The history of the little guy being squashed by massive Chicago political clout at election time is just too long to print without weeping.
But the story for today is so amazing that some Chicago election officials have never seen the like.
“No one can remember anything approaching this,” said an election official.
It’s overkill of epic proportions, like using a sledgehammer to kill a gnat, or firing off a nuclear weapon to kill a sparrow. A Southwest Side David vs. Goliath story.
The David is David Krupa, 19, a freshman at DePaul University who drives a forklift part time. He’s not a political powerhouse. He’s just a conservative Southwest Side teenager studying political science and economics who got it in his head to run for alderman in a race that pits him against the most powerful ward organization in Chicago.
The Goliath is the 13th Ward Democratic Organization run by House Speaker Michael J. Madigan, aka Boss Madigan, the most powerful politician in the state. Boss Madigan has long hand-picked his aldermen. He likes them loyal and quiet. The current silent alderman of the 13th Ward is Marty Quinn.
“I’m from Clearing,” Krupa told me. “All I want to do is get on the ballot to address the serious issues we have, from public safety to taxes. People don’t want to say things out loud here. People who’ve challenged the 13th Ward get intimidated. You know the neighborhood.”
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Yes, I do know the neighborhood. For decades, my father and uncle ran a family supermarket in the 13th Ward, at 58th and Pulaski. We’d cash paychecks without charging a check-cashing fee. On government paycheck days, the line of city, county and state workers would ring around the store, for hours upon hours, thousands of them.
Even then I knew the power of Boss Madigan.
To get on the ballot, Krupa was required to file 473 valid signatures of ward residents with the Chicago Board of Elections. Krupa filed 1,703 signatures.
But before he filed his signatures with the elections board, an amazing thing happened along the Chicago Way.
An organized crew of political workers — or maybe just civic-minded individuals who care about reform — went door to door with official legal papers. They asked residents to sign an affadavit revoking their signature on Krupa’s petition.
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Revocations are serious legal documents, signed and notarized. Lying on a legal document is a felony and can lead to a charge of perjury. If you’re convicted of perjury, you may not work for a government agency. And I know that there are many in the 13th Ward on the government payroll.
More than 2,700 revocations were turned over to the elections board to cancel the signatures on Krupa’s petitions. Chicago Board of Elections officials had never seen such a massive pile of revocations.
“The board has received a few revocations here and there in very rare electoral board cases over the years,” said election board spokesman Jim Allen.
But more than 2,700? Impossible, no?
“They’re pretty rare, and no one can remember anything approaching this volume of filings in past cases,” Allen said. “For the board, the next step is to begin the hearings on all of the objections that have been filed against any candidates’ nominating petitions. We can’t speculate, though, on the legitimacy or any other legal questions about any of the objections or the corresponding petitions.”
The number of revocations far exceeds the number of signatures Krupa collected. That means false affidavits were filed with the elections board.
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Why would thousands of people lie on a legal document of revocation, and say they’d signed Krupa’s petitions, when they didn’t sign Krupa’s petitions? Were they just being nice?
Mike Kasper, the elections lawyer for the 13th Ward, said his side has filed objections to Krupa’s petitions of candidacy and “we’ll wait for the elections board to take it up when it does.”
Pressed about the large number of revocation petitions, Kasper said he’s aware of the issue, but that “it is my practice to decline comment on any pending litigation.”
There is no litigation, yet, but election attorney Michael Dorf, who is representing Krupa, says this case is a “clown car of felonies.”
“You know the 13th Ward better than I do,” Dorf said. “This is clown school and election fraud. This is going way, way beyond the line. David is a huge underdog. Go ahead and beat him on Election Day, or do subtle fraud, like taking away yard signs, but when this number of false affidavits are filed, you’re talking fundamental fraud, epic fraud.
“We turned in 1,703 signatures. We compared them to the 2,796 revocations, and found only 187 matches, meaning only 187 people who signed David’s petitions filed revocations,” Dorf said. “So, what about the 2,609 people who didn’t sign for David but who filed revocations? That’s fraud. That’s perjury. That’s felony.”
Dorf said that he will ask the elections board next week to refer the matter to Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx.
But Foxx, a Democrat, won’t want to anger the Boss.
Neither will incoming Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul, who famously said he would not “go fishing” for corruption, and who also received a million dollars in Madigan political money.
And current Illinois Attorney General, Lisa Madigan, is the Boss’ daughter.
This is Chicago, where the Davids get crushed by the Goliaths. And where the boss is the boss.
Listen to “The Chicago Way” podcast with John Kass and Jeff Carlin — at www.wgnradio.com/category/wgn-plus/thechicagoway.