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Question of the day

Thursday, Feb 24, 2022 - Posted by Rich Miller

* First, a bit of background

State Senator Tom Cullerton resigned from his seat in the Illinois Senate Wednesday.

According to his attorneys, the suburban Democrat, currently under federal indictment for extortion and embezzlement, plans to plead guilty in the case. […]

In 2019, Cullerton was charged with 39 counts of embezzlement from a labor union, one count of conspiracy and one count of making false statements.

The indictment stated Cullerton was hired as a union organizer, a full-time salaried position with benefits. The charges allege that Cullerton did little to no work for the next three years but was paid roughly $275,000 in salary and benefits.

The federal anti-featherbedding laws were basically designed to stop the Teamsters from doing just this. Every time he signed a time card, Cullerton was committing a felony. I like Tom and always have. But I don’t know what else to say except that he really screwed up.

* Also

Another member of one of Chicago’s storied political families, former Ald. Patrick Daley Thompson, was convicted in federal court just last week on charges he cheated on his taxes and lied to regulators. He is a grandson and nephew of Chicago’s two longest-serving mayors.

* A little bit of politics from the Richard Irvin campaign before we get to the meat of the post…

The culture of Mike Madigan corruption clouding Illinois government is alive and well under JB Pritzker as another lawmaker resigned this week after pleading guilty to corruption charges. This marks the fourth lawmaker to resign under a cloud of corruption since Pritzker took office.

Last week, a federal judge refused to drop charges against friends of former House Speaker Mike Madigan in an ongoing federal corruption investigation. Pritzker, of course, said Illinois should be grateful for Madigan and gave a massive bailout to the company implicated in the federal probe.

Yesterday, State Senator Tom Cullerton abruptly resigned and announced an intended guilty plea on 39 federal embezzlement charges. But despite a two-year investigation into Cullerton, Pritzker remained silent on this cloud of corruption - refusing to call on Cullerton to resign his seat and never taking action to clean up Springfield. Cullerton’s resignation follows other Democratic lawmakers resigning in disgrace during Pritzker’s tenure, including former State Rep. Luis Arroyo, State Sen. Terry Link, and the late former State Sen. Martin Sandoval.

Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin has vowed to fight corruption and clean up Springfield. Irvin believes change needs to start at the top with a new governor who isn’t part of Mike Madigan’s corruption web.

* Natalie Edelstein at the Pritzker campaign responded when I asked…

The governor believes that those who violate the public trust must be held accountable. Full stop. That’s why he passed meaningful ethics reform legislation which restricts government officials from lobbying activities, tightens regulations on registered lobbyists and consultants, and expands economic interest disclosures. There is more work to be done to fully restore Illinoisans’ faith in their government––but that work certainly wouldn’t happen under Richard Irvin. Irvin’s aggressive 180s on everything from COVID-19 mitigations to his support for Black Lives Matter underscores how little conviction he really has.

* OK, we have (finally) arrived at the policy point in this discussion. Rep. Curtis Tarver (D-Chicago) called today to tell me about a bill of his that is currently going nowhere even though he believes it’s particularly timely in the wake of the past week’s conviction and resignation/guilty plea, among other things.

* Here’s what state law says about legislative and statewide officeholders

A person convicted of a felony shall be ineligible to hold an office created by the Constitution of this State until the completion of his sentence.

So, when Tom Cullerton and Patrick Daley Thompson complete their sentences, they can run for the General Assembly or a statewide executive office.

* And here’s what state law says about people running for municipal office

A person is not eligible to take the oath of office for a municipal office if that person … has been convicted in any court located in the United States of any infamous crime, bribery, perjury, or other felony, unless such person is again restored to his or her rights of citizenship that may have been forfeited under Illinois law as a result of a conviction, which includes eligibility to hold elected municipal office, by the terms of a pardon for the offense, has received a restoration of rights by the Governor, or otherwise according to law. Any time after a judgment of conviction is rendered, a person convicted of an infamous crime, bribery, perjury, or other felony may petition the Governor for a restoration of rights.

“Infamous crime” is defined here.

So, Daley Thompson couldn’t run for city council ever again unless his rights were restored. And Cullerton couldn’t run for mayor of Villa Park unless he also convinced a governor to help him out.

Obviously, that’s quite a large gap.

* “No other state in the nation has such disparity between municipal and state law,” Rep. Tarver claimed. “Also, no other state differentiates solely based on the type of office as opposed to the type of crime.” For instance, Tarver said, if you’re convicted of bribery in California while in office you can’t ever hold public office again.

So, Tarver introduced HB5046, which would do two things.

