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Madigan not acting like a grown-up

Published: Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2013 5:30 a.m. CST

The rich irony of Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan denouncing somebody else for attempting to be a “kingmaker” is so obvious and laughable that I can’t help but wonder why a guy who’s been a take no prisoners kingmaker himself for so long in this state would ever think of saying such a thing.

You may already know the story. The Better Government Association and the Chicago Sun-Times took a look at some of Madigan’s campaign petition passers to see if they had government jobs.

What they found wasn’t surprising at all. Seventeen of thirty people who passed Madigan’s nominating petitions worked for the government. Another 12 had at one time worked for the government.

Power tends to feed off itself. The longer you’re around, the more power you tend to have, and the more power you have, the more you can get. And Madigan has been around Illinois and Chicago politics forever. He is at the top of the heap as far as state government power goes.

Ideologically, Madigan has moved with the times. Politically, the man is anything but postmodern. He’s the 13th Ward Democratic Committeeman, and he runs his ward like it’s been run for a century or more.

Running an old-time organization, however, requires old-style patronage, and Madigan is a master at finding jobs for his precinct workers.

A good case in point is Patrick Ward, a Madigan precinct worker. Ward already was drawing a public pension while working at Metra, but he wanted a raise and hadn’t received one, so he asked his sponsor for help. Madigan made a couple of calls, then backed off when the man who ran Metra objected to political interference. That guy eventually resigned with a golden parachute and a vow of silence. But when the media got wind of it, all heck broke loose and all fingers pointed to Madigan.

The Sun-Times and the Better Government Association’s investigation took a look at Madigan’s most recent nominating petitions, noticed Ward was a circulator then took a look at the other names.

The BGA sent people door to door to talk to the other circulators and see if they were the same folks who popped up on their government employee searches. Some of those precinct workers alleged that they and their families were harassed, and Madigan got angry.

Madigan is valued at the Statehouse for being the most grown-up of the grown-ups. But he’s simply not acting that way of late.

• Rich Miller publishes Capitol Fax, a daily political newsletter, and CapitolFax.com.

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