By John Kass
With Chicago history having just been made, with a Daley convicted on all counts in federal court, the first Daley ever charged with federal crime, you might find historical perspective in the insect world.
Consider a hive of bees. What do bees have to do with it?
For decades, the Daleys were like the queen bee–or is that a king bee?–protected by all the worker bees of the Chicago political hive.
I’m not talking about the Chicago that is now, the once great city savaged by incompetent governance and lockdown politics killing small business, a city suffering from increasing violent crime with the spring thaw approaching, the threatened menace of heat still to come, with residents fleeing and downtown commercial office space vacant and shuttered.
But the Chicago that until a very short time ago was working, like a beehive, at least politically. Worker bees making certain there was plenty of royal jelly for the royal family to taste, while protecting them with their stingers.
And some were buffers, protecting the precious royals with their own bodies from those cold and deadly federal winds. Every so often a minor bee might fall forgotten to the floor (or go to prison).
But then, who remembers the drones? For decade after decade, the one thing you could be sure about in political Chicago was that the Daleys were not drones.
And so, given all that, this week in federal court, and for the first time in the city’s history, a Daley was put on trial and was convicted of federal crime.
Chicago Ald. Patrick Daley Thompson, 11th, bears a striking resemblance to his grandfather, the late Mayor Richard J. Daley, who was meticulous in appearance, disciplined and determined to outwork his rivals. He was politically ruthless, yes, but with a sense of humility. And he was cautious.
The alderman is also the nephew of the former Mayor Richard M. Daley, the Fredo of the family, a completely different man than Richard J.
Richard M. was sloppy of mind, well-known for a personality that harbored deep insecurity along with the unbridled arrogance of a man who acted as if he’d never, ever have any problem with the feds.
Ald. Daley Thompson, of the family’s hereditary 11th Ward, was convicted by a jury on all counts of tax fraud and of lying to federal agents in what amounts to a larger case of bank fraud. He now faces federal prison. He is the first and only Daley indicted on federal charges.
Four Illinois governors have gone to prison. But a Chicago mayor has never been indicted. Is this just pure coincidence, or a Chicago Way miracle?
Ald. Daley Thompson’s defense team just couldn’t put him on the stand to deny, deny, deny. He’s a lawyer with an historic Chicago political name and a pedigree and DNA that speak to detail. So, his defense counsel, which really didn’t have much to work with, decided they had to present him to the jury as a dummy, as scatterbrained, sloppy, unprepared with a bad memory.
It was a version of the old Fedzheimer’s defensive tactic used by his uncle whenever reporters began asking about some kinky multi-million contract going to some crony. Richard M. Daley couldn’t remember a thing, sometimes babbling nonsensical denials, his voice squeaking.
But things change. The city is now exhausted, like a dying hive. And Fedzheimer’s 2.0 didn’t work with this jury. One juror said she didn’t know the Daleys were important politically. I find that difficult to believe.
The Daley family wasn’t all that enthusiastic when Patrick Daley Thompson went into elected politics.
“Our thing is gone,” one member of the large extended family told me weeks before the federal trial. “And there he goes with the fedoras and the cigars. I don’t know why he did it.”
The family member was not talking about the criminal case, but only wondering why Patrick Daley Thompson ever sought public office in the first place. Other family members also did not want him to embark on a political career. But Patrick Daley Thompson did it anyway.
Was it nostalgia? A yearning for the grandfather? A desire to see the Daley name in lights? Does it matter now?
What matters is what he was convicted of: dipping his paws into the honeypot of a failing Bridgeport neighborhood bank, the Washington Federal Bank for Savings, with the feds watching.
The bank is now closed, but it was a bank where he felt comfortable drawing out big cash in “loans” and not paying it all back; a bank where the CEO had reportedly strangled himself with a green rope at the home of a bank investor facing indictment; a bank where a dozen or so others allegedly scooped up some $90 million in Chicago honey.
He wanted to be the big man of the neighborhood. He bought his grandfather’s house. He put on a fedora just like the kind his grandfather wore.
I’m told he’s a decent sort, a good father. And who wouldn’t feel for his children and his family weeping in court the other day? Yes, that last sentence is the exactly the kind of thing you might expect from a columnist when the game still warm in the game bag. But there is no pleasure here. Ald. Patrick Daley Thompson is no queen bee escaping with royal jelly, buzzing off toward some off shore tax haven.
