Week in Review: Corruption, gun ban, immigration & more


House Republicans Respond to Latest Madigan Era Sentencing. On Monday, February 12, former Speaker Mike Madigan’s Chief of Staff was sentenced to 2.5 years in prison for making false declarations before a grand jury and obstruction of justice. The sentencing for Tim Mapes came after defense attorneys pushed for a lenient sentence of community service, which was denied in federal court by Judge John Kness in the Northern District. Instead, Mapes was held accountable for his wrongful attempt to guard the corrupt ways of Mike Madigan.

The news is the latest development in an ongoing parade of Madigan allies and associates to the federal courthouse, which illustrates the clear need for tighter ethics laws, something that House Republicans have pushed for years. Under House Minority Leader Tony McCombie’s leadership, Republicans have filed a host of ethics bills, with the latest filed just last week to mark the new legislative year.

Last week at a news conference in Springfield, Leader McCombie noted ethics reform as a priority for House Republicans this year. “We sound like a broken record with our continuous calls for ethics reform, but we will not stop until it is passed: we cannot continue to rely on federal prosecution to hold elected officials to a higher standard,” said McCombie.

McCombie is sponsoring HB 4119, which will prevent defendants from utilizing campaign contributions to fund their legal defense. To date, Madigan himself has paid millions from his campaign fund to the legal firm defending him.

Deputy Minority Leader Ryan Spain has been a strong advocate for the necessary reforms needed by the legislature, to set a higher standard for elected officials and create greater trust in government.

“I applaud Judge Kness for rejecting the request to delay Tim Mapes’ sentencing,” said Deputy Leader Ryan Spain. “We all learn as children that lying is wrong. Tim Mapes shouldn’t need to be reminded of that basic child’s lesson to know that lying under oath to a grand jury is a bad idea. It’s even worse when done to cover up for unethical leaders who are supposed to serve the best interests of Illinois citizens. Let’s continue to hold corrupt politicians accountable going forward in Illinois.”

State Rep. Patrick Windhorst serves as both House Republican Floor Leader and the House Republican Spokesperson on the House Judiciary and Criminal Law Committee. Windhorst, who previously served as Massac County State’s Attorney for 14 years, says the honest cooperation

of witnesses is vital to investigations, and that Mapes is reaping what he sowed by lying to the Federal government.

“No one is above the law. Period. That applies even to those who have cut deals for immunity with the Federal government’s investigation into the corrupt tenure of Michael J. Madigan,” Windhorst said. “In the case of Tim Mapes lying to the Department of Justice in the Madigan investigation, we see just how deep the allegiance between the two men was. Mr. Mapes put the interest of his former boss ahead of his own interest and certainly ahead of the interest of justice, and for that, he will face the consequences.”

In addition to Mapes, in 2023 alone federal prosecutors in Chicago have secured the following convictions:
  • Four former Commonwealth Edison employees were convicted on charges of conspiring to bribe former House Speaker Mike Madigan to guide and pass ComEd’s legislative agenda.
  • Chicago businessman James T. Weiss was convicted and sentenced to five-plus years in prison for bribing two Democratic state lawmakers, wire and mail fraud, and lying to the FBI.
  • And just days before Christmas, former Chicago Democratic Alderman Edward Burke, a member of the City Council for 54 years, was convicted of racketeering, bribery, and attempted extortion after an historic corruption trial that was over five years in the making.
Governor to deliver Budget/State of the State Address next week. The Illinois State Budget for Fiscal Year 2025 (that will begin on July 1, 2024) will be a major challenge for the State. With spending already bumping up against the limits of current state revenue, the budget for the current FY24 fiscal year (ending June 30, 2024) is barely balanced at best. More accurate figures point to Illinois running a “hidden” current deficit of as much as $890 million, a gap met by slow-paying bills and by dipping into one-time cash sources. Furthermore, the nonpartisan Commission on Budget Forecasting and Accountability (CGFA) is now seeing current declines in key State tax revenue streams such as the income tax. These facts are in front of Gov. Pritzker and his aides as they prepare the Governor’s budget address to be delivered to a joint session of the Illinois General Assembly on Wednesday, February 21. With Springfield spending already up to and matching current and potential future State revenues, Illinois cannot afford to add new spending programs for FY25.

