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*** UPDATED x3 *** Madigan’s office served warrant on former Rep. Jack Franks

Friday, Jan 31, 2020

[Comments are now open on this post.]

* Tina Sfondeles with the scoop

Illinois State Police executed a search warrant Wednesday at Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan’s Capitol offices as they investigate allegations of wrongdoing, including sexual misconduct and stalking, against Jack Franks, a former state representative who now serves as McHenry County Board chairman. […]

The search warrant — obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times via a Freedom of Information Act request — says Illinois State Police justified the search because “probable cause exists for the crimes of criminal sexual abuse, criminal sexual assault, official misconduct, stalking and aggravated battery.”

Police requested personnel, human resources or other files “containing information related to allegations of wrongdoing or misconduct by former Illinois State Representative Jack D. Franks.”

It also asked for “reports or complaints related to sexual misconduct, harassment, stalking or other misconduct by Franks.” […]

The speaker’s office on Friday said a complaint was first received about alleged sexual harassment involving an employee of the speaker’s office and a former state representative on Nov. 19, 2018. Madigan and his chief of staff were notified, and an investigation began. […]

In February 2019, the speaker’s office determined the harassment allegations were “credible,” and the speaker asked Illinois Secretary of State Police to ban Franks from entering the Capitol without an escort, the speaker’s office said.

A month later, the speaker’s office said they received even more information about the allegations, which increased in severity, and based on that, the office called various law enforcement agencies to report “possible criminal conduct.”

There’s lots more, so click here to read the rest. Franks is also openly backing Brian Sager in the 63rd House District Democratic primary against Peter Janko.

*** UPDATE 1 *** Speaker Madigan’s office…

The Office of the Speaker today released information about a complaint involving allegations of sexual harassment. In an effort to protect the alleged victim’s right to privacy, personal information and private details have been redacted.

On November 19, 2018, the Office received a complaint alleging sexual harassment involving an employee and a former Illinois state representative. In accordance with the Office’s policy, Speaker Madigan and the Chief of Staff were immediately notified and an investigation was initiated. Based on the allegations involved in the complaint, Speaker Madigan directed his Counsel to notify the alleged perpetrator that they were prohibited from any contact with employees in the Office and from visiting the Capitol complex. The Office also took immediate action to assess whether the alleged victim was in danger and whether any immediate accommodations were necessary. The alleged victim requested confidentiality and due to unforeseen circumstances could not fully participate in the investigation for a period of time, but ultimately provided information and assisted with the investigation.

In February 2019, the Office determined that the allegations were credible. As a result, the Office of the Speaker took additional steps to protect the alleged victim and requested the Secretary of State Police ban the alleged perpetrator from entering the Capitol Complex without an escort.

In March 2019, the Office received additional information about the allegations. Based on this information and numerous facts discovered during the investigation, the Office initiated contact with various law enforcement agencies to report possible criminal conduct. Speaker Madigan called the Sangamon County State’s Attorney to advise that the Office had information about possible criminal conduct and would fully cooperate with any investigation. Following that call, the Chief Counsel contacted the State’s Attorney and was advised to contact the Illinois State Police. The Chief Counsel and Human Resources Director met with the Illinois State Police to provide information about the allegations. Shortly after this meeting, the Office facilitated a meeting between the State Police and the alleged victim. Additionally, the Office informed Legislative Inspector General Carol Pope and Maggie Hickey, a partner at Schiff Hardin, who was then engaged in an independent investigation of the Office of the Speaker and Office of the Clerk. Simultaneously, the Office contacted the Secretary of State Police to confirm the Capitol Police were aware that the former member should not be allowed in the Capitol Complex without a security escort. In an effort to cooperate with any potential outside investigation, the Office of the Speaker preserved all documents related to the investigation and offered full cooperation.

On January 24, 2020, the Illinois State Police contacted the Office to request the investigatory file. On January 27, 2020, the Chief Counsel contacted the Counsel for the Illinois State Police to offer cooperation and discuss protocol for transmitting the documents. On January 28 and 29, the Chief Counsel made several attempts to contact the State’s Attorney to discuss how the Office could cooperate and transfer any documents; however, there was no response. On January 29, 2020, the Illinois State Police executed a search warrant at the Office to expedite receipt of documents related to the allegations, and documents were immediately provided. In addition, the alleged victim was notified of the search warrant the following day. Because the State Police search warrant was not filed under seal, the nature of the allegations and the name of the accused are now publicly available. The Office of the Speaker has therefore decided to release the information that can be made public surrounding the complaint.

The confidentiality of the complainant involved in this matter has been and continues to be of paramount importance. The Office’s response and actions related to this complaint were made, to the extent possible, in consultation with the complainant and consistent with the complainant’s wishes. In this instance, the alleged victim has requested confidentiality, and the Office will continue to be committed to respecting the complainant’s request for privacy.

For information on crime victim’s assistance please contact the Crime Victims Assistance Line (800-228-3368). For information on sexual assault please contact the Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault (www.icasa.org or call 217-753-4117).

