SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WCIA) — Senator Bill Brady’s tenure as Minority Leader faces new uncertainty after Senator Jason Plummer, Brady’s former 2010 gubernatorial running mate, accused Brady of offering him an appointment to sit on the Joint Commission on Ethics and Lobbying Reform in exchange for muting his criticism of Brady’s side gig working to promote video gaming terminals in bars.
“It was said multiple times that he would not appoint me if I followed through on filing that legislation that I had worked on, or if I spoke publicly about it,” Plummer told WCIA on Monday night. “I was kind of surprised that he was as forward as he was. I said to him, I said, ‘Geez, Bill.’”
“I recall the conversation with great detail because it wasn’t just one conversation,” Plummer added.
Several Senate Republicans, who asked to speak anonymously, said Plummer’s explosive allegations could make it incredibly difficult for Brady to keep enough votes in his camp to win re-election to keep his post in 2021.
“I tried to handle this in a professional manner,” Plummer said. “I went through the proper channels.”
On Monday, Plummer sent a letter to Brady and the Senate Republican leadership team informing them he would not comply with Brady’s restrictions. Senator Brady promptly responded with a letter of his own, and replaced Plummer with Senator Dan McConchie, a Republican from Hawthorn Woods. McConchie says the appointment came as a surprise, and he claims Brady would only tell him at first that Plummer had resigned “for whatever reason.”
Plummer, an Edwardsville Republican, claims Brady’s aides quizzed him about legislation he has drafted that would outlaw elected officials from earning income to operate or promote video gaming terminals. Plummer says he has drafted, but not yet filed, Senate Bill 2318, which would prohibit any member from the General Assembly from receiving any income from a gaming related interest. The idea has been discussed by a number of Senate Republicans, who say they would support it, even though it would outlaw Brady from keeping one of his side jobs.
Financial records first obtained by WBEZ and Pro Publica reveal Brady held a significant financial interest in Midwest Electronics Gaming, a company that operates video gaming terminals in restaurants and bars in Illinois. Brady declined to reveal how much the company paid him in commission as a salesman, but he abstained from voting on a bill to expand video gambling this year, citing a conflict of interest. Current state law does not require Brady to disclose how much income he earns from gambling interests.
Before lawmakers left the statehouse at the end of the fall veto session, the House and Senate agreed to establish a new ethics commission to study and recommend tougher ethical laws that might prevent abuses of power, corruption, or inside dealing. The bipartisan plan allowed each party to appoint two members from each chamber to the commission, creating an eight-member panel.
“I very much wanted to serve on the commission,” Plummer said, citing his interest in passing tougher ethics laws. According to several sources familiar with the private Senate Republican caucus meetings, Plummer openly pressured Brady to pursue more stringent ethical reforms, but the Minority Leader instead opted to embrace the “low hanging fruit” Democrats offered and moved to establish a Commission to study the issue of fighting corruption, as opposed to enacting laws to ban lawmakers from serving as lobbyists, or to broaden the powers of the Legislative Inspector General.
In a press release issued last Monday, Brady appointed Plummer to the ethics commission. One week later, on Monday, December 2nd, Plummer responded in a letter informing Brady that, “I am unable to serve under the conditions and restrictions you set forth in our conversation at approximately 9:00 a.m. on Monday, November 25th.”
Plummer claims he repeatedly refused to accept Brady’s conditions, and said that he was surprised when Brady appointed him to the post.
“This press release was issued without my consent and I can only assume this action is an indication that you believed or hoped I would eventually agree to the conditions and restrictions referenced above,” Plummer wrote. “As noted, I will not agree, and have filed the first of my ethics-related bills today.”
Brady’s letter reframes Plummer’s comments as a “resignation,” something Plummer considers “absurd.”
In his letter, Plummer says he must “regretfully decline the appointment,” because he claims Brady “attempted to condition my potential appointment to the Commission on an agreement, by me, that I would not file certain ethics-related legislation and that I would not take a public stance on certain ethics-related issues.”
Brady all but confirmed he pressured Plummer to drop his ethics crusade in a letter he sent out to other members on Monday afternoon.
“I indicated you would need to represent the views of the Senate Republican Caucus not merely your own interests,” Brady wrote in his response letter, dated December 2nd. “This would include you not filing any of your own ethics legislation without taking caucus views into consideration.”
However, Brady did not harbor the same concerns or require the same conditions from Senator McConchie, even though he had made several public statements and filed legislation in support of tougher ethical laws.
“I was never asked in regards to whether or not I was considering filing legislation,” McConchie said.
After he accepted the appointment, McConchie said he saw Brady’s letter to Plummer that said he could not sit on the Commission and file his own ethics legislation. McConchie promptly called Brady’s office back to inform them he had already filed an ethics reform measure, and to ask if that might disqualify him from serving on the Commission. McConchie says he was told, “The leader said your bill is fine.”
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to clarify the Senate Minority Leader’s current term ends in 2021, not in 2020.