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Pritzker rebuts far-right talking point

Monday, Nov 30, 2020 - Posted by Rich Miller

* I’ve been to countless press conferences over the decades and quite a large number have ended before everyone has asked a question. To call this practice a “dictatorship” is kinda goofy…

* Anyway, she got her question read today

Amy Jacobson: Last week an 86-year-old woman died from congenital heart failure. She was tested at the hospital on a daily basis, as always, coming back negative. Yet on her death certificate, she’s said to have died from COVID. Are hospitals getting PAID, in capital letters, as a COVID death?

Gov. Pritzker: Let me. I think I want to back up and just remind everybody, Amy, you’re always asking the same kind of a question, which is, ‘Let me take one exception that might have occurred somewhere, don’t put a name on it, but we’ll just talk about the one exception and see what you say.’

I don’t know who this person is or that it actually happened. Here’s what I will tell you. Medicare provides different rates to doctors for treating different kinds of diseases. So, whether you’ve got the flu and you’re in the hospital, whether you caught some other kind of disease, whether your caught COVID-19, they actually get paid at a different rate. Not the doctors, but the hospitals are actually who get paid. Not the doctors, the doctors typically are being paid by the hospitals.

So when you say, you know, is a doctor going to fake a death certificate and claim that someone had coronavirus when the doctor isn’t really benefitting directly by that? That seems kind of far fetched to me. But just recognize that Medicare does in fact pay a different rate for different types of diseases, because some are more serious than others. Obviously, coronavirus is more serious than the flu, although people can die from either one.

I thought that particular far-right social media outrage went out of fashion in May or June. Guess I was wrong.

* Meanwhile…


Question of the day

Monday, Nov 30, 2020 - Posted by Rich Miller

* A friend of mine told me over the weekend that whenever her mom (who lives in Ohio) is feeling down, she watches this video and feels better

Obviously, that’s from the pre-mask period.

* The Question: Do you do anything particular to cheer yourself up during these trying times?


*** UPDATED x1 *** 6,190 new confirmed and probable cases; 85 additional deaths; 5,849 in the hospital; 1,217 in ICU; 10.2 percent case positivity rate; 12.2 percent test positivity rate

Monday, Nov 30, 2020 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Press release

The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) today reported 6,190 new confirmed and probable cases of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Illinois, including 85 additional deaths.

    Cook County: 1 female 30s, 1 female 50s, 1 male 50s, 5 females 60s, 6 males 60s, 12 females 70s, 11 males 70s, 10 females 80s, 13 males 80s, 3 females 90s, 2 males 90s
    DeKalb County: 1 male 60s
    DuPage County: 1 female 70s, 1 male 70s
    Kane County: 1 female 70s, 1 female 80s
    Lake County: 1 male 70s
    LaSalle County: 1 male 50s, 1 male 90s
    Madison County: 1 male 60s, 1 male 90s
    Mason County: 1 male 80s, 1 female 90s
    McDonough County: 1 male 60s
    Monroe County: 1 female 80s
    Ogle County: 1 female 90s
    Peoria County: 1 female 50s
    Tazewell County: 1 male 70s, 1 male 80s
    Will County: 2 females 90s

Currently, IDPH is reporting a total of 726,304 cases, including 12,278 deaths, in 102 counties in Illinois. The age of cases ranges from younger than one to older than 100 years. Within the past 24 hours, laboratories have reported 66,980 specimens for a total 10,497,998. As of last night, 5,849 in Illinois were reported to be in the hospital with COVID-19. Of those, 1,217 patients were in the ICU and 715 patients with COVID-19 were on ventilators.

The preliminary seven-day statewide positivity for cases as a percent of total test from November 23 – November 29, 2020 is 10.2%. The preliminary seven-day statewide test positivity from November 23 – November 29, 2020 is 12.2%.