The following statement is attributable to Speaker Mike Madigan:

    “After receiving a report of alleged sexual harassment, my office immediately took steps to protect the alleged victim and conducted an investigation. Based on information received during the investigation and subsequent to it, my office informed the appropriate authorities of the allegations and the investigation, including the Sangamon County State’s Attorney, the Secretary of State Capitol Police, and the Illinois State Police for further review and action. I remain committed to working to protect the victim and will see this matter to its conclusion in order to ensure the victim’s safety. My office has taken significant steps to strengthen the process for filing a complaint of sexual harassment. I remain committed to better protecting employees and ensuring a safe and supportive workplace for all.”

*** UPDATE 2 *** Press release…

State Representative Steve Reick (R-Woodstock) issued the following statement upon learning that the Illinois State Police executed a search warrant Wednesday at Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan’s Capitol offices investigating allegations of wrongdoing, including sexual misconduct and stalking, against McHenry County Board Chairman Jack Franks:

“The news that Jack Franks is under investigation because probable cause exists for the crimes of criminal sexual abuse, criminal sexual assault, official misconduct, stalking and aggravated battery, according to the Illinois State Police, goes beyond anything that can be easily dismissed with a blanket denial,” Reick said. “These allegations stem from actions that occurred as far back as 2016, and they demand a complete investigation.”

According to a report in the Chicago Sun Times: “Madigan’s office said it received a complaint in 2018 about alleged sexual harassment by a former state representative, investigated and found the complaint credible. Madigan’s office said appropriate law enforcement agencies were informed the following year.”

“I have to wonder why it is that predatory actions that allegedly occurred as far back as 2016 took until 2018 to be communicated to and investigated by the Speaker’s office, and why it then took until the following year for law enforcement to be informed of them.” Reick said. “Where will this end?”

“Jack Franks has no choice but to immediately resign as the Chairman of the McHenry County Board.” Reick demanded.

“Everything he does in that role going forward will be tainted by the credible allegations of abuse against an innocent victim of what by all accounts is predatory behavior. The people of McHenry County deserve representation that is not tainted by allegations of misconduct of such breathtaking proportions. Until these allegations are fully dealt with, he has no business holding a position of trust. He must immediately resign.”

*** UPDATE 3 *** Excerpt from the full search warrant


- Posted by Rich Miller   3 Comments      


Reader comments closed for the weekend

Friday, Jan 31, 2020

* Peter Tosh will play us out

You can’t bribe no one
Them no want no money

- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      


ISP sued over FOID backlog

Friday, Jan 31, 2020

* Press release…

The Second Amendment Foundation and Illinois State Rifle Association have filed suit in U.S. District Court against the Illinois State Police, ISP Director Brendan Kelly and Jessica Trame in her official capacity as Bureau Chief of the Illinois State Police Firearms Services Bureau, alleging they have allowed Firearm Owner Identification Card and Concealed Carry applications to languish for interminable periods, thus violating the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding Illinois citizens.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Illinois residents Ryan A. Thomas and Goran Lazic. Plaintiffs are represented by attorneys David G. Sigale of Wheaton and Gregory Bedell of Chicago. The lawsuit is known as Thomas, et.al. v. Illinois State Police, et.al.

The lawsuit, filed in the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division federal court, says ISP “has swept or transferred funds totaling more than $29,500,000.00 from the State Police Firearms Services Fund, the State Police Operations Assistance Fund, and the State Police Services Fund away from these funds and into other accounts.” According to the complaint, “The money was to be used for three purposes: administration of the Firearm Owners Identification Card (“FOID Card Act”), background checks for firearm-related services, and concealed carry licensing pursuant to the Firearms Concealed Carry Act (“FCCA”). Instead, the more than $29,500,000.00 has been subject to interfund transfers which are ostensibly to be repaid but which have not been, or swept into other accounts without an obligation to reimburse the funds at all.”

“The sweeping of funds has denied qualified Illinois citizens their rights and the ability to defend themselves and their families,” said SAF founder and Executive Vice President Alan M. Gottlieb. “Because of this practice, ISP processing of FOID and concealed carry applications has slowed to a crawl, allowing paperwork to languish. That’s not just poor performance, it’s pathetic.”

“The citizens of Illinois have been delayed getting their FOID cards for months,” added ISRA Executive Director Richard Pearson. “It is evident that these fund sweeps have caused these delays.”

Thomas has been fighting the system for nearly three years. He had previously held a FOID card and carry license, but lost them simply because he moved out of state for a while. Since his return, to be closer to his children. Lazic had a FOID and CCL appeal pending since 2017 when a charge against him was dismissed and later expunged.

“It is inexcusable that the ISP has simply allowed these cases to gather dust,” Gottlieb said. “Denial of rights under color of law is an abomination to the Second and 14th Amendments of the Constitution and Illinois state law. ISP has had plenty of time to do the right thing, and didn’t. Now we’re asking the court to make them do it.”

* But

Illinois State Police officials said they are working through a backlog of FOID renewal requests. Last month, the agency reported a backlog of more than 60,000 applications.

