front-page story on Wednesday’s Chicago Tribune gave center stage to House Speaker and state Democratic Party head Michael Madigan, in the paper’s continuing, depressing coverage of clouted admissions to the U of I. This time, his daughter, Attorney General Lisa Madigan, took a key supporting role…">
Carol Felsenthal
On politics

The Sins of the Father—Should Lisa Madigan Return the Money?

The sprawling, front-page story on Wednesday’s Chicago Tribune gave center stage to House Speaker and state Democratic Party head Michael Madigan, in the paper’s continuing, depressing coverage of clouted admissions to the U of I. This time, his daughter, Attorney General Lisa Madigan, took a key supporting role…

Michael Madigan (left) and Lisa Madigan
House Speaker and state Democratic Party head Michael Madigan, left, and his daughter, Attorney General Lisa Madigan

 

The sprawling, front-page story on Wednesday’s Chicago Tribune gave center stage to House Speaker and state Democratic Party head Michael Madigan, in the paper’s continuing, depressing coverage of clouted admissions to the U of I. This time, his daughter, Attorney General Lisa Madigan, took a key supporting role.

The Tribune reporters described campaign contributions to Mike Madigan (both personal and to the party)—a total of $115,200—from “public officials, political allies and donors” whose relatives were given admission to the U of I, some with awful grades. The Attorney General’s campaign fund “also received $49,245 from those same individuals and PACs,” as the Tribune story put it.

It could be worse for Lisa. She herself was not clouted into the U of I—she went to Georgetown. And like a good politician, she returned to Chicago for law school at Loyola. 

Mike Madigan has been in the news almost daily, and the stories are almost always damning. Yet the father’s alleged sins have seldom touched Lisa. In Wednesday’s story, the Trib reporters note that Lisa is not listed on university documents as a sponsor of any of the 28 U of I applicants. And her political director, Mary Morrissey, told the paper that the Attorney General did not speak to any of the donors who were seeking admission. But Morrissey declined to discuss her boss’ relationship with any of them.

Attorney General since 2002 (and before that, a state senator), Lisa Madigan seems to be under consideration for every high office imaginable—including, most recently, the pending nomination to fill the Supreme Court vacancy created by John Paul Stevens’ retirement. Should we expect talk of the vice presidency or the presidency in her future? Probably. She is said to want to be governor or perhaps mayor of Chicago, and it’s clear that she repeatedly turned down the pleas of Obama and his advisors that she run for the U.S. Senate (instead of Alexi Giannoulias.)

Like her father, Lisa is quiet and intelligent—and patient, waiting for the right time to move up. If she makes a play for governor one day, look for her father to retire from politics. The stories then will be about how much under-the-table influence he wields.

Should Lisa return that tainted money? Will anyone even make the suggestion?

Her spokesman, Robin Ziegler, told the Tribune’s John Kass: “You asked whether the attorney general’s office would investigate certain aspects of the Tribune’s story…. The answer is no. We would not investigate that. If it were a criminal investigation, it’s under the primary jurisdiction of the county state’s attorney’s office.”

Hmm. Lisa Madigan’s website includes a link to “Ensuring Open and Honest Government.” Another link goes to a page headlined “Ethics and Public Integrity” that contains some pleasant boilerplate that takes on a new meaning in light of the most recent U of I clout revelations: “Attorney General Madigan is committed to improving ethics in government as she believes it is the responsibility of all public servants to maintain a high ethical standard in order to effectively and honestly serve the citizens of Illinois.”

 

Photograph: Chicago Tribune

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