Editorial: Why the time is ripe for retiring Madigan

Editorial: Why the time is ripe for retiring Madigan


The long-awaited report on the culture of harassment and intimidation in Michael Madigan’s vast realm is even worse than many had guessed.

Former Illinois Executive Inspector General Maggie Hickey’s investigation uncovered a litany of abuses of authority fueled by the threats, harassment and intimidation tactics that faced those even suspected of challenging the Illinois House speaker's power.

The report suggests that the toxic culture created by ex-chief of staff Tim Mapes was aimed at protecting and growing Madigan's power over Illinois government and the Illinois Democratic Party Madigan also chairs.

Among the things Mapes’ targets feared if they crossed Mapes -- or Madigan -- were losing their jobs or lucrative government contracts, and having their careers destroyed. In addition, the report said, lawmakers in the Democratic Caucus also “feared losing campaign contributions, having their legislation stalled or stopped, or being removed from the caucus."

If you believe the word coming out of Springfield today, everybody in Mapes’ and Madigan’s sphere had seen Mapes in action or heard about terrible “Tim moments.” How can Madigan have missed them all? And still the speaker demurs.

Also disturbing is that 10 days after the report’s release, there has been no massive push to call Madigan to account for what happened in his service by the people who vote every two years to give the speaker his immense power.

For his part, Madigan continues to say what he needs to say and do what he needs to do -- but only as the moment requires. He fired Mapes and commissioned the report when he had to. Now he takes responsibility, after the fact, but continues to deny that he knew such a toxic environment existed. And he promises to quickly adopt Hickey’s recommendations.

Count us among those skeptical of Madigan’s commitment to destroying a reward and punishment system that has served him so well. We also find it hard to imagine that a leader famous for being in control at all times could have been unaware of what a staff member to whom he had delegated tremendous authority was doing in his name.

The report on the toxic environment surrounding Madigan is also emblematic of the high price Illinois pays when a system of government is created, not to serve democracy, but to perpetuate itself.

For years, we have blasted Madigan on such key issues as fair maps, tax-and-spend policies, and the crippling public pension crisis. We also have suggested that Illinois would be better off without Madigan in the speaker's chair, and we've lamented the absence of a law barring state lawmakers and governors from also serving as top party officials.

At the same time, however, we've also acknowledged that the empire Madigan has built over four decades has made it difficult to accomplish either.

Our hope now is that this investigation will be the spark we’ve heard whispered that some lawmakers have been quietly hungering for in order to change the system. If would-be reformers are to have a prayer of succeeding, however, they will require the support of voters. Don’t forget, what you think really does matter.

Consider that Madigan never would have commissioned Hickey to investigate his office so thoroughly if he hadn’t been forced to do so by Illinois members of the #MeToo movement. These courageous Illinois women outed the sexual harassment hiding in plain sight in the halls of power and opened a floodgate of complaints that illuminated a culture so toxic Illinoisans spoke up.

Executives in the real word who enabled such an environment would get the boot. Madigan deserves to be fired. Illinoisans can see that, so must the lawmakers who represent them and who, ultimately, hold Madigan’s fate in their hands.

The speaker may be more vulnerable than some think. Rampant bullying is only the latest dent in Madigan’s vaunted armor. For example, federal investigations of Madigan Chicagoland allies are progressing.

Our hope is that when taken together, these chinks will empower enough brave leaders among the Democratic Caucus to ignite a long overdue revolution and lay the groundwork for the speaker's forced retirement and to ban government leaders like him from ever again also leading political organizations.

We’re not suggesting it will be easy. Madigan retains his power and the structure that sustains it. It will up to the voters to convince the rank-and-file members at whose pleasure Madigan is supposed to serve to put aside self-interest and use their considerable power to change it -- starting today.

We urge you to join the cause by contacting members of the Quad-Cities legislative delegation -- Republican and Democrat. Tell them to join the revolution by emailing or calling:


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