Star athletes and politicians have one major thing in common: they seldom know when to retire or when the game is, literally, over for them.
Boxing fans looked on in horror as their great hero, Muhammad Ali, was battered at the hands of Larry Holmes in a 1980 match because he refused to hang up his gloves.
Baseball fans shook their heads in pity as the once fleet-footed superstar outfielder Willie Mays stumbled in the Mets outfield back in 1973.
So it is with politicians. An 80-year-old Sen. John McCain and a 77-year-old Sen. Ted Kennedy both died from brain cancer, while in office, after public and lengthy illnesses, while a 92-year-old Sen. Robert Byrd had to be physically wheeled onto the Senate floor to cast his votes prior to his demise.
This, seemingly, will be the fate of Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan who, after 35 years as speaker, is on the verge of a federally forced retirement, if not incarceration.
That’s because federal prosecutors have subpoenaed Madigan, also known as “Public Official A,” to testify before a grand jury regarding a probe into corruption charges.
Chicago utility giant Commonwealth Edison has already agreed to pay a $200 million fine, as part of a deferred prosecution plea deal, in which they admitted to making more than $1.3 million in payments to Madigan-tied consultants who were, essentially, ghost workers.
In addition, ComEd admitted to subcontracting with Madigan “associates” and making direct payoffs to Madigan “allies” and, while there is no direct evidence that Madigan received kickbacks as a result, the case against the speaker is compelling.
ComEd may not be the only culprit, because the feds have expanded their probe and are seeking Madigan’s records involving ATT, Walgreens, Rush University Medical Center, as well as those involving lobbyists and political operatives, who are probably deleting Mike’s number from their cell phones as you read this column.
This is very bad for Illinois politics, so bad that Governor J.B. Pritzker has already stated that he is “deeply troubled” and “furious” about the whole corruption case against ComEd and went on, further, to state, "If these allegations of wrongdoing by the speaker are true, there is no question that he will have betrayed the public trust, and he must resign.”
In politics, that is an official push-off move by the governor against the 78-year-old speaker.
Pritzker is boldly distancing himself from the powerful speaker and political boss, at a point in which it appears that he is at his most vulnerable and possibly headed to federal prison.
But, in the end, like with the over-the-hill athlete, Madigan never knew when to call it quits. He never anticipated that he’d be caught up in his own political game.
Reportedly, close friends and associates advised him years ago to retire after 50 years of making boatloads of money and amassing inordinate political power.
Madigan should know that federal prison is no place for a septuagenarian, especially one who has lived a life of privilege and made his share of political enemies and while leaving numerous political casualties in his wake.
Unless the fed’s witnesses, collectively, have a sudden"Godfather"; Frank Pentangeli moment, then this turkey is done.
So, it’s not a matter of if Boss Madigan will go but, rather, when he’ll finally resign and turn in his gavel.