Writer balks at Madigan's baseball expenditures
House Speaker Mike Madigan (D-Chicago) has spent nearly $170,000 in campaign funds on baseball tickets, according to the Chicago Sun-Times, which Illinois Policy Institute staffer Joe Kaiser finds strange since Madigan has been less than a fair-weather fan of major league sports in the city.
Madigan spent $122,869 on Chicago Cubs tickets and $46,245 on White Sox tickets between January and March, the Sun-Times reported. Madigan spokesman Steve Brown explained the purchases as 'thank you' gifts for volunteers and supporters. The Cubs tickets represent Madigan’s largest expenditure in the first quarter.
“Madigan — and other state and city politicians — have made clear they view sports organizations in Illinois as tools for political ends,” Kaiser wrote. “If Madigan’s volunteers are attending Cubs games under the lights at Wrigley or White Sox games at the taxpayer funded Guaranteed Rate Field as ‘thank-you’s’ for their political work, the historical evidence is right in front of them."
Kaiser described Madigan’s history with the Cubs and Wrigley Field. In the 1980s, the Tribune Company, which owned the Cubs, wanted to install lights to bring Wrigley up to date with Major League Baseball standards for night games. Madigan ally and then-Chicago Alderman Ed Vrdolyak wanted better coverage from the Chicago Tribune and held the lights hostage, eventually getting an ordinance passed to prevent their installation. Madigan blocked a General Assembly vote on the lights, but several years later let them go through after Vrdolyak switched allegiance to the Republicans.