Signature victory

Signature victory

When you're running a con, it's important to follow the rules.

Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan doesn't often get caught with his fingers in the cookie jar.

But last week, he got beat playing the game he loves so much — hardball politics. Madigan was forced to retreat rather than stand his ground and take a chance that circumstances might get dangerously — perhaps criminally — out of hand.

It's a complicated story — Madigan's machinations usually are.

But the bottom line is this: Madigan operatives, as has been their custom for years, dug up a phony candidate to run as a Republican against their boss in the November 2014 election. In doing so, they claimed to have distributed the requisite petitions and collected the necessary signatures to put the name of mystery man Terrence Goggin on the ballot as Madigan's GOP opponent.

Cook County Republicans, the number of whom probably can be counted on one hand, challenged the petitions, suggesting they were a product of election fraud. A hearing was scheduled on the petition challenge that would have required sworn testimony from the petition passers about the validity of the petitions. After a lawyer for Madigan's men lost a motion to block the hearing, Goggin suddenly withdrew his candidacy, not only sending his candidacy up in smoke but eliminating the need for Madigan's men to testify.

It's a small victory for the good guys, in this case the Republicans who were challenging suspicious election petitions. But it's one to be savored anyway because the good guys don't win very often in the blood sport that is Illinois and Chicago politics. If they did, Illinois wouldn't be in the calamitous shape that it's in.

Here's the backstory — Madigan leaves nothing to chance. That's why he's the undisputed leader of the state's Democratic Party, state House Democrats and just about anything else that catches his attention.

In his mind, legitimate opponents in his races for re-election are an unnecessary distraction, even though he's a shoo-in for re-election in his heavy Democratic Chicago district.

So he likes to rig the game in advance, finding a Democratic associate who'll put his name on the Republican ticket and then disappear. That way there's an opponent in theory, but not in reality. Such an arrangement is most convenient for Madigan.

This year, Madigan scared up Goggin, who has run against Madigan the past. In 2010, Madigan found Patrick John Ryan. In 2006 and 2008, Madigan ran Robert Famiglietti as his opponent.

The Chicago news media likes to report on Madigan's electoral sleight of hand. So perhaps Madigan found the stories embarrassing because he didn't field a fake candidate in 2012, and the Republicans came up with a real opponent. As a result, Madigan was forced to waste time and money on a re-election bid even though he was a shoo-in. Remember, he leaves nothing to chance.

Having learned the error of his legitimate ways in 2012, Madigan reverted back to form. He ran Goggin again.

It would have been a done deal except that Republicans noticed what they considered to be irregularities in Goggin's petition signatures. The similarities in the handwriting among the names on the petitions bore signs of fraud.

Election fraud, of course, is a proud tradition in Chicago and Illinois. But it still is illegal.

Facing the prospect of either admitting the fraud or denying the fraud under oath and possibly committing perjury, Madigan's men were naturally reticent about submitting to questioning at the election board hearing. Consequently, Madigan and his men threw in the towel by arranging Goggin's withdrawal.

That probably is the end of it, although it ought not be.

Anyone wonder what Democratic Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan thinks about this kind of electoral activity by her father? How about Democratic Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez? Any chance of an inquiry to determine whether any laws were broken, and if so by whom? Madigan's too slippery to have engineered every step of this effort personally. But it didn't just happen by itself.

If anybody who matters cares, it's worth looking into.

Sections (2):Editorials, Opinion

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Sid Saltfork wrote on December 30, 2013 at 10:12 am

"If anybody who matters cares, it's worth looking into"?  What happened to investigative journalism?  Sure, everyone knows that the man is the definition of corruption; but nothing is done to get rid of him.  The trib, and the sun times complain along with every other media in the state; but nothing is done about it.  Evidently, "anybody who matters" does not care.