*All data are provisional and will change. In order to rapidly report COVID-19 information to the public, data are being reported in real-time. Information is constantly being entered into an electronic system and the number of cases and deaths can change as additional information is gathered. Information for a death previously reported has changed, therefore, today’s numbers have been adjusted. For health questions about COVID-19, call the hotline at 1-800-889-3931 or email

…Adding… Hannah…

* Ben…

*** UPDATE *** The governor just said that no region would be moved back to Tier II for the next few weeks because of all the Thanksgiving gatherings and travel. Pritzker said he talked to Dr. Fauci this morning, who said “the massive number of indoor gatherings by people visiting family and friends across the nation will very likely bring a post Thanksgiving surge, and he believes this is no time to pull back on mitigations.”


Madigan is literally under siege

Monday, Nov 30, 2020 - Posted by Rich Miller

* This is a common mistake

So far, 18 Democrats have announced they will not support reelecting Madigan as speaker in January. This presumably leaves him with 55 votes – five short – of the 60 needed to retain his leadership post.

No way does Madigan have 55 solid votes. And flipping five of the 18 who have so far publicly declared their opposition is gonna be next to impossible. Don’t live in a fantasy world. Show us the roll call from this list

Jonathan Carroll
Kelly Cassidy
Deb Conroy
Margaret Croke
Eva-Dina Delgado
Daniel Didech
Robyn Gabel
Jennifer Gong-Gershowitz
Will Guzzardi
Terra Costa Howard
Stephanie Kifowit
Lindsey LaPointe
Anna Moeller
Bob Morgan
Anne Stava-Murray
Maurice West
Ann M. Williams
Sam Yingling

Of those 18 legislators, who specifically can he flip and how specifically can he flip them (not to mention the others who haven’t publicly declared either way)? I’ve yet to see that list. Also, tell me why they would surrender when they clearly have the upper hand here.

* The 18+ House Democrats have laid siege to the House Speaker. They went into this knowing that Madigan would resist. And they know that if Madigan prolongs this battle during a worldwide pandemic when the state is facing so many problems, the heat on him will be the hottest it has ever been. The Rauner/Blagojevich script has flipped.

The opposition also knows that the heat on them for flipping back to Madigan would be more destructive than a thermonuclear device

But if it becomes a prolonged battle to elect a speaker, some of those who defected from the Madigan camp may be lured back just to end the nightmare of a deadlocked House. For example, in 1975, it took three weeks and 93 votes of the Illinois House before Bill Redmond was elected speaker.

If such a marathon election were to happen again, some members might abandon their publicly stated positions just to bring the acrimony to an end.

Three weeks is nothing when nobody was expecting any action out of the General Assembly until April or May anyway.

Also, remember the massive negative press those two House Democrats received when they voted against Rod Blagojevich’s impeachment because they wanted jobs? I don’t think they ever got those jobs.

* House Rule 1

1. Election of the Speaker.

(a) At the first meeting of the House of each General Assembly, the Secretary of State shall convene the House at 12:00 noon, designate a Temporary Clerk of the House, and preside during the nomination and election of the Speaker. As the first item of business each day before the election of the Speaker, the Secretary of State shall order the Temporary Clerk to call the roll of the members to establish the presence of a quorum as required by the Constitution. If a majority of those elected are not present, the House shall stand adjourned until the next calendar day, excepting weekends, at the hour prescribed in Rule 29. If a quorum of members elected is present, the Secretary of State shall then call for nominations of members for the Office of Speaker. All nominations require a second. When the nominations are completed, the Secretary of State shall direct the Temporary Clerk to call the roll of the members to elect the Speaker.

(b) The election of the Speaker requires the affirmative vote of a majority of those elected. Debate is not in order following nominations and preceding or during the vote.

(c) No legislative measure may be considered and no committees may be appointed or meet before the election of the Speaker.

