'Madigan: Power. Privilege. Politics' documentary explores House Speaker's influence on Illinois
The trailer for the upcoming documentary on House Speaker Mike Madigan's (D-Chicago) political career was released by Illinois Policy Action today.
The full documentary "Madigan: Power. Privilege. Politics" will be released in October.
The 60-minute documentary focuses on the toll taken by the longtime lawmaker on Illinois politics. As one of 14 states without term limits, legislators like Madigan can stay in office indefinitely – as long as their constituents keep voting for them.
"What we have in Illinois is essentially machine politics. Michael Madigan is the king of that machine," a voice intones on the film's trailer.
Madigan took his seat in the House in 1971. Over the past 45 years, Madigan has amassed power and influence over the Democratic members of the General Assembly. As House Speaker, a position he has held for all but two years since 1983, Madigan wields his influence in the Assembly to prevent legislation from reaching the House floor.
"He can control whether you get your legislation passed or not," another speaker on the documentary said.
Term-limits legislation was proposed by lawmakers in 2011 and 2013. The bills never made it to the House floor. Voter-initiated amendments in 1994 and 2014 were challenged in court. Cook County Circuit Court judges ruled the amendments unconstitutional and kept them off the ballot, despite support by four out of five Illinois voters. Unless term limits are implemented in Illinois, it is unlikely that Madigan will release his stranglehold on state government.
"He's like a chess master, able to think three or four moves in advance," another speaker said.
Madigan is also chairman of the Illinois Democratic Party, which ensures that candidates with opposing points of view are unlikely to make it onto the Democratic ticket in state elections.
"You don't cross this guy… You don't do it," another voice said.
During Madigan's 30-plus years as House Speaker, Illinois has seen six governors, more than 200 senators and more than 500 representatives pass through Springfield. Despite the turnover in state government, Madigan remains.
"Mike Madigan is at the peak of power in Illinois," another voice says.
Term limits could also mitigate the pervasive political corruption found in Illinois. By forcing a regular turnover of lawmakers, it could prevent financial irregularities between legislators and campaign supporters and donors. Between 1976 and 2014, Illinois averaged 51 public-corruption convictions per year.
"Illinois ranks second in the nation in convictions for public corruption," another voice said.
A clip in the trailer shows Robert Grant, special agent in charge of the FBI's Chicago field office, who said of Illinois, "If it isn't the most corrupt state in the United States, it is certainly one hell of a competitor."
Of Madigan's four children, two followed him into government. Shirley heads the Illinois Arts Council, and Lisa is the state's attorney general. Madigan's son-in-law is a deputy chief and lobbyist with the Regional Transportation Authority. During Lisa's 2002 run for attorney general, Madigan allegedly used taxpayer money for political purposes. While it was suggested that Madigan resign, in the end, nothing was done.
"After 31 years, that web has spread very far," another voice says.
A number of prominent political and media figures added their voices to the documentary. Interviewees include former state Sens. Steve Rauschenberger and Emil Jones, professors Dick Simpson and Ann Lousin, the Chicago Tribune's John Kass and political blogger Rich Miller.
The full documentary is scheduled for release online and in select movie theaters in mid-October. The trailer can be viewed at www.michaelmadigan.com.