The political shenanigans of 36-year career politician Michael Madigan finally crumble to an end in Illinois. Also, scofflaw report on senator Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, and the latest term limits resolution filings across the country
Philip Blumel: Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Hi, I’m Philip Blumel. Welcome to No Uncertain Terms, the official podcast for the Term Limits Movement for the week of January 18th, 2021.
Stacey Selleck: Your sanctuary from partisan politics.
Philip Blumel: The longest-serving state house speakership in American history has reached its ignominious end. The man known as public official A in the documents of federal investigators, that would be 37-year veteran representative Michael Madigan of Illinois, could not cobble together the votes of his peers necessary to keep his gravy train on track. Let’s discuss the Illinois earthquake with US Term Limits Executive Director, Nick Tomboulides. Hey Nick.
Nick Tomboulides: Happy Martin Luther-King Day.
Philip Blumel: Well, looks like the 37-year speakership of Illinois speaker Michael Madigan has come to an end.
Nick Tomboulides: That’s right. We will not be shedding any tears on this podcast…
Philip Blumel: Nope.
Nick Tomboulides: Because it came to an end in the worst possible way. By the time this guy actually left office, it was way too late. He had already done a lot of damage. But in Madigan’s case, his closest associates were involved in a very bad bribery scheme. They took jobs, they took contracts, they took payments, so Madigan could be influenced. It was involving a utility company. And Madigan himself might be next…
Philip Blumel: Oh yeah. In fact, that’s one thing that jumped out about this is that how anti-climactic it was because he wasn’t led away in handcuffs. He’s actually not been charged. He’s the focus of the federal…
Nick Tomboulides: Yet.
Philip Blumel: Yet. He’s the focus of the federal investigation, and five of his cronies have already been charged with crimes, some are pleading guilty and some are… But he lost his speakership by the fact that it was so clear that this scandal is real. ComEd admits this, by the way that they’re involved in this. That’s the largest utility in Illinois. And so, so many of the Democrats in the House had said that they will not vote for him as speaker, that he couldn’t cobble together the 60 votes necessary to keep that position, and so they gave it to someone else. And that’s with a poof. He’s gone. And that legacy of unchallenged power vanishes.
Nick Tomboulides: Yes. And his office was raided by federal agents. Basically what happened, this public utility, they funneled over a million dollars to his associates for no-show jobs, hoping that would get him, Madigan, to support a $150 million windfall legislation for them. I’m thinking maybe this change was engineered, so Illinois would not have the shame of an active House speaker going to prison.
Philip Blumel: [chuckle] Well, surely that’s what the Democrats are worried about. I mean they’re not worried about having justice served. We know this because in the Illinois House, there was a call for an investigation by the House itself, and of course the House is completely dominated by the same party as the speaker, Michael Madigan. In the final vote of that committee, there was a 3-3 vote, which basically means that because the Democrats have control of that committee, that it squashed that investigation. But as part of that investigation, some new information did come out, and that is that there was a huge email dump from ComEd, the largest utility in Illinois. And it showed all these discussions about these no-show jobs and everything, and also the new information was that Madigan kept trying to weasel in to get the “property tax work” of the utility for his own firm, which specializes in that kind of work. And so there’s actually new allegations coming out as a result of this further investigation.
Nick Tomboulides: Yeah. And people have speculated for years that Madigan… We don’t know exactly what he’s worth. But people have speculated that throughout 37 years in office or whatever it was, he’s become one of the richest people in the State of Illinois. Not that there are many people left living in Illinois [chuckle] because they’re all leaving, but he’s one of the richest people in Illinois because he’s got this racket where his firm, he elects local property appraisers and then people hire his law firm to handle their property tax appeals. So he’s already got his tentacles in so many different corrupt buckets. We can say this is sad, but it’s certainly not surprising because we see this everywhere. I mean New York state, we had the 38-year New York legislator, 20-year House Speaker, Sheldon Silver, who’s a Democrat, went to prison for corruption. At the same time, the 30-year New York legislator, Dean Skelos, a Republican leader, Senate leader, was convicted as well. This goes way beyond partisan politics. We had the Republican Speaker of Ohio, was arrested this year for taking bribes from nuclear energy utilities. He’s awaiting trial. So bottom line, keep your guard up around politicians. When they tried out that crap about institutional knowledge, politely remind them that career politicians everywhere are going to jail.
Philip Blumel: That’s right. In fact, I know you pointed out Democrats and Republicans here, but one caucus they’re all a member of is the [chuckle] long 10-year caucus. All these guys have been there for decades. And soon the orange jumpsuit caucus. And by the way, Madigan is not off the hook. He’s public official number A in these documents. He’s referred to in these emails from ComEd as “our friend”, and there’s no question who it is.