House Republicans have taken the lead as they urge spending restraint. Illinois continues to have one of the lowest credit ratings of any of the 50 states, and charges along the highest per-capita tax loads. Illinoisans must pay property, income, and sales taxes to their State and local governments, and comparable government services cost more in Illinois than they do in most other U.S. states. At the same time, however, advocates and lobbyists continue to demand more money to be spent on existing programs, or to create new ones. These could quickly become voices for even higher Illinois tax rates, or for the creation of entirely new taxes. House Republican Leader Tony McCombie told the press last week that there should be no new Illinois taxes and no new spending programs. In a press conference with House Republican “budgeteers” Norine Hammond and Amy Elik, McCombie doubled down on the need to put Illinois’ working families first, rather than new spending programs and higher taxes.

Gun rights advocates appeal to U.S. Supreme Court to strike down Illinois gun ban. The Protect Illinois Communities Act (PICA), enacted in January 2023 by a lame-duck General Assembly, bans numerous semi-automatic firearms and the possession of items related to these firearms. Persons who oppose the unencumbered right to keep and bear firearms call the PICA-banned firearms “assault weapons,” and the items banned by PICA include items such as gun fixtures, gun fittings, and larger-capacity ammo clips.

Many Illinois gun owners, relying on the overall protection granted to them by the federal Second Amendment, have maintained their confidence that the new law would be struck down. The Illinois State Police has created a webpage so that gun owners can register their priorly-possessed firearms and items that will be banned going forward, but many Illinois gun owners appear to have boycotted the registration process. At the same time, several gun rights advocacy groups have begun to take legal action against the controversial new law.

Petitions filed this week with the United States Supreme Court formally ask that previous court decisions that have upheld the gun ban law be reversed and that the law be struck down. The plaintiffs have begun to cite prior decisions from the nation’s highest court, handed down in other cases, that have generated precedents in favor of gun rights. As this case moves forward, interested parties can “amicus curiae” briefs on the PICA case that will set forth more precedents and arguments. The U.S. Supreme Court has the power to strike down the Illinois law as unconstitutional.

State, Cook County plan to spend additional $250 million on Chicago’s migrant crisis. This week, Governor JB Pritzker and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle announced their plan to spend a combined $250 million in state and local funds on additional aid to deal with Chicago’s migrant crisis.

In November, Gov. Pritzker committed an additional $160 million in state funds to the migrant crisis response. That commitment was in addition to the $478 million the State has already spent since the start of the migrant crisis. As part of the new joint funding plan, Pritzker intends to spend an additional $182 million, which will be part of the Governor’s upcoming Fiscal Year 2025 budget proposal to the General Assembly.

Cook County has already committed more than $100 million in its current FY24 budget for migrant-related costs, primarily for healthcare, and President Preckwinkle stated her intent to commit up to $70 million more for this joint funding plan. This plan will maintain shelter capacity as well as the continuation of wraparound and healthcare services. More than 35,000 migrants have arrived in Chicago and its suburbs over the last year and a half.

State, county and city officials project $321 million is needed to keep the migrant operation — including the city’s costly shelter system — afloat through the end of 2024, according to the governor’s office.

The City of Chicago, under the terms of the joint funding plan, was supposed to provide an additional $70 million to cover the remaining gap in the $321 million total cost for migrant

services. However, Mayor Brandon Johnson appeared to renege on that pledge during a press conference held after the City Council’s meeting on Thursday.

Altogether, Governor Pritzker has committed $820 million in Illinois taxpayer funds to address the migrant crisis in Chicago.

House Republican Leader Tony McCombie issued the following statement in response to the Governor’s announcement of the joint funding plan:

“Four weeks ago, the Governor did not have money for basic care for our developmentally disabled, but now he has $182 million burning a hole in his pocket. This migrant crisis needs a long-term plan, not a blank check that disregards our most vulnerable.”

Tax filing time approaches. Many Illinois residents are already taking steps to file their 2023 State income tax returns. Prompt filing, especially electronically, speeds up payouts of income tax refunds. State income tax law has many similarities with the federal income tax and almost all filers start by calculating their federal adjusted gross income. They then make adjustments to match their top line with the different numbers allowed under State of Illinois tax law.

The Illinois Department of Revenue (IDOR) is working in affiliation with several other entities, including the federal Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the AARP Foundation Tax-Aide Program, to point Illinois taxpayers toward help in filling out and filing their tax returns. Many Illinoisans, especially senior citizens, qualify for assistance programs oriented toward electronic filing of basic income tax returns. Tax Day is Monday, April 15, 2024.