Posts Tagged ‘michael madigan’

Madigan graphic courtesy of the Illinois Policy Institute

By John Ruberry

In March, after years of investigation, Michael Madigan, the decades-long speaker of the Illinois House and chairman of the state Democratic party, was indicted on corruption charges. The heart of that indictment was centered on northern Illinois’ principal electric utility, Commonwealth Edison, in what the indictment termed a “years-long bribery scheme” involving contracts, jobs, and of course favors, such as legislation favoring ComEd. Earlier this month, Madigan was indicted again, this time AT&T Illinois, a subsidiary of the much-larger AT&T, was the company involved. 

ComEd’s parent, Exelon, is a publicly traded company, as is AT&T. 

In return for AT&T Illinois paying a $23 million fine and admitting guilt, charges will be dropped by the local U.S. attorney’s office in two years, according to the paperwork filed in federal court in a deferred prosecution agreement. ComEd agreed to a similar settlement, while paying a $200 million fine

Madigan, 80, entered public life in 1969 as a delegate to the Illinois constitutional convention. He was elected to the Illinois General Assembly from a Southwest Side Chicago district a year later. He became House Speaker in 1983. 

As I’ve remarked many times before, Illinois is in serious need of term limit laws.  

While he was running what the U.S. District Attorney of Northern Illinois later called “the Madigan Enterprise,” the Boss managed to expand his power even more by becoming chairman of the Illinois Democratic Party. Perhaps the most devious gerrymanderer ever, Madigan used that post and the speaker’s office to create supermajorities in both chambers of the General Assembly. Oh, Madigan’s daughter, Lisa, served four terms as Illinois’ attorney general during dad’s reign. 

During Madigan’s reign-of-error, Illinois’ pension bomb was created. The fingerprints of the Boss were on every state budget from 1983 until his departure from public life.

The Madigan Enterprise fell apart early last year after–on Illinois Democrats’ standards–a lackluster 2020 general election. The Boss, finally visibly tainted by the drip-drip of the ComEd scandal, was unable to win reelection as speaker. Madigan, bereft of the linchpin of his power, quietly resigned not only as state party chairman, but he also resigned his House seat. He even quit as Democratic committeeman of Chicago’s 13th Ward, where presumably he is still revered. Madigan was never interested in student council-style pretend-power, he only relished the real thing. 

AT&T Illinois sought out Madigan because it wanted to ditch its landline telephone business, which it did in 2017. The General Assembly overrode the veto of Governor Bruce Rauner, a Republican, to get the job done. 

According to the indictment, Edward Acevedo, a Madigan crony and former state representative, received $22,500 for an allegedly no-work AT&T Illinois consulting job. Acevedo is now serving time in prison for tax evasion tied to his role in the Commonwealth Edison scandal

Also indicted by the feds this month was AT&T Illinois’ former president, Paul La Schiazza, who has pleaded not guilty to the charges against him.

Many of the minions of Boss Madigan are still in the General Assembly, most prominently Chris Welch, the current Illinois House speaker who, Brutus-like, turned on Madigan last year. 

Who is still in office is something for Illinois voters to think about when they make their election choices this autumn. Especially since, I suspect, it’s hard to fathom that ComEd and AT&T Illinois were not the only companies that tried to illegally curry favor with the Madigan Enterprise.

I recently read Matt Rosenberg’s What Next, Chicago? Notes of a Pissed Off Native Sonmy review is here. In it, Rosenberg recalls a conversation with a former Chicago alderman, Dick Simpson, who told the author, “We have a rule about bureaucratic crime, that if one person is convicted there were probably ten people involved with that particular crime or that general pattern, that were not caught.” 

When Madigan was sworn into office as a state rep in 1971, Illinois had 26 electoral votes. In 2024 it will only have 19. 

Surprised?

Disclosure: The author of this entry worked for AT&T Wireless for over a decade.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

Official Merrick Garland portrait

By John Ruberry

America has endured some terrible attorneys general, Eric Holder, who served under Barack Obama and was held in contempt of Congress over the Fast and Furious scandal, John Mitchell, a Richard M. Nixon AG, who became the only the second US cabinet official to spend time in a federal prison, and Harry M. Daugherty, the leader of corrupt “Ohio Gang” during the administration of Warren G. Harding. 

