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“This reflects a big change in what people in Illinois are expecting out of government,” Cook County Assessor Fritz Kaegi, who defeated a machine-style politician two years ago, said Friday. “Basically, we have one of the last old-school political machines in the country. Madigan’s a lineal descendant of that tradition and people don’t think it works. It has caused tremendous fiscal problems in the state.”

Earlier this week, federal prosecutors charged one of Madigan’s confidants and three former ComEd executives in an alleged scheme to give no-work jobs and internships to Madigan allies in exchange for favorable legislation. Madigan has not been charged, but he was quickly identified as “Public Official A” in federal documents because the official is described as the Illinois speaker, a position only two people have held in nearly 40 years.

Madigan’s exit would bring practical concerns for Democrats, and not just in Illinois: Despite having a Democratic supermajority, the speaker’s allies in labor and in the General Assembly worry ousting Madigan now could jeopardize their control over the next redistricting process, which begins in 2021. There is also fear around being alienated from him and “The Program,” Madigan’s fundraising operation and an army of volunteers that help candidates win campaigns.

Madigan, known as the “Velvet Hammer,” could afford to lose only 13 votes in the Illinois House and hold on as speaker — a figure he hit early this week. By Thursday night, 17 had defected as he sought to defend himself (the number grew to 18 on Friday morning).

“Some individuals have spent millions of dollars and worked diligently to establish a false narrative that I am corrupt and unethical. I have publicly ignored their antics because those who know me and work with me know that this rhetoric is simply untrue,” Madigan said in a two-page statement issued Thursday.

The Illinois GOP struggles to fund campaigns in a state dominated by Democrats, but the ComEd angle — and it’s connections to Madigan, who also chairs the Illinois Democratic Party — gave them a clear target. Republican candidates across the state capitalized on the investigation, which was announced in July, using it to slam Democratic incumbents and newcomers alike in the Nov. 3 election.

Although President Donald Trump is credited with turning out his base all over the country, some Democrats say the specter of corruption in Illinois helped tank Democratic campaigns for Congress and the General Assembly. And as the election fallout ripples and news of the investigation trickles out, a growing number of high-profile Democrats have called out Madigan.

Earlier this month, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) stunned political veterans in the state with a television interview in which he laid Betsy Dirksen Londrigan’s House loss at Madigan’s feet.

“All across our state — and the advertising told the story — we paid a heavy price for the speaker’s chairmanship of the Democratic Party,” Durbin told WTTW on “Chicago Tonight.” “Candidates who had little or no connection with [Madigan] whatsoever were being tarred as Madigan allies who are behind corruption and so forth and so on.”

Londrigan fell short in her rematch this year against Republican Rep. Rodney Davis after she’d lost by just 2,000 votes in 2018. This year, Davis ran an attack ad

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trying to tie Londrigan to Madigan, saying “Betsy Londrigan would make Washington more corrupt.”

Similarly, Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) has called for Madigan to step down as party leader.

Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker blamed the cloud of corruption for influencing voters to reject a progressive income tax ballot initiative. The measure was a signature piece of Pritzker’s plan to help turn around the state’s financial ship and further cement his liberal credentials.

“If Speaker Madigan wants to continue in a position of enormous public trust with such a serious ethical cloud hanging over his head, then he has to at the very least be willing to stand in front of the press and the people and answer every last question to their satisfaction,” Pritzker told reporters Thursday.

Strong as his statement was, the governor didn’t call outright for Madigan’s resignation and instead gave him something of an out. Written statements, Pritzker said, “are not going to cut it. If the speaker cannot commit to that level of transparency, then the time has come for him to resign as speaker.”

Pritzker must weigh his own political ambitions as he looks to reelection in 2022; Republican campaigns are sure wield Madigan as a top talking point.

But it’s the lawmakers in the state House who have the most power to decide Madigan’s future in the face of his denials of wrongdoing.

The cracks in Madigan’s veneer started before the ComEd investigation. Two years ago, his office came under scrutiny for sexual harassment. A few veteran aides were fired, but female lawmakers haven’t forgotten and have led much of the opposition to Madigan staying on as speaker.

