For all the wailing about the unparalleled political power of House Speaker Michael Madigan, there’s a pretty simple explanation. It’s not only about the speaker’s grasp of the details of state government and politics after 50 years in Springfield (Madigan won his first election nearly a half-century ago on Nov. 18, 1969, as a delegate to the Illinois Constitutional Convention), it’s also about the money.
The Chicago Democrat has easy access to lots of perfectly legal campaign funds — millions of dollars from what can only be described as much of the state’s, and the nation’s, political establishment.
The most recent quarterly report from the Friends of Michael J. Madigan political account shows that it had $7.1 million on hand. That’s twice as much as U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin has, or any Illinois congressman or any other state official, including wealthy Gov. J.B. Pritzker ($310,219 in his campaign fund).
Add to that $7.1 million another $700,000-plus that the Madigan account has reported since Oct. 1.
The 93 contributions come from the usual suspects — $3,000 from the Chicago Teachers Union, $100,000 from the Chicago Regional Council of Carpenters, $50,000 from the bricklayers union, and $25,000 from Citizens for Lou Lang, who was a former assistant to Madigan in the House — but also from some unusual ones.
There’s $8,140 from Abbott House LLC, a nonprofit nursing and mental health facility in Highland Park. And $5,000 each from two agribusiness giants in Decatur: ADM and Tate & Lyle Americas. Ameren Illinois chipped in another $5,000, as did Eli Lilly. Health Alliance of Champaign and Boeing of Arlington, Va., put in $2,500. And there were $10,000 contributions from AT&T, Comcast, the Illinois Federation of Public Employees, the Illinois Hospital Association, the Illinois Optometric Association, the Illinois State Medical Society and the State Farm Agents and Associates.
There have been numerous reports in recent months about Madigan’s legal troubles. And although he hasn’t been charged with anything, his office and his allies are facing lawsuits and federal investigations that already have added up to about $1.5 million in legal fees since February 2018.
But as long as the state and the national political establishments keep pitching in, Madigan’s legal bills will be covered.
Gifford Republican Sami Anderson, running for the Sixth Judicial Circuit judge nomination against Judge Jason Bohm, has dropped out of the race. They were vying for the position currently held by retiring Judge Tom Difanis,.
“It’s just too much,” she said. “Running in 2017-2018 (in which she lost the Republican primary to Judge Randy Rosenbaum) and then volunteering on Roger Webber’s campaign and then going right into this campaign, it’s just a lot.”
Anderson marched in parades as recently as Labor Day but recently decided to quit the race.
“I think the first time you run, you have a different way of thinking about it. You’re excited; you think it’s going to be great,” she said. “The second time you run, you know what’s coming, and that’s a lot different.”
Anderson she hasn’t committed to supporting Bohm — “I’m not that far along yet,” she said — but won’t be supporting any Democratic candidates, even though she said more female circuit judges are needed.
“Absolutely. One is not enough. And I believe we desperately need a family lawyer background in that courthouse,” Anderson said.
The only female circuit judge in the Champaign County Courthouse is Judge Heidi Ladd, a former prosecutor.
Anderson said she doesn’t think she’ll run again for public office.
“If you’re asking me that today, I think that would be my position. Six months from now, I don’t know,” she said. “You’ve got to put in the work. And that work is a lot. In the first campaign I think we walked over 12,000 doors in six counties. You have to go out and meet the voters in judicial races. They are so different than other races.”
She said she told Bohm she wouldn’t be running in the GOP primary.
“I knew when I told him that it was absolutely the right decision,” she said. “I jokingly said, ‘Save your money for the general (election). Focus on that.’”
Champaign Republican John Bambenek said his candidacy for Congress in the 15th District is unaffected by the announcement last week that Mary Miller of Oakland also is a candidate for the Republican nomination to succeed retiring U.S. Rep. John Shimkus of Collinsville.
Miller is the wife of freshman state Rep. Chris Miller.
She has already filed a statement of candidacy with the Federal Election Commission.
Bambenek has not but said he is focusing his efforts on collecting signatures on his petitions.
“Petitions first and foremost,” he said.
The FEC so far reports three Republican and two Democratic candidates for the 15th District seat. The primary election will be March 17, 2020.
— Matt Goetten, who ran for the Democratic nomination for Congress in the 13th District in 2012 and lost to David Gill, is running for judge in Greene County.
Goetten, a state’s attorney in Greene County who had been endorsed by U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin for the nomination in 2012, lives in Carrollton and is running for the Democratic nomination for resident judge.
— Former U.S. Rep. Tim Johnson of Urbana contributed $500 in August to the campaign fund of his successor, U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville. Johnson made the contribution through his Middle Ground Political Action Committee. Meanwhile state Rep. Carol Ammons, D-Urbana, made a $500 contribution through her Friends of Carol Ammons campaign account to Democrat Betsy Londrigan. She likely will oppose Davis next November in the 13th Congressional District, which includes Champaign-Urbana.
Tom Kacich’s column runs Sundays in The News-Gazette. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.