Monday, February 25, 2013

ILL-inois: Crony capitalism charter school operator holds fundraiser for state house speaker

Last fall Illinois state House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago) held a fundraiser hosted by Juan Rangel, the CEO of the powerful Hispanic group United Neighborhood Organization and its lobbyist, attorney Victor Reyes.

Madigan is also the chairman of the Illinois Democratic Party. His daughter, Lisa, is the state attorney general and a possible candidate for governor in 2014.

From the Chicago Sun-Times:
The turnout was good. And so was the money, records show, with UNO contractors writing checks for more than $24,000 to campaign funds controlled by Madigan, the Chicago Democrat whose district has grown increasingly Hispanic in recent years.

Madigan had given a big boost to the group's aspirations to be a major operator of charter schools in the city when he helped it get a $98 million state school-construction grant in 2009, without any requirement for competitive bidding on the work, as government agencies typically must do. The state money helped fuel UNO's rapid growth as the operator of publicly funded schools that offer an alternative to Chicago’s public schools in heavily Latino neighborhoods.

Millions of dollars from the state grant ended up going to family members of UNO's political allies and of a top executive of the group, Miguel d'Escoto, the Chicago Sun-Times reported earlier this month. The stories prompted d'Escoto to resign his $200,000-a-year UNO post and triggering a state review.

After the Madigan benefit was held, a bill was introduced in Springfield on Jan. 2 that would have provided another $35.2 million in state money UNO was seeking to build more charter schools. The author of the bill, state Sen. Heather Steans (D-Chicago), says she isn;t sure who wrote the provision benefiting UNO into her broader bill.
Rangel was a co-chair of Rahm Emanuel's mayoral campaign committee.

It's called ILL-inois.

Related post:

Illinois crony capitalism: Charter school grants go to politically-connected relatives

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