Nick Tomboulides: Sometimes you see cases of people who might be personally corrupt, but still good at their jobs. This is not one of those cases. And career politicians as a collective more broadly, are not one of those cases, because Illinois, under the leadership of Madigan is a dumpster fire. They’ve got the worst debt of any state. They have $250 billion in outstanding debt versus around 50 billion in assets. It’s a fiscal catastrophe, that’s the worst debt ratio of any state. And by the way, of the top five states with the worst debt ratio, none have term limits for their legislatures. Illinois, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York. Of that group, only New Jersey has term limits on the governor. And so I would ask rhetorically if political experience was really the be-all-and-end-all, if politicians get better with more time in office as all these Washington insiders allege all the time, wouldn’t each one of these states be doing very well? Wouldn’t Springfield, Illinois, be a utopia with impeccable finances? [chuckle] Instead, it’s a corrupt cesspool, and the blame is squarely with Madigan and the career politicians.
Philip Blumel: Well, they’re doing a good job of stealing money. So if that’s your aim, I think that they’ve scored very high marks. [laughter]
Philip Blumel: Yeah. Well, let’s talk a little bit about the replacement for Madigan, because the committee squashed the House investigation of Madigan, the internal investigation. And the committee that was conducting investigation was chaired by a gentleman named Chris Welch, who it turns out, is who the Democrats chose to lead them as the new speaker to follow Madigan, a long-time ally of Michael Madigan. But there is something else interesting about this gentleman that came out this week. They’ve been asking about how he’s going to fix the legislature and its reputation it has for corruption. And one of the things that came out of his mouth is that he likes the idea of having term limits on the speakership. Are you impressed by that?
Nick Tomboulides: Not really, especially because he’s calling for a leadership term limit around 10 years. So it’s like right now, Illinois has basically a cancer, Illinois government, not the state. The state is great, people are great.
Philip Blumel: Oh, yeah sure.
Nick Tomboulides: Illinois government in Springfield has a cancer, and that’s like putting a band-aid on it. You really gotta treat this problem aggressively. You need term limits for the entire legislature, not just a flimsy term limit on the leader. And I think the jury is still out. Both the jury that might convict Mike Madigan Sunday and the jury of public opinion to decide whether this new speaker is going to be his own man, whether he has the independence to make his own decisions or whether he’s gonna be a Madigan puppet. Because even though Madigan is no longer running the show officially, he’s still there, he’s still elected. He’s still in Springfield. This could be kind of like the Putin and Medvedev situation. Remember with that time when Putin stepped down to try to get around his term limits and the successor was just a hand-picked puppet who was controlled every step of the way by Putin and then Putin came back later on. I hate that we’re comparing United States elected officials to Russian dictators, but that’s where we are in the year 2021.
Philip Blumel: Yeah. I wanna underscore a point you just made about the importance of legislative term limits, and particularly in Illinois, because it is true that Madigan is out, but his ally is in. And remember, it wasn’t just Madigan. After the 37 years, he wasn’t there by himself. Part of his power came from the fact that he was doling out all these favors to his cronies. It’s a machine in Illinois. And everyone else in the machine, except for the ones that have been indicted now, are still there. And so to really clean up Springfield requires pressing reset on the whole legislature, not just on the top dog. So you’re right, Illinois will not be fixed until we see this crop of legislators replaced with a new one, which will only occur due to term limits.[music]
Philip Blumel: For US, Senator Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, it’s not enough to lie, he has to spit in your eye afterwards. For this Senator Cassidy is the focus of this week’s scofflaw report. When US representative Bill Cassidy was making his career leap to become a US Senator Cassidy, he made a popular promise to his constituents. He signed the US Term Limits Congressional pledge, in which he committed himself to “Co-sponsor and vote for the US Term Limits amendment of three House terms and two Senate terms and no longer limit.” You can see a copy of his pledge signed by Cassidy and a witness at termlimits.com. Of course, Cassidy had seen the polling. We know this because in a letter to a constituent that USTL has in its possession, Cassidy wrote that, “According to a report done by Gallup Polling, 75% of Americans said they would vote for term limits for members of Congress.”