“Women are tired of the system being rigged against them, tired of the old boy network and tired of having to put up with bad behavior, ethical challenges and a complete disregard for a higher standard of ethics and morality when you’re in a position of leadership,” said state Rep. Stephanie Kifowit, who so far is the only representative who’s put her hat in the ring to run against Madigan as speaker.

Madigan still has his supporters and some legislators have hinted at supporting the speaker in January if he commits to make it his last. Union leaders and others credit Madigan with pushing back against Bruce Rauner, a one-term Republican governor whose austerity measures added to a budget morass that the state is still struggling with today.

“We have a raging pandemic, a precarious economy, a huge budget hole, and we might be coming into one of the toughest budget-making sessions we’ve ever had,” Michael Sacks, a top Democratic donor and supporter of Joe Biden, said before the latest drip of the ComEd scandal. “The idea that we don’t have all of our best players on the field protecting social services, education, working families and other things Democrats care about is nonsensical.”


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Neera Tanden Got Twitter Right—And That Was her Problem

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But Twitter has its own way of tempting you into provocative tweets, and then turning on you—especially when you make enough enemies from different points on the political spectrum, and they find a common moment for revenge.

A onetime Boston political boss named Martin Lomasney, who wielded power in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, had an oft-repeated rule for politicians: “Never write if you can speak, never speak if you can nod, never nod if you can wink.” Lomasney would surely have run in the other direction from Twitter, which isn’t just public but permanent. Yes, Donald Trump played the platform like a virtuoso; other politicians have used it savvily to bypass gatekeepers and build a base of loyalists. But for a political player, every tweet is fraught with peril: Even if you aren’t overtly insulting someone, there’s a chance some statement from your past will contradict a current political stance, or apply with poetic justice to a compromising situation.

Still, political types are also human beings, and the temptation to pour every thought onto Twitter, in search of a reaction, is ultimately biological. When you put out a tweet, anticipating a “like” or a “share,” your brain gets a hit of a pleasure neurochemical, says psychiatrist David Greenfield, founder and medical director of the Connecticut-based Center for Internet and Technology Addiction. At the same time, he says, the brain cuts off its pathways to the frontal cortex, the area that governs judgment. Once, this shutdown of higher-level thinking was a convenient evolutionary tool, Greenfield says: Prehistoric hunter-gatherers needed to shut out reason to serve the higher directives of mating and eating. Today, though, it has given us an internet that functions like “the world’s largest slot machine,” he says, as users embark on an endless hunt for validation. Tanden’s nakedly partisan tweets could derive her plenty of pleasure; one tweet during the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh—“Susan Collins’ terrible treatment of Dr. Ford should haunt Collins for the rest of her days”—drew 3,097 retweets and 8,295 likes.

In the age of the ideological bubble, political tweets pose a specific kind of risk. If you’re sharing like-minded partisan thoughts with like-minded people, you’re likely to forget that you risk a negative reaction, says Whitney Phillips, a communications professor at Syracuse University and co-author of the upcoming book You Are Here: A Field Guide For Navigating Polarized Speech, Conspiracy Theories, and Our Polluted Media Landscape

. “You speak in a code that’s appropriate for the audience,” Phillips says. But once your statement lands in front of a less-friendly group, your intentions don’t matter. “It’s impossible to control any of our messages,” she says. “You can only focus on the consequences.”
Phillips cites an internet axiom known as “Poe’s Law”—coined in the early 2000s, on a message board for creationists, when a user who called himself Nathan Poe declared that it was hard to discern the true believers from people who were being sarcastic. On the internet, Poe’s Law holds, you can’t know anybody’s true intentions. A commenter could be sincere or mocking, a real human being or a fake account. Anger could be deeply-felt or cynically overblown. And it’s easy to weaponize the outrage machine. It was a right-wing provocateur—hoping to reveal what he saw as Hollywood hypocrisy—who unearthed incendiary old jokes
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about rape and pedophilia from “Guardians of the Galaxy” filmmaker James Gunn’s Twitter feed in 2018, Phillips notes. But it was left-wing outrage over those tweets that ultimately got Gunn fired.

