As you might expect, a large number of publications here in Illinois and across the country rely on the Associated Press, the country’s largest wire service. So, if they get something criminally wrong, that misinformation is reprinted from Cairo to Zion, from San Francisco to Washington, D.C.
Here’s the way Associated Press scribe Sara Burnett (via ABCNews.com) covered a House Committee vote yesterday to advance legislation to allocate $100 million worth of enticement money that Illinois doesn’t have to try to bring the construction of a Barack Obama Presidential Library to Chicago:
Even though Chicago is where Barack Obama got his start in politics, first lady Michelle Obama grew up and the Obamas still call their hometown, state and local officials aren’t taking for granted that the Windy City will land the president’s official library.
Illinois legislators advanced a plan Thursday to devote $100 million in state construction funds to bring the Obama presidential library and museum to Chicago. Lawmakers said the money was intended to sweeten a city bid, noting that Hawaii, where Obama was born, and New York, where he attended college, also are interested in housing the presidential artifacts and records. …
But he said the goal is to pass the legislation through the House and Senate before the Legislature adjourns May 31, so it can be included in the bid submitted to Obama’s foundation.
The foundation is expected to review that information and notify groups in May that will be invited to submit more detailed and formal proposals. The final decision is up to the president and first lady, and is expected to be announced in early 2015.
And this is from a truncated version of that same AP story, via NBCChicago.com, emphasis mine:
An Illinois House committee has advanced a plan to devote $100 million in state funds to help bring President Barack Obama’s presidential museum and library to Chicago.
The committee voted unanimously Thursday following a hearing in Chicago.
This being the Associated Press, the story appeared everywhere. Washington Times. Wall Street Journal. Atlanta Journal Constitution. Springfield State Journal-Register. San Francisco Chronicle. Townhall.com. Chicago Daily Herald. Salon.com. The Southern Illinoisan. Yahoo News. The Huffington Post. The Peoria Journal-Star. And on and on and on.
The problem? The vote wasn’t exactly unanimous. From WBEZ Chicago:
Illinois State House members are advancing a bill that would devote $100 million toward a Barack Obama presidential library. The House Executive Committee meeting in Chicago today voted, by an official tally of 9-0, to authorize using state money for the library. …
Nine representatives were recorded as voting for the bill, even though there were five lawmakers in attendance at the hearing. That is because Rep. Bob Rita (D-Blue Island), who chairs the Executive Committee, employed a procedural move.
Rita used the attendance record from a previous hearing that occurred Wednesday as the vote for the presidential library cash. House Speaker Michael Madigan, who sat in on today’s hearing, clarified Rita’s maneuver, saying the attendance would serve as nine votes in favor of the library, even though the previous committee hearing was on a possible Chicago casino and not related to a presidential library.
No Republicans attended Thursday’s hearing on the presidential library.
How’d this happen? The explanation from the committee’s ranking GOP member, Rep. Ed Sullivan (R-Mundelein):
In a stunning violation of House rules, Illinois House Democrats used a subject matter only meeting today to advance legislation aimed at steering $100 million in public funds towards luring the Obama Presidential Library to Chicago.
“The legacy of the Obama Presidential Library shouldn’t be kicked off in a cloud of controversy,” stated State Representative Ed Sullivan (R, Mundelein). “Not only was the meeting a misrepresentation, so was the false roll call taken.”
Sullivan was speaking specifically to the Illinois House Executive Committee vote today on House Bill 6010. The legislation was brought up in what appeared as a subject matter hearing only, meaning testimony was to be taken, but no votes were to be cast. At the meeting, only four of the committee’s eleven members were present.
Without a quorum present, and no Republicans to hold the rules accountable, the four present Democratic members claimed the committee roll call to be 9-0 (9 voting “yes” and 0 voting “no”) on the proposal, with even opposing Republicans not in attendance recorded as “yes” votes.
“The roll call appears to be unequivocally out of order. It is often the case that the majority party in Illinois will simply change the rules to get what they want accomplished,” added Sullivan. “In this case they didn’t even care to change the rules, they just flat out broke them.”
Under the rule of House Speaker Michael Madigan (D, Chicago), the House Rules committee often convenes throughout the legislative calendar to alter, change or suspend House rules to move various proposals. In this instance, even the stated rules appear to be violated.
Under current House rules, a committee cannot vote on measures unless a quorum is present and the proper posting requirements have been met. Under a parliamentary review, the following were violated: Rule 32 providing a majority of those appointed constitute a quorum of a committee, Rule 21 authorizing actions by recessed committees but requiring the House to be in session, and Rule 49 providing that no member of a committee may vote except in person at the time of the call of the vote.
The Illinois House does not reconvene regular session until April 29th. It remains unclear at this point what action will be taken on House Bill 6010, but Rep. Sullivan intends to object to the advancement of this legislation.
So, Republican members of the committee were recording as voting YES … even though they weren’t actually there. That’s a pretty relevant piece of information that the Associated Press completely ignored, don’t you think? And they weren’t alone.
The Chicago Tribune report from John Byrne makes no mention of the procedural hijinks.
Neither does Lynn Sweet at the Chicago Sun-Times.
So, you might want to keep this episode in mind whenever you’re reading coverage of what happens in Springfield. If the fact that four of the nine committee members weren’t even there but were recorded as voting yes wasn’t deemed relevant to appear in the widely disseminated reports of the Associated Press, Chicago Tribune, or Chicago Sun-Times, you have to wonder what else they’re not telling you.
UPDATE: The AP has filed a new story with what they conspicuously ignored in their first report:
A Republican lawmaker is protesting after an Illinois House committee recorded a 9-0 vote to commit $100 million for President Barack Obama’s library and museum, even though the committee’s four GOP members weren’t there.
Rep. Ed Sullivan of Mundelein says he didn’t expect a vote during Thursday’s hearing. He told WBEZ radio and the (Arlington Heights) Daily Herald he would’ve voted no.
Sullivan says “the legacy of the Obama presidential library shouldn’t be kicked off in a cloud of controversy.”
Lawmakers approved the money to sweeten Chicago’s bid for the library.
Democrats used the roll call from a Wednesday hearing on gambling as the vote for the library. No one objected.
A spokesman for House Speaker Michael Madigan says if there’s a problem the committee will reconvene and vote again.