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*** UPDATED w/ Additional Thoughts *** Speaker Madigan’s property tax practice examined

Monday, Aug 31, 2009

* The Sun-Times waded through property tax cases in Cook County and identified “hundreds” of clients of House Speaker Michael Madigan’s law firm. So far though, there isn’t much to report

Over the past nine years, Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan’s law firm has made $171,000 by seeking property tax breaks for developers who get state financing to build low-income housing, records show.

His firm’s payments came through the Illinois Housing Development Authority, the state agency that financed those projects.

Records also show the firm of Madigan & Getzendanner helped another state contractor save about $300,000 in property taxes on the Atrium Mall and food court it operates inside the James R. Thompson Center, the state’s main office building in Chicago.

The payments referenced in the article are processed through IHDA, but that’s because IHDA administers a developers’ escrow fund. That’s not state money. But you won’t find find that tidbit until you get to the end of the story.

The lawsuit mentioned in the piece involved a different law firm and came about after Rod Blagojevich refused to renew the company’s lease at the Thompson Center. Attorney General Madigan dropped out of the case after Blagojevich demanded a private attorney be used. The outside law firm lost the case at the trial and appellate level and is now appealing to the Illinois Supreme Court.

Speaker Madigan has come under fire from Cook County Assessor James Houlihan for mixing his political power with his law firm, but the Sun-Times article shows that Houlihan has often agreed with Madigan’s firm.

One of the more interesting pieces of the story is the sidebar, which looks at some of Madigan’s clients…

* New Frontier Management, owned by indicted Republican Party power-broker William F. Cellini

* Harlem Irving Companies, owned by Michael Marchese, a friend of Mayor Daley’s and shopping-center magnate

* The Columbian, a city-subsidized condo building built by developer Allison S. Davis

* East Lake Management Corp.,owned by developer Elzie Higginbottom

* State Rep. Monique Davis

* Ali D. Ata, a former state official who has pleaded guilty to tax charges

Everybody who is anybody. Also, it’s interesting that Madigan also does work for members. Or, at least one member.

Madigan’s law firm has been looked at several times over the years by the feds. Nothing’s ever come of it. But you can easily see why Lisa Madigan would’ve had to deal with a lot of trouble if she had decided to run for governor. Articles like today’s would be popping up all the time.

…Adding… I would say, though, that Speaker Madigan is really playing with fire with this Joe Berrios for Cook County Assessor candidacy. Berrios is HDO’s godfather, and is a Statehouse lobbyist who helped convinced Madigan to enact the new video gaming law. He’s also a member of the Board of Review, which Madigan’s firm is in front of all the time.

Madigan is just asking for big trouble with this one. And he’ll probably get it.

* Related…

* Ask Blago: Blago is HILARIOUS! Listeners can call in and talk to him about anything that’s on their minds. The majority of the program is taken up with Blago’s rants about greedy politicians and how the government is corrupting society, etc. He tosses around the phrase “When I was governor” approximately once every 30 seconds, and he loves to point the finger at his enemies in Illinois politics and tell his callers why those people are to blame for absolutely everything that’s wrong with the world. Some people call in to discuss serious issues, like veterans benefits. Other people call to tell Rod how great he was during his recent performance at Second City, etc.

* Marin: Remorseless Fawell still not ready for reform : It was not unlike watching Gov. Quinn’s surreal news conference last week, when he vetoed the campaign finance reform bill he had previously hailed as “landmark legislation.” Making the event even crazier was the presence of Speaker of the House Mike Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton, who triumphantly passed that lousy, loophole-ridden legislation in hopes that the public wouldn’t see it for what it was. But the public did, forcing them all into retreat as they swore they’d do better next time.

* Kadner: You can’t get rid of Ruff: Under Illinois law, all township supervisors, trustees and clerks voted out of office in April must leave by the third Monday of the following month, which was May 18 this year. But township assessors and collectors get to remain in office until Jan. 1 of the following year. As far as I can tell, there are only five township collectors left in Illinois.

* Editorial: A good day for democracy

* Statehouse Insider: A most unusual veto ceremony

* Keep pressure on politicians; scare them a bit

* PJ Star: Veto the first step, now give campaign bill some teeth

* We need honorable public servants

* SJ-R Opinion: Redistricting reform must be a priority

* Lawmakers want say on tollway watchdog

- Posted by Rich Miller        


27 Comments
  1. - Steve Brown - Monday, Aug 31, 09 @ 11:14 am:

    Actually the story is pretty sloppy and should warrant several corrections or as the media like to pretend in this era “clarifications”.

    Waiting for the edior’s call now.

    The law firm works to correct assessment mistakes which can hardly be called “tax break”
    Unless someone can make the leap from developers with mortgages to using the word “contractors”…this opus should be headlined “Contractor….”

    Rich does state the funds paid to the firm comes developers, but the story talks about “state financing” It is also good to note that IHDA is a self supporting agency so there does not seem to much chance for the agency to have “a budget that Madigan helps control”

    The legal canon of ethics places restrictions on client listing.

