Let this one play itself out
Pointing out the holes in Maryann Loncar’s allegations against Rep. Lou Lang (D-Skokie) is like shooting fish in a barrel. But it doesn’t necessarily mean that absolutely everything she said was untrue.
Loncar, a longtime medical marijuana activist, made her allegations last week during a much-anticipated press conference on the final day of the General Assembly’s spring session.
Let’s start with her alleged $170 million “bribery” scheme by a medical marijuana company, which Loncar claimed she helped expose. She claimed her “meddling” caused Rep. Lang to retaliate against her. This is not a new allegation. Loncar emailed me in 2015 to allege a $168 million “pay-to-play” scheme involving the company. The “bribe” turned out to be an alleged offer of a state payment by a company named Medponics for all medical marijuana licenses during a stakeholder meeting.
Loncar said she had an eyewitness at the 2012 meeting. But he told me the Medponics proposal was immediately shouted down by everyone in the room, including Lang. A former lobbyist for the company flatly denied that any such offer was ever made.
In 2014, Loncar and her business partners told the Tribune that their Plainfield company wanted to open three for-profit grow centers and five dispensaries. They claimed credit for convincing then-House Republican Leader Tom Cross to support medical marijuana. Cross’ district included Plainfield. But the medical marijuana bill written by Rep. Lang and others in 2013 barred for-profit companies like Loncar’s from the industry. “Because I refused to let the medical marijuana profiteers trump the interests of patients, I made some people mad,” Lang said. “So be it.”
She also told me in 2015 she was “being bullied” by Lang and a female medical marijuana activist. Some of the alleged “bullying” is pretty easy to verify. Lang did indeed tell several people last year that he wouldn’t support the bill to legalize hemp if Loncar was involved. But Loncar also claimed that Lang killed the hemp bill last year because of her involvement. Lobbyists involved with the hemp bill flatly denied that to me and said the same to the Chicago Sun-Times and the Chicago Tribune.
Loncar claimed that Rep. Lang had contacted her ex-husband and allegedly said he could “help you bury her if you want.” She said that conversation led her to fear for her life. But her ex told the Tribune that Lang never reached out to him.
Denise Rotheimer, a Loncar surrogate who accused Sen. Ira Silverstein (D-Chicago) of sexual harassment last year, told the Sun-Times last Tuesday that Loncar was not going to allege sexual harassment against a legislator.
But then Loncar appeared on conservative activist Dan Proft’s Chicago radio show the Thursday morning before her press conference. Proft asked her whether the still-unnamed legislator had said if she wouldn’t “play ball, and play ball means of a sexual nature, then you’re not going to get what you want.”
“In every nature,” Loncar replied. “It all starts in Springfield of a sexual nature if you’re female. All of it.”
However, when her Thursday morning statement to Proft was read back to her later that day by my associate Hannah Meisel, Loncar admitted Rep. Lang had made no such demand.
The fact that she appeared on Proft’s radio show, invited Republican Rep. Jeanne Ives to her press conference, and used Rotheimer as a surrogate all apparently prompted Rep. Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago) to tell WMAQ TV reporter Mary Ann Ahern: “Each person that comes forward to share their truth deserves to be heard and taken seriously. It’s unfortunate that this announcement seems to have a veneer of partisanship. This isn’t a partisan issue and shouldn’t be treated as such.” Rep. Cassidy has been a leader on #MeToo issues at the Statehouse and recently accused Speaker Madigan of intimidation.
So, what do we make of Loncar’s other claims, including that Lang inappropriately touched her once and made some suggestive comments?
I think we should leave that for the inspector general to decide, not us. She says she has witnesses, so maybe they’ll come forward. Others could conceivably make similar allegations.
Lang’s resignation of his deputy majority leader post as well as from two important committees after “consulting” with House Speaker Michael Madigan clearly means he has been punished. Whether he’s been punished enough will, again, be up to the inspector general.