Brian Mackey

Reporter/ State of the State Blog

Read Brian Mackey's "State of the State" blog.

Brian Mackey covers state government and politics for Illinois Issues magazine, WUIS and a dozen other public radio stations across Illinois. He was previously A&E editor at The State Journal-Register and Statehouse bureau chief for the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin. He can be reached at (217) 206-6412.

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Illinois Issues - State of the State
12:00 am
Sun February 1, 2015

A New Governor Brings A New Rauner

No Illinois politician has so skillfully used the techniques of branding and marketing as Gov. Bruce Rauner.
Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

News Analysis — Modern American audiences read George Orwell’s 1984 with a sense of relief. The fascist and communist mind control Orwell knew and feared is all but dead, clinging to life in a dwindling number of totalitarian tide pools around the globe. But the production of political propaganda, on the other hand, remains a growth sector.

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Illinois Issues - State Of The State
12:00 am
Sun February 1, 2015

Supreme Tort: The Campaign To Fire Justice Lloyd Karmeier

Justice Lloyd Karmeier was targeted for defeat by just seven lawyers and law firms.
Credit Brian Mackey / WUIS

A version of this story appears in the February 2015 edition of Illinois Issues magazine.

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Statehouse
6:32 pm
Tue January 20, 2015

Frerichs Keeping Rutherford Investigation Under Wraps

Days before his inauguration, pictured here, Treasurer Mike Frerichs said he wanted to release the results of an investigation into his predecessor.
Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

Illinois Treasurer Mike Frerichs is keeping secret the results of an investigation into his predecessor.

Former Illinois Treasurer Dan Rutherford saw his political career collapse last year when an employee accused him of harassment and requiring political work.

Rutherford commissioned an investigation and pledged to release the results, but then backtracked.

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Illinois Issues - State Of The State
6:33 pm
Mon January 12, 2015

Inauguration 2015 In Pictures

Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner, his wife Diana and their children are introduced at the Illinois Inaugural Ceremony on Monday, Jan. 12, 2015 in Springfield.
Brian Mackey/WUIS

Click above to view a slideshow of images from the 2015 Illinois Inaugural Ceremony.

1975 - 2015
10:31 pm
Sat January 3, 2015

WUIS Just Turned 40

A 1976 panel from "State Week in Review." From left: Bill Day, Illinois Issues; Ed Armstrong, The State Journal-Register; Burnell Heinecke, The Chicago Sun-Times; Rich Bradley, WSSR (now WUIS); and Bill Miller, director of the Public Affairs Reporting program at what was then Sangamon State University.
Credit WUIS

A new radio station came into the world at noon on January 3, 1975. The first voice broadcast on WSSR-FM was that of Dale Ouzts, director of broadcast services for Sangamon State University, reading technical specifications about the station. Next was a newscast from Rich Bradley, who would continue to be the station's news director for 35 years.

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Illinois Issues - State Of The State
12:00 am
Thu January 1, 2015

Adult Redeploy: Paying To Keep People Out Of Prison

Credit flickr/dnak

Illinois has a clear ambition for what it would like to do with members of its criminal class, and it’s right there in the name of the state agency set up to deal with them: the Department of Corrections. But there is a wide gap between ambition and practice. This is not to blame the department: politicians enacted the policies that have swelled the prison population, and politicians are largely responsible for the dire financial condition of the state that has squeezed agencies like the DOC.

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Illinois Issues - State Of The State
12:00 am
Thu January 1, 2015

Direct Democracy Yields Minimum Results

News Analysis — We’ve all had this experience: you’re asked a question, give your opinion, then watch your interlocutor ignore the answer.

If you didn’t care what I thought, why’d you ask?

That would be a fair question among the 2,339,173 Illinois voters who cast a ballot in favor of a higher minimum wage in November.

