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Thursday, Aug. 15, 2013 08:22 am

Did Lisa lie?

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Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan
PHOTO BY NANCY STONE/MCT

“Ask her,” Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan told a Sun-Times reporter last week. The journalist wanted to know why Madigan’s daughter Lisa would consider running for governor knowing that the father had no plans to step down as Speaker.

So I tried to ask her. But I didn’t get very far.

Attorney General Lisa Madigan, I was told, is still refusing to discuss in any way the “personal” conversations she had with her father leading up to her decision not to run for governor.

As you’ll recall, AG Madigan had this to say when she decided to run for reelection instead of the state’s highest office: “I feel strongly that the state would not be well served by having a governor and Speaker of the House from the same family and have never planned to run for governor if that would be the case. With Speaker Madigan planning to continue in office, I will not run for governor.”

But last week, Speaker Madigan said he had told his daughter on “several occasions” that he had no plans to step down. “She knew very well that I did not plan to retire,” he said. “She knew what my position was. She knew.”

People close to the Madigans say the polling and focus grouping always showed that the issue of her father would be a problem, but that it wasn’t an actual “deciding” issue for voters. Yes, they didn’t like the idea of a governor and a House Speaker from the same family, but they didn’t appear to be saying they would make their choice for governor based on that one thing. She would’ve won, the insiders say, regardless of what her father decided to do.

The speculation by some reporters about how the unfolding Metra scandal played a role in her decision not to run appear to be false. Her decision not to run had been made several days before the Chicago media went wall to wall freakout over the revelation that her father was involved with a minor and aborted political patronage attempt at a mass transit agency. As if all those political hacks who sit on those mass transit agencies somehow wasn’t a tip-off that maybe politics have always been part of their operations.

Anyway, Speaker Madigan got whacked in the media for trying to influence Metra personnel decisions. Lisa Madigan announced her decision not to run for governor after her dad had been zinged for three solid days.

The timing of her decision is still quite curious, however. Why throw him under the bus on a Monday after three solid days of hugely negative press about Metra? Was she angry at his refusal to step down, or did she just not think things through? Who came up with that bright idea?

Also, did she give no thought at all to how her statement could be thrown back in her face about her current job? If being governor would be a conflict of interest as long as her father was House Speaker, then why isn’t serving as attorney general a conflict as well? If she’s really that unprepared for prime time, then maybe she made the right decision after all.

Those are just some of the questions I would have asked, had I been given a chance.

My main question, however, would have been whether Lisa Madigan really did think she could convince her father to step down. Was she that delusional? The guy ain’t going anywhere any time soon and pretty much everybody knows it.

And if she didn’t ever expect her father to retire, then did she all but lie to a whole lot of people who contributed to her campaign fund this year with the full expectation that she’d challenge Pat Quinn in a primary? I mean, it’s doubtful that many of those union leaders and prominent Democrats would have contributed so much cash if they had known about her “strong” belief that her father would have to go away as a condition of her running because almost nobody would ever believe that she could pry the gavel out of his hands.

Ms. Madigan needs to stop hiding behind flimsy excuses and give this state a full explanation. The public ought to know if their attorney general all but lied to them for months.

Rich Miller also publishes Capitol Fax, a daily political newsletter, and CapitolFax.com.

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