And finally, there is Merrick Garland, once heralded as a moderate after Obama nominated him to succeed Antonin Scalia on the US Supreme Court in 2016. Then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell didn’t hold confirmation hearings on Garland. Donald Trump was elected president later that year, he nominated Neil Gorsuch to the SCOTUS bench, where he is now part of the conservative majority. 

Garland is the worst US attorney general since Daugherty.

Who was Daughterty? He was a minor political figure in Ohio who gained power as a behind-the-scenes kingmaker. A drinker like Harding, hey, like most Americans in the early 20th century, Daugherty got involved in the prohibition movement for political expediency. And he’s the man who worked the famous “smoke-filled room” at Chicago’s Blackstone Hotel to win Harding the Republican nomination for president in 1920. In Harding’s words about his successful election, “We drew a pair of deuces and filled.”

Although Harding’s cabinet had some magnificent choices, Charles Evans Hughes as secretary of State and Andrew Mellon as head of the Treasury Department, the Harding cabinet included Daugherty and Albert Fall, secretary of Interior. Fall accepted bribes as he sold cheap oil leases on federal land in what became known as the Teapot Dome Scandal, which led to a prison term for him, a first for a cabinet member. Daugherty, if he investigated it at all, barely looked into Teapot Dome. 

Daugherty’s assistant at Justice, and his roommate, was Jess Smith, who probably allowed alcohol owned by the federal government to be sold to bootleggers. Smith committed suicide a few months before Harding’s death in 1923.

Besides corruption, the Ohio Gang was known for its alcohol-fueled poker games at its de facto headquarters, “the Little House on K Street,” in Washington. Yes, there was a two-tiered justice system then.

And that’s been the charge against Garland’s Justice Department. No, not the poker games, but a two-tiered justice system. Don’t get me wrong, the January 6 rioters deserve punishment, even though most of them are probably guilty of nothing more than trespassing. 

Jim Banks, who Nancy Pelosi prevented from serving on the House January 6th Committee, summed up Garland’s hypocrisy perfectly. 

From the American Thinker:

Citing the Justice Department’s lenient treatment of left-wing rioters compared to the harsh treatment of Jan. 6, 2021 rioters at the Capitol, including many who “are not accused of entering the Capitol or committing violence,”

Rep. Jim Banks (R.-Ind.), in a two-page letter dated June 14, 2022, accused Attorney General Merrick Garland of leading “a two-tiered system of justice” at the Department of Justice. Congressman Banks asserted: “Violent rioters who are likely to vote Democrats [sic] are often released with a slap on the wrist, or less, while January 6th defendants are prosecuted to the harshest extent possible.”  

Asserting that “the unequal application of justice is an injustice,” Mr. Banks accused the attorney general of politicizing federal law, thereby assaulting “the basic American principle of equal justice under the law.” 

Then there is Hunter Biden, a Chicago-style influence-peddler. Garland is from the Chicago area; he surely knows a lot about mediocre people like Hunter throwing his weight around as he enriches himself and his family.

Just now on Fox Morning Futures with Maria Bartiromo, US Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) told the host, “We have a two-tiered justice system, one that will treat with kid gloves, or cover up for, Democrats and their powerful friends, the elite–and the rest of Americans. And I think we are seeing that big time with Hunter Biden and all of his very suspicious [financial] transactions.”

Ever since the Supreme Court draft on Dobbs v. Jackson was leaked, the case that overruled Roe v. Wade, there have been protests, in violation of federal law, in front of the homes of conservative justices. So far no one has been charged, even though there is voluminous video evidence that had been aired by news outlets and on YouTube that includes clearly recognizable faces. Announcements of protests are posted on social media.

Is Garland quietly cheering on these illegal protests? Don’t forget, it was Garland’s office that asked the FBI to investigate parents protesting school boards over the teaching of Critical Race Theory, citing unnamed threats.

Last month former Trump White House advisor Peter Navarro, who was 72 years old at the time, was put in leg irons by the FBI, after being indicted on contempt of Congress charges. “Who are these people? This is not America,” Navarro said during his first appearance in federal court. “I was a distinguished public servant for four years!”

Navarro, who has not faced prior legal troubles, is hardly a flight risk. 

