Loncar vs. Lang

Another #MeToo moment in the legislature

 If nothing else, the unfolding of a recent sexual harassment accusation against Rep. Lou Lang, D-Skokie, has been melodramatic.

Two days before last Thursday's press conference, Denise Rotheimer (whose accusations against state Sen. Ira Silverstein, D-Pig Sty, proved politically toxic) teased the announcement, telling reporters that a top lawmaker soon would be accused. The morning of the big event, Maryann Loncar, identified only as M, was on Dan Proft’s conservative talk radio program, saying that she would name names that afternoon.

Hours later, Loncar appeared before reporters and said stuff that was, charitably put, hard to believe. Lang, for example, had been offered a $170 million bribe. Who would dangle $170 million in front of a legislator? Illinois lawmakers don’t cost nearly that much. She also accused Lang of retaliating against her by killing a marijuana bill she’d favored. In both instances, folks in positions to know said it didn’t happen.

Loncar also accused Lang of putting his hands on her, telling her that her husband was a lucky man, calling her on Sundays and after banker’s hours, sometimes in fits of obscenity-laced anger. She says that he once called her ex-husband and said that he’d help bury her (an allegation the ex-husband denies). It was, she said, so bad that she feared for her life.

Loncar presented herself as an advocate for the people, working tirelessly on marijuana legislation without getting paid because she wanted to make the Prairie State a better place. She came pro bono to the weasel ranch at Second and Capitol so that the weasels would listen to their better angels. Sure. Then again, Loncar was once part of a partnership that sought state licenses to grow and sell medical pot.

Without giving specifics, Loncar told the assembled press corps that she had kept the media informed of the bad things that were happening. Blogger Rich Miller, whose syndicated column appears in Illinois Times, says that Loncar complained to him three years ago that she was being bullied. Miller writes that Lang once vowed not to support a marijuana legalization bill if Loncar was involved. Sen. Toi Hutchinson, D-Olympia Fields, told the Chicago Tribune that Lang used the word “crazy” in reference to Loncar and urged that she be excluded from talks on a marijuana bill, and that’s not hard to imagine, given Loncar’s press conference. Anyone who would accuse a legislator of being offered a nine-figure bribe with zero proof isn’t necessarily the world’s most astute person.

Which is why I believe Loncar.

Pigs disguised as men don’t prefer sharp women who have means, allies and an ability to keep stories straight. Like lions eyeing wildebeests, they go after the weak ones in the herd, the easy-pickings stragglers who aren’t missed when they get devoured. And so it doesn’t matter whether Loncar is a nutball, or that her far-fetched tales were almost immediately discounted by credible folks who were in positions to know the truth.

What matters are accusations of harassment by a woman who may well have convinced herself of stuff that may or may not be true but nonetheless knows a predator when he presents himself. What matters was Loncar’s demeanor at the press conference, where she came across as an emotional, confused person completely over her head in the stew that is Illinois politics.

As much as anything, what gives Loncar credibility is Lang’s resignation from leadership positions. He says that he walked the plank himself, but it’s a safe bet that House Speaker Michael Madigan was on the deck pointing a blunderbuss. There are at least two truisms about Madigan. One, he relishes power; two, he is intense when it comes to matters of loyalty.

Lang has been loyal for as long as he’s been a legislator. It is hard to imagine that Madigan, tarred as he’s been by the #MeToo movement, would cut Lang loose if he didn’t believe that there might be some truth to what Loncar says, that there might even be someone else out there who might say “Me, too.” Madigan ignored sexual harassment in his political organization until former campaign worker Alaina Hampton finally went to the media late last year with verifiable claims of harassment by an aide to the speaker who went back-and-forth between the public payroll and the party’s dime in the time-honored tradition of political operatives getting paychecks from taxpayers until campaign season arrives.

Madigan doesn’t need another Hampton, who has filed a lawsuit against the Democratic Party that promises to make what’s already stinky smell all the more. He also doesn’t need a caucus wondering whether their leader has their backs. And so it isn’t hard to imagine the speaker and Lang, in whatever tete-a-tete took place prior to Thursday’s press conference, having a heart-to-heart, with the speaker surmising that Lang isn’t clean here. Who knows? Would it be a surprise if Madigan asked for the truth straight up, and Lang, loyal as he’s been for as long as he’s been, told the truth?

We may never know the truth. What we’re left with is appearances. And this doesn’t look good.

Contact Bruce Rushton at brushton@illinoistimes.com.

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