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Illinois Issues - State Of The State
12:00 am
Thu January 1, 2015

Introducing the 'State of the State' Blog

Credit mattpenning.com / WUIS/Illinois Issues

Editor's note: January marks a new phase in our journalism. Following the merger of WUIS and Illinois Issues, we now have enough journalists to enable reporting on a beat model. This allows a reporter to learn events and people more thoroughly than general assignment reporting. Each reporter is focusing on key issues in the state.  We're calling it the "Illinois Issues Initiative."

STATE OF THE STATE
CAN GOOD GOVERNMENT ABIDE GOOD POLITICS?

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Illinois Issues - State Of The State
5:16 pm
Wed December 31, 2014

Voices In The News 2014

Credit WUIS

  As we get ready to welcome 2015, we thought we’d take a few minutes to reflect on the past year in Illinois state government and politics. Most of the action was in the campaign for governor, in which Bruce Rauner became the first Republican to win that office since the late 1990s. Here now are some of the voices that made news in 2014.

Sen. Kirk Dillard, R-Hinsdale: “If you’re a Democrat or an independent, there’s no action coming up on your side of the ballot on March 18. Come on over to ours and save your state.”

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Prisons
5:13 pm
Mon December 15, 2014

Report Faults State For Closing Women's Prison

Logan Correctional Center, in Lincoln, houses the majority of Illinois' female inmates.
Credit Google Maps

Illinois’ main prison for women has nearly 2,000 inmates. An outside monitor says that’s the result of poor planning when Illinois closed the prison at Dwight nearly two years ago.

The majority of Illinois female inmates are incarcerated at Logan Correctional Center in central Illinois.

John Howard Association director John Maki says the state ought not be housing 1,985 women in a prison built to hold 1,106.

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Statehouse
9:57 pm
Wed December 10, 2014

Topinka Remembered For Sharp Tongue, Common Touch

Judy Baar Topinka in her Statehouse office on May 22, 2013.
Credit Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

Illinois state Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka has died from complications following a stroke. She was 70.

Topinka’s career spanned more than three decades in Illinois government. It was not without controversy, but her distinctive personality won the support of voters time and time again.

Topinka worked for more than a decade as a newspaper reporter before first running for office in 1980. She served in the Illinois House and Senate until 1995, when she was sworn in as treasurer.

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Shocked, Shocked
4:56 pm
Tue December 2, 2014

Rauner: Voters 'Misled' On Sorry State Finances

Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner spoke with reporters Tuesday, Dec. 2, 2014 in the Illinois Statehouse.
Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner was back in Springfield Tuesday. He spoke with reporters and — not surprisingly — says Illinois’ finances are in terrible shape.

Last spring, Democrats acknowledged they passed a budget that’s badly out of balance. It spends way more money than the state will collect from taxes — a multi-billion-dollar shortfall. Now Rauner says the problem is even worse than it seemed.

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Statehouse
4:38 pm
Tue December 2, 2014

Rauner Warns Chicago On Minimum Wage

Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner speaks with reporters in the Illinois Capitol Building on Tuesday, Dec. 2, 2014.
Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

Even as Chicago aldermen were voting Tuesday to raise the city's minimum wage, Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner issued a warning on the subject.

Rauner had a simple message for Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

"My recommendation to the mayor is he keeps in mind competitiveness for the city of Chicago," Rauner says.

Rauner says he would support a statewide increase — if lawmakers also pass restrictions on lawsuits and other legislation favored by the business community.

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This Old House
8:56 pm
Thu November 20, 2014

To Restore Executive Mansion, Rauner Plans Private Funds

Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner took questions from reporters Thursday, Nov. 20, 2014, in his first Statehouse news conference.
Credit Brian Mackey / WUIS/Illinois Issues

Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner visited the Executive Mansion during his trip to Springfield Thursday.

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In With The New
12:48 pm
Thu November 20, 2014

RAW TAPE: Bruce Rauner's First Statehouse News Conference

Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner speaks with reporters in the Statehouse on Nov. 20, 2014.
Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner visited Springfield on Thursday, Nov. 20, 2014. He met with legislative leaders and other elected officials, and held his first Statehouse news conference. Listen to the full audio:

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Election 2014
1:51 pm
Wed November 19, 2014

Frerichs Declares Victory In Illinois Treasurer's Race

Mike Frerichs
Credit WUIS

Democratic state Senator Mike Frerichs appears to have won the race to be the next state treasurer.

