Jim Dey | Prosecutors not the only ones targeting Madigan


“Nobody loves you when you’re down and out.”

That’s a truism, one that John Lennon wrote a song about.

But that’s nothing. Former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan could write a book about it.

Time was when people otherwise perceived as influential and bold quaked in his presence. They competed to see who could heap the most praise on him in public. They feared being in his disfavor. They never leaped before looking to Madigan for marching orders.

“What does the speaker think?”

Readers of Ray Long’s new book — “The House that Madigan Built” — will recognize that line. Long wrote that “the question loomed over every major issue” in Springfield.

These days, Illinois’ political junkies are asking different questions.

“What does the former speaker think about being under criminal indictment, having to spend millions of dollars (he’s up to at least $8 million so far) in legal fees and facing the prospect of spending the rest of his life behind bars if convicted of the corruption charges lodged against him?”

It’s a long way from the penthouse to the outhouse, and the landing is rough. But Madigan is far from finished, because the road to a conviction is long and winding. Still, his back is to the wall, and the respect and fear he once took for granted has dissipated.

All of which leads to another question. How does Madigan like being a political football? He’s used to it, in one respect. Republicans have been trying to beat up on him for years — to no great result.

Nonetheless, Madigan chafed at GOP criticism, particularly from former Gov. Bruce Rauner, that caused his widespread unpopularity.

Now, however, Madigan is taking fire from some of the same Democrats who once worshiped at his feet. Hoping to prove their worth to the voters, they are refashioning their images at his expense.

Democratic Secretary of State candidate Alexi Giannoulias recently launched an advertising attack on Madigan, clearly hoping that distancing himself from Madigan will move voters closer to him.

Here’s an excerpt from a recent Giannoulias commercial:

“Listen up. The political corruption. The scandals. It doesn’t have to be this way. When I was state treasurer, we put in place tough ethics laws, and we stood up to Mike Madigan. When I’m secretary of state, no more cozy relationships between lobbyists and politicians. We can stop this. Are you with me?”

Madigan, of course, doesn’t have much to do with Giannoulias’ primary campaign against Chicago City Clerk Anna Valencia. But in a contest with no real issues, he must figure being seen as anti-Madigan is more effective than promising winter-resilient license plates.

While the Ds’ public disdain for Madigan is new, it’s old hat for Rs to use him as a punching bag.

Nonetheless, Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin, who is running for the GOP gubernatorial nomination, is throwing anti-Madigan red meat to voters who will be casting ballots in the June 28 primary.

Here are Irvin’s words — ones that couple Madigan with Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker — in a recent advertisement:

“Pritzker’s money. Madigan’s machine. They don’t scare me. Never have. Madigan tried to destroy me when I ran for mayor. He lost, and so will J.B. Pritzker, because Illinoisans have had enough of politicians picking our pockets to line theirs. Their days are numbered. Madigan’s under indictment. We’ve got Pritzker running scared. I’m Richard Irvin. Let’s take back our state.”

It’s like the songwriter wrote: Nobody loves you when you’re down and out. But under the right circumstances, they might love to use you as a political punching bag.

Jim Dey, a member of The News-Gazette staff, can be reached at jdey@news-gazette.com or 217-393-8251.

via The News-Gazette

April 28, 2022 at 09:58AM

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