(d) When a vacancy in the Office of Speaker occurs, the foregoing procedure shall be employed to elect a new Speaker; when the Secretary of State is of a political party other than that of the majority caucus, however, the Majority Leader shall preside during the nomination and election of the successor Speaker. No legislative measures, other than for the nomination and election of a successor Speaker, may be considered by the House during a vacancy in the Office of Speaker.

* Again, look at this as if it’s a siege, because it is. Not all sieges work, of course, but Madigan likely can’t dispatch another “army” out to defeat them in the field because there is simply not enough of an incentive to surrender (and his most effective muscle, Tim Mapes and Mike McClain, have been tossed out of the kingdom). Who’s gonna give them jobs or contracts? ComEd? Anyone who touches them will be nuked in the media.

Madigan can try to wait them out, but he’s the one who will take almost all the heat for causing destruction, not them. He can even try to lock them in with a caucus position, but they can simply skip the meeting.

Also, the opposition doesn’t need a candidate to run against Madigan at the moment. They’re taking this one methodical step at a time: First, force him aside; then, work on a deal.

* The hard and fast rule for the past 30 years has been “Never bet against the Speaker.” But one should never say never. And in that spirit, I’m not predicting Madigan’s definite political demise.

Madigan’s best bet would probably be to lock in the majority of his members on a concrete position of “Madigan gets two more years or go fly a kite.” But, man, the damage he would risk causing the state and his party to preserve his own political power would be catastrophic.


Governors own

Monday, Nov 30, 2020 - Posted by Rich Miller

* The virus has to come from somewhere, and considering the phenomenally high positivity rate in that area, it was bound to get into the veterans’ home

Through letters, phone calls and social media, state Sen. Sue Rezin, R-Morris, weeks ago began raising alarm bells about a coronavirus outbreak at the veterans home in her district.

“All along I had been receiving phone calls, emails and anonymous letters from people who worked in the home or had family members there about serious breaches of protocol that they were concerned about,” Rezin told us. “I know the (Gov. J.B. Pritzker) administration believes (the outbreak) is because people aren’t enforcing his mitigation plan, and they brought it into the nursing home. But that does not compute with what is going on.”

* However, other veterans’ homes are in hotspots and have so far managed to prevent a massive outbreak. Once the virus got inside, it was the state’s responsibility to halt the spread. That clearly did not happen. The virus spread like wildfire and 20 percent (yes, 20 percent) of the residents have died so far

Officials are investigating a coronavirus outbreak that has infected nearly 200 residents and staff, and killed 27 veterans.

The Department of Veterans Affairs is attempting to determine what caused the outbreak at the LaSalle Veterans Home. The department has requested an independent probe into the facility, which was the focus of a state Senate committee virtual hearing on the outbreak.

The current outbreak was identified in late October when a staff member and a resident tested positive for the virus. Since the beginning of November, two-thirds of residents and employees have tested positive, according to the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs.

Inspections revealed several issues at the home, including challenges with timely return of testing and breaks from protocol in coronavirus prevention and containment including wearing masks and social distancing. Issues of short staffing were also a concern, including clear procedures on whether staff was required to work even though they tested positive for COVID-19.

* And then there was the hand sanitizer that didn’t work on viruses…

All of this is completely and totally unacceptable.

* Also

“Here I am by Day 11 practically screaming to whoever will listen to me,” Rezin said. “(The state) didn’t conduct a site visit until 11 days after the outbreak. When the Quincy Veterans’ Home experienced a Legionnaires outbreak, they did a site visit on Day 3, and they were crucified for waiting until Day 3.”

* Timeline from Rep. Randy Frese during a House Republican press conference today

On November, 1, the first case of a resident testing positive occurred.

On November 3, after mass testing, 22 residents and seven staff tested positive.

On November 8, it was 59 residents and 64 staff testing positive. […]

On November 12, IDPH personnel were finally called to the site.

This was a gigantic failure at the site level and at the state level.