    The JRTC lease was awarded in the 80’s AFTER an RFP process and BEFORE the firm was hired. Actually another firm did the work for several years.

    That’s about one “adjustment” for every other paragraph.


  2. - lake county democrat - Monday, Aug 31, 09 @ 11:37 am:

    “But you can easily see why Lisa Madigan would’ve had to deal with a lot of trouble if she had decided to run for governor. Articles like today’s would be popping up all the time.”

    Sound familiar? Richard wrote this not too long ago re “conspiracy theories”:

    “y personal favorites came from a couple of often strange commenters on my own blog…

    lake county democrat - Wednesday, Jul 8, 09 @ 11:19 am

    Come on people, there’s more smoke here than in Wasilla, Alaska — people who wouldn’t believe Sarah Palin for an instant think that Lisa Madigan who HERSELF has indicated interest in both races suddenly drops out because she likes her present job/wants more time with her family/etc.?”


  3. - wordslinger - Monday, Aug 31, 09 @ 12:03 pm:

    Yeah, the gang’s all there. MJM is the rainmaker extraordinaire. I’m sure being a client gets you a seat at the table.

    I always thought the most egregious conflict was years back when he and Lee Daniels had a battle royale on the floor for their clients over who got to publish the Illinois Revised Statutes. That was pretty raw.

    I doubt if any of this would sting Lisa. It’s been out there forever. $170 grand over nine years in Illinois? He’s not trying that hard.


  4. - Ghost - Monday, Aug 31, 09 @ 12:17 pm:

    This reminds me of Collins, to much desire for the existance of wrongdoing and not enough constraint by the turth or lack of evidence.

    A better story would be how madigan rejects lunches and gifts that he is not required to, while the other memebers of the genral assembly fight during ethics reform debates to make sure these free meals and items are not accidentaly swept in.

    How about a positive ethics story about politicians going above and beyound the legally imposed limits.


  5. - shore - Monday, Aug 31, 09 @ 12:23 pm:

    you left out mckenna. A state leader with as much power as this guy should have a law against him doing any work related to government enterprises, to alleviate any suggestion of this. In some states like maryland you have state reps whose second jobs are as lobbyists for the university of maryland. I


  6. - The Doc - Monday, Aug 31, 09 @ 12:29 pm:

    Berrios is going to be a real issue for MJM. He’s a Machine guy to the bone - good fodder for the rabid editorial boards and goo-goos.


  7. - anon - Monday, Aug 31, 09 @ 12:31 pm:

    Everyone has known this forever. Are you telling me that a municipality wouldn’t hire his firm while they are down in springfield seeking projects? Come on…


  8. - Hopeful - Monday, Aug 31, 09 @ 12:32 pm:

    “…Adding…….Berrios is HDO’s godfather…” WRONG, Berrios is not HDO’s godfather. In the past he has worked with them, but calling him HDO’s godfather is quite a stretch


  9. - Steve Brown - Monday, Aug 31, 09 @ 12:45 pm:

    Sidebar also lists several firms/persons who are not clients.

    Wordslinger …I think your memory is a little foggy on the law publishing.


  10. - Will County Woman - Monday, Aug 31, 09 @ 12:57 pm:

    while madigan may be the god father of state politics he blundered strategically and blew his cover publicly when he decided to oust blago rather than sit on him and make him a lame duck by censuring him.

    if mike had played it smart, illinoisans wouldn’t know as much as we know about him now. illinoisans by and large do not like mike madigan because of the image that wasd presented of him by the media during this year’s budgeting fiasco.

    if he had played it smart with respect to blago, lisa would be running against blago for gov. today. with all of blago’s legal misfortunes in the headlines for lisa to exploit.

    the south carolina republican learned from illinois. it is sitting on a lame duck governor and not letting a crazy rep. lt. gov get in only to mess things up even more.

    one wonders if mike madigan had it to do all over again, would he have avoided this year’s headaches and exposure of himself and just kept blago in place with the nuse tight around his neck?


  11. - hmmm - Monday, Aug 31, 09 @ 12:57 pm:

    Steve, are you posting here under your contract for the State or under your contract for the Democratic Party of Illinois?

    The article makes references to the speaker in both capacities.


  12. - Wumpus - Monday, Aug 31, 09 @ 1:26 pm:

    Isn’t Berrios involved in the Froelich allegations of tax favors? Madigan also helped convince Froelich to switch sides. Froelich is Keyser Soze


  13. - Steve Brown - Monday, Aug 31, 09 @ 1:27 pm:

    hmmmm…check the facts. There no contract with DPI.
    Since the Sun-Times called me at the state office, I guess it could be in that capacity. However it is happening via a computer and ISP paid for personally. You can sort it out.

    Let us all know what you decide :)


  14. - Ghost - Monday, Aug 31, 09 @ 2:04 pm:

    === illinoisans by and large do not like mike madigan ====

    Illinoisans by and large have never heard of Mike Madigan…. get away from Chicago and the political Junkies I think you will find the Madigan name with the most reconition is Lisa; and even she trails behind the much revered Ronald mcDonald.


