Friday, August 26, 2011

Illinois May Be Broken but Not the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago

Corporatists are alive and well in Illinois. The history of our State has been one of excessive greed and shameless hypocrisy, of corruption and oppression, of extortion and domination, of exploitation and deception, of selfishness and subjugation, of poverty and unemployment and inequitable taxation, of protection for the wealthy and their powerful interests, of exorbitant wealth for the few and scarcity of wealth for the many: government of the Committee, by the Committee, and for the Committee.

Government by the rich and powerful or by a duplicitous “not-for-profit organization whose mission is to stimulate and encourage the growth of the area's economy and its ability to provide for its people” is based upon the impoverishment of others; the Civic Committee’s power is purchased. The “current mission” is the wholesale destruction of the entire middle class and the pension systems in Illinois, in particular, the Teachers’ Retirement System.

Who is behind the laws by which the Illinois government operates? The Civic Committee. Who will profit from pension reform (to free up the cash flow and increase its profit margin) in Illinois? The Civic Committee. Who will eventually lose their “only” retirement pension (teachers do not pay into social security)? The teachers of Illinois. There are no equal rights when there is inequity of wealth and when promises are made to support and to preserve the fortunes of a few at the expense and victimization of the many.

What is the Civic Committee? It is a group that attempts to maintain and improve its membership’s privileges while creating conflict in the public at large by controlling and buying media to mold public opinion. The Civic Committee’s tactics include convincing the shrinking middle class that the reason why “Illinois is broke” is the public pension systems in Illinois. Its tactics incorporate deflecting attention away from their avaricious profiteering and elitism; keeping public employees divided by attacking one group, such as teachers; diverting class conflict by turning the middle class upon itself through use of such rhetorical devices as faulty rationalizations; selected instances; slogans; causal oversimplifications; non sequitur; and appeals to fear, ignorance, and bias found on its obverse group’s website (Illinois Is Broke). Its schemes include using its own membership to compile reports and analyses disguised as impartial data by Sidley Austin LLP and intimidating legislators in downstate meetings to make laws in the interests of the wealthy and powerful elite.

What is Tyrone Fahner’s and the Civic Committee’s plan for Illinois teachers? They plan to address the state’s budget deficit in the interests of big business by destroying the teachers’ defined-benefit pension plan and maintain control of the economic and political policies of state and municipal governments; they plan to redistribute money away from the public employees’ defined-benefit pension plans and to their private interests and profits by proposing an unsecured, non-guaranteed financial option called a defined-contribution savings plan and rendering the present defined-benefit plan unaffordable.

Besides cleverly disguising its economic terrorism against public employees, the Civic Committee’s manipulation and exploitation of the citizens of Illinois closely rival the history and spirit of conniving, arrogant capitalism evident in this country. The Illinois Is Broke website claims that state employees are getting a “sweet deal,” one that is better than “95 percent” of workers in the private industry. Apparently, members in this powerful and wealthy club are not in that 95 percent.

When Chairman of the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago CEO Miles D. White of Abbott Laboratories retires, he will draw from two defined-benefit pensions worth a combined $20 million. This is for a man whose company’s stock fell 11% last year and who announced the layoff of 1,900 employees in January (1,000 of them in Lake County)—a cut that followed with an additional 3,000 layoffs last September. Nonetheless, Miles White believes in “shared sacrifice”: his total compensation declined 8 percent last year—to $18.4 million (American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees).

A few of the many wealthy members of the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club to take note of are W. James Farrell, retired CEO of Illinois Tool Works, who will receive an annual pension of $1.4 million; John W. Madigan, retired CEO of the Tribune Company, who will receive an annual pension that is more than $220,000, and Richard L. Thomas, a retired bank executive, who will receive an annual pension that is more than $600,000. (R. Eden Martin makes more than $330,000 in compensation from two companies where he sits on the board—and that's in the addition to the retirement benefits he receives from the law firm, Sidley Austin LLP, where he once worked). Sidley Austin LLP attacked the TRS pension clause last year, claiming that it is “constitutional” to amend Article XIII, section 5 of the Constitution of the State of Illinois. For such a self-proclaimed “champion of accountability and transparency,” the firm's retirement benefit information is not publicly available (American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees).

