It's a story that just begs for legendary Chicago columnist Mike Royko to help us out. At least in spirit.
The story? Robocalls to election judges blasting out bad information. A deliberate attempt to disrupt the election of November 2014. Did it make a difference in who was elected? No one knows. The story faded away after the usual calls for an investigation.
Mike Royko died young in 1997. But it's when real stories like this one about the robocalls bubble up from the political stew of chicanery, comedy and crime that is Chicago---that Royko inspires. Like he inspired this.
If Royko Were Here
"It's simple Roger. No one's found the body."
We were at the old wooden bar in McNamara's. A corner joint on the northwest side in the shadow of the expressway. November with the first nice chill. Like Nelson Algren wrote, "toward nightfall in that smoke-colored season between Indian summer and December's first true snow."
Lester Lapczynski, faded madras jacket and tattered scarf, left hand gripping his ginger ale and right hand poking at the air like some belligerent polka band conductor. "Pay attention smart boy. The story has no legs. You're already at 250 words. You only get 800. And did I miss the 'who what, why, when and where part?"
Lester and I were alone at the bar, so I could easily dodge the spray from the protruding lower Lip. The bartender, a blonde with welcoming eyes that made the smile real. In the deepest back corner of the bar, a man in an open trench coat, face in shadows, sitting at a table and every so often quietly tossing up and then catching a 16-inch softball. Royko?
"But Lester! How can people ignore election fraud! Somebody sends robocalls to election judges talking about extra training and wrong addresses and just confusing everything!"
"OK Sherlock Holmes. The name of one person who was confused?"
"Well, I can't give you a name . . ."
"Uh huh. So do you know exactly how many judges didn't show up? More than usual?"
"I don't have exact numbers. But they know who made the calls."
"That's because he said his name on the calls, junior. A republican committeeman. That should have given you a hint."
"Why? Hint about what?"
"Who would wear the jacket, Roger. The patsy or hero or working stiff, however you want to spin it. He's the guy who takes the blame. And besides," Lester started laughing, "if this jamoke gave his name, then he knew he'd be covered by a boss, so he don't give a flying. . . ."
"But doesn't it help to know who did this?"
"Roger, are you sure you ain't from Schaumberg or something? You should know that a story about a republican committeeman in Chicago getting his hand slapped on the table and maybe a nice little consulting contract under the table--or maybe not--ain't exactly news. Listen carefully suburban boy, no one cares."
"So does anybody care that Governor Moneypants used to own 10% of one of the newspapers? Maybe that had something to do with the story being buried with no one caring."
"Pay attention Roger. The answer is 'No!' Who do you think would care? The Mayor? Course he has called for an investigation. I'm sure that some high placed official will get right on that. And when they don't, there is always those 2 guys in the Free Newspapers who take the shots at the Mayor. They might talk about this for awhile. But I doubt it."
"Lester, we got a ½ a story that's maybe being buried and maybe not. I'm confused!"
"Of course you're confused Roger. Besides not being the brightest bulb on the Christmas tree, you also missed my first question. Didn't get it. Zipped right on by your pointy little head. Now, the story is dying. Everybody is denying. They got a guy to wear the jacket. But the one thing they don't have, like I told you, is a body. Without a body, no one will care. And there ain't no body here."
"What 'body?' are you talking about Lester?"
"Here's what I'm talking about Roger. A VICTIM! Who was hurt!
Maybe all of us Lester. Maybe the other guy would now be the governor. Maybe Governor Moneypants wouldn't even be in office!"
"Well Roger, then you need to answer one very simple question. Who paid for all those robocalls? Find that answer and you have a body and then you have a story. Got it?"
"Who paid for the robocalls? That's what you're saying?"
"You got it smart boy."
"I should follow the money?"
And at that, Royko stood up, tossed the softball once again and nodded as he walked off into the cold November rain.