1) After the “completion of his sentence” language for offices created by the Constitution, Tarver proposed this language

Notwithstanding any other provision of law, a person convicted of a felony for an offense committed on or after the effective date of this amendatory Act of the 102nd General Assembly and while he or she was serving as a public official in this State is ineligible to hold any local public office in this State or any office created by the Constitution of this State at any time after his or her conviction, unless that person is again restored to his or her rights of citizenship that may have been forfeited under Illinois law as a result of a conviction, which includes eligibility to hold office, by the terms of a pardon for the offense, has received a restoration of rights by the Governor, or otherwise according to law.

That language would make the prohibition uniform between state and local office and confine the banishment to convictions committed while the person was holding public office.

2) But - and this may be the reason the bill went nowhere - the legislation would delete all of the prior felony conviction language from the municipal code that I quoted above. I could see where people might get skittish, particularly in a year like this.

* Even so, it sure seems to me that the state has a strong interest in preventing somebody like former Rep. Luis Arroyo, who pleaded guilty to federal bribery charges, from ever running for any state or local office ever again. (And, before anyone mentions it, the state can’t control who runs for federal office, except for things like petition requirements, districts, etc.)

* The Question: Your thoughts on Rep. Tarver’s proposal?

       

23 Comments
  1. - Will Caskey - Thursday, Feb 24, 22 @ 1:42 pm:

    I don’t think there’s a list of specific crimes that would not run immediately into a lot of restorative justice issues the Democratic Party currently cares a decent amount about.


  2. - Primate - Thursday, Feb 24, 22 @ 1:51 pm:

    Of course the Rauner/Irvin campaign is using Madigan again. These are the same guys that started the ‘Fire Madigan’ campaign employed by the State Party a while ago. Once again, this is a predictable move from their playbook. Showing how consistent they are and how easy it is to foresee their moves. They are truly bound by history and don’t know any better. Griffin is smart and knows this will continue to be a Rauner Campaign until he makes some drastic moves.


  3. - Payback - Thursday, Feb 24, 22 @ 1:58 pm:

    Rep. Tarver’s HB5046 bill to prevent convicted felons from holding any state or local office is pretty much a no-brainer. Any high school senior who passed the Constitution test could see it’s a good idea, if you care about honest government in Illinois, which the Dem bosses don’t. That’s why Kwame Raoul is Attorney General, and takes the legal position that he can’t investigate or prosecute corrupt public officials, even though the AG’s office has been known to step in and use Cook County grand juries. This is by design, not accident.


  4. - MisterJayEm - Thursday, Feb 24, 22 @ 2:03 pm:

    “a person convicted of a felony for an offense committed *** while he or she was serving as a public official in this State”

    Are precinct committee men “public officials”?

    (Asking for a friend)

    – MrJM


  5. - TheInvisibleMan - Thursday, Feb 24, 22 @ 2:12 pm:

    There’s an official in Joliet township where this issue is happening today. The felony in question was a drug arrest from over a decade ago, and the office holder is currently petitioning the governor for a restoration of rights.

    The interesting thing is how the local states attorney who has publicly stated many times that he keeps out of political crimes, has taken a lead interest in this to the point of making filings objecting to the seating of this elected official while the petition is pending before the governor.

    https://www.shawlocal.com/the-herald-news/news/local/2021/12/23/joliet-township-trustees-felony-record-makes-him-ineligible-for-office-prosecutors-say/


  6. - Colin O'Scopy - Thursday, Feb 24, 22 @ 2:13 pm:

    =while he or she was serving as a public official in this State=

    What happens when the official resigns prior to conviction or guilty plea, as is the case of Cullerton? How would these individuals be impacted?


  7. - Oswego Willy - Thursday, Feb 24, 22 @ 2:15 pm:

    ===That language would make the prohibition uniform between state and local office and confine the banishment to convictions committed while the person was holding public office.===

    I appreciate and would want uniformity towards the idea of eligibility to run, it’s like a loophole fir one office versus being shut out of others.

    Uniformly allows the mere accident (there are no accidents) of eligibility to be off the table.

    I can’t help to revisit, myself, the clemency then Gov. Edgar gave Chicago Alderman Walter Burnett, in 1998.


  8. - Bruce( no not him) - Thursday, Feb 24, 22 @ 2:19 pm:

    Sometimes I think we get the representation we deserve. There should be no need for this law.
    The concept of voting for someone who was convicted as an elected official is so far beyond me.


  9. - Donnie Elgin - Thursday, Feb 24, 22 @ 2:30 pm:

    =The felony in question was a drug arrest from over a decade ago=

    The guy has multiple felony convictions

    From the article…

    In 2010, Ferrell pleaded guilty to unlawful drug possession and weapon charges in Will County, court records show. He also pleaded guilty to a drug possession charge in 1998 in Will County, as well as two other drug charges in Cook County in 2005 and 2000, records show.


  10. - Retired SURS Emloyee - Thursday, Feb 24, 22 @ 2:30 pm:

    =while he or she was serving as a public official in this State=

    What happens when the official resigns prior to conviction or guilty plea, as is the case of Cullerton? How would these individuals be impacted?

