenged, the defeat of it was a rallying point, almost better politically for that novice candidate who wanted to be both a martyr, hero, and a possible savior.

    The old adage “why take a chance” and the idea of collecting a chit and currying favor now possibly exposes something that in “reality” wasn’t happening, it wasn’t designed to happen either.

    This amendment was supposed to be challenged, and defeated, and used politically. This fallout is incredible, possibly exposing more than how it went down and why, but how it went down and why, with both sides unknowingly helping the other?

    This is a story. It’s nuanced. It’s so layered, has two sides working, for a same goal, but politics make them “appear” to be on two sides.

    They both got way they wanted, but now what the side fearful of it being real, they now possibly exposed far more than a policy fear.


  8. - Oswego Willy - Friday, Dec 13, 19 @ 9:43 am:

    - Dumb -

    Sometimes a cover story is just that, a cover story.

    If you believe it was an honest attempt to even *be* on the ballot, then fighting it for the reasons ComEd folks did prolly doesn’t make sense either.


  9. - Annonin - Friday, Dec 13, 19 @ 9:50 am:

    Busy morning, but some recall Hooker & Clark had retired from ComEd
    The nuke/renewable bailout/reward/boondoggle so awful the GovJunk signed the bill.
    Still wondering who reads copy at WBEZ before its rushed out
    Is there still time to make donations?


  10. - Three Dimensional Checkers - Friday, Dec 13, 19 @ 9:57 am:

    Interesting. I definitely remember this, but at the time I think I just figured Clark and Hooker were just active Democrats and maybe trying to curry favor in the legal way. It was difficult to see that there was more and possibly illegal aspects to the story. Plus, the People’s Map was essentially right. If you draw maps based on neighborhood geography, you are going to pack minority voters into districts and dilute their overall political power.


  11. - twowaystreet - Friday, Dec 13, 19 @ 10:01 am:

    ===Ironically, the game was never about getting it on the ballot at all.===

    And what evidence do you have to back this statement up?


  12. - Cheryl44 - Friday, Dec 13, 19 @ 10:06 am:

    Annonin, I’m sure they’ll take your donation, but you missed out on the drawing for that trip to Iceland.


  13. - h'okay - Friday, Dec 13, 19 @ 10:24 am:

    Just a little reminder, Rauner didn’t just sign that bill, he had a whole presser on it
    https://capitolfax.com/2016/12/06/a-bill-so-nice-hes-signing-it-twice/

    And a year later went back to tout doing so https://www.wglt.org/post/one-year-later-rauner-visits-clinton-plant-tout-nuclear-bill#stream/0


  14. - Oswego Willy - Friday, Dec 13, 19 @ 10:32 am:

    === And what evidence do you have to back this statement up?===

    The millions spent on collecting signatures and advertising, and yet.. they hired grossly inept lawyers, so inept, that the wording alone wasn’t going to pass muster on the simplest premise.

    The goal of the exercise was the prop filing petitions, the names on those petitions, (worth every penny to a campaign), and the framing, and advertising, of a hero/martyr candidate who is the savior of Illinois.

    If you feel it wasn’t ham-handed, that’s on you.

    Makes ya wonder, if you spend all that money the *first* time, if it’s so important, why not do it a second time, get it right?

    Oh. That’s right, they already got the names, the framing, and no need to spend money to get it passed.


  15. - Annonin - Friday, Dec 13, 19 @ 10:32 am:

    Next Capt fax will serve up a Tribbie op-ed from the dark money lobby group BGA that suggests city might not be good place for “hearings” utility lobby work. Remember who pays the bill … Exelon on latest report


  16. - Nagidam - Friday, Dec 13, 19 @ 11:00 am:

    Until someone shows me the quid pro quo or what ComEd got for having their lobbyists assist in the Fair Maps process, this is a stretch tie in to extend the news cycle. Oh it’s juicy, two hi profile former ComEd execs assisting the Speaker kill off an idea that would certainly affect his power base. Maybe I am wrong but until the Feds say ComEd got A for lobbyists doing B we are all speculating.


  17. - Oswego Willy - Friday, Dec 13, 19 @ 11:04 am:

    - Nagidam -

    I dunno anything to a federal investigation or indictments, I’m with ya until anything comes down, but this *is* a Coen Brothers movies.


  18. - Anonymous - Friday, Dec 13, 19 @ 11:17 am:

    @BLCF - I assume that was snark. Good one.


  19. - Just Me 2 - Friday, Dec 13, 19 @ 11:17 am:

    @BLCF - I assume that was snark. Good one.


  20. - Nagidam - Friday, Dec 13, 19 @ 11:19 am:

    @OW

    It’s a good thing then that the state re-upped the Film Tax Credit. God love Ken Dunkin for his foresight to help the film industry.


  21. - Oswego Willy - Friday, Dec 13, 19 @ 11:25 am:

    === Ken Dunkin for his foresight to help the film industry.===

    He’s been a leader too in fiction, his true medium.

    A visionary and artist to boot.


  22. - Dumb - Friday, Dec 13, 19 @ 11:26 am:

    @ Just me 2.

    I assume that was snark. Good one.


  23. - Anyone Remember - Friday, Dec 13, 19 @ 11:37 am:

    Oswego Willy -
    “He’s been a leader too in fiction, his true medium.”

    Appropriate use of one of the better quotes from the Christmas movie that was on last weekend and will be in 24 hour rotation in less than 2 weeks.

    “My father worked in profanity the way other artists might work in oils or clay. It was his true medium, a master.”