He’s a bumbler who grabbed for local honey to support a lifestyle befitting the royal name.
He’ll soon be stripped of his aldermanic title as required by state law. The already weakened Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, seeking her re-election, has signaled she’ll play nice with the Daleys in appointing an aldermanic successor in their ward. And why not?
They brought her to City Hall years ago, to help clean up the stinking pigsty in the Department of Purchasing that was full of crony contracts. If voters have forgotten the Daleys brought her into City Hall, the Daleys haven’t forgotten. They don’t forget anything.
I said the late Richard J. was meticulous always. He had a hand-made House of Duro suit on the day he died. He always wore House of Duro. His black shoes were always shined and gleaming. He was cautious and hard-working. He was heavyset, but graceful in his way, gliding in those hard black shoes like Jackie Gleason.
Ald. Patrick Daley Thompson was also impeccably dressed in a suit on the day his dreams died. He did not glide. He trudged out of federal court in a clumsy procession, shuffling his feet, both hands on the shoulders of a family member walking in front of him.
With reporters shouting questions on the cold sidewalk, nobody had to whisper into his ear that all glory is fleeting.
Some, like 38th Ward Ald. Nick Sposato of the Northwest Side, think the alderman was targeted by the feds just for being a Daley. Perhaps family members also believe it too.
“I just think he got the royal screw job because of what his name is,” Sposato told the Tribune. “If his name had been John Smith, they would have said, ‘Pay us what you owe us, and we’ll call it even.’”
No Nick. The alderman became a target when he reached for the bank’s honey with the feds watching.
If his name had been Smith, then fedora or no, Patrick Daley Thompson would never have been elected alderman of the 11th Ward. He wouldn’t have been invited by the now-dead bank CEO to taste the bank’s honey.
A John Smith would have had to pay it all back, with interest, just like the rest of us chumbolones.
This being Chicago, there are many out there who think this federal case was overkill, considering all the corruption allegations that swirled around Richard M. that went nowhere in the federal building. And I think of those bees I told you about at the top of this column, the loyal worker bees and drones who gave themselves up to protect the King Bee, and were hit by those cold and crippling federal winds.
Like City Hall patronage boss Robert Sorich, who was sentenced to three-years and ten months in prison for running an massive illegal patronage operation out of Daley’s City Hall. And Rich Daley and Johnny Daley said they knew nothing.
Did Sorich ever testify as to who left those small and discreet green dots–from some green felt tip pen from a City Hall desk drawer–to mark the names of politically selected future city workers?
Or what of Anthony Duffy, the sewer contractor in business with the mayor’s son, Patrick?
Duffy, who used a minority business front to win city sewer contracts, was sentenced to 17 months in federal prison. His crime? He deliberately left out the names of Mayor Richard M. Daley’s son Patrick Daley, and nephew Robert Vanecko from financial disclosure forms filed at City Hall. And for lying about it in an FBI interview.
Daley’s son Patrick and nephew Vanecko were not charged with any crime. And Richard M. was never charged with any crime.
Many of us speculated that Richard M. Daley’ terrible parking meter deal that hit the fan had something to do with his decision to retire. He played along with President Barack Obama’s game of bait-and-switch sending his then White House chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, back to Chicago to replace Daley as mayor and bringing Daley’s brother William to the White House to replace Rahm as chief of staff.
But I wonder, a stone in my shoe. Could Daley’s retirement have had something to do with sewer covers?
Does it matter now?
Rahm dared suggest once that Richard M.’s bad fiscal management had left the city in a difficult spot. Rahm was trashed for disloyalty.
And what about the bees? Sometimes the lives of bees are just plain sad. They just fall to the floor of the hive, forgotten. And I suppose that being fastidious insects, they’re removed and dropped on the ground outside.
But wait. Who paid for all the honey that flowed year after year, decade after decade, all that sweet honey that you and other Chicago taxpayers never got to taste for yourselves?
And now there’s no more local honey in Chicago’s pot. Only red ink and Biden federal bailout bucks to protect Lightfoot from even worse failure.
So, who paid for all that honey?
Do you really have to ask?
(Copyright 2022 John Kass)
If you want to get access to all of my columns, subscribe here.
If you have having difficulty with your subscription, please refer to our FAQ for assistance.