    The proposal applies to when the crime was committed, not when the individual is found guilty.


  11. - Annonin' - Thursday, Feb 24, 22 @ 2:31 pm:

    You were right this was a lot to read.
    Seems smart to make laws uniform, but poor drafting lets it appear a supporter would be allowing some felons to hold some offices. Thus a brick was afixed.
    Wonderin’ of RichieRich has reviewed all who do biz in Aurora?


  12. - Candy Dogood - Thursday, Feb 24, 22 @ 2:33 pm:

    I support Rep Trover’s bill and thing it would be good to create some consistency to the law.

    === I like Tom and always have.===

    I always assumed Tom Cullerton was doing the work, and I can’t be alone in that. I didn’t know him well, but what that kind of job typically entails seemed like such a natural fit for him.


  13. - Anonsense - Thursday, Feb 24, 22 @ 2:36 pm:

    The “If You Are Dumb Enough To Get Caught You Aren’t Good Enough to Run For Office” act?

    Even if the voters’ judgement is often questionable I would eliminate all restrictions and let them decide. A lot of times I end up voting for the least onerous choice. A convicted felon may actually be the lesser of two evils.


  14. - DuPage - Thursday, Feb 24, 22 @ 2:42 pm:

    ===Receiving pay while doing little or no work.=== That should be made a crime for politicians who get elected and then do “little or no work”. A large percentage of our legislators would qualify.


  15. - Oswego Willy - Thursday, Feb 24, 22 @ 2:47 pm:

    ===That should be made a crime for politicians who get elected and then do “little or no work”. A large percentage of our legislators would qualify.===

    Good thing we have elections…

    To the post,

    ===…the legislation would delete all of the prior felony conviction language from the municipal code that I quoted above. I could see where people might get skittish, particularly in a year like this.===

    This is where my thoughts went to Burnett, in a general thinking that took me there.

    Is uniformity worth a total reset to the day the law can take effect?

    This is a very good QOTD… I still like the idea of uniformity, if an insertion of the old language to felonies can be added or… I’d like it even more.


  16. - TheInvisibleMan - Thursday, Feb 24, 22 @ 2:49 pm:

    = The guy has multiple felony convictions =

    None of them committed while he was in office, and all of them punished in full.

    Did you read the rest of the story, on how the local states attorney decided *not* to prosecute other local officials for their crimes caught on video. The only thing preventing others from having this rule apply to them, is the whim of the local prosecutor and if they are friends with you or not. You can’t have a felony prevent you from holding office, if you never are even charged with the one you committed.

    Under the current system, a local states attorney can *decide* who is eligible to run for office for the rest of their lives.

    That’s a problem.

    In a world run by robots, this prohibitive law would probably be fine. In a world run by humans, it is not.


  17. - JJJJJJJJJJ - Thursday, Feb 24, 22 @ 2:57 pm:

    I fail to see the need for this.


  18. - Bigtwich - Thursday, Feb 24, 22 @ 3:00 pm:

    “a person convicted of a felony for an offense committed *** while he or she was serving as a public official in this State”

    So, we would have two classes of felons, those convicted while not holding a public office and those convicted while holding a public office. There might be some equal protection problems here.


  19. - Candy Dogood - Thursday, Feb 24, 22 @ 3:14 pm:

    ===That should be made a crime for politicians who get elected and then do “little or no work”.===

    This isn’t what was specifically the issue. A private company would be able to hire a person who was a member of the legislature and pay them whatever amount they felt was appropriate for whatever amount of work they were performing. A position on a board of directors is hardly a full time 40 hours a week position.

    The issue that Tom Cullerton ran into is that federal law established specific rules for what labor unions are able to do and he was hired for a position that came with a position description and an expectation of specific work being performed in exchange for his salary. His salary was derived from dues paid by members of a union local which is why this is a specific issue.

    This stings twice because Tom Cullerton should have known better, but the union officials involved never should have created a situation where the charges he faces were possible.


  20. - Google Is Your Friend - Thursday, Feb 24, 22 @ 4:04 pm:

    ==I could see where people might get skittish==

    Are Illinois legislators known for reading bills for comprehension?


  21. - Last Bull Moose - Thursday, Feb 24, 22 @ 4:05 pm:

    I agree with OW’s suggestion. Bring the state standard up to the municipal standard by inserting language, not a full rewrite.


  22. - AnnieH - Thursday, Feb 24, 22 @ 6:36 pm:

    I know this isn’t the question you asked, but could someone explain why this is featherbedding? I thought featherbedding was when the union required an employer to hire someone one. But in this case isn’t the union the employer? I’m confused.


  23. - Flexible One - Thursday, Feb 24, 22 @ 10:54 pm:

    The Illinois General Assembly had folks that were convicted of felonies, served time in prison, then ran for office, won and were productive people who served their constituents well.
    Let the voters decide who they want to represent them.


Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.


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