Some of the few wealthy and influential members of the Civic Committee include:

TYRONE C. FAHNER, President, Civic Committee of The Commercial Club of Chicago; GREG Q. BROWN Chairman & Chief Executive Officer - Motorola Solutions; THOMAS A. COLE Chairman, Executive Committee - Sidley Austin LLP; ELLEN COSTELLO, CEO and US Countryhead - BMO Harris Bank; MARY N. DILLON, President and Chief Executive Officer - U.S. Cellular; CHARLES L. EVANS, President and Chief Executive Officer - Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago; HERBERT W. KRUEGER, Chairman - Mayer Brown LLP; PAUL V. LA SCHIAZZA, President - AT&T Illinois; EDWARD M. LIDDY, Retired Chairman and Chief Executive Officer - The Allstate Corporation; TIMOTHY P. MALONEY, Illinois President - Bank of America; ANDREW J. MCKENNA, Chairman - Schwarz Supply Source Chairman - McDonald's Corporation; W. JAMES MCNERNEY, JR. Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer - The Boeing Company; JAMES S. METCALF, President and Chief Executive Officer - USG Corporation; DAVID W. NELMS, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer - Discover Financial Services; DONALD S. PERKINS, Retired Chairman - Jewel Companies, Inc.; THOMAS J. PRITZKER Chairman - Hyatt Hotels Corporation; IRENE B. ROSENFELD, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer - Kraft Foods Inc.; GORDON I. SEGAL, Chairman - Crate & Barrel; JAMES A. SKINNER, Vice Chairman and Chief Executive Officer - McDonald's Corporation; RUSS M. STROBEL, Chairman, President & Chief Executive Officer - Nicor Inc.; GLENN TILTON, Chairman of the Midwest Region - JPMorgan Chase & Co. Chairman of the Board - United Continental Holdings, Inc.; GREGORY D. WASSON, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer - Walgreen Co.; THOMAS J. WILSON Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer -The Allstate Corporation; ROBERT J. ZIMMER, President - University of Chicago; ROBERT A. EASTER President - University of Illinois; MORTON O. SCHAPIRO, President - Northwestern University; HON. RAHM EMANUEL, Mayor - City of Chicago…

The Illinois Is Broke website claims that “Illinois has 13 million residents.” The wealthy Civic Committee has a few hundred members. That means the remaining 99.999% of the state's citizens pay proportionately higher taxes because Illinois is one of the few states that uses a flat-tax rate and Illinois executives of large corporations, such as the membership of the Civic Committee, also pass on the burden of their taxes that they do not pay onto the average citizen through an exploitation of governmental policies that create “corporate welfare.” The Civic Committee does not publicize the fact that its members shift the burden of this payment to the public and that some of the state’s lost revenue is based upon promises that they will create more jobs; even though, their outsourcing of American jobs is disguised as “free trade” and has eliminated hundreds of thousands of jobs and has eroded the tax base of the State of Illinois; furthermore, the Civic Committee members do not publicize the fact that they have hidden vast amounts of their corporate money in offshore bank accounts to avoid taxation and, thus, to increase their excessive profiteering – paid for by the rest of us.

Does that seem fair to you? If not, please contact your elected officials and tell them that this state’s resources are intrinsically bound up with the Civic Committee’s corporate interests and that legislators who will not truly represent their constituents and who are subservient to the business interests of the wealthy few will be voted out of office next election.

The only person who stands between the wholesale ruin of the middle-class and the public pension systems in Illinois is you. 

-Glen Brown

For additional information regarding this issue, read the following blog posts: Global Free Market: A Perspective and Admonition (and perhaps why Tyrone Fahner of the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago is back at the legislative table in Illinois) (August 16); Ten Question Regarding Our Legislators’ Focus (August 11); Spread the Burden of Taxes and Address Tax Inequities in Illinois… (July 25); A Call for Caution for This Fall’s Veto Session in Illinois (July 17); What else do defined-benefit pension plans do for many Americans? (July 14); SB 512, Illinois Is Broke, and the Chicago Tribune, et al. vs. Your Financial Security (June 20); How about Tax Reform, the Most Important Issue in Illinois? (June 8); and Defined-Contribution Plan v. Defined-Benefit Plan (May 25).


  1. How do we get this word out? You have so eloquently stated what needs to be exposed. And can we picket the homes of those members of the Civic Committee?

  2. Residential picketing violates one's right to privacy and peace. I believe it can result in a Class B misdemeanor if you are given notice to leave but do not. It's not the legal or ethical thing to do. However, you can "get the word out" by forwarding this type of information to others, especially to teachers. Thanks for your comment.