By DOUG IBENDAHL • May 13, 2009
Well here we go again. There are very few actual leaders in Illinois Republican politics to begin with. But whenever we do see one – there’s some school yard bully ready to personally attack that person.
State Party Chairman Andy McKenna tried last month to insultingly brand all pro-SB600 Republicans as “insurgents.” Meanwhile, another bully in the form of Republican National Committeeman Pat Brady was sent out to personally attack State Senator Chris Lauzen.
It’s the same old thing. Bullies are sent out to try and decapitate and discredit the reform leaders. It’s about the only thing our decrepit Illinois GOP excels at anymore. It’s been that way for years.
Pat Brady’s attack on Chris Lauzen came in the form of an interview Brady did recently with Rick Pearson of the Chicago Tribune.
In that Tribune article from April 26th, Brady actually has the nerve to suggest that Lauzen should “take a deep look” at whether he wants to remain in the GOP. Why? Because Lauzen wants to give every Republican a voice again in their own Illinois Republican Party via SB600?
These latest attacks are all about Senate Bill 600. I don’t think there is any question about that. Passage of that bill will be a wooden stake in the heart of the Illinois bipartisan Combine and the self-dealing culture that has so destroyed the Illinois GOP.
The good news is the personal attacks aren’t working, and the flailing around we’re seeing from the desperate anti-SB600 faction is only helping make the case for passage of the bill.
Who is Pat Brady?
Brady was pretty much an unknown in politics before he replaced Bob Kjellander as National Committeeman-elect last June at the State Convention in Decatur. He’s reportedly been a Precinct Committeeman where he lives now, in Kane County. But other Precinct Committeemen I know from that area tell me they rarely heard from Brady, if at all.
Brady was the preferred replacement choice of the outgoing Kjellander. Kjellander campaigned for Brady. You can read the interview from last year here where Big Bob is praising Brady, and ripping on Steve Rauschenberger, who had been Brady’s principal opponent last June for the National Committeeman post. Andy McKenna lobbied hard for Brady too.
It’s true that Brady once worked for the U.S. Department of Justice as a lawyer. That’s all well and good – but don’t forget that a lot of staff lawyers go to work there right after or shortly after law school – and Brady attended one of the bottom tier law schools in the country. I’m not trying to take anything away from the fine folks at the U.S. Department of Justice or the outstanding work they do – my only point is that if anyone tries to tell you Pat Brady is some kind of Patrick Fitzgerald, it’s a crock.
And yes, Brady was supposedly the head of John McCain’s campaign in Illinois last year. But let’s face it, there was no McCain campaign in Illinois, and Barack Obama won the state by a stunning 25 points. About the only time I even heard of the campaign here was when Brady embarrassed McCain supporters by allowing the campaign’s name to be attached to a gay bar hopping event last summer.
You probably already knew all that. But here’s a true story I bet you didn’t know – and one which makes Brady’s latest attack on Lauzen all the more reprehensible and bizarre.
Pat Brady used to live in downstate McLean County (Bloomington-Normal is the main metro area). Brady ran for McLean County State’s Attorney in the 1996 election – against a nine year incumbent named Charles Reynard. Reynard is now a judge in the Eleventh Judicial Circuit in Central Illinois.
Reynard is also an accomplished and critically acclaimed author. In a 2005 book he co-authored, “Twenty Poems to Nourish Your Soul,” Reynard relates an incident that happened immediately after one of the first joint campaign appearances between himself and Brady during that race. The incident occurred on November 16, 1995, after the two candidates had just finished a debate before the Bloomington police union. You can read Reynard’s account of what happened on pages 56 to 59 of his book.
Reynard’s account is consistent with what was reported by the local papers at the time. That’s how one can be certain Reynard is talking about Pat Brady, despite the fact that Reynard is gracious and only refers to his “opponent” in his book, rather than a specific name. The newspapers covered those other details.
You can read Reynard’s account yourself. But basically the two got into an argument after the debate with a lot of mutual swearing back and forth, and it continued outside the building.
According to Reynard, Brady made the first physical contact by shoving him. It then apparently turned into full fledged fisticuffs – with each man apparently missing more punches than he landed – but not for lack of trying.
And again – this was all happening just outside a building where a group of local policemen were gathered. (I’m sure it seemed a lot less funny at the time.) In any case, for obvious reasons, investigators were very quick on the scene.
A special prosecutor assigned to the case eventually decided not to press charges against either Reynard or Brady. However, the special prosecutor did note in his public report that both men, as attorneys, had brought disrepute upon themselves and the legal profession.
