- Associated Press - Tuesday, August 2, 2016

July 30, 2016

Belleville News-Democrat

Gov. Rauner speaks Greek to lawmakers

Remember how Hercules’ fifth task was to clean the stables of King Augeas in a single day? The home to 3,000 oxen hadn’t been cleaned in 30 years.

Some might see parallels in Springfield and Gov. Bruce Rauner. Thirty years of B.S. accumulated in the capital, and someone quickly needs to clean it out.

How? Term limits. The Independent Map Amendment.

Voters via petition repeatedly tried to make both of these changes, but Madigan and Co. continue to block them in the courts using the same argument: Amendments to the Illinois Constitution through voter petitions can only change the structure and procedures of the General Assembly. Madigan’s lawyer has successfully argued that because the map amendment proposal adds duties to two other branches of state government - the executive branch’s auditor and the courts’ Illinois Supreme Court justices - that it is unconstitutional.

So Rauner is passing out shovels and hoping he can get the oxen to help him clean up. He picked a Shiloh farm and went elsewhere around the state pushing for both term limits and an independent commission, but asking state lawmakers to make those changes.

Now, those would be the same state lawmakers led for 30 years by a Chicago Democrat and who are the nation’s fifth-highest paid. Illinois lawmakers average $100,000 each when all their pay and benefits are added and hit Illinois taxpayers with a $32 million bill each year that they’ve legislated must be paid regardless of anyone else’s suffering.

They would also be the same state lawmakers who are in their second fiscal year without a state budget, have spent $7.8 billion more than we have at present and have allowed a pension deficit to pass $111 billion. Their concern about the details of the Illinois Constitution seems to vanish when it comes to that mandate that they balance the state budget.

Imagine if everyone got more pay for less work, and the work they did was incompetent. Grounds for firing?

Rauner’s pushing the right ideals, but you better hope the Illinois Supreme Court decides the people should have a say in November on at least an independent commission drawing legislative maps. At present the state lawmakers, two-thirds of whom face no election opposition, draw their districts to create safe havens for re-election rather than making compact districts of people with common interests.

Convincing the bull-headed that their time at the trough should be limited will happen about the same time that pigs fly.


July 29, 2016

Chicago Tribune

Making Hastert pay: Sex abuse victim sues for $1.8 million

Dennis Hastert, serial child molester, is paying for his misconduct by serving 15 months in prison. He got off easy.

Hastert pleaded guilty to a white-collar banking crime in October. The statute of limitations had expired long before federal prosecutors uncovered the former U.S. House speaker’s dark secret - that he had sexually abused several high school wrestlers he’d coached in the 1970s. Eight years ago, Hastert agreed to pay one of them $3.5 million.

To the victim, known in court as “Individual A,” it was a private out-of-court settlement - compensation for the lifelong damage caused by Hastert’s abuse - that included a confidentiality agreement.

To Hastert, it was hush money, pure and simple. He’d paid $1.7 million by the time federal agents starting asking about the curious bank withdrawals he’d been making for four years. That investigation eventually cost Hastert his freedom and his reputation - but it saved him $1.8 million, according to his lawyers.

That’s the balance that Individual A says he is owed (plus interest). In April, he filed a lawsuit.

Hastert has acknowledged that he molested Individual A and several other boys that he coached at Yorkville High School. Hastert went on to become a state lawmaker, congressman and eventually the longest-serving Republican House speaker in history.

Individual A, meanwhile, struggled with depression, suffered panic attacks and had trouble keeping a job. In 2008, he put a price tag on that lasting harm: $3.5 million.

Hastert agreed to pay it. He stopped when the feds found out what he was doing, and why.

And now the predator and his victim are trading legal arguments in a breach-of-contract dispute.

Hastert’s lawyers say Individual A broke his end of the bargain when the FBI came knocking and he opted not to lie about what was going on. (Unlike their client, who first said he was being extorted by a former student making false accusations.)

They also say Individual A didn’t really trade his right to file a personal injury lawsuit for that $3.5 million. By the time he struck the agreement with Hastert, the statute of limitations had expired on that too. So he had nothing to trade.