“The FOID card this year is a huge issue with the renewals,” state Sen. Neil Anderson, R-Andalusia, said. “Having people nervous about having their Second Amendment right taken away because we’re behind on getting their new FOID card – that’s a big issue.”

Anderson said he doesn’t blame state police.

“We’re in one of those ten-year cycles where everybody’s FOID card is coming up for renewal at the same time,” he said.

The lawsuit is here. Background on the sweeps is here.

- Posted by Rich Miller   8 Comments      


Casten, Underwood take heat over fentanyl ban vote

Friday, Jan 31, 2020

* Jeanne Ives campaign…

This week, Sean Casten voted against a bipartisan measure to extend a federal ban on the illegal sale of fentanyl – a synthetic opioid that in one year killed over 32,000 Americans.

The opioid crisis is destroying lives and hurting families across the nation, and has created additional pressures on the law enforcement community. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that in one year killed over 32,000 Americans, and nearly 1,300 in Illinois. The measure may not be a permanent solution, but it protects communities until a more meaningful solution to the overdose crisis can be found.

Sean Casten, apparently, is not concerned with protecting vulnerable communities. Had the vote gone his way, Fentanyl would no longer be treated as a Schedule 1 Drug (a drug with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse). This means it would have been substantially harder for federal law enforcement to prosecute those who deal drugs that are responsible for tens of thousands of deaths over the past several years.

To be clear, a study by the RAND Corporation found, “The sudden appearance of the drug fentanyl in the US has driven up overdose deaths dramatically…”

“Sean Casten truly represents the extreme left-wing of the Democrat base,” Ives said. “His reason for voting against this common sense measure was his worry that street dealers would be over prosecuted. It is because of radicals like him that Democrats are becoming the party of lawlessness and anarchy. We have to wonder: What will be the next law Casten won’t want enforced? How will he tie law enforcement’s hands next?

“He supports sanctuary city policies, which prevent violent criminals - in the country illegally - from being prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. He advocates more gun control laws, but won’t hold Kim Foxx accountable for refusing to prosecute gun crimes in Chicago. Now, he protects drug dealers rather than the families in his district.”

Want to see where this ends? Just look at the city that made ‘Jussie Smollett’ a household name: Chicago - a deep blue sanctuary city inside a sanctuary state. According to areavibes.com, Chicago’s rate of crime averages 79% higher than the rest of Illinois while the rate of crime on a national scale is 62% higher than. The occurrence of violent crime in Chicago is 149% higher than the average rate of crime in Illinois and 164% higher than the rest of the nation. Similarly, crime involving property stands 65% higher than the remainder of the state of Illinois and 45% higher than the nation’s average.

“It’s no blueprint for the rest of the country,” Ives continued. “And Sean Casten is no representative of the Sixth District.”

Um, that would be the kitchen sink in its entirety. Plus the refrigerator.

* Greg Hinz

In a phone interview, Casten said voting for the bill, which would put into federal law a temporary fentanyl ban that was imposed administratively, might have helped him get a few votes at election time. But, “I’m not in this job because I’m a politician,” he added. “I’m in it for policy.”

“You can’t find any instance in history where criminalizing a drug has prevented its use,” Casten continued. “Until we invest in rehabilitation and treatment, we’re not going to solve the problem,” and the bill did not fund such efforts. […]

“The opioid crisis has been ravaging communities across the country, and fentanyl in particular poses a grave national threat that I take extremely seriously as the vice chair of the Homeland Security Committee,” said [US Rep. Lauren Underwood]. “While I am supportive of expanding law enforcement’s ability to quickly go after new fentanyl analogues, it must be paired with a strong, comprehensive public health approach to the opioid crisis that includes access to treatment and giving judges the sentencing discretion to make the best decisions for communities on a case-by-case basis.”

Another congresswoman who opposed the legislation, Matteson’s Robin Kelly, said the bill should have contained an exemption for medical research and should not have included mandatory minimum sentences.

- Posted by Rich Miller   10 Comments      


“You will own this and all of the deleterious consequences that are inevitable”

Friday, Jan 31, 2020

* From the Cook County Public Guardian…

January 31, 2020

VIA EMAIL

Theresa Eagleson, Director
Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services

Marc Smith, Director
Illinois Department of Children and Family Services

Re: MCO Train Wreck

Dear Directors Smith and Eagleson:

Since I sent my letter this morning, we have continued to be inundated with inquiries from adoptive parents and subsidized guardians about the dump of their children, along with 19,000 other children, into the MCO scheme scheduled to take place tomorrow.

These parents are far more eloquent than I. I’ve reproduced one of the emails we received today to give a flavor of what these parents are going through. It is from a woman who adopted two medically complex children, yet has still not even received a medical card or insurance information for either of them with the transfer scheduled to happen tomorrow:

    “I am a DCFS licensed foster parent. I also have been a pediatric registered nurse for 28 yrs. I adopted a now 4yr.old boy from foster care in 2019. He is legally blind with multiple, complex medical and behavioral issues. I also currently have a 2.5yr.old foster daughter; who I will be adopting next week. She was severely abused and shaken multiple times in the first four months of life. She has severe cerebral palsy. She cannot walk or talk, has cortical blindness and cannot swallow so receives tube feedings.

