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Local Editorials

SVM EDITORIAL: For harassing democracy, hold Speaker Madigan to account

The seriousness of sexual harassment under House Speaker Michael Madigan’s watch remains to be seen, but for his “harassment” of democratic principles, Madigan should be held to account.

Illinois Speaker of the House Michael Madigan, D-Chicago
Illinois Speaker of the House Michael Madigan, D-Chicago

Longtime Illinois House Speaker Michael J. Madigan doesn’t get into hot water very often.

Madigan, 75, a Chicago Democrat, has been too smart for that.

The longest-serving state House speaker in United States history didn’t reach that lofty record by doing stupid things.

So it’s been unusual to see how Madigan has been forced to respond to allegations of sexual harassment in both his political and his governmental organizations.

So far, two Madigan political operatives accused by women of sexual harassment have been dismissed by Madigan, who doubles as chairman of the Illinois Democratic Party.

And Madigan called a news conference last week to talk about multiple sexual harassment allegations in his governmental realm and how his office handled them.

We point out that an organization typically takes on the characteristics of its leader, but Madigan does not come off as a harasser of women.

He is very measured, sometimes gentlemanly, in his rare public pronouncements.

But Madigan has a long record of harassing the cause of democracy in the state of Illinois.

Where do we begin?

• Going back to the 1980s, Madigan is legendary for drawing gerrymandered legislative and congressional districts whose boundaries benefit Democratic candidates for the next 10 years.

• Madigan regularly blocks good legislation proposed by Republicans and out-of-favor Democrats by assigning it to his House Rules Committee, where Madigan’s minions refuse to ever let it out for a full vote in the House.

• Madigan has used the mechanisms of government to boost the political fortunes of those he favors. A brazen example is when Madigan and fellow Democrats moved the 2008 Illinois presidential primary 6 weeks earlier, from mid-March to early February, to boost the presidential ambitions of Illinois’ Barack Obama.

• Madigan has been accused of encouraging sham candidates to run in certain election races so as to dilute support for legitimate candidates. He is being sued in federal court by Jason Gonzales, a Chicago Democrat who says Madigan put up two other candidates with Hispanic names on the March 2016 primary ballot to confuse voters and lessen Gonzales’ chances in his unsuccessful primary bid against Madigan.

• Having been House speaker since 1983 (except for 2 years in the 1990s) and Illinois Democratic Party chairman for more than
2 decades, Madigan has consolidated his power to the extent that little if anything gets done in the Legislature without his approval, and the functions of government and politics have become hopelessly and unhealthily intertwined. That’s an affront to democracy.

Had Madigan’s dominance corresponded with resounding growth and prosperity for all of Illinois, perhaps few would complain. But the state has huge, chronic financial problems across many fronts and is losing population as a result.

The seriousness of sexual harassment under Madigan’s watch remains to be seen, but for his harassment of democratic principles, Madigan should be held accountable.

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