Illinois congressional Democrats told to pay for remap lawyers
BY ABDON M. PALLASCH Political Reporterfirstname.lastname@example.org August 31, 2011 7:40PM
Updated: November 4, 2011 7:52PM
Illinois’ Democratic members of Congress got some unpleasant news in a conference call this week:
Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s office doesn’t feel it has the resources it needs to defend the state’s new Democrat-drawn congressional map on its own, so three outside lawyers have been hired and the Democratic congressional delegation can raise $500,000 to pay their bill, the congressmen said.
None of the members of Congress are named defendants in the lawsuits filed by Republican members of Congress and the League of Women voters. Those lawsuits name the State Board of Elections, challenging the maps drawn by House Speaker Mike Madigan, Senate President John Cullerton and other Democrats. Those maps eviscerated Republican congressional districts while protecting Democratic districts.
Rep. Jerry Costello (D-Belleville) explained to the rest of the Democratic congressional delegation: if they want to keep the map most favorable to them, they should each pony up a check for $10,000 and then start raising more money.
“[Lisa Madigan] is prepared to carry out her responsibilities but she’s just lettng us know that: ‘If you want the most expert testimony that you can find, that’s going to require expert witnesses we don’t have,’” said Rep. Danny Davis (D-Chicago). “The budget that the state passed for her did not include money for the expert witnesses.”
Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Chicago) like the other seven Democrats in Illinois’ congressional delegation, sent a check for $10,000 to the National Democratic Redistricting Trust Wednesday. The choice to hire election law experts Mike Kasper, a longtime attorney for state House Speaker Mike Madigan; Bill Harte and Michael Layden, was not made by the members of Congress, Gutierrez said.
“I only get the bill,” Gutierrez said with a laugh. “I don’t get to decide. As usual the Madigans are deciding all of that.”
Gutierrez is arguably the alleged beneficiary of the Republicans’ lawsuit. One of the Republicans’ main complaints is that the Democrat-drawn map creates one Hispanic district and three African-American districts in a state where Hispanics outnumber African-Americans.
Gutierrez and some Hispanic advocacy groups argue that Hispanic voters are too spread out around the state and splitting Gutierrez’ district in two could result in no Hispanic members of Congress.
Gutierrez mocked Republicans’ concern for Hispanics at a Tuesday news conference.
“Do you really think they want two Luis Gutierrezes?” he asked.
The court case will likely come down to a battle of academic experts testifying about whether districts could be better drawn to represent minorities, the attorney general’s office believes.
One development worrisome to the Democrats is that the Republican-appointed chief judge of the federal appellate court has appointed two Republican-appointed Indiana judges to round out the three-judge panel that will make substantive decisions in the case along with the Democratic-appointed judge who was assigned to the case, Joan Lefkow.