    I still do not have medical cards or insurance information for either child. I spoke to IllinicareYouthcare multiple times; last on 1/28/20. They told me they “hoped” information and cards would “start” to be mailed this week. I asked what PCP [primary care physician] was assigned. They said “all children were assigned a random PCP based on zipcode” and that I would need to call and choose a different PCP if desired after 2/1/20. They said they were “offering” six months of continuity of care with out of network providers, but that the providers did not have to accept it.

    My children have 9 specialty physicians and 6 therapists providing 10 hrs. of therapy a week. We have 11 prescription medications that are given daily, including a $5,000 per month daily injection from a specialty pharmacy. The uncertainty of all parts of this transition makes me very nervous since my children’s lives depend on medications and that services go without interruption.”

It is alarming that DHFS and IlliniCare have not even started to distribute information and medical cards to many parents, or to assign primary care doctors, even for parents of such medically fragile children. This is unacceptable if the rollout is to happen tomorrow.

Another of the inquiries we received just today is from another adoptive mother who has still not received the medical card for her son. She asks, “Correct me if I’m wrong, but this is supposed to go live tomorrow. How can that be? How can something go live tomorrow and the [children and their parents] don’t even have a card to show at the doctor or hospital?”

This adoptive mother also reports that many people have received cards from a different network than the one they selected and a different primary care provider than they selected. She asks, “What was the point of going online or waiting hours to talk to a representative when you are just going to do what you want anyway? Things are not ready. This change needs to be put off.” She urges that “this drastic move in insurance [be delayed] until everything has been figured and all the foster parents who adopted do not have to scrounge for answers and worry whether our children’s medical needs will be covered as promised to us when we adopted them.”

People who adopt and care for these children are saints. They deserve a medal, not this disgraceful treatment. And their children deserve continuity of their medical care.

If you go forward with this tomorrow, knowing full well of all the problems, you will own this and all of the deleterious consequences that are inevitable.

Sincerely,

Charles P. Golbert
Public Guardian

This morning’s letter is here.

- Posted by Rich Miller   6 Comments      


Question of the day

Friday, Jan 31, 2020

* NBC 5

The infant grandson of a Chicago man who was diagnosed with coronavirus has developed a fever and is being tested for the virus, family members told NBC News.

The baby and other family members who had close contact with the man were under isolation following the recent diagnosis. The infant was taken to an area hospital after his fever developed, though it remains unclear if the child was experiencing any other symptoms and the cause of the fever remained unclear.

At least 21 people were under investigation for potential coronavirus exposure in Illinois as of Thursday, state health officials said.

The child’s grandfather this week became the second person to test positive in the state and the first case of human-to-human transmission in the U.S., health officials announced. The man’s wife, who had traveled to Wuhan, China - the epicenter of the recent outbreak - was diagnosed with coronavirus last week.

* The Question: How concerned are you about the coronavirus? Explain.

- Posted by Rich Miller   25 Comments      


Gaming, gaming, gaming

Friday, Jan 31, 2020

* Sun-Times

Three decades ago, it became the first casino to open in Illinois. Now, it’s the first to apply to open a sportsbook.

Illinois Gaming Board officials on Thursday announced the Argosy Casino Alton submitted its sports betting license application Jan. 23, putting it first in line to offer sports betting once state regulators finish vetting bids and hand out licenses.

Two other casinos applied the next day: the Grand Victoria in Elgin and Rivers in Des Plaines. […]

All 10 existing Illinois casinos and three horse racing tracks are eligible to apply, plus up to seven large sports venues such as the United Center and Guaranteed Rate Field, and, eventually, the holders of six new casino licenses that also were created as part of the state gaming expansion signed into law last summer by Gov. J.B. Pritzker.

* Tribune

They won’t be ready by Super Bowl Sunday, but it’s a good bet the first Illinois sports books will be open by March Madness. […]

Rep. Mike Zalewski, a Riverside Democrat who helped craft the state’s sports betting legislation, said the three casinos that have filed their applications “have the best chance” of being ready for the Final Four.

“There’s a healthy dose of optimism that they’ll be able to make a bet by March Madness,” Zalewski said Thursday. “That’s a reasonable goal given where we are on the timeline.”

Rivers Casino got a head start on the process when it opened BetRivers SportsBar in December, with 32 leather lounge chairs, a 47-foot-wide video wall topped by a sports ticker and five betting windows.

* NBC 5

The complex sports gambling bill drew attention from all corners of the political world—calling for slots at O’Hare and Midway airports, along with horse racetracks.

Paging Mayor Lightfoot. Paging Mayor Lightfoot. Those still-untapped revenues could help spruce up your airports.

* Meanwhile, in Danville

Haven Gaming Attorney Scott Sypolt said any time there are changes, they must go before the gaming board. Sypolt called the changes “minor tweaks” and said their goal is to “include as many minorities and women as possible” for the Danville casino ownership.