* Sen. Paul Schimpf

“This is what’s frustrating to me, Director (Chapa LaVia). Your legislative liaison sent an email to the senators on this committee and I appreciate the update. But that email talked about the sense of urgency in the sense of trying to do everything that could be done to ensure the safety. But the actions don’t seem to match the rhetoric,” Schimpf, R-Waterloo, said.

“So, the two questions are, when was Gov. (J.B.) Pritzker notified about this, did he give any guidance and then why again was it not until Nov. 12 that we had IDPH personnel on site?”

Chapa LaVia said she personally did not speak to Pritzker but he was aware of the outbreak.

Chapa LaVia, who served as a First Lieutenant in the Illinois Army National Guard, also pushed back against the charge that the IDVA officials should have moved more quickly to respond to the LaSalle outbreak.

She didn’t personally speak with the governor about this? And she thinks the response was just fine?

* More Schimpf

On Veterans Day alone, we lost seven veterans at this facility. Shouldn’t that have been enough to warrant a direct, person-to-person conversation between our governor and the director of the Department of Veterans Affairs? This is even more infuriating, considering that in the spring of 2018, then-candidate Pritzker made the Quincy Legionnaire’s outbreak a focal point of his gubernatorial campaign.

* The ongoing investigations will help prevent failures in the future. But heads need to roll and there’s ample precedent…

Pritzker ought to be furious about this down to his marrow, but that has not been communicated to the public.

* And perhaps the state finally needs to decide whether it can continue providing this care and whether the federal government might be better suited to do it…


Without Action In Springfield, Utilities Go Unchecked

Monday, Nov 30, 2020 - Posted by Advertising Department

[The following is a paid advertisement.]

In light of the latest federal indictment, it has never been more clear that Springfield needs to act immediately and pass legislation to hold utilities like ComEd accountable and restore trust in our political system.

After it first came to light that ComEd’s illegal lobbying scheme allowed them to overcharge customers by at least $150 million, the Clean Energy Jobs Act (CEJA) was updated to include accountability and ethics reforms to make sure this can’t happen again. But our elected leaders have not taken action.

Until lawmakers and Governor Pritzker pass the Clean Energy Jobs Act, we are stuck with the status quo. That means continued automatic rate hikes and no true transparency or accountability for utilities. It’s time to take action. CEJA can’t wait. Visit to learn more.

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Pay up, DeVore

Monday, Nov 30, 2020 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Remember this nonsense?

* Click here for background if you need it, but here’s a pic of the governor and the First Lady celebrating Thanksgiving last week. The governor was in his Chicago home and Mrs. Pritzker was in Florida

Since it’s the holidays, I would prefer that the $1,000 check be sent to the Dani Rubin Kater Memorial Fund for COVID Care

The Community Foundation of Macon County has announced a new memorial fund in memory of the late Danielle “Dani” Kater, 30, of Bloomington, Ill. Dani died Nov. 3 of COVID-19 complications; she is McLean County’s youngest coronavirus victim. Dani had no pre-existing health conditions and was not affiliated with a long-term care facility.

The Dani Rubin Kater Memorial Fund for COVID Care will support and provide services and resources devoted to battling the coronavirus pandemic.

Dani’s parents, Tina and Bob Rubin, remember her as always being a kind, studious and passionate person. She was their only child.

You can click here to contribute. I will match DeVore’s $1,000 if he surprises the world by actually honoring his pledge.


What’s in those ComEd emails?

Monday, Nov 30, 2020 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Press release last week…

State Rep. Emanuel Chris Welch released the following statement Wednesday regarding the Special Investigating Committee:

“Today, the Special Investigating Committee received more than 100 documents from Commonwealth Edison which had been requested by both Democrats and Republicans – documents which underlie the deferred prosecution agreement and were previously obtained by federal investigators. In the interest of transparency, I have requested all documents be posted on the committee’s page on It’s clear that a full, honest reading of these documents shows that associates of ComEd assisted with job recommendations for people from both parties, both chambers, and multiple branches of government.

