Madigan minions wear black robes

Madigan minions wear black robes

State Rep. Scott Drury is campaigning for Illinois attorney general on a platform of fighting political corruption.

Drury's on-again, off-again campaign to become the Democratic Party's nominee for attorney general is off again. Or is it?

It's hard to tell because of the mixed signals that are being sent. But one thing is crystal clear. The effort to undermine Drury's candidacy, while certainly in the interest of party insiders, is an affront to the democratic process and the public's best interests.

The power brokers behind the effort to defeat Drury in advance of the election haven't stepped up to take credit for their handiwork. But one need not be clairvoyant to suspect the identity of the puppet master — it's Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan.

That's what Drury contends, and that's what the facts would suggest given the combination of Speaker Madigan's antipathy for Drury and Madigan's dual role as the chairman of the state Democratic Party.

Officially, Drury's petitions were challenged by a Cook County labor official. But that, too, bespeaks Madigan's influence given the close political relationship between the all-powerful Chicago Democrats and big labor.

The initial challenge to Drury's petitions was rejected by the Illinois State Board of Elections.

Last Friday, Cook County Judge Alfred Paul overturned the ISBE's ruling and ordered Drury's name stricken from the ballot.

Drury, who is pursuing an emergency appeal, persuaded the court to leave his name on the ballot as early voting is set to begin.

But he's still in a world of trouble, and here's why.

The Cook County courts are highly politicized. It's a rare judge there who doesn't have the blessing of party leaders and feel a sense of loyalty to them.

That's probably why the objectors to Drury's petition filed suit in Cook County rather than Sangamon County, where the ISBE is located.

Drury is taking his appeal to the 1st District Appellate Court. But as the appellate court for Cook County, it too is subject to the influence of Democratic Party bigwigs.

Then there is the Illinois Supreme Court, which also is politically compromised and under Democratic Party control. Three of its justices — Charles Freeman, Mary Jane Theis and Anne Burke — are Cook County Democrats. The fourth Democrat, Justice Thomas Kilbride, owes his judicial seat to the support of Speaker Madigan.

Appellate and Supreme Court justices may feel a bit more independent from the party than the lowly associate judge who threw Drury off the ballot. But there are no guarantees.

This is the nonissue confronting the judiciary.

Political candidates are required to file economic interest statements, documents that vaguely outline any holdings — like stocks — that might do business with the state of Illinois.

Drury filed a statement of economic interest in April with Secretary of State Jesse White. For those who are curious, it takes about a minute to find it and download a copy.

When Drury filed to run as a candidate for attorney general, he filed a receipt, which he contends is legally acceptable, that indicated his statement already is on file.

Cook County Judge Paul, in his finite wisdom, ruled that Drury's name must be stricken from the ballot for not filing a statement that is already on file and available to the public.

Given those facts, it's no surprise that one of Drury's seven Democratic opponents characterized the decision as "typical machine shenanigans."

But, outrageous as they are, tactics like this can work, especially when the courts genuflect before party leaders.

Everyone who pays attention knows that Rep. Drury has vigorously and publicly opposed Speaker Madigan's long leadership of legislative Democrats, and that he views Madigan's political and policy decisions as ruinous to the state and has repeatedly called for his fellow Democrats to turn their backs on Madigan.

He's running for attorney general as an independent who intends to use the office to focus on the kind of corruption that greases politics in this state.

Suffice it to say, the insiders are not enamored either of Drury or his campaign platform.

So he's got to lose, they say. And they're determined to achieve their goal by any means possible.

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