Earlier this year, former Illinois House speaker Michael Madigan, who served in that role for four decades–and the former chairman of the Illinois Democratic Party–was indicted on a slew of corruption charges. 

Who wants to make a bet with me that Boss Madigan, also a septuagenarian, was not put in leg irons after his indictment?

Daughtery was later asked to resign as attorney general by Harding’s successor, Calvin Coolidge. He faced trial twice on unrelated charges. Both trials ended with hung juries. 

Garland will face tough questions next year, as congressional investigations led by Republicans will zoom in on the many debacles created by the Biden White House. Look for Garland to answer in the same fashion as Nixon’s Watergate co-conspirators did during the Watergate Senate hearings. “I don’t know” was a common response, as was “I don’t recall.”

Maybe, just maybe, Garland will answer questions about whether he plays poker at boozy parties in Washington.

John Ruberry regular blogs at Marathon Pundit.

Blogger at the border

By John Ruberry

There is speculation that Illinois’ Democrat governor, J.B. Pritzker, is considering a run for president. A visit last week to New Hampshire is his first clue. 

But Pritzker, a billionaire scion of the family that owns the Hyatt Corporation, faces reelection for governor this fall. I’ll be voting for the Republican candidate, and I of course dearly hope whoever the GOP entry is in November will make Pritzker a one-term governor. 

There are many reasons to be against Pritzker for governor–and president. Let’s get started on why.

Gerrymandering. As a candidate in 2018, Pritzker vowed several times to veto gerrymandered legislative maps. He lied. Unless you are an aficionado of Cubist art or a Democrat activist, the 2021 census remaps, are a disgrace to democracy.

Budget. Illinois hasn’t had a balanced budget since 2001, when Republican George H. Ryan–yeah, Ryan was a bad guy–was governor and there was a GOP majority in the state Senate. In one of his first ads for his reelection campaign, Pritzker claimed the Prairie State’s budget is balanced. It’s not, unless you figure in trickery and federal COVID-19 bailout money. With a Republican majority a near certainty in the US House, Pritzker and the Democrats can’t count on bailout cash for Illinois’ next budget. 

Crime. While I’ll concede that governors don’t have much control over local law enforcement, if you think crime is bad in Illinois now, just wait until New Year’s Day, when Illinois’ no-cash bail law goes into effect–after the general election votes are counted this autumn. There are still instances when judges can lock up accused criminals. But of course, big time crooks also commit small time crimes. Petty crooks often move on to become big-time crooks. Cook County’s state’s attorney is Kim Foxx, a George Soros-funded pro-criminal so-called prosecutor. If Pritzker has ever criticized Foxx, I missed it. Pritzker signed the no-cash bail bill into law in February of 2021. If it’s such a good bill, then why didn’t no-cash bail go into effect immediately?

Last year Cook County, which included Chicago and it’s where I live, recorded over 1,000 murders for the first time since 1994.

COVID. The lockdowns in Illinois were among the longest and most severe. But his wife, M.K., and his daughter spent two months in Florida in the spring of 2020. Florida’s lockdown policies were less stringent. Pritzker claims that his family were in Florida before the pandemic was declared. But the governor didn’t reveal that information until two months later.

Stagnant population. Illinois had lost population, according to the US Census, every year since 2014. Or had it? But like late night ballots arriving in big-city polling places, the Census Bureau said, wait, no, Illinois gained population between 2010 and 2020. But growth, such as it is, can rightly be called anemic. 

Corruption. Until it appeared that the US Attorney’s office for Northern Illinois was finally closing in on Boss Michael Madigan, who was for decades the most powerful Democrat in the state, Pritzker was silent on the Illinois Democratic Party chair and longtime state House speaker. Only after a surprisingly lackluster 2020 general election for Prairie State Democrats did Pritzker issue a half-hearted call for Madigan to resign as speaker. The Boss failed to win reelection as House speaker last year and then he quickly resigned as Illinois Dem party chair. 

Three months ago, Madigan was indicted on numerous racketeering charges by the feds. Illinois is generally considered one of the most corrupt states in the Union. Even the Washington Post agrees. What is Pritzker doing to fight criminality by Illinois public officials? I can’t see any evidence that he is doing anything.

