Kass: Oh Lisa, save us!

Or how to stop worrying about Metra and love the Madigans


If only we lived in a comic book, instead of the corrupt, windswept political wasteland now known to taxpayers as Madiganistan, we'd know just what to do:

We'd go up on top of the Tribune Tower, flick on a switch, activate a giant spotlight and shine that beam at the heavens.

It might be the letters "L" and "M" bouncing up there on the clouds.

Or a silhouette of eyeglasses.

What we need is a Lisa Light — a beacon that will summon assistance while beleaguered taxpayers cry:

Save us, Lisa Madigan. Save us, Illinois attorney general and the people's lawyer, from political scandal, hush-money payments and a lot of political gobbledygook.

Unfortunately, I don't have a Lisa Light. So I had to place a call on my Lisa Phone.

If you've been reading the Tribune, you know all about this latest scandal, since Tribune reporters have been peeling back the stinking onion for weeks. It involves more than $700,000 in hush money used to shut the mouth of ousted Metra Chief Executive Officer Alex Clifford.

He succeeded the last CEO, Phil Pagano, who stepped in front of a speeding train when it was discovered that he'd skimmed hundreds of thousands of dollars from the agency.

Some say politely that the deal for $700,000 — almost triple Clifford's salary — includes a "confidentiality agreement." But where I come from, paying a public official to shut his mouth — and threatening to cut off the payments if that mouth opens in public — is hush money.

Now there are allegations of patronage abuse, political influence, even the involvement of the big political boss himself, House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Lisa's Daddy.

Boss Madigan felt compelled to issue a statement Thursday, minutes before a state legislative committee hearing, saying he didn't pressure Clifford to give a raise to an underling.

It sure would have served the public interest — meaning the taxpayers — if Clifford could have testified.

Sadly, he informed me Thursday that he couldn't testify without risking the loss of the cash. But that didn't stop the political hacks at Metra from bashing him.

Obviously, this is a problem for the people who pay for Metra.

So whom do beleaguered taxpayers call at a time like this?

In the land of Madiganistan — once known as Illinois — there is only one.

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, the state's top law enforcement officer.

She's thinking about running for governor, and she's raising oodles of cash. But when I called her office Thursday, all I wanted to know was this: