Another Case of Clout Politics

A new report by the Better Government Association gives stark examples of the benefits of insider connections in Springfield under the reign of former House Speaker Michael Madigan, who resigned last year after close associates were indicted on bribery charges. BGA highlights several projects benefiting entities with connections to Madigan. They were among hundreds of millions of dollars worth of “House Democratic Leadership Additions” inserted into the $45 billion Rebuild Illinois capital program passed in 2019. Through Madigan sponsorship, the projects can skip the approval process by state agencies. Remarkably, most of the funding items were reportedly not even requested by the recipients. The projects include:

$98 million for noise abatement for a Midway Airport area hotel represented by Madigan’s property tax law firm.

$31 million — amounting to more than half the funding set aside for individual schools in Rebuild Illinois — for a Southwest Side charter school. The money will cover nearly the entire budget of a new campus for the Academy for Global Citizenship, after the school hired a former top Madigan aide as a lobbyist. The school had requested a $1 million grant.

$9 million for campus expansion including a theater and computer labs for John Hancock College Prep in Madigan’s former district, a grant that Chicago Public Schools says it did not request.

BGA had to dig deep to uncover the workings of this secretive allocation process that operates outside standard agency channels. This is the opposite of good government, which requires transparency and equal treatment for all constiuents. Whatever the merits of these individual projects, the clout politics that are involved here deny the public — and the legislature — a role in prioritizing the use of public resources and contribute yet again to widespread cynicism about government.