SPRINGFIELD, IL (NEXSTAR) – Six months after his colleagues quietly removed him from power, former Republican Senate Chairman Bill Brady is considering a political comeback.
In a phone call Wednesday evening en route from Florida to Illinois, Brady (R-Bloomington) said he was considering a possible nationwide candidacy for Secretary of State, Governor, or perhaps Senator Tammy Duckworth’s seat in the US Senate.
“I’m interested in public service and I entertain different ways I can serve,” Brady said.
Senate Republicans ousted him in a private meeting last fall, opting instead to hand over the reins of the top job of the caucus to Senator Dan McConchie (R-Hawthorn Woods). Brady announced his resignation from his Senate seat shortly thereafter.
When Brady stepped down, his campaign committee was flush with $ 825,586. When he took the role of leader of the Senate Republicans, his campaign account was only $ 75,574. Several angry Republicans felt confused by the move and expected Brady to send the funds back to them.
“People gave him to build the caucus, not because they liked Bill,” said one senator.
However, Brady said he plans to spend the money on candidates he likes, on charitable donations, or to help fund his own political future. An old campaign funding law would also allow him to spend some of the funds on himself.
Brady entered Illinois politics in 1993 as a member of the House of Representatives, five years before the state outlawed “legal bribery,” the unpopular practice that allowed politicians to spend campaign funds on personal expenses. An aide suggested that Brady’s grandfather’s campaign account at the time contained more than $ 60,000 that he can legally use for his own purposes since he is no longer in the elected office.
While Brady ponders his political future, he is also battling a lawsuit by a South Florida developer who claims Brady owes him more than $ 60,000 in late rental payments. The suit represents yet another episode in a long line of money troubles that has haunted Brady throughout his career.
According to court documents filed in Palm Beach County, developer Joe Carosella, president of Delray Place Manager, Inc. says Brady “usually failed to pay the rent due under the 2017 calendar year lease on time.”
Brady and his wife, son, and business associates run a Jimmy John franchise out of the store. He admitted they stopped paying rent in April but blamed the landlord’s construction which he believed was keeping customers away.
“He was so ruthlessly redeveloping the project that people didn’t even know we were there,” said Brady.
Staff who answered the phone at the fast food restaurant said they stayed open and busy, delivering sandwiches and serving meals throughout the pandemic.
While recognizing the company was never forced to close, Brady said the sandwich shop suffered intermittent blackouts and claimed “people wouldn’t get into the parking lot because their tires were going to blow”.
Carosella could not be reached for comment.
“If he doesn’t come to his senses, it’ll go to court,” said Brady. “We’ll start paying rent as soon as we’ve recovered our damage.”
Brady had only been in bankruptcy court last year. The financial problems of his construction business were well documented. When someone from Midwest Electronics Gaming, LLC, a video game company, turned to Brady with an offer in 2020, they accepted.
“We did some real estate and they said, ‘You know, you could help us this way,’ and I said, ‘Okay,'” he said. “So we did it.”
Illinois Gaming Board sources said Brady reached out personally to the board’s staff to inquire about the company’s licensing status and payment structure.
“Investigators were concerned that licensing Mr. Brady would be against the ethics law,” said a source off the board.
Records obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show that the Illinois Gaming Board renewed the license of the operator of the company’s video game terminal in April 2019, a month before the state expanded the video game dramatically.
In May 2019, a report from ProPublica and WBEZ revealed Brady’s financial ties to the video game industry. Days later, Brady rose to the floor of the Senate and withdrew from voting on widening video game profits.
“I will vote on this measure,” he said. “I would also like to point out that I have withdrawn from any negotiations in all discussions with the leaders or others.”
However, five months earlier, governor-elect JB Pritzker said that expanding gambling was Brady’s idea.
“Senator Brady suggested another idea that I think is pretty good,” Pritzker said the day before his inauguration, turning away from a question about the gas tax increase. “And that is, you know, we might be able to expand gambling in the state and have that as one of the sources of income for our capital.”
Pritzker’s office later said the governor-elect was referring to public comments made by the Republican Senate leader. A spokesman said Pritzker did not recall ever speaking to Brady in person about video games.
In 2018, Brady told WMBD that the expansion of video games to new communities like Peoria or Chicago could generate “additional revenue” that could “provide a capital program.”
On Wednesday, Brady said he had no business interest in video games at the time of the interview.
“I wasn’t interested until I submitted my economic interest statement,” he said, referring to a time in early 2019.
Still, several Senate Republicans were not convinced that his personal gain motives were never confused with his official duties as chairman of the caucus.
In the moments leading up to an eagerly anticipated vote that promised to deliver a casino to the city of Chicago in May 2020, Brady worked privately to secure guarantees for its members that they would back the last part of the game bill, according to seven Republicans Senators.
After Brady announced to his caucus in a closed session that he would be abstaining from voting on the gaming action due to a personal conflict of interest, he received individual members in his office and outlined specific capital infrastructure projects from their home districts that would appear in a revision Capital account and explained how game account taxes would pay for these projects.
“He is expected to cast a certain number of votes,” said Senator Dan McConchie (R-Barrington Hills) this Saturday night.
Five Republicans eventually voted for the revised game bill. Each member, including those who voted against, received equal awards in a separate but related capital plan for capital infrastructure projects worth $ 3 million in their districts.
“We were very sure that we had no capital attached to games,” said Brady on Wednesday.
“There is no expansion of gambling in this bill,” said Senator Bill Cunningham (D-Chicago) in May 2020 during the on-site debate.
That’s because the last game bill, which was passed in 2019, has already done so. The Chicago Casino project was the final piece of the puzzle, and it failed on the first try. It cleared the last hurdle in May last year.
The casino extension determines how much the state collects in taxes. The capital account distributes the funds for “vertical” construction projects, while the fuel taxes are paid for “horizontal” projects such as roads and bridges.
After Brady cited his conflict of interest, he appointed Senator Dave Syverson (R-Rockford) as the party’s contact on gambling issues.
“I think it’s silly that he reuses himself,” said Syverson, who advocated relaxed disclosure laws for casino contracts. This information indicated that Syverson has a conflict of interest of his own. Ringland Johnson, the construction company contracted to build the Hard Rock Casino in Rockford, hired Syverson’s insurance agency.
According to Syverson, Brady tossed his members into the Chicago Casino: “This is the only way to fund capital funds. If capital is important to you, you should support it. “
In May 2019, after encouraging senators to vote for the gas tax increase, Brady said, “I want to thank everyone in the General Assembly, Chamber of Commerce stakeholders, transportation groups and unions.”
The Chicagoland Operators Union later gave Brady’s Political Action Committee two separate contributions totaling $ 57,800. The union’s total contribution of $ 115,600 was more than seven times the next largest donation to Brady’s PAC.