Tanden’s tweets, it’s fair to say, weren’t as troublesome as Gunn’s. She was largely pumping out standard-issue political snark, the kind Trump used to post from the White House on nearly an hourly basis. Still, there are rules of political conduct, and—if you’re not Trump—consequences for breaking them. In 2008, Samantha Power, then an advisor to presidential candidate Barack Obama, resigned from the campaign after telling a Scottish reporter that Hillary Clinton was a “monster.” Power had violated a norm: voicing the kind of insult that’s usually shared, Lomasney-style, outside the public view. (Post-election, her career recovered quickly.) And, like Gunn, Tanden succeeded in getting both groups—those on the left and the right—on her bad side. If everything you tweet can be used as ammunition in the future, it’s particularly lethal when it’s coming at you from all sides.

Tanden clearly realized that old tweets could cause her trouble in this new career moment, when she had to emerge from her Clinton-Biden bubble and confront her onetime targets in the flesh. Soon after Biden named her to the budget post, she deleted at least 1,000 tweets. But the internet never forgets. And, in keeping with Poe’s Rule, it has been hard to tell who on Capitol Hill is truly horrified, and who merely senses a political opportunity. At her confirmation hearing before the Budget Committee, Sanders chided Tanden for her “vicious attacks made against progressives. People who I have worked with. Me personally.” But he also has a longer-standing beef with Tanden over the 2016 election and her ideological agenda. And he seems not the type to wither in front of an insult.

Tanden did her duty and apologized profusely, hinting that she wanted to distance herself from the cesspool Twitter had become. But the truth is, she was following the rules of her chosen medium all along. There’s no point in tweeting if you aren’t saying something that can rile people up. “Our networks have been designed for this exact outcome,” Phillips says. “The most rancorous stuff becomes the stuff that is most visible, that has the most purchase.”

In other words, the internet did everything in its power to make Tanden act the way she did, rewarded her with nearly 377,000 followers, then punished her in the end. And yet, with every tweet, she had free will. Greenfield counsels his patients who want to change their internet habits to never actually type out a tweet in the “compose” box, in Twitter or any other social media platform. Rather, he says, type your message in the Notes app, think about it for a minute, and cut and paste when you’re good and ready. Martin Lomasney would have considered that decent advice.




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Stephen Miller tangles with Florida GOP freshman at House immigration meeting

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Freshman GOP Rep. María Elvira Salazar got into a lively exchange over immigration with former Trump aide Stephen Miller during a meeting with a group of House Republicans on Wednesday, according to multiple Republican sources.

The back-and-forth came during the end of Miller’s presentation before the Republican Study Committee, the largest conservative caucus within the House GOP. Miller, the architect of Donald Trump’s hard-line immigration policies, spoke before the group alongside other former Trump administration immigration officials.

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Sources say Salazar pushed for immigration policies that would broaden the GOP tent while challenging Miller on how Republicans can attract Hispanic and Latino voters given the ultra-conservative policies he is advocating.


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D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser’s sister dies from Covid as city passes 1,000 deaths

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The statement came as the mayor declared Wednesday a day of remembrance for the more than 500,000 Americans and 1,000 D.C. residents who had died from the disease. The city announced that it had passed 1,000 deaths on Wednesday.

Bowser ordered flags to fly at half-staff and encouraged houses of worship to honor those who died in the pandemic on Wednesday evening.

“These beautiful souls who passed were grandparents, parents, siblings, cousins, neighbors, classmates, colleagues, friends and loved ones,” Bowser said in a statement announcing the day of remembrance. “This tragic milestone is a reminder that this pandemic has forever changed families and communities.”

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Mercia Bowser had previously worked for Catholic Charities and the D.C. Office on Aging, focusing her work on children, the elderly and those with behavioral disorders, the mayor said in her statement.


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