He said it’s “mostly middle-aged, balding white men” who own casinos.

Sypolt, who is Native American, said the goal is to really get to 25 percent women and minority equity owners. They are bringing in more minorities in terms of vendors and the equity piece, he said. […]

Another issue across the border in Indiana is the race to see if a Danville or Terre Haute, Ind., casino opens first, but the Indiana casino has been put on hold due to an investigation into a firm that worked with Terre Haute’s chosen casino operator possibly violating campaign finance rules.

* Sun-Times

State gambling regulators on Thursday dealt Matteson village officials a fresh hand in their bid for a coveted new south suburban casino license after residents in neighboring Frankfort railed against the initial proposed location.

The development team vying for the license will instead aim to set up shop at the shuttered Lincoln Mall at Lincoln Highway and Cicero Avenue in Matteson, after the Illinois Gaming Board voted to allow them to amend the application they submitted three months ago.

South Suburban Development LLC, which is led by Hinsdale investor Rob Miller and championed by Matteson Village President Sheila Chalmers-Currin, had initially pitched a site on an undeveloped plot near Lincoln and Harlem Avenue.

But after the Matteson group submitted an application for its $300 million proposal to the Gaming Board in October, several neighboring community groups and the Frankfort Township Board publicly slammed the casino plan for being “directly adjacent to two schools and three densely populated residential subdivisions.” A junior high school and elementary are each within about a mile of Harlem and Lincoln.

* Related…

* Rockford mayor says he won’t accept donations from Hard Rock investors: Cutting off a lucrative source of funding could be a challenge if McNamara seeks re-election and has a strong challenger. But a mayor’s decision to decline contributions from large-money donors is a calculated risk, said Scot Schraufnagel, chairman of Northern Illinois University’s political science department.

- Posted by Rich Miller   7 Comments      


A thousand words

Friday, Jan 31, 2020

* Beginning…

* End…

- Posted by Rich Miller   39 Comments      


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Friday, Jan 31, 2020

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Sandoval roundup

Friday, Jan 31, 2020

* WGN Radio’s John Williams asked the Tribune’s Kristen McQueary about the money used to bribe now-former Sen. Martin Sandoval (D-Chicago)

Williams: How do you justify that to the, the accountant or the bursar or the CEO or the CFO? All of the people that are in a big multi million dollar company like that? How do you say ‘I need $60,000 in $20 bills, and I need another $50,000. Oh, and I need $250,000.’ I mean, where’s the accounting on that if nothing else? And so those people are just as criminal as the state lawmakers, right?

McQueary: I mean, that’s a good question. How do you acquire, how do you come up with $60,000 cash or like you’re saying. I mean, one of the bribes of $15,000. The companies will say probably that, you know, they were doing lobby activity, they were hiring these people as consultants. That’s always a popular reason to throw people on your payroll.

It turns out, SafeSpeed’s money was apparently not used to bribe Sandoval. The SafeSpeed person was using the federal government’s money. From the Sandoval plea agreement

The parties further agree, pursuant to Title 18, United States Code, Section 3583(d), that the sentence to be imposed by the Court shall include, as a condition of any term of supervised release or probation imposed in this case, a requirement that defendant repay the United States $70,000 as compensation for government funds that defendant received during the investigation of the case. Defendant will receive credit for any money collected by the government prior to sentencing, including approximately $3,150 seized by the government on or about September 24, 2019 and $18,120 seized by the government on or about October 17, 2019. [Emphasis added.]

* Meanwhile, the Tribune has a long story about former Sen. Sandoval and the recycled asphalt industry

In late 2014, then-state Sen. Martin Sandoval was angry with transportation officials.

One of his biggest campaign contributors, asphalt magnate Michael Vondra, had cornered the market on recycled roof shingles for use in road projects. But questions were mounting about whether the eco-friendly pavement material was causing roads to crack more quickly, and the Illinois Department of Transportation tightened the rules over its use.

Sandoval, the chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, sent a threatening letter to the acting head of IDOT criticizing the move. The senator accused her of breaking the law, told her he’d haul her in for a public hearing and suggested he would request an ethics investigation. […]

The letter, which the Tribune obtained through an open records request, was part of Sandoval’s long-running effort to increase the use of recycled asphalt shingles. He also pushed legislation that could potentially help Vondra’s business and pressed IDOT officials behind the scenes to meet with his political patron. […]

As Vondra’s two dozen or so shingle recycling plants began sprouting across the state, Sandoval passed a 2013 measure that, in effect, helped stock them. The law forbid dumping shingles in any landfill within 25 miles of a shingle recycling operation.

Go read the whole thing.

* The Sun-Times recycles a story from last fall about a notation on the Sandoval search warrant’s “Receipt for Property”

State Sen. Don Harmon, the new Illinois Senate president, expressed bewilderment when asked why documents from his clout-heavy law firm were among the items seized by federal agents from then-state Sen. Martin Sandoval’s office in September.