“With this information, the committee plans to resume meeting in-person on Monday, December 14, giving members time to take necessary health and safety precautions following the Thanksgiving holiday and return prepared to safely continue the work of the committee.”

The documents are here. What’s abundantly clear is that the assistance to the GOP and to the Senate paled in comparison to what’s in there about the House Speaker.

Also, Rep. Welch tested positive for COVID-19 over the weekend, so the hearing may be in some doubt. We’ll see. More importantly, though, I’d like to extend my own best wishes for a quick and total recovery.

* Center Square

“What sticks out is the number of times quote ‘our friend’ is mentioned having asked for something, responded somehow,” said state Rep. Tom Demmer, R-Dixon. “So that the Speaker’s letter saying he couldn’t answer questions about conversations he wasn’t a part of, these documents show he was part of quite a few conversations.”

“Our friend” is widely believed to be Madigan.


In a June 2014 exchange, McClain wrote Marquez with an opaque question that again appeared to deal with property tax issues involving ComEd.

“Our Friend called,” McClain said.

He then said a former congressman, whose name was redacted by ComEd in the newly-released records, “was concerned about representing us in his usual property tax matters” and asked Marquez to inquire about the issue.

Marquez agreed and asked what motivated Madigan’s unspecified concern.

“Our Friend did not know but presumed someone was trying to hustle one of ‘his’ accounts,” McClain responded.

The full exchange as reflected in the email poses more questions than it answers. It’s not clear who the unidentified ex-congressman is or what precisely McClain was referring to when he apparently quoted Madigan speculating someone – possibly the ex-congressman – was “trying to hustle one of ‘his’ accounts.’”

But what is clear is that, according to McClain, Madigan had an interest in ComEd’s property tax obligations, which conceivably dovetails off the specialty of the speaker’s law firm.

* Tribune

The email trail buttresses federal allegations that ex-lobbyist Michael McClain pushed on Madigan’s behalf to have former McPier CEO Juan Ochoa put on ComEd’s board and highlights how 13th Ward loyalist Ed Moody, now the Cook County recorder of deeds, was shifted from one secretive contract with a lobbyist to another. […]

Ed Moody’s name came up in a June 5, 2013, email from McClain to Pramaggiore that asked if she would consider “moving Ed off my contract and onto Jay Dougherty’s or someone else’s? I know Hook and you have talked about it. You and I have casually talked about it but I wanted session to be over first.”

McClain concluded with a one-word reasoning for the request: “Optics.” […]

On Oct. 18, 2014, for example, McClain forwarded Marquez an email with the subject line “Mike, Attached are 3 resumes for a meter reading position/or appropriate with ComEd,” though the original sender is unclear.

Six days later, on Oct. 24, 2014, McClain wrote in the same email thread, “Fidel, this is what our Friend was talking about with you.”

* Sun-Times

McClain’s emails also provide new information about a lobbying contract former state Rep. Eddie Acevedo and his sons landed with ComEd as subcontractors to the law firm of Victor Reyes, whose business dealings with the utility are at issue in the indictment.

Acevedo apparently created problems for ComEd, according to an email McClain sent to Marquez on Jan. 11, 2017.

“His two boys are nice but need a firm monitor. They are lazy,” McClain wrote. “He has to show up at the meetings on time. Himself. Not his boys representing him. . . Watch the booze.”

A grand jury previously subpoenaed state lobbying reports filed by the Acevedos and their firm, Apex Strategy LLC.

Apex was reportedly paid $5,000 a month, first in a contract with Reyes’s firm and then to Shaw Decremer, a lobbyist who once worked for Madigan.

