Rich Miller's Roast: A Benefit for LSSI

Rich Miller, Capitol Fax publisher, and Jennifer De Leon, LSSI’s director of government relations, celebrate at Rich’s 50th birthday party and roast.Prior to turning the Big 5-0, Capitol Fax editor and publisher Rich Miller pondered what he might do to make his half-century milestone meaningful. He approached Jennifer De Leon, director of government relations at Lutheran Social Services of Illinois (LSSI), about holding a roast to benefit the agency. So on March 31, at Maggiano’s in Chicago, Miller was “roasted” by the very people he takes to task every day — the legislators and leaders that populate our state capitol.

The impressive array of “roasters” included three of Illinois’ four legislative leaders, including House Speaker Michael Madigan, one of the most powerful leaders in Springfield, and Senate President and roast emcee John Cullerton. Others skewering Miller included Attorney General Lisa Madigan; Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka; Senate Republican Leader Christine Rodogno; Paul Green, Arthur Rubloff Professor of Policy Studies at Roosevelt University; State Rep. Skip Saviano; State Sen. Donne Trotter; Miller’s brother, Doug (who happens to be a public official in Texas), and Chicago Sun-Times columnist and NBC 5 reporter Carol Marin, who delivered her roast via rap.

It was obvious that the roasters relished their role, embellishing their comments with lots of creativity and spice, to put it mildly. “Only Rich Miller could get all these politicians together in one room without a subpoena,” Topinka sneered. Lisa Madigan told Miller, “Congratulations to LSSI for allowing Rich to extort us on their behalf.”

In explaining his willingness to be roasted, Rich said, “[In] opening myself to mass ridicule ...I wanted to have a party that actually does something [good for someone]. I’ve known about LSSI for many years. I’ve done this only to help them. Every dollar raised is going to help people.”

Chatting at the roast (from left): House Speaker Michael Madigan chats with Dan Schwick, vice president of church and community services, Pr. Denver Bitner, LSSI president, and Jennifer DeLeon, director of government relations.Because the event was sold out in 13 minutes, Miller had to find a bigger room at Maggiano’s to accommodate the 300 people that attended the roast. Jennifer and Joy Medrano, director of volunteer engagement, organized the event, which raised more than $50,000. To boot, on March 28, Miller held a pre-roast soiree at Boone’s in Springfield, where he personally prepared barbecue for guests. That event alone raised nearly $6,000 for LSSI and more than $4,000 for the tornado victims in Harrisburg.

Dan Schwick, vice president of church and community services, who oversees LSSI’s advocacy efforts commented, “Because Rich makes it his business to know a lot about state government and key relationships in state government, it’s significant that he chose LSSI as the beneficiary of his birthday celebration. The roast itself was about Rich, but speaker after speaker mentioned LSSI as an excellent cause for charitable donations and a high quality provider of direct care for people in need.”

What a night. Thanks, Rich!

Note: Visit LSSI’s Facebook page to see a photo album from the evening.