The Election Board’s Corruption, Incompetence, Patronage, and Unprofessionalism Wins Nearly Every Election for the Chicago Political Machine
Simply put, Chicago voters can no longer afford to wait for or trust the Chicago Board of Elections (CBOE) to hold impartial and democratic elections. Chicago Board of Elections Chairman Langdon Neal deliberately uses incompetence, patronage, and unprofessionalism to keep the Chicago political machine in control of Chicago, Cook County, and Illinois politics. It’s time for the Justice Department or the Cook County Clerk’s office to take over the CBOE’s duties of conducting and certifying Chicago elections.
County clerks conduct elections in nearly every voting jurisdiction in the state of Illinois. The Cook County Clerk’s office already manages suburban Cook County elections and has the experience and systems in place to handle elections for the City of Chicago. If Chicago elections had been in Cook County Clerk David Orr’s trustworthy hands since 1991, as they should have been, Chicago voters would have avoided the current scandal that involves CBOE Chairman Langdon Neal.
Chicago Board of Elections Chairman Langdon Neal wasn’t appointed to serve the people of Chicago. The Chicago machine bosses appointed Neal for seven consecutive three-year terms as political insurance. Neal protects the machine’s interests by delaying and denying non-machine candidates ballot access. As a reward for his handiwork, the bosses have made Neal a rich man. Neal’s law firm has received over $100 million in pinstripe patronage from local, no-bid government contracts, and he has personally earned an estimated $30 to $40 million from relationships he cultivated while serving as an election commissioner.
CBOE Patronage from the Top Down
The pinstripe patronage that starts at the top with CBOE Chairman Neal continues with the CBOE employees that Neal supervises. Many CBOE employees are affiliated with the Chicago machine, which runs a candidate in every race the CBOE conducts and certifies. The CBOE organizational chart is based on political clout. The higher employees are on the CBOE organizational chart; the more CBOE workers needed political clout to get hired.
Patronage employees and managers perform their CBOE jobs with an eye to satisfying their political sponsors. CBOE managers do everything in their power to stop non-machine candidates from running against the political machine bosses whose clout got them their jobs. By placing its most loyal and trusted patronage employees in CBOE management positions, the machine has maintained its stranglehold on city, county, and state politics. As with CBOE Chairman Neal, the most important duty of CBOE managers is to make sure the machine wins every city, county, and state election.
Chairman Neal hires CBOE patronage workers to curry favor with elected officials who are in a position to help Neal with his law firm’s no-bid contracts and Chicago lobbying business. Between 2004 and 2011, Neal’s law firm’s no-bid government contracts and lobbying income was over $112 million. Neal hires relatives, friends, and campaign workers of elected officials affiliated with the machine because he wants to stay in good graces with the elected officials connected to his government contracts and lobbying business.
Here is an example of how the CBOE patronage system works. One of CBOE’s most powerful employees is CBOE Executive Director Lance Gough. As CBOE Chairman Neal’s top henchman, Lance Gough manages CBOE employees and daily operations. Lance Gough’s wife, Josie Gough, is Deputy General Counsel at the Metropolitan Pier & Exposition Authority (MPEA). CBOE Chairman Neal’s law firm has received $4.5 million in no-bid MPEA contracts for legal services from the government agency and department where Josie Gough works. It is not surprising that both Lance and Josie Gough’s names appear on the infamous “Clout List” that the FBI discovered on Chicago’s patronage chief Robert Sorich’s computer.
Neal’s law firm’s MPEA contracts appear to have multiple conflicts of interest. CBOE Chairman Neal and Executive Director Lance Gough use their CBOE authority to elect machine candidates, including their previous political machine boss Richard M. Daley. After Mayor Daley and his cronies won their elections, Mayor Daley through his appointees, hired Lance Gough’s wife Josie to work at the MPEA. CBOE Chairman Langdon Neal’s law firm then received $4.5 million from the MPEA where the wife of the man who works directly under him is employed as Deputy General Counsel.
Daley, it appears, let Neal personally earn an estimated $30 to $40 million while Neal was a CBOE election commissioner, and Lance Gough and his wife earn six figure yearly incomes because Langdon Neal and Lance Gough used their CBOE positions to support the Daley machine come election time.
