IL GOP finally gives up, picks Democrat as new Party Chair

By DOUG IBENDAHL • June 1, 2013


Unfortunately that’s not an Onion headline. Today the eighteen members of the Illinois Republican Party’s state central committee chose one of their own, Jack Dorgan, to replace Pat Brady as the new State GOP Chairman.


Except for five minute speeches given by the seven remaining candidates, the entire process was conducted in secret behind closed doors. We’ll never know what kind of shady deals were made. Of course Dorgan himself had one of the eighteen votes.


Less than twenty rank-and-file Republicans bothered to make the trip to Springfield – and I wasn’t one of them. Our State Party refused to publicize the meeting or anything about the candidates or the process. And again, almost everything was closed to those who did attend.


The other six candidates were largely wasting their time. As I predicted, once Mark Kirk’s circle selected their candidate, it was all over. Jack Dorgan was their guy this time. These internal selections are easily rigged because the state central committee is completely unaccountable to Republican voters (so good going direct election sellouts).


Officials like Mark Kirk, Tom Cross, Judy Baar Topinka, etc. now don’t have to worry about an Illinois Republican Party weighing in on any pesky platform issues. GOP politics, to the extent there is such a thing in Illinois, will remain strictly about personality cults. Dorgan was chosen today because he’ll preserve the status-quo. He’s about money and influence. Dorgan couldn’t care less about anything in the platform. I would be shocked if he’s even scanned the document.


I call Dorgan a Democrat because I don’t know what else you call someone who has helped Democratic candidates more than almost any Democrat in Illinois.


Here is just a small sample of the Democrats Dorgan has contributed to, both individually and through his two-person lobbying firm Dorgan-McPike: Rod Blagojevich; Speaker of the House Michael Madigan; Lisa Madigan; Illinois Senate Democratic Fund; former Chicago Democratic Alderman Patrick Levar; former Democratic State Representative Lovana “Lou” Jones; former State Senate President Emil Jones; former Democratic State Representative Kevin Joyce; former Democratic State Representative Bob Bugielski; former President of Franklin Park Daniel Pritchett; Democratic State Senator Don Harmon; former Democratic State Senator James DeLeo; former Democratic State Representative Robert Molaro; former Democratic State Senator Annazette Collins; and Judge Gordon Maag who ran against Republican Judge Lloyd Karmeier for a seat on the Illinois Supreme Court. You can review more about Dorgan’s contributions to Democrats here.


Among Dorgan’s chief political allies are fellow State Central Committeeman and State Representative Skip Saviano, State Representative Michael McAuliffe, and former Democratic State Senator James DeLeo


The close relationship with DeLeo should alone have disqualified Dorgan. In 1989 DeLeo was indicted by a federal grand jury during the “Operation Greylord” investigation into judicial corruption for allegedly taking bribes while working for the Cook County Circuit Clerk. DeLeo eventually pled guilty to a misdemeanor tax offense, reportedly in order to avoid a second trial and to keep his seat in the General Assembly.


Dorgan was part of an orchestrated effort in 2006 to remove a solid Republican challenger in order to protect DeLeo, Dorgan’s Democrat BFF.


No surprise, assistance was a two-way street. In 2001, then State Senator DeLeo was instrumental, as co-chair of the Committee on Executive Appointments, in Dorgan’s appointment to the Illinois Civil Service Commission (a salaried position).


Dorgan was also a senior staffer under Lee Daniels. You can see what former U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald said about Dorgan’s prior job by reading the United States Government’s proffer from George Ryan‘s criminal corruption case.


Dorgan is currently a tobacco lobbyist, given that he lists Swisher International, Inc. as one of his clients. Dorgan co-owns one of Springfield’s most prominent lobbying firms, Dorgan-McPike & Associates. His partner is Jim McPike, a former Democratic House Majority Leader. 


In addition to tobacco, Dorgan has also lobbied for the gambling industry, Penn National Gaming Inc. (former) and Fairmont Park. Other lobbying clients include: Ameren; Illinois Asphalt Pavement Association, once run by the now imprisoned GOP boss William Cellini; AT&T (and its affiliates); Illinois Hospital Association; Illinois Construction Industry Committee; Christopher B. Burke Engineering; Phillips 66; and Corrections Corporation of America.


Last year The New York Times detailed Dorgan’s key role as Rosemont trustee in awarding a $2.4 million no-bid contract to his lobbying client, Christopher B. Burke Engineering.


After failing to lead and repeatedly demonstrating it has no clue how to beat the Democrats, today the state central committee officially just threw in the towel and declared, “if we can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.”


Doug Ibendahl is a Chicago Attorney and a former General Counsel of the Illinois Republican Party.


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