“I have no idea,” Harmon said recently.

But he offered a theory.

“It’s no secret that former Senator Sandoval and I did not get along, and he had a habit of keeping files on his political opponents,” the Oak Park Democrat said. “For all I know, that’s what it could be.” […]

In response to subsequent questions about his departure from the firm, Harmon told the Sun-Times by email: “No salary. No deferred compensation. No exit package. We are working out the details, but it will be soon. I was always an employee and never had an ownership stake in the firm.”

I’m sure Kimberly Lightford’s supporters are absolutely thrilled that the paper waited until after the Senate President’s election to run that hit. /s

* The Tribune’s McQueary was also asked if she was surprised about Sandoval’s admitted crimes

It’s a surprise to me too. I mean, even though I’ve been covering government for as long as I have, this is someone who was taking cash bribes after the raid at at Burke’s office, after everyone knows the feds are kind of sniffing around, after their questions about who might be wearing a wire. He is still doing these transactions with this person for SafeSpeed who was undercover for [the feds]. […]

I do not think that most lawmakers are taking cash bribes in restaurant parking lots. I really don’t. I think a lot of the corruption in Illinois is more in the fabric of the way we just transact business. And it looks more like what Ed Burke is accused of doing. ‘Give my law business some business, and then I’ll be nice on these different types of legislation that you’re looking for.’

Agreed.

* And former federal prosecutor Jeffrey Cramer was just a wee bit hyperbolic with the Tribune

“If someone had a conversation with Sandoval about anything other than the weather, you’d better get a lawyer,” Cramer said of public officials who have to be jittery about what’s next, especially those who wore wires, as state Sen. Terry Link, a Waukegan Democrat, reportedly did. “If you talked to Link about anything other than the Cubs, grab yourself a lawyer, because sooner or later two FBI agents are going to come knocking.”

A master of understatement, that one.

Also, as alluded to in comments, Link is a White Sox fan.

* Related…

* Editorial: Pull plug on red-light cameras

* Jim Dey: Cat-turned-federal rat out of the bag and on the prowl

- Posted by Rich Miller   26 Comments      


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Friday, Jan 31, 2020

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Rate This Bloomberg Superbowl Ad

Friday, Jan 31, 2020

[The following is a paid advertisement.]

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We know the big game is in the ad buy. While some are betting on the Chiefs, Mike Bloomberg made a $10 million bet to beat Donald Trump.

Trump is running scared, copying Mike at every turn and tweeting his insecurities late at night. Mike is focused on taking on the big issues and making real plans to get things done.

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The rest of the story

Friday, Jan 31, 2020

* Sun-Times

State Sen. Cristina Castro, D-Elgin, likened the corruption cases to recent sexual harassment scandals in Springfield, saying both flourish because those who know about them say nothing.

“There’s a culture down here of a cone of silence,” she said.

State Rep. Grant Wehrli, R-Naperville, said lawmakers who do speak out are often punished.

“Leaders abuse the legislative process to silence those that dissent in having the integrity to call out what it is going on around here,” Wehrli said. “I take it as a form of overt bullying, and it needs to stop.”

* More from Sen. Castro’s comments

If people see something, or know of something, they should be reporting it. I sit on the Legislative Ethics Commission, and when you talk about sexual harassment, we worked really tirelessly to help people understand and feel comfortable to report that type of behavior. We should be doing this with this as well. […]

With everything that happened with Sen. Sandoval, you see the comments in different areas that say, ‘Oh yes this is true, this happened to me, he bullied me here he shook me down for this.’ It goes back to it shouldn’t take the FBI to come and handle the situation, right? It should be that folks should step forward and report those instances right away. And that’s how you stop the unethical behavior, that’s how you change the culture. […]

Lobbyists sometimes also operate in a cone of silence and they should come forward and report improper activity.

The “comments” she was talking about, I’m told, are some of this site’s reader comments about Sandoval’s behavior.

* What Rep. Wehrli actually said

I serve in the minority party and I’ve been a vocal critic of the process around here. And in return for that, what has happened is I’ve had bills that just don’t go anywhere. I mean, there’s an abuse of the legislative process to silence those that dissent and have the integrity to call out what is going on around here. I take that as a form of overt bullying and it needs to stop. So when you talk about calling it out, yes, I 100 percent agree, but every legislator knows that if they do that there are certain repercussions that are going to happen. That is unacceptable, it’s unethical and that needs to stop.

- Posted by Rich Miller   23 Comments      


Not as easy as it looks

Friday, Jan 31, 2020

* Hannah Meisel at the Daily Line

During his State of the State address Wednesday, Pritzker said there should be better disclosure of possible conflicts of interest lawmakers have, and consequences for voting on bills that pose a conflict.

“Disclosure of conflicts of interest and punishment for breaching them must be included in any ethics package for us to truly clean up government,” Pritzker said.

But several witnesses who testified Thursday said the current statement of economic interests disclosure form is anemic, and lawmakers who submit false information face no punishment. In addition, those who vote on bills that pose a conflict are rarely sanctioned.

