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Madigan roundup

Monday, Feb 22, 2021

* My weekly syndicated newspaper column

“The 22nd District is a garden,” then-Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan told reporters several years ago when asked about his House district. Some thought it was funny, but he was serious. And he’s most definitely the head gardener.

I’ve often said that Madigan, who officially resigned from the House on Thursday after more than 50 years in the Legislature, ran the speaker’s office like he ran his ward and district offices. So the House was an even bigger garden than his home turf.

Madigan was, of course, a master fixer who took care of his members’ every need. And since he often preferred electing the sort of folks to his chamber who, um, didn’t always have the ability to fend for themselves, electorally or otherwise, his entire operation was like a big feedback loop. He elected members who needed his help and then he would help them whenever they asked, whether that was something as simple as tickets to a ballgame, campaign money, jobs and contracts, or even moving a state prisoner closer to home. You name it, he probably did it.

The more he did for them, the more control he had over them, although nothing was ever explicitly said. Favors for favors don’t have to be explained.

But it was far more than just mundane things. Madigan made the House’s trains run on time, and the way he did it required an immense amount of work and control. He said he was a fan of the way President Franklin Delano Roosevelt would bring all sides to the table to try and work out agreements, but balancing competing interests on countless pieces of legislation every year was never an easy task.

The result, however, was that most folks — including business groups — knew they could get a fair shake as long as Madigan was controlling things, even if they had to take it on the chin occasionally. There’s a reason why Illinois approved only tiny minimum wage increases until a billionaire liberal governor demanded much more.

Madigan spent endless hours every Sunday during session months reviewing details of every single introduced bill and amendment and figuring out what to do about the proposals and the sponsors and the involved interests groups. Conference committee reports used to be a thing (when there were disputes between the two chambers over amendments, small special committees were appointed to resolve the differences) but Madigan put an end to them after people other than himself tried to sneak through big stuff during the end of session rush.

Madigan wanted total control. He was convinced that was a good thing for his members, the House and, by extension, the state. And what he wanted, he usually got.

The careful planning, preparation, execution and, most importantly, control extended to the political side of his endeavors. Actually, it was all one thing. He set up some flimsy firewalls, but there was no real difference. His House chief of staff was also the executive director of his state party. His alderman ran his field operation. His best former campaign staffers became successful contract lobbyists and then oversaw House campaigns. A tiny handful of those elite lobbyists/campaigners even sat in on those aforementioned Sunday bill review meetings.

I asked Madigan years ago if he thought he’d ever get tired of it all. He said he viewed the job as a big, challenging puzzle, and as long as he enjoyed putting the puzzle together he would stick around. In the end, he didn’t have a choice in the matter. But the word I hear most from people who speak to him these days is that he’s “relieved” to be done with it all.

It just wasn’t fun anymore. Madigan took some big and justified heat a couple of years ago for his approach to sexual harassment within his sprawling operation. He’d always tried to quiet things down with, in his own words, “knock it off” warnings to the violators. In his mind, at least, that worked for years, but he belatedly realized it wasn’t enough. In order to maintain control, he was forced to dramatically change courses.

That intense scandal was the beginning of the end. The deep well of support for Madigan no longer was there when the feds busted ComEd and indicted some of his pals and publicly zeroed in on “Himself” like never before. And some of his members also grew tired of having their noses forcibly wiped for them and the submission to a flawed leader that act required. Enough of them revolted that they blocked his reelection as speaker, and now Madigan is left to tend a much smaller, friendlier garden, supposedly in peace.

* Meanwhile, here’s a roundup of the stories written about yesterday’s appointment of Madigan’s House successor Edward Guerra Kodatt and Madigan’s first press availability in many moons. Hannah Meisel’s story, posted first, has a special treat at the end…

* Ex-Speaker Madigan Chooses 13th Ward Protege To Replace Him After 50 Years In House

* Former Speaker Michael Madigan unsure how long he’ll remain state Democratic chair as he picks 26-year-old successor

* Madigan taps 13th Ward worker to succeed him in House — but vows appointee will ‘stand on his own merits’

* Edward Guerra Kodatt chosen to replace longtime Illinois House Speaker and Representative Mike Madigan

* Former House Speaker Mike Madigan Selects Edward Guerra Kodatt, 13th Ward Worker, To Fill Seat

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - NIU Grad - Monday, Feb 22, 21 @ 9:18 am:

    That last tidbit is how I’ll always remember MJM…not caring about building a political legacy, or help his daughter’s political career grow. It was always about him and his power, because he was just having too much fun calling the shots.

  2. - Skeptical - Monday, Feb 22, 21 @ 9:29 am:

    Has he left after the Hampton allegations; or defeating Rod Bruce Rainer, or maybe when Lisa wanted to run for Governor then yes. I’d give him the benefit of the doubt.

    The last paragraph of those close to him saying it wasn’t fun anymore - please. It was fun enough to make calls for Speaker again until he released those who had committed to him. Surely that was enough fun. After the unexpected losses, anyone acting in the best interests of the Dem Party would have left.

    The 19 had a lot to do with making it not so much fun anymore. Speaking at a Democrat, I wish he would have left when Rauner was defeated or when Harmon took over. He couldn’t, and the unexpected losses (Fair Tax; Kilbride) go directly on his soldiers.

    How will he remain DPI chair? Any power he got from that derived from being Speaker. I might say there are still some hard feelings from when he defeated Vince DeMuzio from that spot. Everyone loved the DeMuzios and may have long memories.

