As the spring legislative session nears its end, I want to take a moment to look back on one of the scariest times of the year with the hope that one of you might recognize something and help bring a deranged person to justice.
You may have seen a brief news story about it, but several state legislators reported receiving an identical mailer in late April with the headline: "Dead People Can't Collect Fat Pensions." The envelopes were postmarked in Champaign, but that's a central collection point so the letters could've been mailed from anywhere in the region.
The letter contained both a long list of grievances about the state's troubled pension system and numerous death threats. "Don't bother about new gun laws," the letter-writer stated, "from arson to strangulation, there are more effective means available."
"You may think you can extract more money from us," the writer warned. "We would advise you to think again. Over 40,000 cowards unwilling to push back have left the state annually over the last 5 years, leaving behind the determined, the courageous - and most importantly - those with nothing left to lose."
"Time is short. The list is long. After the first one, the rest are free," the writer concluded.
The writer threatened mass assassinations for pretty much everyone who receives a state government pension, including survivors and heirs.
To avoid this fate, the author demanded in the form letter that the pension actuarial tables be changed and the state's constitution be amended to remove the pension protection clause before instituting a graduated income tax. The writer also demanded unspecified "cap$ and clawback$ for outrageous$ pension payout$" and local government consolidation. He or she also demanded the end of pension double-dipping and "playing salary games at career's end to max out your take."
Whoever wrote that letter is obviously more informed about state government than most average citizens.
While the content of the mass mailer was identical, whoever sent it took some time to make almost every one distinct.
One way the author individualized the letters was by using a different return address for almost all of them. The envelope sent to House Speaker Michael Madigan, for instance, used a return address for Gov. JB Pritzker. The Illinois Education Association's letter had the same return address, which was for Pritzker's personal business office in Chicago. The letter sent to a Champaign public radio station was ostensibly from the late Dawn Clark Netsch, the first woman elected to a statewide office in Illinois. All the return addresses were printed on labels and not hand-written.
However, most of the return addresses appear to have been researched on the Illinois State Board of Elections' website. Several legislators told me that the names and return addresses on letters sent to them were of campaign contributors who can be found with an online search.
Some return addresses and names were of political action committees. The letter addressed to a prominent gun control proponent, for instance, had a return address of a gun control political action committee which had contributed to his campaign last year.
Other letters were ostensibly from specific individuals, including a prominent retired Chicago business executive, a legislator's mother, a legislator's relative and the husband of a state Representative's Senator. All were campaign contributors.
In other words, whoever sent this letter doesn't appear to be just some random crank with a handy mailing list. That person or persons put some real time and effort into this. And that almost bothers me more than the letter itself.
A state senator who received one of the mailers said the postage stamp on the envelope chilled him to the bone. The sender used a John Lennon stamp. The former Beatle was murdered in 1980.
The letter writer had threatened all pension plan participants with being killed and cryptically asked recipients if they were "sure" that some accidental deaths on the highways were truly accidents or "the conscious decisions of people with nothing left to lose to 'take one with me?'"
And that leads us to the most egregious example of how truly sick this person is. The return address on the letter mailed to a Rockford-area legislator appeared to come from Brooke Jones-Story, an Illinois state trooper who was killed by another motorist during a traffic stop in March near Rockford. Jones-Story was one of three troopers killed by motorists in the first three months of 2019.
If you have any information at all, please call the Illinois State Police or the FBI.
Rich Miller also publishes Capitol Fax, a daily political newsletter, and CapitolFax.com.