They say the contract isn’t enforceable anyway because it’s not in writing.

And they say that enforcing the agreement - supporting Individual A’s attempt to “sell his silence” to conceal alleged wrongdoing - would be contrary to public policy.

That’s a high-minded argument, coming from the guy who once was so eager to buy that silence.

The guy who was able to run out the statute of limitations because his misconduct, by its very nature, was excruciatingly painful for his victims to report. It took decades for Individual A to confront his abuser. The victim still hasn’t told his story publicly.

Hastert likely would have spent decades in state prison if his actions had come to light in time to charge him with sexual abuse of minors, U.S. District Judge Thomas Durkin observed at sentencing. Instead, the serial child molester - Durkin’s words - got 15 months for evading federal banking regulations.

He’ll pay his debt to society at a deep, deep discount. And his debt to his victim? As far as Hastert is concerned, that’s paid in full.


July 28, 2016

The (Champaign) News-Gazette

Forward thinking

Illinois Democrats used the national convention as a stage to test out candidates for governor.

Illinois Democrats gathering this week in Philadelphia appear to be more focused on 2018 than 2016. Two familiar names were being tossed about as potential challengers to Gov. Bruce Rauner.

Dick Durbin, Illinois’ senior senator and the party’s minority whip in the U.S. Senate, told reporters this week that his top priority is the 2016 presidential election. But he didn’t deny that he has considering taking on Rauner. Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, who also serves as the state party chairman, added to the speculation by saying Durbin would be “uniquely qualified for the job.”

Durbin’s longevity, political history and name recognition would make him the favorite. A poll conducted by We Ask America, an independent subsidiary of Xpress Professional Services in Oak Brook, says half of Illinois Democrats prefer Durbin as their party’s gubernatorial candidate. Politico reports that Durbin will make a decision after the November election.

Chris Kennedy, the former chairman of the University of Illinois Board of Trustees and a son of the late Robert F. Kennedy, also attracted attention in Philadelphia - not all of it welcomed. Speaking to the Illinois delegation, Kennedy lambasted Rauner for his proposals to reel in unions and his inability to fashion a state budget.

Unlike most aspiring politicians, Kennedy became microphone-shy after his well-received address. Reporters rushed up to him, asking him questions about his political future. Instead of answering, he got on an elevator, which became stuck as reporters tried to get in. An awkward exchange ensued, and later Kennedy said reporters were “bullying.”

Should he become a candidate two years from now, Kennedy will need to grow a thicker skin and learn how to deal with the media horde. Aggressive reporters are not going to change; he’ll need to.

As he did with Durbin, Madigan voiced support for Kennedy, saying the Chicago businessman “would bring to the campaign the history of his family, which would be very helpful.”

More than family ties, Kennedy has two advantages going for him: his deep connections within the business community and his vision for stronger higher education. Both qualities would help a future governor improve the state’s economy.

Two other familiar names are being mentioned: Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan and former Gov. Pat Quinn.

Madigan would have an obvious strength and weakness as a candidate. Her father, Speaker Madigan, is the most powerful politician in the state, giving her a well-oiled political machine from which to work. But a father-daughter power combo is a huge negative. Would voters allow one political family outright control of two branches of government?

Quinn, ever the outsider, has been keeping his name in the conversation by advocating for mayoral term limits in Chicago. Further, his name carries some weight. According to We Ask America gubernatorial poll, Quinn comes in third, after Durbin and “undecided.”

At the center, as has been the case for the last 20 years, is Speaker Madigan. He holds more cards than the others do combined.

Since Rauner and Madigan achieved a stopgap budget a month ago, the assumption has been that both sides would return the negotiating table after the November election and achieve some sort of compromise that balances the state budget - and raises taxes.

Maybe, maybe not.

Madigan has meticulously accumulated vast power in the Legislature, the judiciary and the unionized executive branch. Does striking a deal maintain or expand that empire? Or does a failed agreement inflict such irreparable damage to Rauner that he cannot possibly win re-election, assuring his candidate the governorship?

Serious candidates should ask themselves: “How badly do I want to be governor if Mike Madigan is really calling the shots?”

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