Tom Kacich: Longevity, money feed Madigan's power

Tom Kacich: Longevity, money feed Madigan's power

Everyone wants to know how House Speaker Michael Madigan has managed to retain so much power for so long over so much of Illinois government.

Part of it is longevity. Madigan's base has been in state government and Springfield politics since the 1960s. He was a hearing officer for the Illinois Commerce Commission before becoming a delegate to the 1969-70 Illinois constitutional convention, which wrote the state's current constitution.

And in January 1971 Madigan began serving in the Illinois House and has never left: 42 years, which is 34 more years than Abraham Lincoln served there. He's been Speaker of the House for 30 years, a position Lincoln once tried and failed to win.

But another part of Madigan's strength is his knack for using his power to gain more power through contributions to his political organizations. The Friends of Michael Madigan organization reported $95,000 in contributions in the April 1 to June 30 period (traditionally a low-yield period; expect that number to at least quadruple in the fourth quarter) and now has more than a $1 million on hand.

The Democratic Party of Illinois fund, which Madigan also controls, has more than $317,000 in the bank. You can expects its numbers to jump by the end of the year, probably to about $1 million.

But it's where Madigan gets his money that is so interesting; it's far more than the usual suspects, such as trial lawyers and some labor unions.

In the last quarter, for example, Madigan's fund got $15,000 from the Illinois State Medical Society; $10,000 from the Illinois Hospital Association; $5,000 from Humana; $3,000 from Caterpillar, Inc. and the Union Pacific Railroad. There was even a $2,500 donation from the Illinois Chamber of Commerce.

Madigan's PAC also got $10,000 from the We Mean Business PAC that got some of its money from Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner and his wife, and is pushing public employee pension reform.

Urbana-based Health Alliance has given Madigan's PAC $22,800 since 2004. Decatur's ADM has contributed $43,000 since 2000. Tate & Lyle, also in Decatur, has donated $40,000 since 2005. The hospital association has given $317,500 since 2002. And there's been a lot more over the years from businesses and business groups: Ameren, $198,450; Exelon, $82,000; Illinois Realtors, $61,500; the state chamber of commerce, $38,250; the John Deere PAC, $22,350; Allstate Insurance: $45,000; and $112,450 from the Illinois Bankers Association.

Callis' money

13th Congressional District Democratic candidate Ann Callis of Edwardsville is being backed by National Democrats in part because of the perception that she would be able to raise a lot of money on her own.

She had a pretty good first quarter of fundraising, but not as good as some of the eight other candidates in the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee's "Jumpstart" program.

Callis raised $226,076, but that wasn't as much as two other "Jumpstart" designees who got later starts than the five other contenders, Kevin Strouse of Pennsylvania who brought in $253,766, and Gwen Graham of Florida, who raised $377,448.

Still, Callis is in better shape overall than Democrats Jim Graves of Minnesota ($232,812 raised since Jan. 1) and Michael Eggman of Colorado ($117,946 since the first of the year). The gold standard for the new Democratic candidates is Andrew Romanoff of Colorado, who already has collected more than $1 million.

The evolution of a tweet

Last week, while looking over the list of itemized campaign contributions to Republican Bruce Rauner's gubernatorial campaign, I noticed that Rauner reported a $1,000 contribution from James Liautaud of Chicago, and reported him to be the CEO of Jimmy Johns.

The next morning I got a call from State Treasurer Dan Rutherford, also a Republican candidate for governor and a longtime friend of Liautaud's. He said that he had called Liautaud, who told him that he did not give any money to Rauner, but that his father, also named James Liautaud, had done so.

I checked with both Liautaud and the Rauner campaign. Both got back quickly.

"The campaign received a check from James Liautaud and erroneously reported the employer and occupation," wrote Mike Schrimpf, a spokesman for Rauner. "We are filing an amendment disclosure to correct and thank Dan for bringing this to our attention."

Liautaud, who formerly lived in Champaign and in the past has given more than $240,000 to Rutherford (either directly or through his business), said he supporting neither Rutherford nor Rauner.

"I am not supporting any politician anyway. I am retired from politics," he said. "And I have no plans of coming out of retirement."

Johnson's new PAC

Former U.S. Rep. Tim Johnson's newly named political action committee, Middle Ground PAC, reported having $245,653 on hand on June 30, with no new receipts (except for an interest payment) and less than $5,000 in disbursements. The only politically related contributions were $650 to the reelection campaign of Champaign City Council member Will Kyles and $350 to the McLean County Republican Central Committee.

Tom Kacich is a News-Gazette editor and columnist. His column appears on Sundays and Wednesdays. He can be reached at 351-5221 or at

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