Acevedo hung up on a reporter, saying, “I have no idea what you’re talking about, and I have no comment.” Reyes could not be reached for co


A mission taken to an absurd extreme

Monday, Nov 30, 2020 - Posted by Rich Miller

* My weekly syndicated newspaper column from last week

On Page 9 of last week’s federal indictment of four people accused of conspiring to bribe House Speaker Michael Madigan with favors from ComEd is this heading: “Defendants and Relevant Individuals.”

But the first person listed is not one of the defendants. “Public Official A was the Speaker of the House of Representatives,” the list begins.

The feds don’t just throw these things together like some college freshman who’s late with a term paper. Indictments, particularly in political cases, are often carefully crafted in order to send a message. So, it obviously ain’t good when you’re at the very top of the government’s defendant list and you’re not even a defendant.

It’s also not exactly great when your former consigliere and most trusted friend Mike McClain is indicted along with other once-powerful people in your orbit for conspiring to bribe you.

And that’s a big reason why we’ve seen so many House Democrats declare in the past several days that they will not vote to re-elect Speaker Madigan

Quite a few people, including attorneys I’ve spoken with, appear to agree with McClain’s lawyer that the feds are “attempting to rewrite the law on bribery and criminalize long-recognized legitimate, common, and normal lobbying activity into some new form of crime.”

They may have a valid legal point. McClain and the others might be able to beat this rap. I don’t know. I’ve seen others make that claim and fail.

But, c’mon, the stuff in the indictment isn’t “common” or “normal,” at least outside Madigan’s 13th Ward.

The amount of time spent obsessing over 10 summer internships for kids in Madigan’s ward (some of whom didn’t even qualify) bordered on farce. My “favorite” part of the indictment was when ComEd was essentially warned not to count those interns against the number of patronage jobs the company was doling out to the ward.

And how many political organizations successfully install precinct captains into no-show contract jobs in this day and age? Also, how many state legislators think they can install someone on a utility’s board of directors?

Like any unfettered, unquestioned bureaucracy, they took their mission to an absurd extreme. And, this time, it resulted in indictments.

Up until now, Madigan has been the most adaptive and adept politician I’ve ever seen. You don’t stick around for 48 years by remaining stagnant, I suppose.

He began his career as a typical tough-on-crime, socially conservative, Southwest Side Irish Catholic. He’s since become pro-choice, voted for both gay marriage and to abolish the death penalty and backed up the Black Caucus in its difficult years-long effort to block criminal penalty enhancement legislation. He spent years defending the rights of trial lawyers, then pushed through a medical malpractice reform bill when the issue started hurting his members. He went after the public employee unions over their pensions when he felt he had to, then united all unions like never before when the state elected an anti-union governor.

At his most recent low point, Madigan quickly committed to “change the culture” in the House during the 2018 sexual harassment scandals. He saved his own skin at a time when lots of folks thought he wouldn’t make it through.

But he has insisted since the ComEd scandal broke that he believes it’s not only his right to help people find jobs and contracts, it’s actually his duty. There would be no change to that particular culture he created. There’d be no “evolving” as he’d done on so many other issues. And for good reason.

Madigan’s machine is old school. It runs on patronage. And he needs a lot of patronage to keep his huge machine humming. He’s always on the hunt for opportunities, and his people love him for taking care of them, and are fiercely and forever loyal.

But patronage is supposed to be a means to an end of running successful political campaigns, and it unfortunately appeared to become an end in and of itself.

The favors culture Madigan created led to ComEd’s deferred prosecution agreement, and that DPA led to last week’s indictments of his close associates, and those indictments led to an even larger member revolt which appears, as I write this, to be about to remove the gavel from Madigan’s hands.

The old-timers said that Dan Rostenkowski, George Ryan and others got themselves in trouble because they didn’t change with the times. Madigan was supposed to be different. And he actually was for many years. Until now.

There was no column this week because I was on vacation.


Open thread

Monday, Nov 30, 2020 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Keep it Illinois-centric and polite, please. Also, how was your Thanksgiving?


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Monday, Nov 30, 2020 - Posted by Rich Miller

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