If the current totals hold, this will go down in history as one of Illinois' narrowest general election victories.

According to the independent Illinois Election Data website, Frerichs won by fewer than 10,000 votes — a fraction of a percent of the 3.5 million votes cast.

No matter, a win is a win, and Republican state Rep. Tom Cross conceded the race.

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Election 2014
4:08 pm
Wed November 5, 2014

Quinn Concedes Governor's Race To Rauner

Gov. Pat Quinn is seen in this file photo from 2013.
Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

Governor Pat Quinn is giving up on his bid for re-election. On Wednesday afternoon, he conceded to Republican Bruce Rauner.

  Most media outlets called the election on Tuesday night. Rauner was up by five percentage points, and declared victory.

Quinn, however, told supporters he wasn’t ready to concede. Some Chicagoans waited into the early morning hours to vote.

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Election 2014
4:38 am
Wed November 5, 2014

Rauner Declares Victory, But Quinn Won't Concede

Bruce Rauner speaks to a gathering of Republicans at the Illinois State Fair in this August 2013 file photo.
Credit Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

Republican investor Bruce Rauner will be the next governor of Illinois — probably. He declared victory over incumbent Gov. Pat Quinn and is up by five percentage points, but the Democrat is refusing to concede.

Rauner made hundreds of millions of dollars as a private equity investor. Lately, though, he’s been investing in himself — spending $27 million of his vast fortune on a quest to become governor of Illinois.

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Illinois Issues - State of the State
1:00 am
Sat November 1, 2014

Criminal Sentencing - A State Legislative Panel Looks At Whether There’s A Better Way To Punish

Not long ago, attempts to raise criminal penalties in Illinois were met with a standing joke. All such legislation had to make it through the Senate Judiciary Committee, where by informal agreement, it could only advance if it satisfied the sole criterion of the Cullerton Rule. On April 20, 2005, Sen. Edward Maloney, a Democrat from Chicago, presented House Bill 2699, a bipartisan measure that sought to raise the penalties for identity theft.

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Illinois Issues - State of the State
1:00 am
Sat November 1, 2014

Anchoring, The $5 Ask And Other Fundraising Mind Games

News Analysis — One of the best-known sayings about politics is missing something. In a 1985 speech at Yale University, former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo said, “We campaign in poetry, but when we’re elected, we’re forced to govern in prose.”

But that formulation omits one of the dominant aspects of modern politics: fundraising. Intermingled with campaigning in poetry and governing in prose, one might charitably say candidates raise money in the language of sales and marketing. Less charitably, one might say they fundraise in psychological manipulation.

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State Week
1:42 pm
Fri October 31, 2014

Listen to State Week - October 31, 2014

Gov. Pat Quinn and Bruce Rauner make a final pitch to voters in the closing ads of the their campaigns.
Credit screenshots from candidate TV ads

After months of campaigning and seemingly endless TV ads, the election is nigh. Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn and Republican challenger Bruce Rauner are fighting for every vote, and shattering the state spending record to do it.

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Election 2014
1:36 pm
Tue October 28, 2014

Why Is Illinois So Hard To Poll?

Gov. Pat Quinn, seen at the Illinois State Fair, beat the polls in his 2010 campaign for governor.
Credit Hannah Meisel/WUIS

This story first ran in the October 2014 edition of Illinois Issues magazine.

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State Week
5:19 pm
Fri October 24, 2014

Listen to State Week - October 24, 2014

Republican nominee Bruce Rauner, left, and Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn this week met in the third and final gubernatorial debate of 2014.
Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn and Republican challenger Bruce Rauner met for their third and final debate this week. As in previous debates, both candidates spent much of their time attacking each other and dodging questions they didn't want to answer.

