METRA MEMO AND MADIGAN Even if you never ride Metra, if you live in Illinois, your tax dollars help pay for it. That's why you should pay attention to the unfolding scandal there involving the ouster of its CEO, Alex Clifford, the $700,000 payout he received and the memo he wrote before his departure alleging he was being forced out because he resisted political pressure from, among others, House Speaker Michael Madigan. Madigan had contacted Metra seeking a raise for a Metra employee who was a Madigan political supporter. He says there was nothing political about the call. There's quite a bit to read about all this and we've got a handy guide to the whole affair:
• THE MEMO Clifford wrote this memo in April to document incidents of political pressure that he believed would lead to his firing. It's fascinating. Read it here.
• THE BACKGROUND The Metra scandal is two scandals in one. First there's the alleged pressure from Madigan to get his friend a raise. Then there's the massive separation agreement that required Clifford to keep quiet about it. But a third scandal invokes what might be called the Three M's: Metra, Madigan, Mell. Everything is connected in Illinois politics, it seems. Find out why here.
• THE CONSEQUENCES This episode lays bare some of the ugly inner workings of Illinois' political clout culture. It reflects poorly on Madigan no matter how he tries to spin it. By extension, it could tarnish the "Madigan brand," which extends to Attorney General Lisa Madigan, who is now deciding whether to run for governor. We explain here.
STOP IT Aren't you tired of your tax dollars supporting a privileged class of the connected? Don't put up with it. Join us to demand an end to cronyism.
DILLARD: I'LL WIN THIS TIME It's generally accepted that had Sen. Kirk Dillard, R-Hinsdale, received 194 more votes in the 2010 Republican primary, he would be governor today. He's kicking off his 2014 campaign for governor today and tells us in an exclusive interview that he'll win both the primary and general election this time around. In fact, Dillard -- former chief of staff to Gov. Jim Edgar -- says he's the only Republican candidate who can beat a Democrat in November 2014 and successfully govern a General Assembly run by Democrats after taking office. Check out our Q&A with Dillard here.
JELL-O WITH BACKBONE Chicago Tribune cartoonist Scott Stantis thinks Gov. Pat Quinn scored points last week when he suspended pay for lawmakers. Click to see the whole thing.
9 TO KNOW In honor of the All-Star Break, we are fielding nine news items from across Illinois today. You can always find links to the day's news from around Illinois in the Daily Tip-Off section of our website. Here are today's top picks:
9. Acknowledging that it was nothing more than a political stunt, there are some who support Pat Quinn's suspension of legislators' pay as the right move. (Northwest Herald)
8. Meanwhile, there are those who believe Quinn's move was not the right one. (Chicago Tribune)
7. The rift between Rahm Emanuel and his Inspector General keeps growing larger. (Chicago Tribune)
6. Dentists who perform work for state employees are feeling the pension pinch. (State Journal-Register)
5. The Metra board of directors needs to be derailed, according to some state lawmakers. (Daily Herald)
4. The Metra scandal is evidence the state power brokers can slap taxpayers around. (Chicago Tribune)
3. If the mayor thinks Deb Mell is the best qualified to replace her father in the 33rd Ward, he should wait and let the citizens vote on that in 2015. (Chicago Tribune)
2. Rahm Emanuel is facing a political triple threat on the decision of whether to replace retiring Ald. Dick Mell with his daughter or someone else. (Chicago Sun-Times)
1. Mayor Emanuel writes that the broken pension system endangers essential city of Chicago services. (Chicago Tribune)