Maag: Over the Top

Jacob Swain Oct. 13, 2004, 6:19am

I can’t stand politics occasionally. I write about it each week. I work in political campaigns and deal with politicians every day. But I’ll tell you when it really gets under my skin: when someone breaks the law.

I’m not talking about your run of the mill campaign vandalism; I’m talking about gross negligence on the part of people who should know better.

Public enemy number one for me for over a week has been Judge Gordon Maag, a candidate for the Illinois Supreme Court.

You’ve probably seen the flurry of ads surrounding this race and, like me, you’re probably sick of them.

You don’t know what charges are true and which are just the typical election year trashing of the opponent. But I want to talk to you about a problem that’s more than that; a problem that should be front and center in this very important race.

On Monday, October 4th, 2004, Judge Maag toured at least two state prison facilities (Shawnee and Vienna Correctional Centers) in Johnson County.

While no one argues against his right to visit the facilities (various state officials do this from time to time), I personally have a problem with what he did while he was there. While talking with workers there, he personally passed out campaign literature to state employees (literature of which I have obtained copies.)

This would be unacceptable behavior from any politician, but is especially abhorrent coming from a man who would like to be elected to the highest judicial position in the State of Illinois.

Thankfully, there were vigilant employees at these two facilities who were aware of new ethics laws passed by the Illinois General Assembly intended to prevent this kind of idiocy.

They immediately reported their complaints to the warden and filed complaints with Governor Blagojevich’s “ethics hotline”, which was established as a response to the scandal plagued administration of George Ryan.

Nonetheless, no action has been taken as of yet. Worse, the Maag campaign makes no apologies for his disreputable behavior.

I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that Maag would behave in this way. After all, this is a man who was rated poorly in an Illinois Bar Association survey of attorneys who have appeared before him.

Amazingly, he was rated worst in “impartiality” and “integrity.” Interesting. Perhaps Maag is only acting on a record of disregard and disrespect for the rule of law.

The heart of the matter is this: Maag was campaigning on state time as a state employee.

Ethics laws in this state (especially those drafted after George Ryan’s administration) were meant to ensure that no campaigning was being done at taxpayer expense.

Indeed, people like George Ryan’s assistant Scott Fawell are sitting in jail cells today because they made decisions like Judge Maag. And all of this from a man who wants to hold the chief judicial position in the State of Illinois. Give me a break.

I want to take this opportunity to call for an investigation into Judge Maag’s actions. One should have begun immediately after state employees reported him for violating Section 5-15 of the “State Officials and Employees Ethics Act.” But it didn’t because the Judge’s campaign is in bed with the very same people whose job it is to protect taxpayers from
political schemes like this one.

Maag is a trial lawyer receiving tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from his ambulance chasing cronies. I have a hard time seeing him helping to solve important problems, such as the health care crises that is gripping our region and driving our doctors away.

Mostly though, I have a hard time understanding why Judge Maag has decided he is above the very law that he is tasked with defending and enforcing and I hope that Southern Illinoisans will consider these questions when they ponder his request for a promotion on election day.

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