  24. - Oswego Willy - Friday, Dec 13, 19 @ 11:46 am:

    - Anyone Remember -

    I’ve been known, on occasion, to drop an Easter egg, even if it’s in a Christmas movie. :)

    - h’okay -

    Rauner signing the bill is the big twist, after all the petition side of all this, it’s Rauner who seals the deal with his signature.

    “Burn After Reading” has less irony.


  25. - MapGuy - Friday, Dec 13, 19 @ 11:48 am:

    Don’t forget that Kasper did the legal work for the group, eventually being paid more than $20k only after it was pointed that he had not charged them http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/editorials/ct-illinois-remap-supreme-court-madigan-edit-20160810-story.html


  26. - Thomas Paine - Friday, Dec 13, 19 @ 11:51 am:

    Com-Ed passed their bill in 2016 because they did everything right. Everything. If you were working against that bill or just trying to slow the train down enough that you could jump on board for a piece of the action…steep disappointment followed by begrudging admiration. They dominated like the 1985 Bears on offense, on defense and special teams, at the line of scrimmage and deep in the backfield, in the ground and in the air.

    To suggest that Clark and Hooker’s role in a lawsuit was pivotal or the deciding factor is absurd. It wasn’t one thing, it was everything.

    You also cannot pretend it was a coincidence. If your name is Tony Arnold and you are just now figuring out there might have been a connection three years later, that is on you.

    If you are still denying there is a connection, that is also on you.

    The other half of the story of course is that the business groups opposing the ComEd rate hike were all lined up on the other side of the football with Bruce Rauner when it came to the lawsuit.

    Everyone plays the game, some just play it much better than others.


  27. - Three Dimensional Checkers - Friday, Dec 13, 19 @ 12:04 pm:

    Maybe it was obviously already, but I thought the part about Clark being on the City Club documents was noteworthy in that it seems to strengthen the Daugherty is a conduit theory.


  28. - Lt Guv - Friday, Dec 13, 19 @ 12:07 pm:

    Have to remember that Com Ed has wrapped the black caucus around its little finger over the years. That’s been a cornerstone of their strategy. They’ve nickled and dimed scholarships and grants into that community and earned never-ending gratitude. I saw it first hand working in the House Public Utilities Committee. Paul Williams to Com Ed. ‘Nuf said. This should be the next big front.


  29. - twowaystreet - Friday, Dec 13, 19 @ 12:37 pm:

    -Oswego Willy-

    Still seems like a lot of assumptions, with a lack of evidence. If you want to keep believing those assumptions as fact, that is on you.

    Also, I would remind you that it was not the first attempt. The 2016 effort was the third effort by the groups involved. You’d also do yourself some good by revisiting Mikva’s ruling the second time and see how that influenced the drafting of the 2016 amendment.


  30. - Oswego Willy - Friday, Dec 13, 19 @ 12:43 pm:

    === Still seems like a lot of assumptions, with a lack of evidence. If you want to keep believing those assumptions as fact, that is on you.===

    LOL

    Ya spend millions on advertising and building a list of supporters, and you find out *later* the verbiage isn’t constitutional?

    “Ok”.

    Couldn’t spend six figures on an attorney to write it?

    Nope.

    You don’t care. It was always about the politics, not about the amendment. Being duped by this is how Rauner won, he duped lots of folks, like union households, until Decatur.

    === The 2016 effort was the third effort by the groups involved. You’d also do yourself some good by revisiting Mikva’s ruling the second time and see how that influenced the drafting of the 2016 amendment.===

    Narrator: Rauner funding designated to work to build a GOTV list.

    I do feel awful for the hearty souls who thought Rauner was honest to this, but in reality, the verbiage at jump street was the give away, it was never an honest effort.

    The ads were nice, lol


  31. - Oswego Willy - Friday, Dec 13, 19 @ 12:44 pm:

    === You’d also do yourself some good by revisiting Mikva’s ruling the second time and see how that influenced the drafting of the 2016 amendment.===

    You should ask yourself, how did they get the drafting so purposely wrong?

    Martyrs and heroes need a cause.


  32. - Paul Powell’s Shoebox - Friday, Dec 13, 19 @ 2:07 pm:

    Looks like Uncle RICO is coming to town


  33. - DuPage - Friday, Dec 13, 19 @ 2:30 pm:

    @- Nagidam - Friday, Dec 13, 19 @ 11:00 am:

    ===Until someone shows me the quid pro quo or what ComEd got for having their lobbyists assist in the Fair Maps process, this is a stretch tie in to extend the news cycle. Oh it’s juicy, two hi profile former ComEd execs assisting the Speaker kill off an idea that would certainly affect his power base. Maybe I am wrong but until the Feds say ComEd got A for lobbyists doing B we are all speculating.===

    There were efforts to bring in cheap wind power via a new power line project (Rock Island Clean Line). Comed successfully stopped it in court on a technicality. A minor amendment to correct the technicality should have been considered by the legislature, but was opposed by Comed, and nothing was done.


  34. - Nagidam - Friday, Dec 13, 19 @ 3:19 pm:

    @DuPage

    And if ComEd lobbyist a said I will do X as long as Soeaker Madigan Does Y, and you can prove it, then there might be a smoking gun.

    To your post. I think the a new power line would be paid for by rate payers. I’m not sure if the amount of power this would have generated but it might not have made sense to increase rates on rate payers. Especially on wind power which is subsidized and costs more to the consumer. Looks like a bounce whammy to the consumer.


  35. - twowaystreet - Friday, Dec 13, 19 @ 4:31 pm:

    -Oswego Willy-

    Very interesting conspiracy theory you got there.


  36. - Oswego Willy - Friday, Dec 13, 19 @ 4:34 pm:

    - twowaystreet -

    Not around for the Rauner years?

    It’s ok, if you wanna believe it was an honest attempt … lol


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