Philip Blumel: In the same letter, he boasted, “I signed a pledge to co-sponsor a constitutional amendment limiting House members to three terms, six years total and senators to two terms, 12 years total.” He continues, “Thank you for taking the time to write me regarding your position enacting term limits. I agree with you committed-ly.” In fact, Senator Cassidy lied. Following his election to the Senate, he rebuffed requests to live up to his pledge. Childishly, he went so far as to introduce his own term limits resolution, calling not for three terms in the House and two in the Senate, but nine terms in the House and three in the Senate. That is 18 years in each house. We are unaware of any term limits resolution weaker than Senator Cassidy’s ever. It hardly needs to be pointed out that 18 years in each house, 36 years overall is not a term limit at all. It is a mockery of the promise you made to voters in order to get elected. Note the cynicism as well. If asked by a constituent in the future, if he supports term limits, he can answer, “Why yes. In fact, I introduced the term limits bill myself.”
Philip Blumel: This is an old political trick. Cassidy knows that close to 93 members of the US Congress, House and Senate have signed the same pledge he did. He knows that all the term limits supporters in Congress cannot in good faith support his bill. They explicitly promised their constituents they wouldn’t. In fact, they promised genuine term limits. So the scofflaw Cassidy, still in office, gets to pretend he supports term limits with his sponsor-less bill that he can rest assured will never even get a hearing. Whenever any politician tells you they have their own new and improved term limits bill, you can be sure they’re playing Cassidy’s game. There’s a kind of man who will lie to your face and then laugh derisively at you for believing him. Scofflaw Senator Bill Cassidy of Louisiana is such a man.[music]
Philip Blumel: So Nick, the legislative sessions are opening across the country. Do we have any news this week on the term limits convention resolution?
Nick Tomboulides: We’ve got a new filing in South Carolina in the South Carolina House of Representatives, to be more specific. There’s no resolution number yet. But we know the term limits convention will be filed by Representatives Jason Elliott, Robert May and Cal Forrest. So we’d like to send a shout out to them and thank them for having the guts and principles to file this great bill.
Philip Blumel: Great. Now, we don’t have a lot of the groundwork laid in South Carolina. We have been there one time before. This resolution was introduced right at the beginning of this Article V term limits convention effort that we’re involved in now back in 2016, I think that was the first year. And it was introduced, but we ran into some procedural problems there, and I think there’s still a problem. Am I right about that?
Nick Tomboulides: Yes. And I would correct you a little bit. I would say in terms of grassroots and leadership and volunteers, we definitely have built the groundwork in South Carolina.
Philip Blumel: Oh, okay. Okay.
Nick Tomboulides: We’ve got a tremendous block of supporters and they are ready and rearing to go to fight for this. But the problem is South Carolina, the legislature has a very arcane rule, specifically the State Senate has a rule called the Minority Report. And that’s not a movie with Tom Cruise, but in South Carolina, it’s arguably just as obnoxious [chuckle] because the rules of the South Carolina Senate allow any member, just a single member, to object to a bill with a Minority Report, which hobbles it considerably, slows it down and makes it so that you need a super majority to get it off that report and onto what is called special order.
Philip Blumel: I see.
Nick Tomboulides: So the rules in South Carolina make it very difficult to get anything done.
Philip Blumel: So of course, there will be an objection to term limits from a body of politicians. That pretty much goes without saying. And I know that South Carolina, like everywhere else, the people there are completely on our side. I saw the polling from early 2020 that showed what we see everywhere, 78%-83% supporting term limits across the board, just like everywhere else. And so it’s really a matter of trying to get over the super majority hump.
Nick Tomboulides: I’m gonna interrupt you. We have some news breaking in real time here. The South Carolina resolution was just given a number in the House, and it is H3663, 3663 in the House. And by the way, in the House, as opposed to the Senate, there are no impediments to passage like that Minority Report. The House functions more like a typical legislature where you just need an up or down majority rules vote. And so we need to fight for that House passage, which could be momentum leading into the Senate…
Philip Blumel: Show support. It’ll get the activists noisy on the ground so that the senators will realize that people really want this and care about this and are watching.
Nick Tomboulides: What South Carolina has in the Senate, it’s basically the opposite of what you learned in sixth grade Civics. You heard presidents had a veto. Well, in this state, a senator has a de facto veto. Makes the process very tough. But you have to remember, this is more of a handicap for partisan bills. The minority in Minority Report refers to the party that’s not in power. So in this case would be the Democrats. But on term limits, there is no minority. The whole country, and both parties, at least voters are behind this. So I’m not saying that we do not have a chance. It’s just going to be an uphill climb, and we’re all gonna have to work very hard in South Carolina.
Philip Blumel: Okay. But we definitely have a good chance to get it passed through the House, which is the first and very important step. And so we will put our efforts into it, and we have a good chance of succeeding in that one House, for sure.
