For more than two decades he controlled the state legislature as speaker. He was the head of the state Democratic Party. He vied with governors and mayors to be the state’s most powerful elected official.

Yet when the time came — when the allegations of fraud and corruption made it impossible for him to do his job — his legislative colleagues did not cower. They took control.

The Democratic lawmakers met in caucus and excused him from the room. Before the meeting ended, they ousted him as speaker. His days as a power broker had come to an end.

The politician in question was Sheldon Silver, ousted as the longtime leader of the New York Assembly in 2015. And whether Silver’s past is Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan’s prologue remains to be seen.  


David Greising is the president and chief executive of the Better Government Association, joining the BGA in 2018. For nearly a century, the BGA has fought for honest and effective government through investigative journalism and policy advocacy.

Greising’s career started at the City News Bureau of Chicago, with stops at the Chicago Sun-Times, Business Week magazine, the Chicago Tribune and Reuters. He was a co-founder of the Chicago News Cooperative and worked briefly as a consultant to World Business Chicago. Today, Greising writes on government issues in regular columns for the Tribune and Crain’s Chicago Business.

Under Greising’s leadership, the BGA has played a key role in uncovering public corruption amidst the wide-ranging federal probe, starting with an in-depth report about Ald. Ed Burke’s conflicts of interest before the federal charges against Burke. The BGA also has exposed waste and fraud at O’Hare and the proliferation of corruption and poverty into Dolton, Lyons and other Chicago suburbs. The BGA’s policy team has led calls for ethics reform in Chicago’s City Council and in state government.