Toilets. Pritzker and his wife own two mansions on Astor Street on Chicago’s North Side. Allegedly looking for a property tax break, M.K. had the toilets removed from the one that Illinois’ future first couple didn’t live in. Then she had that mansion declared “uninhabitable,” so the Pritzkers could score that tax break. The Pritzkers later paid Cook County back the money from that sleazy move.

In 2019, Chicago’s NPR affiliate reported that the toilet scam was under federal investigation.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

By John Ruberry

Five years after the fictional story of the Naperville, Illinois crime family, the Byrdes, began streaming on Netflix, Ozark has come to an end. 

Late last month the final seven episodes, comprising of Season 4 Part 2, were released. 

If you haven’t heard of the Byrdes, the family is headed by Marty Byrde (Jason Bateman), a financial planner whose firm makes the fatal mistake of laundering money for a Mexican drug cartel run by Omar Navarro (Felix Solis). Marty is married to Wendy (Laura Linney), a former Democratic Party operative, although the word “Democrat” hasn’t been mentioned for the past two seasons. Their children, Charlotte (Sofia Hublitz), and Jonah (Skylar Gaertner), are reluctant partners in the family business, which is based in the Lake of the Ozarks region of Missouri. A riverboat casino is the centerpiece of their laundering operation.

Leaving an organized crime network is much harder than joining one. But that’s what the Byrdes continue to strive for, looking back at the Chicago area as a safe haven. For real. Clearly, the Byrdes haven’t been keeping an eye on the dramatic rise of violent crime here. 

The Byrdes have formed a shaky alliance with a member of a local small-time crime family, Ruth Langmore (Julia Garner). A two-time Prime Time Emmy winner for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series for that role, Garner is simply fabulous. Marty and Wendy can’t protect and grow their operation, let alone leave it, without assistance from other villains, convenient and tired ones, including a former Republican US senator from Illinois, Randall Schafer (Bruce Davison), and the CEO of a Chicago-based pharmaceutical corporation, Clare Shaw (Katrina Lenk). Yawn. Republicans bad, pharmaceutical firms, also bad. The money laundering Brydes? Not so much, at least according to the scriptwriters. Wendy, to protect their rackets, finds herself a reluctant participant in a Midwestern vote-suppression scheme that Schafer is behind. 

In real life, between the release of Part 1 and Part 2 of Season 4 of Ozark, the decades-long Democratic boss of Illinois, Michael Madigan, was indicted. But never forget, in television land, the GOP is evil.

Oh, what was that about Netflix losing subscribers?

A character introduced in Season 4, a disgraced former Chicago Police detective with good intentions, Mel Sattem (Adam Rothenberg), confronts the Byrdes over their hubris gained from their power and money, equating them with the Kennedy family and the conservative Koch family from Wichita. Slow down there. There is no Koch-equivalent to the Kennedys using their influence to allow Ted Kennedy to walk away with only a hand slap after arguably murdering Mary Jo Kopechne at Chappaquiddick

Okay, I’ve hit the things that I didn’t enjoy with Ozark. Back to the good stuff–and there is plenty of it. 

The Navarro family has its own struggles. Omar’s nephew, Javi Elizondro (Alfonso Herrera), has plans that don’t coincide with those of his uncle. One of the many appeals of Ozark is the shifting of alliances–and the betrayals that accompany them. And of course, so are the performances–led of course by Garner–of the major characters and minor ones. One of the minor characters, Rachel Garrison (Jordana Spiro), makes a surprise return.

The cinematography of Ozark is at a feature-movie level. 

While of course set in Missouri, Ozark except for some Chicago scenes in Season 1, is filmed in the Atlanta area. In Part 1 of Season 4 I noticed a light rail train in what was supposed to be downtown Chicago. What were called streetcars way back when haven’t been running in Chicago for decades. In Part 2 of the final season, I spotted what appears to be a cabbage palm tree in front of Ruth Langmore’s Lazy-O Motel. That tree cannot survive a Midwestern winter.

And what about Wendy and Marty Byrde? As I remarked in a previous review, they are the television version of Tom and Daisy Buchanan, who in The Great Gatsby “smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness.”

All four seasons are available for streaming on Netflix. The series is rated TV-MA for graphic violence, drug use, nudity, and obscene language.

Earlier post:

Review: Ozark Season 4 Part 1.

John Ruberry regularly blogs from the Chicago area at Marathon Pundit.