Friday, December 12, 2008

Why is Lisa Madigan Holding Up Impeachment Hearings?

Corruption in Illinois comes in many forms and all sizes. One wouldn't normally think of nepotism as a form of corruption, but when nepotism is added to the corrupt political practices in Illinois, it results in a concentration of power that won't be found elsewhere. Except maybe in the Mafiosa.

While the whole country is demanding the resignation or impeachment of our indicted Governor, Illinois' premiere political reporter, Rich Miller offers his opinion why Speaker Madigan is moving cautiously towards impeachment:

My own opinion is that Speaker Madigan probably wants to let his daughter take the lead. From today's news reports..
"I have the opportunity to go to our Illinois Supreme Court and ask them to declare our governor is unable to serve and put in our lieutenant governor as acting governor," Madigan said.

We talked about this procedure yesterday. The lawyers I've spoken to over the past couple of days say they doubt that the Supreme Court would step in. But winning the case (or at least presenting it) would make AG Madigan a national hero. Therefore, the slow-walk on impeachment.

More than 40 years ago, David Mayhew made the observation that politicians use credit-taking as a means for furthering their careers. In Illinois, credit-taking is one of those things you can't miss. Rod Blagojevich was certainly at the extreme of this practice, with signs up over parts of the Chicago Beltway (locally known as 294) saying, "Brought to you by Governor Rod Blagojevich." The normal citizen could be forgiven for wondering if our indicted Governor really wanted to take credit for the inevitable traffic jam around the (much needed) construction, but it made sense within the need (or what might now be seen as a compulsion) for taking credit.

In that context, you can understand why Lisa Madigan might prefer the state legislature to go slow on impeachment so that the Illinois Supreme Court can rule on her "threatened lawsuit:"

Madigan is threatening to file a lawsuit asking the state Supreme Court to declare Blagojevich unfit to hold office if he doesn't resign or get impeached. The move put her in the national spotlight as the scandal unfolds before a huge audience because of its connections to Barack Obama's vacant U.S. Senate seat.

Lisa Madigan, Illinois' Attorney General, is thinking about invoking Rule 382 to "determine if the governor has the ability to serve or resume office." One of the state capitol television stations calls it "a last-resort option."

The problem with this tactic that our Attorney General has been touting all over the media is that it requires two things: that our indicted Governor refuses to resign (which seems likely) AND that the legislature doesn't act quickly (which is in the hands of her father). Madigan can only be the "hero" if this last resort option is the successful tactic that effectively removes Blagojevich from office. Bloomberg put it this way:

Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, accused of plotting to sell President-elect Barack Obama’s former U.S. Senate seat, may face a state lawsuit to remove him from office if the Legislature doesn’t act quickly to oust him.

Attorney General Lisa Madigan, who is considering a run for the governor’s office in 2010, urged lawmakers to remove Blagojevich from office quickly. If they don’t act within a reasonable time, Madigan will ask the state’s highest court to unseat him, said Robyn Ziegler, a Madigan spokeswoman.

“We certainly believe that the governor should resign or that the Legislature should begin impeachment proceedings,” Ziegler said yesterday in a phone interview.

Speaker Madigan's forces have been all over implying that the legislative option could drag out for awhile. As the Daily Herald tells it:

Barring Blagojevich quitting in the coming days, something many officials think is unlikely even as they recommend it, none of the potential remedies to the state's ethical dilemmas are speedy.

Take impeachment, for example. That process would begin in the Illinois House, which would weigh the circumstances and vote on whether to send an impeachment case onto the Illinois Senate for a trial and possible removal of the governor from office.

It's not a fast process.

"It can't be a slapdash kind of thing. That's not how (House Speaker) Mike Madigan operates," said Madigan spokesman Steve Brown. "It would take some time. I don't know how much more quickly we'd get a resolution than a federal case."

Rich Miller plays Rachel Maddow: "Really? As slow as a federal case? That means years and years of waiting."

Midwest blogfather Archpundit, who -- with Miller and Firedoglake's Emptywheel -- has provided the best coverage of this scandal on the net, reacts:

What the hell is wrong with these people? Have they read the Illinois Constitution? It’s not that hard.

1) There is NO reason to believe this would take longer. In the case of Heiple a more deliberative process was used because there was no significant problem day to day. In this case, we have evidence of a Governor selling off state resources/benefits. The degree of deliberation is a function of the will of the Chamber. The only reason it would take six weeks is because Speaker Madigan made it take six weeks.

2) Jones has no choice at this point. Oh, he could try and not have it, but he’s not that stupid and everyone understands the problem at this point.

3) Chief Justice Fitzgerald is there to preside. He does not set the rules or anything else. He’s there to enforce Senate rules and processes.ave it, but he’s not that stupid and everyone understands the problem at this point. If I’m wrong, put him on the spot.

This is not a legal process–it is a political process and the Speaker’s office should understand that. Everyday they delay, people get angry at him and that backfires on Lisa.

But Rich's and Larry's coverage assume a certain rationality in the political process. And that brings us back to David Mayhew. Rationality on the part of the political process is different from rationality on the part of an individual politician, such as Lisa Madigan. From her perspective, she benefits most if she can swoop in and claim credit for ridding the state of the indicted Blagojevich. And the only way that she can be "a national hero" is for the governor to refuse to resign (again, it's widely assumed he won't) AND for the legislature to go slow on impeachment. Her singular interest collides with the state's best interest.

But this is Illinois. So who do you think will win here? Did I mention that this is Illinois?

Michael Madigan has his hands firmly on the levers of the Democratic machine in Illinois. And Madigan is nothing if not a dotting father. His fondness for (and pride in) his daughter is obvious to all. Even if the speaker has lost a step or two as a political strategist, this is not a hard call. "Rushing to impeachment" -- as if that were possible -- harms his daughter's interests.

If that inherent conflict of interest is not apparent to all, I'm fairly certain that it is not relevant to the considerations of the Speaker or the Attorney General. In any other state, it might be a factor that would be raised. But not in Illinois. The legacy of corruption, the legacy of nepotism, the legacy of the concentration of power into the hands of a few political families is simply too great. Of course the father will do whatever he can to further his daughter's political career. Impeachment? "It can't be a slapdash kind of thing."

It would seem that how quickly Rod Blagojevich is removed from office really depends on one person, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan. This isn't because of the power of her office, but because of the unique characteristics of Illinois politics and its legacy of corruption that has allowed the concentration of political power into a small number of families in the state. The fact that this current corruption scandal might taint the Change we voted for or Illinois' favorite son being sworn in as our next president is hardly a consideration. It's all about the career path of one favorite daughter. You can hardly blame daddy Madigan for being proud of daddy's girl. I can't imagine that we could be more ashamed of where this legacy of corruption and the concentration of power in the hands of a few families has taken this state.

So why is Lisa Madigan holding up impeachment hearings? Because she can. And because it serves her best interests. Credit-taking in its most blatant form. But that's Illinois...


Cal Skinner 1:43 PM  

Lisa said that the General Assembly should pursue impeachment.

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