Michael Madigan: The Man Who Ran Illinois

Point out legislators are like ants on a log. There are far too numerous of them and they are far too little, operating close to too rapidly to understand as folks, enable on your own monitor their endeavours. Even if the log is in your backyard, why trouble shelling out consideration? Supplied the usual statehouse task—dragging bits of legislative leaf around—only the most dedicated political junkies even trouble to try out.

Sometimes, although, a person chief vegetation himself in the center of the action extended ample to present a pathway not just to fully grasp what is heading on in one colony, but also to illuminate the basic calamity poisoning our significantly harmful countrywide political tradition: the funds, impact, rule bending, and self-working that deform govt at every degree.

The Household That Madigan Crafted: The Report Run of Illinois’ Velvet Hammer
by Ray Long
University of Illinois Press, 312 pp.

Meet Michael J. Madigan, the limited-mouthed enigma at the heart of the Illinois legislative anthill for extra than a third of a century. Nicknamed “the Sphinx” for his expressionless silence and windblown longevity, Madigan was the previous operative travel shaft from the old Daley Democratic machine—forged by Richard J. Daley, Chicago’s infamous mayor from 1955 to 1976— where clout was crafted on a program of mutual support: You vote the correct way, and I’ll make absolutely sure your son receives a park district work. All over his profession, Madigan was chairman of the Democratic Celebration of Illinois, committeeman of Chicago’s 13th Ward, and speaker of the Illinois Home for 36 years, the longest-serving leader of any legislative entire body in American history.

Reviled by Republicans as “the middle of all evil in condition authorities,” Madigan endured while governors came and went. When Republican Jim Edgar became governor in 1991, Madigan did not return his cellular phone calls for months. Madigan didn’t will need him he was served by a patronage army of 400 drones beholden to him for careers, raises, and promotions, who would leap to marketing campaign, knock on doorways, and buttonhole commuters to sign petitions. (Or, in a person infamous ploy, the reverse: hectoring people of Madigan’s district to sign affidavits retracting their signatures on the nominating petitions of a 19-calendar year-aged who dared run against the state’s most potent politician’s decided on alderman. The lad had no prospect of profitable, but so ruthlessly had the speaker’s operatives clawed signatures back again that some 2,600 voters agreed to renounce signatures they had by no means offered.)

Madigan was an acknowledged reality of everyday living in Illinois, like the climate, or, far more precisely, like God, a mysterious pressure in His Heaven, spinning will work and mysteries.

Then it all modified.

Initially, the #MeToo revolution of 2018 rattled the Madigan firm, using down his longtime chief of staff members, Tim Mapes, and leading aide, Kevin Quinn, amid accusations that Madigan didn’t do plenty of to prevent them from sexually harassing their feminine colleagues. Daylight started pouring by the cracks. Madigan gave the first deposition in his life. The U.S. Department of Justice’s federal investigation into Madigan’s alleged corruption circled nearer. For decades, Madigan experienced utilised an electric utility corporation, Commonwealth Edison, as a “crony career service” that issued immediate payments to Madigan’s allies, these kinds of as the $4,500 a thirty day period it funneled to the Cook dinner County recorder of deeds, Ed Moody, for “consulting.” In return, Madigan highly developed laws that was favorable to the utility. He would also steer enterprise to his non-public law firm, such as consumers who experienced enterprise prior to the state.

These machinations experienced lengthy been soiled tricks all around Springfield, but now they had been coming into entire view. Illinois Residence Democrats, in November 2020, heard the hounds baying in the length and balked at handing Madigan the speaker’s gavel—a when-unimaginable blasphemy. Forced to surrender the speakership, Madigan passed the baton in excess of to his handpicked successor. Even right after he resigned from the Residence, it seemed that Madigan might exit with his monumental dignity, strategies, and individual independence intact.

As an alternative, in early March, the DOJ indicted Madigan on 22 federal counts of racketeering and bribery, accusing him of running “a felony organization whose purpose was to enrich Madigan’s political energy and financial nicely-becoming although also creating revenue for his political allies and associates.” The utmost sentence for the rates versus him is 20 years in prison.

Madigan pleaded not responsible.

Did Madigan, 79, finally slip up in his senescence? Did he turn out to be careless, or just have the poor luck to do the regular legislative horse buying and selling into a federal wiretap? The issue snakes via a hugely readable new e bookThe House That Madigan Built: The History Operate of Illinois’ Velvet Hammer, by Ray Extended, himself a Springfield fixture, masking the Illinois point out funds for the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Sunshine-Times (where we had been colleagues), and somewhere else.

Long was on hand to detect the distinct way Madigan held the speaker’s gavel when he assumed energy in 1983. No percussive slams of his predecessors. Relatively, he wrapped his fingers close to the barrel and tapped the handle, quietly.

“This is a new period,” Madigan purred.

