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By: Mark Glennon*

It’s not the biggest scandal going in Illinois, but there are particularly good reasons to keep the story alive. It was reported two months ago by Pro Publica and WBEZ under the headline, Illinois Video Gambling Tax Hike Will Be Decided by Lawmakers With Financial Ties to the Industry. 

It’s actually about a way of life in Springfield. It’s about corruption that probably isn’t illegal, and it illustrates exactly the kind of reform that’s essential if Illinoisans are to be convinced to stay here.

Most importantly, its bipartisan and it’s about how far we are from seeing that kind of reform, because dead silence is all we’ve heard from leadership in both parties.

It’s about legislators having financial interests in an industry they vote on – in this case, the video gaming industry, upon which Illinois has staked a material portion of its revenue expectations.

Sen. Bill Brady

Subject No. 1 is Illinois Senate Minority Leader Bill Brady (R-Bloomington). The Pro Publica/WBEZ report lists several filings showing that Brady has a direct financial interest in video gaming in Illinois. Brady is listed in internal gaming board records as a ‘person with significant influence or control,’ for Midwest Electronics Gaming, one of the state’s largest video gambling companies,” according to the report. Other filings cited in the report indicate Brady’s financial stake in the industry is substantial.

Sen. Antonio Muñoz

The second major lawmaker discussed in the Pro Publica/WBEZ report is Senate Assistant Majority Leader Antonio Muñoz (D-Chicago). The son of Muñoz, according to the report, is “tied to Tap Room Gaming, which is co-owned by former Democratic State Sen. Michael Bond. Bond, who voted for the Video Gaming Act, founded Tap Room Gaming months after leaving office.” The Tap Room Gaming made nearly $62 million between 2012 and 2018 from its video slot and poker machines, says the report.

Brady and Muñoz have held seats on the committee that  approves regulations governing the video gambling industry.

It goes beyond the General Assembly, according to the report, which discussed other officeholders. Cook County commissioners, for example, “voted to approve video gambling in unincorporated parts of the county. The hearing was presided over by Deborah Sims, a Democrat from Posen who has been a sales agent for Gold Rush Gaming since May 2017, according to gaming board records.”

In calling for Brady’s resignation, Edgar County Watchdog Kirk Allen got to the heart of the matter. “I don’t believe a person wanting reform as he says he does would be involved,” he said. “I have no tolerance for self-dealing at all.”

Amen. That’s what this is about – who is a reformer? Not those with a racket – some way to make a buck out of their office, often in ways we will never know about.

Nearly all of the rest don’t have the guts to call out that distinction, as we’ve seen from both parties on this scandal. What has GOP leadership said about it? I know, I know — a better question is “what GOP?” Still, insofar as anybody is in charge, the answer is that they’ve said nothing.

And Democrats? Let’s not dignify that with an answer.

I’ve seen Pro Publica write that it doesn’t let the scandals it investigates just go away, and I think it’s true. They stick with it to try to get some action. Let’s hope they do so with this story. Legal corruption like this is a major part of Illinois’ collapse. The worst of the legally corrupt may be the most conspicuous, like House Speaker Michael Madigan with his property tax appeal business, but others, like this, turn up only with an investigation.

Maybe a few heads will roll — if we’re lucky.

More likely, we’ll learn just how far away both parties in Illinois are from embracing real reformers.

*Mark Glennon is founder of Wirepoints.

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Sheldon Steinlauf

At least the holier than thou Folks who blame Chicage politicians for all of the political corruption can eat some of their words. The legacy of Paul Powell lives on down state.

Illinois Entrepreneur

Great article. More and more, I feel that the #Resistance in Illinois should be an all-out rebellion against ALL state politicians, not just the Democrats. John Kass calls it the Combine, and he’s right. They get away with it because we allow it. We elected Rauner, which I think was the right move, but then he made critical pandering errors that doomed him. Then the local media did a good job of painting him as the extremist, regurgitating the Democrat party and public union (I repeat myself) propaganda. I think the GOP should be abandoned in favor of a 3rd… Read more »

debtsor

“We elected Rauner, which I think was the right move, but then he made critical pandering errors that doomed him.” This is true – Ives showed that a lot people were really angry with him. But Rauner was toast anyways. He was only a millionaire with billionaire opponent. And the blue wave destroyed the northern half of the state. He didn’t stand a chance. Everywhere in Illinois went blue in a 100 mile circumference of Chicago (except McHenry County – thank god for McHenry County). Every school board, park district board, water service area, dog catcher and judge. Every elected… Read more »

Illinois Entrepreneur

Yes!

I fail to understand why he didn’t just concede the Republican nomination to Ives, as it was later found out that he had essentially given up well before the election. At least she had a fighting chance.

The only thing I can think of is that perhaps the Rauner campaign was hoping for a Hail Mary. Maybe they thought that the plumbing tax fraud fiasco would doom Pritzker and put Rauner back in by default.

As for your last point, if I didn’t have business interests that I need to finish up here, I would be long gone.

debtsor

I doubt Ives would have had a fighting chance either. The R primary voters were dwarfed by the D primary voters. Beyond the primary, the Trib analyzed the recent election results and figured that 800,000 more people showed up to vote in 2018 compared to 2016 and nearly every one of them voted Democrat. So basically it’s either fraud at a massive level (which is entirely possible), or, orange man is really really bad.