In the days after Michael Madigan was unseated as speaker of the Illinois House, a friend and I exchanged emails about the new speaker, a lesser-known lawmaker from Hillside, the Democrat Emanuel “Chris” Welch.

Unprompted, the friend brought up a question that’s on the minds of many. “I am going to observe whether Welch is independent or just a ‘mini-Mike,’” he wrote.  

The question is fair. Madigan’s hold on state lawmaking and politics — nearly 40 years as speaker — has been so complete that it can be difficult to imagine Illinois government without him. And Welch didn’t do his reputation any good last fall, guarding Madigan against accountability while serving as chair of a special House panel investigating Madigan’s alleged misconduct.  

Even so, Welch’s early pronouncements — opposing the gerrymandering of electoral maps and calling for a 10-year limit on terms of legislative leaders — represented at least a verbal departure from Madigan’s methods.   


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.