“We do have a very casual attitude about conflicts of interest,” Better Government Association Policy Director Marie Dillon said.

* From the Illinois Governmental Ethics Act

When a legislator must take official action on a legislative matter as to which he has a conflict situation created by a personal, family, or client legislative interest, he should consider the possibility of eliminating the interest creating the conflict situation. If that is not feasible, he should consider the possibility of abstaining from such official action. In making his decision as to abstention, the following factors should be considered:

    a. whether a substantial threat to his independence of judgment has been created by the conflict situation;

    b. the effect of his participation on public confidence in the integrity of the legislature;

    c. whether his participation is likely to have any significant effect on the disposition of the matter;

    d. the need for his particular contribution, such as special knowledge of the subject matter, to the effective functioning of the legislature.

He need not abstain if he decides to participate in a manner contrary to the economic interest which creates the conflict situation.

If he does abstain, he should disclose that fact to his respective legislative body. […]

When, despite the existence of a conflict situation, a legislator chooses to take official action on a matter, he should serve the public interest, and not the interest of any person.

* From BGA Policy Director Marie C. Dillon’s testimony yesterday

It’s easy enough to fix. Make those guidelines mandatory, and require lawmakers to disclose when they have a conflict of interest and abstain from voting. And add penalties for violations, as the original commission intended.

But it’s not that easy, as Dillon herself found when she was unable to cogently answer specific questions from House Majority Leader Greg Harris about how farmers, for instance, should be voting in the General Assembly.

Another panelist dismissed Leader Harris’ farmer question as a “hypothetical,” but Harris countered that this wasn’t a hypothetical in the least - it is an everyday issue and is as concrete as an issue can get for legislators.

It wasn’t until Common Cause Illinois’ Georgia Logothetis spoke that the “right” answer was finally heard from the panel of testifiers. To paraphrase, if legislation benefits agriculture in general, then farmers can vote on it. If the legislation benefits a farmer-legislator in particular, then the legislator can’t vote on it. In other words, statewide farmland property tax relief? Go for it. Property tax relief focused on farmland in your section of your township? Run away.

Even so, the reformers inexplicably offered no specific statutory language to address this serious problem.

“How do you not come with a copy of a model law from X state and say, ‘Here, let’s try this, it works there,’” marveled one baffled supporter.

Many, many legislators want reform, but they’re absolutely not going to pass any regulatory laws that will unexpectedly or unfairly trip them up. “We’ll know it when we see it,” is, to them, a recipe for disaster. They’ll pass broad, draconian laws and let the executive branch sort out the rules for everyone else, but not when their own necks are on the line.

Nope, nope, nope. One wrong vote and poof goes the career. Ain’t gonna do it.

Most legislators want reform, but they also don’t want to pay the ultimate price or be eternally dragged through the mud by over-zealous, nitpicky investigators because they were too busy, ill-advised or incompetent to properly fill out some form that nobody will read until somebody gets raided by the feds.

Instead, they want “crystal clear” language to make sure that honest legislators always know where the line is, as Sen. Dan McConchie (R-) explained during yesterday’s hearing. The reformers should’ve brought specific proposed language with them. Instead, some couldn’t even answer basic questions.

* Other states do things differently

Nicholas Birdsong, a policy specialist for the National Conference of State Legislatures, said conflict of interest laws vary widely among the states. He said 35 states require lawmakers to recuse themselves from votes in which they have a conflict of interest and 13 states, including Illinois, leave the decision up to the lawmaker.

In Tennessee, where the rules are different in each chamber, the state House has a mandatory recusal policy and the state Senate has a discretionary policy. Utah, Birdsong said, requires legislators to vote if they are present, regardless of whether they have a conflict.

Birdsong said some states have adopted the idea that lawmakers should be able to vote, even if they have a conflict of interest, because “legislators are elected and they’re obligated to vote according to the will of their constituents regardless of whether or not it serves or hurts their interest, and so having these sort of mandatory recusal rules essentially limits their ability to do their jobs.”

More state info is here.

Discuss.

- Posted by Rich Miller   29 Comments      


Some politicos vow to dump SafeSpeed contributions

Friday, Jan 31, 2020

* ABC 7

When former state senator Martin Sandoval pleaded guilty to bribery charges, and named the red light camera company Safespeed as the source of the dirty money, he caused aftershocks across the political landscape in Illinois.

ABC 7 confronted House Republican Leader Jim Durkin about the $7,500 he’d received from Safespeed.

“I don’t want that money, it will be sent off to a charity in my area, and we will be doing that very soon,” Durkin said. “But in hindsight you don’t know, you expect that people are going to play within the rules, and acting a lawful manner, but I will not accept that tainted money.”

In January 2018, Safespeed made a $5,000 donation to Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul.

Raoul said on Thursday, “I haven’t decided what charity yet, but it is my intent to donate the contribution to charity.”

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle was evasive on her plans for the $7,500 she’s received from Safespeed.

Go read the rest for Preckwinkle’s answer.

Click here to see all campaign contributions from the company, which should probably start laying low.