  15. - ANON - Monday, Aug 31, 09 @ 2:44 pm:

    Regarding the Tracey Smith resignation from the Tollway whatever happend to her Deputy Inspec General who was the brother of the State Police Commander who had to resign for impersonating a polic officer?? Why did’t she work with the DuPage County State’s Atty? Maybe she knew his wife too.


  16. - Okay then... - Monday, Aug 31, 09 @ 3:12 pm:

    If it were true that most Illinoisans have never heard of MJM Lisa WOULD be running for governor or senator now, rather than staying safely put as AG.


  17. - wordslinger - Monday, Aug 31, 09 @ 3:17 pm:

    –If it were true that most Illinoisans have never heard of MJM Lisa WOULD be running for governor or senator now, rather than staying safely put as AG.–

    If only wishing made it so…

    The White House very publicly wanted her for Senate. Kirk said he would run for the office Lisa didn’t want. Birkett withdrew. She doesn’t have an opponent. She’s never lost.

    And you arrive at your conclusion….. how?


  18. - Arthur Andersen - Monday, Aug 31, 09 @ 3:34 pm:

    Mr. Brown, since you’re embracing transparency today, a couple questions:

    -If I understood your post above correctly, why would you have a “computer and ISP paid for personally” installed in a State Office? Most State agencies’ technology policies prohibit this practice, and for good reason.

    -Would you take the position that e-mail and other documents created on that computer are not subject to FOIA?

    Further, aren’t you being just a tad hyper-sensitive in your reaction to the story? Average Joe doesn’t really care whether or not IHDA bond project participants are called “State contractors.” “State financing” is an absolutely appropriate substitute for “IHDA bond sale proceeds”-check IHDA’s annual report.

    I also didn’t see any error or omission in the story re: the work for TPG Realty at the JRTC. What I did see is an undisclosed conflict of interest pertaining to the Blagojevich administration’s desire to sell the JRTC. Mr. Speaker should have disclosed his firm’s representation of the mall developer, who was clearly a party in interest with regard to that potential transaction, particularly where both the mall lease and the sale of the building were controversial. One would think the duty to disclose conflicts trumps the “canon of ethics” to keep one’s client list a secret.

    In the interest of truth and accuracy, which firms or persons listed by the Sun-Times are “not clients,” as you indicate above?

    Thank you very much.


  19. - Anonymous45 - Monday, Aug 31, 09 @ 3:53 pm:

    Who will benefit from the airing of MJM soiled laundry at this point in time? Could this be a ploy to rattle his cage a bit prior to veto session? I could see Cullerton and Quinn behind this effort to smear him a bit…if it’s true, it’s fair game for public consumption..


  20. - Rich Miller - Monday, Aug 31, 09 @ 3:54 pm:

    === I could see Cullerton and Quinn behind this effort to smear him a bit===

    You need glasses.


  21. - Okay then... - Monday, Aug 31, 09 @ 3:56 pm:

    Wordslinger,

    That is my point, if she was as strong as the WH thought and everyone else in this state thought for governor, why didn’t she run? What could have possibly been an obstacle for her other than her father and the suspicion that her father was making the budget difficult for Quinn for her sake? As I recall it, the entire Chicago area was all abuzz with (evil) MJM conspiracy theories about him doing things just to hurt Quinn and help his daughter. You don’t recall any of this a few short months ago?


  22. - Rich Miller - Monday, Aug 31, 09 @ 3:58 pm:

    Perhaps the reasons she gave were the real reasons?

    I’m sure lots of stuff played into it, and I doubt that the overarching reason was her father. More like her kids.


  23. - Boscobud - Monday, Aug 31, 09 @ 3:59 pm:

    Fox News Chicago is going to have another story tonight at about 9:30PM. Sometime there website plays the story before it actually hits the air. I believe it is about Berrios and the Board of Review.


  24. - wordslinger - Monday, Aug 31, 09 @ 4:14 pm:

    Okay then, I was surprised at the decision, but have no reason to doubt what she said. She would have won either of the big races.

    Every political horse player in the world had her at odds-on favorite for everything. Her father’s a known quantity.

    Was there something new or explosive in the Sun-Times story?


  25. - Anon - Monday, Aug 31, 09 @ 5:25 pm:

    One Person does NOT make the State!!!


  26. - Inish - Tuesday, Sep 1, 09 @ 9:25 am:

    Lisa is young and has time to pursue a long and healthy career. Her family is young and you don’t get two chances.
    Why- when you have no strategic reason that you HAVE to move on- do you? Senate-would take her out of state. And seriously- if you know you can run another day- would you step into the quagmire that our state is in today?
    Take MJM out of the equation- it makes total sense- put him back in, the theory still works. She has demonstrated that she stands on her own feet as far as the general public is concerned. You need to look at this from the lens of Joe Public- the family things works to her advantage.


  27. - bill - Tuesday, Sep 1, 09 @ 10:11 pm:

    Victor Santana, Joe Berrio’s son, will probably run the Berrios campaign. He will forge/inpersonate hundreds of voters.


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