Opinions Editor

Jim Dey is a staff writer for The News-Gazette. His email is jdey@news-gazette.com.

It’s time once again to dive in to another round of quick takes on the people, places and events that were being talked about over the past week:

Long time coming

The wheels of justice, as they say, grind slowly, and even more so in big-time federal governmental corruption or organized crime cases.

Nonetheless, U.S. Judge John Blakey this week tentatively scheduled former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan’s corruption trial for April 2024.

Yes, you read that right, 2024.

Madigan, who will then be 82, and a close associate, Quincy lawyer Michael McClain, are charged in connection with the long-running Commonwealth Edison bribery conspiracy case.

Owing to a recent addition to their catalogue of alleged wrongs, they also face similar charges involving AT&T.

The government alleges the utilities provided no-show jobs to Madigan friends and associates in exchange for Madigan’s assistance in passing legislation the utilities favored.

Madigan has adamantly denied the charges. But both companies have pleaded guilty, as have utility officials. There’s no denying that many members of the Madigan political team were getting paid to do nothing.

The years-long investigation has snared multiple defendants.

Before Madigan’s trial, McClain and three other ComEd officials/lobbyists — Jay Doherty, John Hooker and former ComEd CEO Anne Pramaggiore — face a March trial. That will be an exciting preview to the Madigan extravaganza.

At the same time, Tim Mapes, a former top Madigan aide, faces perjury charges for allegedly lying to a grand jury about how Madigan conducted his business. Mapes’ case has not been set for trial.

Madigan has kept a low profile since he was removed from his long-held speaker post in 2021. He even avoided showing up in court with his lawyers for arraignment.

That was the case again this week when Blakey set the trial date.

Not quite a lobbyist

Following his defeat in last’s year GOP primary, former U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis will no longer be on the inside crafting legislation. But he will be trying to affect the government process from the outside.

Why?

Davis has become a managing director of Cozen Connor Public Strategies.

“In this role, Rodney provides strategic counsel to the firm’s government relations clients, particularly those whose business goals are impacted by the legislative actions of Congress,” Cozen states on its web page.

Cozen has “widely recognized national practices in litigation, corporate, intellectual property, real estate and labor & employment and extensive experience in a variety of practices areas.” It say “our talented professionals work collaboratively across disciplines and seamlessly throughout our 30 offices to achieve our clients’ business objectives.”

The five-term House member from Taylorville lost to U.S. Rep. Mary Miller in the June 2022 primary. He said that gave him plenty of time to decide what he wanted to do next.

He said “I got a chance to really decide where I wanted to go, who I wanted to be with” and that he’s pleased for the “chance to still be engaged in the public policy arena here in D.C., and also in Illinois and other states.”

Davis is barred from being an actual lobbyist for one year, but said will become one when permitted to do so “if a client think[s] I can have influence with” the Biden administration.

“I’ve realized that there’s opportunities to be effective in public policy if you were effective as a (House) member,” he said.

After the primary, there was considerable speculation about a future run for public office. But Illinois is not hospitable to Republicans at the moment and what slots there are already are taken.

Never say never, but it looks like Davis’ foreseeable future involves the potentially hugely lucrative business of advising clients who want to know which buttons to push to get what they want from the federal government.

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Michigan man?

It’s no secret that University of Michigan head football coach Jim Harbaugh is interviewing for the top jobs with a number of National Football League teams.

Recent news explains part of the reason why.

The NCAA recently hit Michigan with allegations of rules violations in its football program, one serious violation targeted specifically at Harbaugh.

It’s hard to imagine Harbaugh is frightened by the official notice. But he might wish to avoid the headache by embracing a new challenge in the NFL.

Harbaugh already coached in the NFL, taking the San Francisco 49ers to the Super Bowl. Since taking the Michigan job, he’s compiled a 74-25 record.

CBS sports reports that “Level II” violations include “accusations that Michigan held practices with too many coaches on the field, contacted two prospects during the extended COVID-19 dead period, and observed practices via an unauthorized video feed.”

That’s not exactly serious stuff, especially considering the new NIL wild west atmosphere in major college sports.

The major allegation — “Level I” — targets Harbaugh for allegedly misleading the “the NCAA when it approached him with the allegations.”

UM officials said this week they “received draft allegations from the NCAA regarding our football program,” and promised to “cooperate with the investigation.

Athletic director Warde Manuel disingenuously declined further comment “out of respect to the NCAA’s enforcement process.”

Some have suggested the alleged violation could cost Harbaugh his job. Given Harbaugh’s win/loss record and his team’s recent defeat of Ohio State, it’s hard to imagine the school would do more than slap his wrist, if that.

Harbaugh has said he “expects” to be Michigan’s coach next season but added, cryptically, that no one knows what the future holds.

So he’s clearly looking and interested in the NFL, and his resume makes him a serious head coach candidate. Michigan fans have to be holding their breath while Illinois fans would be happy to wish Harbaugh the best in the NFL.

Changing of the guard'

After chasing a variety of bad guys — including crooked politicians — Chicago U.S. Attorney John Lausch announced a surprise resignation this week.

For those who follow the federal criminal justice system, that’s big news because Lausch, unlike some of his predecessors, made prosecuting political corruption a top priority.

Lausch survived President Joe Biden’s plan to fire him after Illinois’ two Democratic U.S. Senators — Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth — said Lausch should be allowed to wrap up major corruption cases he was pursuing.

A couple big ones — the ComEd bribery conspiracy case and another involving Chicago Alderman Ed Burke — remain incomplete. But they are scheduled for trial.

Lausch was nominated for the U.S. Attorney’s post by former Republican President Donald Trump. But Democrats Durbin and Duckworth participated in the search, providing him bipartisan support.

Lausch is expected to leave for the private sector around March. His first assistant, Morris “Sonny” Pasqual, will run the office until Lausch’s successor is confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

There is no minimizing just how important the top federal prosecutor’s job in Chicago is. Interested parties, for a variety of reasons, try to influence the selection.

The prestigious post is sought by high-powered lawyers. At the same time, various politicos would like to influence the choice to ensure whomever is selected either is or is not interested in pursuing political corruption cases involving Cook County’s Democratic politicians.

Former Republican U.S. Sen. Peter Fitzgerald, an anti-corruption zealot, years ago told The News-Gazette that he was overwhelmed with requests by big-shot lawyers and politicians to serve on a committee to select the next U.S. Attorney in Chicago.

Fitzgerald said he told them that there would not be a committee, that he would make the choice himself. Fitzgerald brought in an out-of-town federal prosecutor — Patrick Fitzgerald of New York — and watched as Fitzgerald’s office targeted dozens of corrupt pols, including Govs. George Ryan and Rod Blagojevich.

Jim Dey, a member of The News-Gazette staff, can be reached at jdey@news-gazette.com or 217-393-8251.

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