…Adding… Leader Durkin’s spokesperson said his committee mailed two checks before the State of the State address to Special Olympics Illinois and The Home 2 Home Project.

- Posted by Rich Miller   15 Comments      


Six Illinois State Fair performers announced

Friday, Jan 31, 2020

* Press release…

Following last year’s historically successful state fair season which generated record-breaking revenue and the highest grandstand attendance in years, Illinois State Fair Manager Kevin Gordon announced six of the eleven concerts for the 2020 Illinois State Fair today.

“We are excited to announce the first wave of concerts today. The lineup reflects a diverse mix of genres from both established artists and emerging stars that will appeal to a wide variety of fans,” Gordon said. “Toby Keith’s mix of country anthems and party tunes are the summer staple we can build the rest of this year’s lineup around. And when that lineup already includes popular hip-hop artist and actor LL Cool J, country’s newest stars like Kane Brown and Chris Young, and alternative rock powerhouses Puddle of Mudd and Fuel, we are well on our way to having another record-breaking State Fair lineup.”

Country music megastar Toby Keith brings his ‘Country Comes to Town’ tour to the 2020 Illinois State Fair on Sunday night, August 16, capping a full day of special activities for our State’s veterans on Veterans Day at the Fair. Fittingly, Craig Morgan — a U.S. Army veteran himself – will serve as Keith’s opening act.

Keith, a multi-platinum selling singer and songwriter, has sold more than 40 million albums worldwide during a career spanning 25 years. He has had 61 singles on Billboard’s Country Charts including 20 number one hit songs. Hits like “How Do You Like Me Now?!,” “Should’ve Been A Cowboy,” and “As Good As I Once Was” have made Keith a can’t miss country concert across the nation. In addition, in what Keith himself describes as his most rewarding experiences, his 11 USO Tours to date have enhanced the lives of nearly 256,000 troops and military families in 18 countries with more than 285 events. He was recognized for his commitment with the Spirit of the USO Award (2014).

Veteran Craig Morgan is best known for his hit single “That’s What I Love About Sunday,” but has had six songs – including “International Harvester” and “Bonfire” –
reach the Billboard Chart’s top ten.

Country’s rising superstars also are slated to hit the Illinois Lottery Grandstand stage this year with Kane Brown headlining the concert on the Fair’s first full day, Friday, August 14 and Chris Young performing on Tuesday night, August 18.

Debuting at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, Kane Brown’s newest album “Experiment” was released in November 2018. The acclaimed singer/songwriter, who first rose to stardom on social media, released his first full-length album, self-titled “Kane Brown,” in December 2016. The hit single “What Ifs” came from the album, and in October 2017, Brown became the first artist to have simultaneous number ones on all five main Billboard country charts.

Following a record year on the road in 2019 playing to more than 400,000 fans on his headlining tour, multi-platinum entertainer Chris Young will bring his arena/amphitheater “Town Ain’t Big Enough World Tour 2020” to Springfield on Tuesday, Aug. 18. Chris will be joined by multi-platinum performer Scotty McCreery as direct support along with Payton Smith.

In what is sure to be one of the Fair’s most hopping nights at the Grandstand, Wednesday, August 19, features award-winning rapper, actor and producer LL Cool J. A two-time Grammy Award winner, LL Cool J is best known for hip-hop favorites “Mama Said Knock You Out”, “Going Back to Cali”, and “Hey Lover”. In 2010, VH1 placed him on their “100 Greatest Artists of All Time” list and in 2017, LL Cool J became the first rapper to be honored with the Kennedy Center Honors.

Yet another genre will be the highlight of Thursday night, August 20, as legendary post-grunge alternative rock artists Puddle of Mudd and special guests Fuel, as well as Trapt and Tantric, will slash their way through their electric sets. The Fair is offering special pricing for this show, with all tickets – including seats in the Grandstand and standing room only on the Track – costing only $12 each.

With Puddle of Mudd having sold more than seven million albums to date and having a string of number one mainstream rock hits, including “Control” and “She Hates Me” off their triple-platinum album “Come Clean;” and with Fuel having their massive hit single “Shimmer,” and their second album hitting multi-platinum driven by the singles “Innocent” and “Hemorrhage”, which remained at #1 for ten weeks, this is sure to be one rocking night at the Fair with the additional support from Trapt and Tantric.

At an even greater bargain, The Traveling Salvation Show will play a FREE show on Senior Night at the Fair, August 17. The Neil Diamond Tribute returns this year after inclement weather pushed up the start time of last year’s scheduled performance which caused many disappointed fans to miss this concert. This up-tempo, rock-oriented tribute to the legendary Neil Diamond will have everyone dancing and singing along to all of Diamond’s classic hits.

Tickets will go on sale Saturday, April 25 during the Illinois State Fair’s “Corndog Kickoff” special event. Stay tuned for additional details about both the Corndog Kickoff and ticket sales for the Illinois Lottery Grandstand concerts at the 2020 Illinois State Fair.

- Posted by Rich Miller   17 Comments      


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