Nick Tomboulides: Absolutely.[music]
Philip Blumel: The term limits convention resolution has not yet been introduced in the West Virginia House this session, but likely sponsor Representative Jeff Pack was caught inviting co-sponsors on the House floor last week. Recall that over 50% of both the West Virginia House and Senate have signed the US Term Limits Legislative pledge to co-sponsor, vote for, and defend the resolution. The introduction of the resolution is expected on February 10th.
Jeff Pack: For any who are interested in co-sponsoring this term limits resolution, I have the sponsor sheet here on my desk. It will remain here for the next hour or so. So if you’re interested in being co-sponsor, please stop by and sign that so I can get that turned in. Thank you, Mr Speaker.[music]
Philip Blumel: Do you have a stomach to talk some more corruption, Nick?
Nick Tomboulides: Go on.[laughter]
Philip Blumel: You’ve heard, I’m sure about Representative Steven Palazzo, Republican, Mississippi, is the latest member of Congress to be investigated by the House Ethics Committee for campaign spending? Shades of Duncan Hunter.
Nick Tomboulides: I read this. He was accused of steering campaign money into his own property and into his wife’s accounting firm. I’m gonna play politicians advocate for a second here. I don’t wanna insult the devil. I can’t insult the devil. So I’m gonna play politicians advocate. Maybe these were legitimate services, but then, again maybe not. It certainly seems more plausible than Duncan Hunter using campaign cash to fly a pet rabbit across the country in first class or buy video games.
Philip Blumel: Yes, that’s right. Yep.
Nick Tomboulides: So we’ll see. Everyone is entitled to due process. So I’m not ready to throw the book at this guy yet, but what say you.
Philip Blumel: That’s fair. I did read over the details and I understand why he’s being investigated for sure. The Roll Call reported a few weeks ago that Palazzo has spent about $230,000 from his campaign funds since 2010 on his car expenses, purchases associated with his own home upkeep, a lot of reimbursements to himself, payments to his brother. We know he bought a $5000 Murphy bed for his congressional office, which is a House rule violation. But again, whether that’s corrupt, is probably in a gray area. It’s just that it’s another case of a long chain of such cases, many of which are quite egregious. And it’s something that members of the Congress are tempted by and often fall into. I will note, however, that Steven Palazzo is not a signer of the US term limits pledge. It seems to me that he intends to be a successful career politician, and to me that means that things like utilizing the power and perks of office are par for the course for someone with that mentality. So I guess I’m little less skeptical than you are of this investigation, but we’ll see what comes up from it.
Nick Tomboulides: Yeah. When Steven Palazzo filed a few years ago the flimsy fake 12-year in the House term limits bill, that should have been the canary in the coal mine. That should have been an early warning that something might be wrong here, because 12-year limits are typically filed by politicians who would love to be able to say they’re four term limits, but deep down don’t really support it and don’t wanna see any real action on the issue.
Philip Blumel: As a practical matter that cannot be real action on a 12-12 bill in the Congress because roughly 93 members of the Congress, that’s House and Senate, have signed the US Term Limits Pledge, which precludes them from signing on to a 12 by 12 bill. So pretty much everybody that’s for term limits in the Congress, cannot be involved in this bill. He knows this. [chuckle] He was shown the US Term Limits Pledge. We made the pitch to him, he refused to sign. So it’s not like this is a mistake or he just has this different opinion about the length of terms. He wants to be able to play both sides, the four term limits at the same time that he makes sure that term limits never see the light of day.
Nick Tomboulides: When you see any 12-12 bill or a 18-year bill…
Philip Blumel: 18. [chuckle]
Nick Tomboulides: Similar to this garbage from Bill Cassidy, know that what you are seeing is a PR stunt. It’s grandstanding. These people have no interest in seeing serious term limits get accomplished.[music]
Philip Blumel: Thanks for joining us for another weekly episode of No Uncertain Terms. Term limits convention bills are being introduced in one state legislature after another. These resolutions won’t pass themselves. Politicians only pass term limits when citizens pressure them into doing so. This week’s action item is for residents of Tennessee, Kentucky, and Iowa to contact their legislators and ask them to co-sponsor and vote for the term limits convention resolutions recently introduced in those states. If you live in Tennessee, Kentucky, or Iowa, please go to termlimits.com. Under the “Current Actions” tab, you’ll have the opportunity to send a quick message to your legislators. That’s termlimits.com, under the “Current Actions” tab. Other states will be added soon. Thank you. We’ll be back next week.[music]
Stacey Selleck: The revolution isn’t being televised? Fortunately, you have the No Uncertain Terms podcast.[music]
Speaker 5: USTL.