Chicago’s Illicit Patronage–Past and Present
In 1983 the City of Chicago agreed to follow the Shakman federal court decree and no longer hire, fire, promote, demote, or transfer city employees based on political affiliation or work. Nevertheless, six years later when Richard M. Daley ran for mayor, Daley promised his campaign workers city jobs in violation of the Shakman federal court decree.
After Daley won his first election for mayor, the Daley administration immediately started to secretly rig job interviews and pre-employment tests for the purpose of providing city jobs to people who worked on his campaign. The Daley administration’s unlawful job rigging scheme continued from 1988 to 2004 until the FBI discovered and stopped it. The Daley administration’s employment scandal was one of the major ways the machine rigged elections.
At the Al Sanchez, Robert Sorich, and Donald Tomczak trials, federal court testimony explained the details of how the Daley machine organized and sent out patronage workers to unlawfully campaign for aldermen, mayor, state representatives, state senators, governor, U.S. congressmen, and president of the United States.
As with the city workers involved in Chicago’s job and election rigging scheme, Chicago Board of Elections workers are also City of Chicago employees. Since the Daley administration admitted it rigged its hiring process when it settled a $12 million class action law suit in 2007, it is a given that they also rigged CBOE’s hiring process to insure that the machine had CBOE employees in place to help win elections. Because CBOE employees are directly responsible for conducting and certifying elections, the CBOE can do much more to help the Chicago machine win elections than patronage employees who work in other city departments.
A 1994 Chicago Board of Ethics Advisory Opinion reiterated the fact that the City of Chicago pays a CBOE commissioner’s salary, health benefits, and pension. Between 1994 and the present, it appears that CBOE Chairman Langdon Neal used his unrivaled political clout and connections to have the three CBOE election commissioners’ (including himself) salaries and benefits switched from the City of Chicago to Cook County. Neal’s purpose for deliberately orchestrating the switch from Chicago to Cook County was to make it appear that his law firm’s City of Chicago no-bid contracts and lobbying income were legitimate. However, the City of Chicago continues to pay the salaries and benefits of the 124 other CBOE employees.
Except for the three CBOE election commissioners and one executive director, CBOE workers have remained city employees because the machine bosses want to maintain control over hiring the city workers who conduct and certify its elections. The machine started to use its massive hiring fraud to install its people at the CBOE in 1989, and the unlawful patronage that started with Daley 23 years ago still goes on at the CBOE today. In return for the machine giving them their jobs, CBOE employees use their positions to protect the machine’s interest. No steps have been taken to end CBOE patronage even though the FBI stopped the hiring scandal in other city departments.
It is impossible to overstate the amplification of city, county, and state corruption due to the machine’s takeover of the CBOE.
Because of the 1988 to 2004 City of Chicago job and election rigging scandal, federal court Judge Wayne R. Andersen appointed a monitor in 2005 to watch city personnel decisions for any violations of the Shakman federal court decree. To this day the federal court monitor continues to oversee the city’s personnel decisions because violations of the federal court decree still persist.
According to attorney Michael Shakman, the court decree that bears his name does not cover CBOE employees. If there is any Chicago department or agency that should be free of politics, it is the CBOE. Corruption is bound to continue on a large scale until the CBOE is dissolved, new election laws and procedures are put in place to protect candidates and voters, and the County Clerk or the Department of Justice takes over the running of Chicago elections.
Conclusion: Independent Investigation of the Chicago Board of Elections
Russia held its presidential election on March 4, 2012. The next day President Obama’s administration asked Russia to have independent investigators look into all of the reported election irregularities. Furthermore, the State Department said that it had concerns about the partisan use of government resources and election procedures.
How ironic that the Obama administration is calling on Russia to investigate its election when the president’s own hometown election laws and procedures are so heavily partisan and biased that fair elections are not possible in the City of Chicago!
Chicago has had hundreds of corrupt elections and yet Obama hypocritically asks for an independent investigation after one Russian election. Will President Obama call for an independent investigation of the CBOE and Chicago elections as he has done for Russia, or will the president be a leader who says, “Do as I say, not as I do”?