The thing that makes Reynard’s account so credible is that he expresses deep shame and regret. He accepts full responsibility for participating in something that he knows was wrong. Reynard is clearly sorry that he let his anger get the best of him. Reading his account, I don’t get the impression he’s trying to “spin.” He’s very forthcoming about all the details, no matter how embarrassing to him personally.
Reynard went on to win that race over Pat Brady by a very healthy margin.
Now, what about Brady? What story does he tell? Well I’ve never heard about Brady mentioning the incident at all since it originally occurred.
He certainly never told Republicans about it last year at the State Convention when he was running for National Committeeman. Brady neglected to mention his 1995 street fight between himself and his former county’s chief law enforcement officer – even thought I think that’s clearly a piece of information the delegates would have deemed important.
An ongoing problem?
McLean County isn’t the only place where Pat Brady has gotten physical. At the convention in Decatur last year, an outstanding Republican woman I know went up to Brady to ask him where he stood on returning to direct elections for the State Central Committee. Brady actually poked the woman in the chest with his finger – yes, he actually made physical contact – while saying, “I don’t want to talk to you.”
I had a separate, similar encounter with Brady in Decatur – but without the poking. I also tried to ask Brady where he stood on the direct election reform. Brady also told me, “I don’t want to talk to you.” And then he just scurried away.
It’s pretty obvious that Brady was following the orders of his puppeteers. Brady was in cahoots with the miscreants who rigged that embarrassing convention and turned it into a counter-productive disaster. Brady knew the fix was in to kill any progress on the direct election reform, so his plan was to avoid going on record. To my knowledge, he still won’t give a straight answer about where he stands on SB600. He’s definitely not working FOR the cause – we know that much.
Of course Brady wasn’t jammed into the National Committeeman post to take stands on policy or to be a leader. The old guard just needed a new stooge who would be willing to squander his title as a vehicle to bully reformers and conservatives. McKenna’s staff needed a new patsy they could direct their reporter pal Rick Pearson to, someone who would be willing to parrot all the old insults and attacks.
Kjellander used to be that guy of course. He would go out in the press and call all of us things like “kooks” and “malcontents.” But of course Kjellander eventually became too much of a liability in the wake of all the federal investigations swirling around. A fresh bully was needed and that’s now Pat Brady.
Let’s not forget the hug
Nothing symbolized the successful handoff of the bully job from Kjellander to Brady like what happened after Brady got the nomination for National Committeeman from that rigged subcommittee in Decatur last June.
Brady came out of the meeting room and the first person to congratulate him in the hall was Kjellander. The two hugged.
Brady has repeatedly tried to deny that he and Kjellander hugged. But he’s simply lying. On the one hand it would seem like a trivial thing – but it was obviously important enough in Brady’s mind that he has felt the need to lie about it.
The hug was witnessed by at least half a dozen Republicans. I know some of them personally, and if they say it happened – there is ZERO doubt it happened.
I only missed witnessing the hug myself because I was a couple of minutes behind Brady in exiting the meeting room. However, as I did get out into the hall, Brady and Kjellander were still yucking it up together with big smiles on their faces.
It’s hardly a shock that Kjellander would hug and congratulate Brady. Again, Kjellander was one of the biggest backers of Brady all along.
By his denials, Brady has effectively called some very good Republicans liars. I’m not going to stand for that. It’s Brady who is not only a liar – he’s a hothead with some demonstrated anger issues. It’s pretty obvious why the old guard would view him as the perfect stooge to attack and insult good Republicans.
It all comes back to SB600
Our Illinois Republican Party has the only system in the United States that regularly produces party officials who do little more than wage war on Republican voters.
Every other State Party in America understands that party officials are supposed to SERVE Republicans, not bully and slander them.
SB600 will go a long way to fixing the problem. Our current system for picking the State Central Committeemen is never going to produce the kind of top-notch, honest officials we need.
Under SB600, we’ll double the size of the State Central Committee to 38 – and all will be accountable to Republicans for the first time in 20 years. Democracy can’t guarantee that all 38 will great leaders – but all we really need are at least a few on that senior committee who will stand-up and put a stop to the destructive abuses and the worst of the unprofessionalism going on now. Real elections are the only realistic way to make that happen.
For example, allow me to suggest that had we adopted direct elections back in 2005 (the last time an earlier version of SB600 got through the State Senate before being killed by the GOP bosses in the House) – Steve Rauschenberger would be our National Committeeman today, instead of the Rock’Em Sock’Em Robot we got stuck with.
If you want decent leaders with a spine, instead of more stooges and bullies – if you would like to see our Illinois Republican Party get out of the ditch – then get busy and contact the State Representatives. Tell them to pass SB600.
Doug Ibendahl is a Chicago Attorney and a former General Counsel of the Illinois Republican Party.