Commentaries posted do not necessarily represent the opinion of LDN.
 Any opinions expressed are those of the writers.


Illinois Policy Institute
Madigan rules Illinois with an iron grip. And failure to follow through on a favor can come with dire consequences.

A new batch of emails released by Wikileaks Oct. 12 reveal Hillary Clinton’s team attempted to change the date of Illinois’ presidential primary to April or May instead of March. And they knew they needed the ear of the state’s most powerful politician to do so.

Nothing moves in Illinois without the blessing of its all-powerful House speaker and chairman of the state Democratic Party: Mike Madigan. However, Clinton’s campaign may have chosen the wrong messenger for their request.

Clinton campaign manager Robert Mook outlined his strategy in a Nov. 26, 2014, email to Clinton campaign chair John Podesta, the Wikileaks documents show. Mook wanted Bill Daley to contact Madigan’s Chief of Staff Tim Mapes to make the request that the Illinois General Assembly quickly introduce and pass a bill changing the date of the primary.

Daley is the former White House Chief of Staff to President Barack Obama, the son of the late Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley and brother to former Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley.

The later timing of the vote would act as a safeguard for the Clinton campaign were she struggling in the primary. The Wikileaks emails show Mook offered to give Illinois a 10 percent boost in delegates if the General Assembly moved the primary to April, and 20 percent if lawmakers moved it to May.

As the Chicago Sun-Times notes, Madigan changed the date of the 2008 Illinois primary benefit then-candidate Barack Obama, moving it up to February from March.

But this time would be different.

Madigan’s map

Madigan’s more than 30 year reign as Illinois’ speaker of the House is explored in a new documentary, “Madigan: Power. Privilege. Politics.”

The documentary touches on the subject of legislative mapmaking, which is how Madigan first took power over the House in the early 1980s. Throughout the state’s history, Illinois lawmakers have carefully crafted legislative maps to maximize their political advantage. This system has led to a lack of competitive elections, and an equally distressing lack of confidence in state government.

But Daley has been involved with a massive effort to change that system.

He serves on the board of directors for the Independent Maps Amendment, which gathered more than half a million signatures to put a mapmaking reform amendment on the state ballot this November.

But a Madigan lawyer sued to have that question stricken from the ballot. And he won.

Asking a man who led an effort to reduce the speaker’s power for Madigan’s favor was a fool’s errand.

[to top of second column]

Illinois political commentator Rich Miller wrote in his Oct. 13 newsletter that Madigan spokesman Steve Brown pointed to Daley’s involvement with redistricting reform as one of the reasons for the failed attempt.

The Mook email Wikileaks released suggested the Clinton campaign had tried to change the date of the Illinois primary on multiple occasions, but had been rebuked.

“As we discussed, they don’t really care about being helpful and feel forgotten and neglected by POTUS,” Mook wrote. “The key point is that this is not an Obama ask, but a Hillary ask. And the Clintons won’t forget what their friends have done for them.”

Madigan’s mentality

The new documentary about Madigan shows how his approach echoes Clinton’s in this case, as he has built an unprecedented political force in Illinois through favoritism.

Filmed interviews with former politicians, professors and political commentators exposed the political machine the speaker has built.

“He’s been getting people jobs, getting promotions for his people, getting raises for his people. It’s what he does,” Miller said in an interview for the documentary.

He compared Madigan’s operation to that of mob leader Paulie Cicero in the organized crime movie “Goodfellas.” In return for support, the speaker provides protection for favored workers and Democratic House members.

“Everybody pays tribute up, but from the top down they take care of you. And that’s how they get the loyalty,” Miller said.

The Democratic Party has held a majority in the Illinois House for all but two years since 1983. They can select anyone to be House speaker. But they choose Madigan every time.

It’s easy to see why. The man has unprecedented authority.

If a Democratic House member doesn’t vote for Madigan, he can take away her campaign money, strip her of any leadership roles and even make sure none of her bills get a hearing. The Illinois House’s unique rules allow the speaker to ensure bills that threaten his power base are not given a public hearing.

Madigan rules Illinois with an iron grip. And failure to follow through on a favor can come with dire consequences.

To find out where you can see “Madigan: Power. Privilege. Politics.” go to

Austin Berg worked as a writer and consultant on the film “Madigan: Power. Privilege. Politics.”

Click here to respond to the editor about this article

< Recent commentaries

Back to top