Illinois’ political machine is still humming
Madigan, Martwick and Mautino are cogs in a well-oiled political machine that continues to enrich Illinois' political class at the expense of taxpayers.
For generations, Illinoisans have been subjected to a steady stream of corruption from their public officials. This behavior has transcended race, class, geography and even political power.
It produces a special kind of cynicism among residents. Corruption is happening. It’s only a matter of time before we find out who, what, when, where and why.
But this mentality often numbs Illinoisans to the wrongdoing that happens right in front of their eyes. That’s a problem. Because it’s the political gamesmanship that happens in plain sight, sometimes within the law, that greases Illinois’ political machine.
Consider three officials whose names have hit headlines recently: Madigan, Martwick and Mautino.
President John F. Kennedy once declared artists “the last champion of the individual mind and sensibility against an intrusive society and an officious state.”
That description certainly doesn’t depict Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan, who has championed a ballooning administrative state and the primacy of party loyalty for more than 40 years. In fact, those are two big reasons why he’ll soon become the longest-serving state House speaker in American history.
So why does the Madigan name come up in Illinois arts circles? The answer hits close to home.
Shirley Madigan has chaired the state’s artistic arm for 34 years, longer than her husband has been speaker of the House. State lawmakers created the Illinois Arts Council, or IAC, in 1965 to support arts organizations and initiatives across the state. Shirley Madigan has been a board member since 1976.
So the woman in charge of millions in state taxpayer dollars is married to the man who must give his blessing to the state budget.
The Edgar County Watchdogs filed suit against the IAC in 2016 after it failed to provide basic information in response to the good-government group’s Freedom of Information Act request. The suit was handled by the nonprofit Liberty Justice Center, a sister organization of the Illinois Policy Institute.
The IAC finally relented, and revealed the body held no official meetings from August 2014 until October 2016, despite handing out millions of dollars, including hundreds of thousands of dollars to the richest arts organizations in the state.
State lawmakers should call for Shirley Madigan’s resignation. That she’s lasted this long at IAC despite her close connection to the House speaker is a testament to the spinelessness of officials on both sides of the aisle.
State Rep. Robert Martwick, D-Chicago, failed to disclose $170,000 in income from his political consulting business, according to a July investigation by the Chicago Sun-Times.
The investigation found Illinois politicians have paid Martwick $673,000 through his consulting business, First Tuesday Inc., since 2005. But Martwick failed to list $170,000 in income from First Tuesday over a two-year period after he took office in 2013.
If Martwick willfully filed an incomplete statement of economic interests, he could face misdemeanor charges under the Illinois Governmental Ethics Act.
But regardless of whether Martwick gets whacked for his bookkeeping, his checkered ethics should be enough to inspire outrage across party lines.
The state lawmaker and his father, Robert Martwick Sr., are part of the cadre of politically connected property tax law firms in Cook County that make money by lowering property tax bills. Speaker Madigan and Chicago Alderman Ed Burke also run lucrative property tax law firms in Cook County.
Martwick’s law firm relies on the office of Cook County Assessor Joe Berrios to lower property valuations for their clients. Berrios, in turn, has hired Martwick as a political consultant through First Tuesday. The assessor has also depended on lawmakers such as Martwick and Madigan for success in his side gig as a Springfield lobbyist.
Martwick deserves bipartisan criticism. That’s not happening.
Frank Mautino was a bipartisan darling when he left the Illinois General Assembly to become the watchdog for … the Illinois General Assembly. Insiders were pleased that one of their own was becoming the auditor general. Mautino was a longtime lawmaker just like his dad, and Madigan’s former deputy majority leader to boot.
But Edgar County Watchdogs sniffed around Mautino’s campaign committee spending and revealed what was, at a minimum, astonishingly bad accounting – and quite possibly clear corruption. Concerned citizen David Cooke filed a formal complaint alleging violations of the Illinois Election Code, and the Illinois State Board of Elections demanded Mautino’s committee fix its spending reports. That didn’t happen, and the board fined his defunct committee $5,000. But the board never addressed the violations of the Election Code alleged by Cooke in his complaint, and when this was brought to the Board’s attention, it deadlocked on whether to address these claims on a 4-4 partisan vote.
Illinois’ lead legislative watchdog can’t seem to uncook his own books. And he’s still in office.
State Rep. Jeanne Ives, R-Wheaton, introduced a resolution last year asking Mautino to step down. Any lawmaker concerned with basic integrity should demand Speaker Madigan and state Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie, D-Chicago, release that resolution from the Rules Committee.
Ask your representative if he or she has done so.
In fact, go ahead and ask what your lawmakers think about Shirley Madigan’s chairmanship and Martwick’s political payouts. You’ll know for whom they work before they finish answering.