Not seriously. Far more like the exact same old period prettied up to pass via the porous barrier of ethics legal guidelines. Creativeness was essential. Madigan couldn’t just hand out governing administration work to reward his friends. That wasn’t accomplished overtly any longer. So ComEd would do it for him, allegedly. Madigan bought loyalists anything from operate as meter audience and summertime internships to a seat on the utility’s board.

Extended offers the central query that legislators and lobbyists alike struggled with: “What does the speaker imagine?” Though neither Long nor his audience have ESP, we can surmise what Madigan thought by what he did.

3 main currents: 1st, Madigan deemed Chicago essential, for its own right and as the financial engine that drives Illinois. He thwarted attempts to strip handle of O’Hare and Halfway airports from Chicago and give it to a regional authority and held Illinois tax dollars flowing to the Windy Town. Even though it would be an exaggeration to suggest that Chicago would have turn into Detroit or Cleveland without him, the point is, it didn’t, and Madigan aided.

Second, he considered the legislature ought to be its possess unbiased, well-disciplined electrical power, coequal to the executive department and the courts. When some legislative bodies turn into rubber stamps—hello, Chicago Town Council—the legislature mattered below Madigan.

Finally, he considered that Illinois really should be reserved solely for the use and pleasure of the Democratic Celebration. Certainly, the condition grew to become a blue island in a sea of crimson, jammed amongst Indiana, the Mississippi of the Midwest Missouri, wherever Donald Trump beat Joe Biden by 15 points Iowa, which has a lot more cattle than men and women and Wisconsin, the place Scott Walker’s brand name of anti-union revanchism identified alarming achievements.

This was carried out, in component, by “extreme” gerrymandering. Madigan redrew the condition maps in 1981, 2001, and 2011. For all the horror that Dems rightly experience about present GOP initiatives to undermine the mechanics of voting, no ballot restrictions surpass the feats of resourceful cartography carving safe havens for Democrats and, when completely needed, ghettos exactly where Republican voters can have their say.

Even following the threat to our elections was manufactured all as well very clear, Illinois Democrats carried on in Oct, dividing the state into 13 strongly Democratic districts, a few strongly Republican seats, and just one particular very aggressive district.

Beside the rank hypocrisy, there is an additional expense, laid out in perhaps the most reverberating passage in Long’s reserve, when Barack Obama, who served as a condition senator along with Madigan, travels to Springfield in 2016 to warn how gerrymandering—fewer than 10 percent of Home districts nationwide are competitive—is perilous to democracy. When the districts become a lot less competitive between Democrats and Republicans, the primaries obtain far more currency, wherever turnout is lower and extremist candidates can just take root. As a consequence, Obama explained, “our debates move away from the center, the place most Us citizens are, towards the significantly ends of the spectrum, and that polarizes us further more.”

Not all of Long’s ebook echoes with these kinds of importance. There is a lot on raising point out taxes and grappling with the Land of Lincoln’s pension disaster, complicated knots of alliances untangled, and motivations parsed.

A number of chapters are established items, capturing the vicissitudes of Illinois politics. There is the drama of June 30, 1988, as Republican Governor Jim Thompson joins Madigan to try to fund a new ballpark for the White Sox when the workforce is all but on a plane to Florida. The deed had to be accomplished in advance of midnight, when a improve in the legislature’s makeup would doom the effort and hard work. But Madigan “made time stand still”—literally. He stopped the clock at mid- evening so that he and Thompson could twist arms whilst opponents sang that “Na na na na / Na na na na / Hey, hey-ey, goodbye” track that Sox enthusiasts use to jeer opposing pitchers off the field.

The episode is so significantly enjoyment, with that in the vicinity of-biblical stopping of the solar, that it’s possible to overlook—puff absent the obfuscating fog of fandom—that governing administration officials have been bending the regulation to place public revenue into the pockets of a private enterprise.

Inspite of these times of drama, at the conclusion of Long’s book the Sphinx remains a cypher. Does he have pals? Hobbies? An inside everyday living? Prolonged never bothers to question. Robert Caro he is not. The ideal Very long can do is notice that Madigan “put winning above ideology. He demanded fanatical loyalty and acquired it. He outworked, outmaneuvered, and outlasted whoever acquired in his way.”

For so very long, it appeared like endlessly. And then it was over—except, of class, for the pending demo.

Which brings us back again to the ant entire world, in which Madigan traversed for so extended, and exactly where each individual colony has only one leader, served by an military of faceless employees. As people, we’re intended to do superior in our social hierarchies. In truth, in govt, we’re intended to under no circumstances serve a person guy or lady but alternatively that noble and old-fashioned principle of the “common good.” But as Ray Long’s important new ebook points out, a person savvy politician can continue to skew the whole system to their bidding, for several years and years—so long as they have the ingenuity, and the enablers, to pull it off.