Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Madigan backing Smith to be expected. I'm more upset by lack of a federal trial

I remember once having an Illinois House of Representatives of the Democratic persuasion try to dispute the notion that all of the House Dems were just lackies who voted the way Speaker Michael Madigan told them to.

SMITH: He's still around
This legislator told me that the only hard-and-fast commitment she had to make in exchange for Madigan’s support (including the periodic transfers of cash from Madigan’s campaign funds that keep many legislative campaigns alive) was to promise that she’d vote in support of measures to keep Madigan in his leadership post.

TO THE BEST of my knowledge, state Rep. Derrick Smith, D-Chicago, complied with that demand. He never did anything that would have challenged Madigan’s authority to be House speaker (without which Madigan would be just another schlub legislator from the Southwest Side).

So should it be any surprise that Madigan is backing Smith’s bid for re-election come the March 18 primary over other candidates. Madigan aides themselves admit that the speaker is supporting Smith because he’s the incumbent – and for no other reason.

Yet there are those who are acting “shocked, shocked to learn” that Smith can be endorsed by anybody for re-election.

Smith, after all, is the guy who got booted from the Illinois House two years ago when he was indicted by federal prosecutors on claims that the cash he took for his government activity amounts to bribes.

BUT IN WHAT was the quirk of the 2012 election cycle, Smith managed to get re-elected to a two-year term – one that will soon come to an end. Because the federal court system is one that takes time to work one’s way through, he has yet to be found guilty of anything.

So, he’s running for re-election to another two-year term in this year’s election cycle. The reality of our political set-up is that incumbents have a lot of advantages, no matter how inept or sleazy we may perceive them as being.

He’s going to keep getting re-elected until the very day that a “guilty” verdict is rendered. I don’t really like that idea, but I accept that it is reality.

MADIGAN: Merely playing politics
So I’m not so concerned about the fact that Smith probably will win the Democratic primary AND the general election in November.

THE REAL QUESTION is whether “the feds” can get their act together to obtain a conviction of some type against Smith.

Perhaps those of us who are all upset that Madigan would think to support Smith – instead of trying to pick a no-name and rise him from the muck to a position of authority in the Illinois House – ought to focus our attention on why it takes so long for a criminal case to actually come to trial.

For a case that is supposedly as obviously a “guilty” verdict as some political people would like us to believe, perhaps this should happened long ago.

For those who have already forgotten the specifics of this case, it involves a $7,000 payment he received after writing a letter supporting a day care operation that sought a $50,000 grant from state government.

I’M SURE HE’LL argue that he was just making a recommendation about something proposed for his West Side-based legislative district, just like any other legislator would do. This will become a case – when it finally goes to trial – that will become a matter of how much we actually trust anything Smith says.

Now I’m not writing this commentary in defense of Smith. It’s more a criticism of those people trying to score more cheap political points off of a pending indictment.

What's taking them so long?
I expect Madigan to keep supporting Smith so long as he fulfills Madigan’s interests.

What disgusts me is that Smith, if he really is as guilty as prosecutors want us to believe, isn’t in a prison cell already. And if he isn’t guilty, that a criminal charge has lingered over him for so long!


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