By: Mark Glennon*
All reporters face tough choice between negative reporting and keeping up relationships with news sources. That’s why the Sun-Times article last week on Steve Brown, House Speaker Michael Madigan’s press aide, was so notable.
Madigan and his people, if you’re not aware, are notoriously vindictive. A couple examples:
– In 2012, according to the Tribune, a woman made a primary challenge against Madigan’s chosen candidate. One of Madigan’s guys, who works for the state when not helping Madigan, showed up at the challenger’s office and said “You aren’t going to like me.” After a few insults, he asked if he could have his picture taken with the challenger. “I keep pictures of all the people we beat,” he told her. She lost.
– Cost to taxpayers is no barrier to Madigan’s vengeance. Crain’s detailed how Madigan held up refinancing of McCormick Place bonds from 2005 to 20010 that cost taxpayers nearly a half billion dollars. The reason? McCormick Place’s CEO had fired a Madigan ally and lawmakers from both parties say Madigan wanted retribution.
Reporters usually have to go through Brown, Madigan’s press aide, to get any inkling about what the secretive House Speaker is thinking or doing. But concern about retribution apparently didn’t stop Sun-Times reporters Chris Fusco and Tim Novak from their story last week. It described how Brown actually gets paid — not by the state or Madigan, but “under a lucrative contract that lets Brown also do consulting work for other clients that rely on Madigan and the Illinois General Assembly for funding.” That the likes of Madigan and Brown get away with such things even after being exposed is part of why “only in Illinois” is getting clichéd.
Fusco and Novak aren’t always our favorite reporters. Sometimes their “watchdog” work has been little more than hype about unproved allegations in court documents, and we especially didn’t like their front page story on Eric Whitaker, a Democrat, who earlier ran the Department of Public Health. We criticized that in detail here.
But they sure deserve credit for taking on Madigan’s press aide and turning up the facts on him, even if numbed Illinois turns a blind eye yet again. If they aren’t the ones getting the next inside scoop on what Madigan is up to, we’ll understand.
*Mark Glennon is founder of WirePoints. Opinions expressed are his own.