  3. - OneMan - Monday, Feb 22, 21 @ 10:20 am:

    I think that column would make a great intro to a book about the Madigan years at some point in the future.

  4. - 47th Ward - Monday, Feb 22, 21 @ 10:30 am:

    ===…now Madigan is left to tend a much smaller, friendlier garden, supposedly in peace.===

    “I like to drink wine more than I used to. Anyway, I’m drinking more.”

  5. - Disappointed Female Suburban - Monday, Feb 22, 21 @ 10:34 am:

    The lack of outrage over his Pension says it all on this site.

  6. - Rich Miller - Monday, Feb 22, 21 @ 10:35 am:

    ===The lack of outrage ===

    Some people are just perpetually outraged.

  7. - Oswego Willy - Monday, Feb 22, 21 @ 10:44 am:

    === “I like to drink wine more than I used to. Anyway, I’m drinking more.”===

    First thing I thought of reading MJM’s remarks. Huh.

    To the post, Rich, really great way you bring into focus the way it is/was… and the fiefdom type thinking Madigan and others who had political turf or a fiefdom see/saw that role.

    Sometimes it *is* as simple as a protection racket, and those doing the protecting see that garden as a way to grow that influence with a pride of almost a family feel… but as ruthlessly cold as anything else.

    The sheer silence, the orderly ending and moving on from Madigan… the political end… and not like Santino’s.

  8. - Huh? - Monday, Feb 22, 21 @ 10:45 am:

    “The lack of outrage over his Pension”

    Is Madigan’s pension in violation of any laws? If not, then the faux outrage is misplaced.

    Any politician benefits from the pension laws on which they vote. By virtue of Madigan’s longevity, he benefits the most by playing by the rules.

  9. - ZC - Monday, Feb 22, 21 @ 10:48 am:

    One time, very randomly, I wound up working from Mike Madigan’s desk in his 13th ward office. There were a couple of interesting political cartoons up on the wall, but what I most remember was on his office desk he had a quote (I have to paraphrase slightly, as I don’t remember the exact words) to the effect: “The world steps aside for the man who knows where he is going.”

  10. - Fav Human - Monday, Feb 22, 21 @ 10:59 am:

    the unexpected losses (Fair Tax; Kilbride) go directly on his soldiers.

    Surely NOT the fair tax. That is on the Gov and his outsourcing of his most important initiative.


    I will note that any conviction for things related to State business would cause that to go away.

  11. - Grandson of Man - Monday, Feb 22, 21 @ 11:05 am:

    A very big cudgel has been removed from the Republican arsenal, as the DPI can say it forced Madigan out before any indictments. Here should lie the Madigan attacks, RIP and moment of silence.

  12. - Lucky Pierre - Monday, Feb 22, 21 @ 11:06 am:

    There is good reason why so many Illinois residents are outraged

    A new report from the University of Chicago has shed light on the U.S. cities and states with the most public-sector corruption. Co-authored by UIC professor and political advisor Dick Simpson, the report is based on an analysis of public corruption statistics released by the U.S. Department of Justice.

    The research found that Chicago remains the most corrupt city in the United States with the Illinois-Northern Judicial District recording 1,750 public corruption convictions from 1976 to 2018.

  13. - Oswego Willy - Monday, Feb 22, 21 @ 11:13 am:

    Let’s look at - Lucky Pierre -‘s cite… for a moment.

    Per 10,000 inhabitants… federal public corruptions convictions… Louisiana was first with 2.62

    Illinois was second… 1.66
    Tennessee?… they are WAY behind Illinois… at 1.53
    New York at 1.50

    The graph is there, check it out.

    This idea that Illinois is “far and away” the leader is far more opinion than actual statistical fact.

  14. - Anyone Remember - Monday, Feb 22, 21 @ 11:18 am:

    Lucky Pierre -

    Had a Public Administration professor who was from Kentucky and had earned his BA at Greenville College (now University). He stated Kentucky was as corrupt as Illinois, possibly even more so. However, since most of the corruption was at the county level, and the Lousiville media was nowhere near as agressive as Chicago’s, the corruption remained hidden.

  15. - Phil - Monday, Feb 22, 21 @ 11:28 am:

    Luck Pierre’s being a little provincial with his “Illinois is most corrupt state in the nation” shtick. Maybe check out the news from NY State, occasionally. They Feds have been bagging legislative leaders out there for years.

  16. - Rich Hill - Monday, Feb 22, 21 @ 11:48 am:

    “As long as the roots are not severed, all is well. And all will be well in the garden.”

  17. - ZC - Monday, Feb 22, 21 @ 11:59 am:

    One flaw in Lucky Pierre’s analysis (to his credit) is right in his description of his data: he (and Simpson) are starting in 1976. That’s an eternity today, and most importantly it’s relying - a lot - on the “Silver Shovel” era.

    But at some point you really need to redefine your parameters. Chicago is also a great leader in organized crime related to alcohol if you start, oh, in the 1920s.

  18. - Mama - Monday, Feb 22, 21 @ 1:25 pm:

    I’m more worried about my pension now Madigan is gone. He protected our pension from the former governor.

  19. - Original Rambler - Monday, Feb 22, 21 @ 1:33 pm:

    As to pension, I’m missing something. If he just applied now, considering his age and anticipated life expectancy my guess is that he’ll burn through mostly his own contributions before he passes. In any event the cost to the pension fund will be peanuts compared to the hit the pension funds take from someone like Jim Edgar (and this is not a slam on Edgar).

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