To prevent another Madigan, Illinois needs ethics reform

November 23, 2020

Illinois Policy experts are available to dissect why Illinois needs Speaker Madigan to step down and why Illinois must dismantle his power structure

PRESS RELEASE from
ILLINOIS POLICY

MEDIA CONTACT: Melanie Krakauer (312) 607-4977

To prevent another Madigan, Illinois needs ethics reform
Illinois Policy experts are available to dissect why Illinois needs Speaker Madigan to step down and why Illinois must dismantle his power structure

CHICAGO (Nov. 19, 2020) – With a close confidant and three others indicted for bribery, pressure is increasing on the nation’s longest-serving House speaker and Illinois’ Democratic Party chair, Mike Madigan. But his departure wouldn’t end Illinois’ systemic corruption, as another political player could exploit the system Madigan built and accumulate their own power, according to research from Illinois Policy.

Experts from Illinois Policy are available to discuss why Illinois needs both Madigan to step down and to reform legislative redistricting, ethics laws, the House Rules and legislative oversight to ensure Illinois taxpayers avoid the same corruption-inducing power wielded by Madigan. 

To prevent another Madigan, Illinois needs to enact these five reforms:

  1. Fair maps: Take redistricting power out of lawmakers’ hands.

Madigan has drawn three of the past four legislative maps in Illinois, one of which federal judges threw out because they found it weakened the votes of Black Illinoisans. Madigan’s maps have been so unfair that in 2020, 44% of the Illinois House of Representatives and half of the Illinois Senate seats were uncontested. Fair maps are wildly popular among Illinoisans, but Madigan and his allies have blocked this reform at every turn. John Hooker, a top lobbyist for ComEd and a close Madigan ally, sued to get the Independent Maps initiative off the ballot, winning a 4-3 decision in the Illinois Supreme Court in 2016. Hooker was indicted on corruption charges yesterday.

Solution: Politicians shouldn’t draw the legislative mapIllinois needs to adopt a redistricting process that places power with an independent redistricting commission, as has already been done in 14 other states, to remove it from the hands of lawmakers who stand to benefit from drawing maps in their favor.

  1. Reform the House Rules to right-size the speaker’s legislative power

According to original Illinois Policy analysis, no other state grants their House speaker as much power as does Illinois, including the power to control exactly which bills get a hearing and even which lawmakers are allowed to vote in committees.

Solution: One politician should not have all of the power in the General Assembly. Elected officials should be able to vote on bills without the speaker bottlenecking legislation he or she does not like. The speaker should no longer have the power to unilaterally appoint committee chairs, and must give lawmakers advance notice of an agenda, among other reforms.

  1. Require financial disclosure and voting recusal for conflicts of interest

Illinois’ current ethics laws allow Madigan to prioritize his personal and political interests for profit and power. Since Madigan founded his property tax law firm in 1972, it has grown to dominate property tax appeals in Cook County. And he’s used his power to further the careers of his allies, such as former Cook County Assessor Joe Berrios, who faced a federal investigation while in charge of property valuations, and McCormick Place developers, who n­­eeded a $60 million bailout.

Solution: Lawmakers must provide more detailed statements of economic interest and be required to recuse themselves from voting in the case of a conflict of interest, with real penalties for violating this rule.

  1. Empower the Legislative Inspector General 

The legislative inspector general serves as a watchdog but is restrained by the Legislative Ethics Commission, which can block the inspector from pursuing or publicizing wrongdoing by those lawmakers’ peers.

Solution: Illinois needs an empowered watchdog who can open investigations, issue subpoenas and publish findings of wrongdoing without first seeking the approval of politicians.

  1. End the revolving door and prohibit state lawmakers from acting as lobbyists while they are in office

Illinois is one of only 14 states without a broad revolving door law that prevents state lawmakers from becoming lobbyists immediately after leaving office. Worse, sitting lawmakers are allowed to lobby local governments and state executive agencies while in office.

Solution: Illinois must create a clear line of separation between lobbyists and lawmakers to keep Illinois clear of the kind of corrupt entanglements it has seen under Madigan.

To learn more about Madigan’s legacy of corruption, visit illin.is/corruptmadigan.

For bookings or interviews, contact media@illinoispolicy.org or (312) 607-4977.