07/17/2013 12:10 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Metra scandal: Clout, connections, family ties

METRA AND THE MADIGANS With a $718,000 buyout that required the recipient never to divulge why he was being bought out, the Metra scandal already contained plenty of fodder for public outrage. But then things got really interesting. Reboot's Madeleine Doubek scripts this unfolding soap opera in her blog post today: "What will happen next? Will Lisa and Mike stand side by side smiling warmly at the Democrats' big rally day at the state fair? Or will Attorney General Madigan authorize an investigation into Speaker Madigan's Metra maneuverings? Will Chairman Mell become Alderman Mell and this all goes away? Perhaps soon-to-be former Alderman Dick Mell will be the next appointee Metra Board of Directors, appointed to save the political day?" And more plot twist could arrive at a Regional Transit Authority hearing today. Read the whole thing here. 2013-07-17-Metra_blue_logo.gif

WAIT YOUR TURN Chicago Tribune cartoonist Scott Stantis turns his eye to the biggest Illinois political story of the week. He's got a special knack for drawing the Madigans, don't you think?

BY THE ROOTS The Metra affair has exposed the culture of clout in Illinois government, where the connected can get help securing raises, jobs and contracts with a few words from their political sponsors. The roots of this culture are in a system that lets politicians carve out safe districts for their members every 10 years. Getting politicians out of the legislative map-drawing process would go a long way toward breaking this culture. Join us and the Yes for Independent Maps movement to enact the biggest reform that exists in Illinois government. It's a massive task and we need your help. Click here and find out how to get involved.

2014: SHEILA VS. JUDY/PAT VS. BILL Lisa Madigan's exit from the governor's race started the political dominoes tumbling this week. Sheila Simon might have run for attorney general to replace Madigan, but her campaign now says she'll challenge Judy Baar Topinka -- a tough opponent -- for comptroller. And Gov. Pat Quinn now can focus all his energy on challenger Bill Daley -- whom Quinn is painting as a friend of the elite. Find out what Quinn said about Daley on our 2014 blog.

PAIN FOR NON-PROFITS With a backlog of unpaid bills expected to reach $7.5 billion next month, Illinois is chronically late in paying its bills. This is especially hard on the many private, non-profit agencies who care for the state's most vulnerable citizens -- the disabled, the elderly, the sick. When it comes to mistreatment of its non-profits, Illinois is off the charts. We've got the chart to prove it.

DEMAND ACTION Illinois wouldn't be months behind in paying its bills if it wasn't shoveling money into its failing pension system. Help us send a message to Springfield that we need solid, fair pension reform to begin the state's financial healing. We've also got a timeline that shows the chain of bad decisions and irresponsible governance that turned public pensions into a pending disaster for state government and the state economy. Click here.

TOP 5 TODAY Here are the top stories in Illinois reform and political news 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:

5. The showdown over dozens of Chicago Public School closings heads to federal court Tuesday as hearings begin on two lawsuits aimed at stopping the closures.
(NBC5 Chicago)
4. Rod Blagojevich's lawyers sharply criticized U.S. District Judge James Zagel in their appeal of Blagojevich's conviction. (Chicago Tribune)
3. The Metra scandal is providing a very public look at the often hidden world of patronage. (Chicago Tribune)
2. Don't shed any tears for "Princess Lisa" Madigan, writes John Kass. (Chicago Tribune)
1. Unable to get a political ally a raise at Metra, House Speaker Michael Madigan asked the Quinn administration to give him a state job. (Chicago Tribune)