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Statehouse
5:20 pm
Thu October 16, 2014

Privacy Issues Complicate Body Cams For Illinois Police

Ferguson demonstrators stand in front of a Quik Trip in this Aug. 12, 2014 file photo.
Credit Chris McDaniel/St. Louis Public Radio

The idea of requiring police to wear body cameras has been a hot topic after the protests in Ferguson, Missouri. On Friday, a group of Illinois lawmakers will take up the issue.

Advocates of body cameras say they can clear up the muddle of facts that often accompany police shootings, like the one in Ferguson. They also say police will be on better behavior if they know they're being watched.

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Election 2014
10:04 pm
Wed October 15, 2014

After 22 Years, Crime Victims Back On Ballot

Attorney General Lisa Madigan, facing away, confers with supporters of Marsy's Law before a news conference Wednesday at the AG's Springfield office.
Credit Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

This story first appeared as Illinois Issues' State of the State column in the October 2014 edition of the magazine.

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Election 2014
4:37 am
Fri October 10, 2014

Familiar Jabs, Talking Points In First Quinn/Rauner Debate

Gov. Pat Quinn, left, and Bruce Rauner at Thursday's gubernatorial debate in Peoria.
Credit Illinois Public Broadcasting

The two leading candidates for Illinois governor met Thursday night in Peoria for the first debate of the election season. Both men stuck closely to the ideas they’ve been honing for months on the campaign trail.

Democratic Governor Pat Quinn and his Republican challenger, Bruce Rauner, are running carefully scripted campaigns.

Quinn has a populist message: That he’s a friend of the working man, always looking out for the little guy.

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150% of capacity
11:38 am
Wed October 1, 2014

Clock Ticking On Illinois Prison Crowding

Credit flickr/dnak

A watchdog group says whoever wins the race for governor is going to face difficult choices about Illinois’ prisons. The group on Wednesday is laying out what it’s calling a “roadmap” for overhauling crime and punishment — and wants to know where the candidates stand.

The non-partisan John Howard Association says decades of “tough on crime” policies have led Illinois to lock up 49,000 people in a system designed to hold 32,000.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Wed October 1, 2014

Polling Pains: Polling Blunders Happening Nationwide

Pollsters this spring predicted Bruce Rauner would have a 17-point lead over then-state Sen. Kirk Dillard, but Rauner’s victory was by less than three percentage points. Pictured above, from top to bottom, are GOP primary candidates: state Sen. Bill Brady, Dillard, Rauner and state Treasurer Dan Rutherford.
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

 In the final month of the 2010 campaign, the political career of Gov. Pat Quinn appeared to be nearing its end. Poll after poll showed him down by four, six or even eight percentage points. The mathematical models of stat-geek superstar Nate Silver — fresh off correctly predicting the outcome in 49 of 50 states in the 2008 presidential election — gave Quinn just an 18 percent chance of winning. You know how that turned out.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Wed October 1, 2014

State of the State: Tinkering with the Constitution Demands Careful Consideration

Brian Mackey
Credit mattpenning.com 2011 / WUIS/Illinois Issues

   Twenty-fourteen was going to be a banner year for direct democracy in Illinois. At one point, it was possible voters would be asked to weigh in on as many as seven different ballot questions, including four constitutional amendments. But as the election draws near, two of those ideas are off the table: Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner’s push to impose legislative term limits failed to meet the requirements of the Constitution, and a separate attempt to change the way House and Senate districts are drawn failed to gather enough valid signatures.

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Statehouse
6:00 am
Wed September 24, 2014

Can Politics And Prison Reform Mix?

Bruce Rauner is airing ads criticizing Gov. Pat Quinn's handling of a prison early release program back in 2009.
Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

As a candidate for governor once again tries to make political hay over a prison early-release program, a group of state lawmakers met in Chicago Tuesday to consider drastic changes to Illinois’ criminal justice system.

Republican Bruce Rauner is trying to remind voters about a botched, secret early release program that dates to Gov. Pat Quinn’s first year in office.

Campaign ad: “Two-hundred thirty violent criminals, secretly released early by Pat Quinn.”

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