The attorney charged with looking into the sexual harassment complaint that rocked House Speaker Michael Madigan’s Democratic organization acknowledged she regrets she didn’t react faster after a female campaign worker said she received unwanted advances and text messages from a longtime Madigan loyalist.
“In hindsight, I wish I had put everything in my personal and professional life aside and focused solely on this until it was brought to a resolution,” Heather Wier Vaught, who examined the issue on behalf of Madigan’s political organization, told the Tribune.
Still in damage control over how Madigan handled harassment issues, the attorney outlined the fullest and most robust defense of what transpired in the speaker’s 13th Ward headquarters once campaign worker Alaina Hampton called out political operative Kevin Quinn for his relentless string of inappropriate texts, including one calling her “smoking hot.”
Wier Vaught, who delved into Hampton’s case at Madigan’s request, is representing the speaker’s political committee, Friends of Michael J. Madigan, and presented his side during a rare in-depth interview from a trusted insider.
Yet even as she expressed some regret, Wier Vaught attempted to cast the speaker’s team in a better light as he faces questions of whether he acted swiftly or forcefully enough when his state and political organizations learned of allegations of sexual harassment and harsh behavior among top lieutenants.
* Meanwhile, from the ILGOP…
“J.B. Pritzker is completely incapable of criticizing Madigan - for absolutely anything. Even as Illinois Democrats call on Madigan to resign his top party posts, you’d think a billionaire who claims ‘independence’ from Madigan would have the gumption to join in on the criticism, but no. Pritzker refuses to criticize Madigan because Pritzker owes his candidacy to Madigan and, if given the chance, would work hand in hand with him to maintain their corrupt, broken system in Springfield.” - Illinois Republican Party Spokesman Aaron DeGroot
Today, the Illinois Republican Party released a new digital ad, Unwillingness. The ad highlights J.B. Pritzker’s refusal to criticize Mike Madigan for his mishandling of sexual harassment complaints within his political organizations. Even as leading Illinois Democrats like Chris Kennedy and Daniel Biss call on Madigan to resign his top party posts, Pritzker remains silent. Why?
In their endorsement of Chris Kennedy in the Democratic primary for governor, The News-Gazette gives us a window into Pritzker’s candidacy for governor.
Whether it’s his undying loyalty to Mike Madigan, cozying up to crooked politicians like Rod Blagojevich, or devotion to personal ambition over the public interest, J.B. Pritzker is the status quo candidate who will protect and empower party bosses like Madigan, even as their political organizations are dominated by a culture of sexual harassment and corruption.
* I told subscribers about this new TV on Friday. Dan Proft’s Liberty Principles PAC has a new spot featuring Denise Rotheimer, who accused Sen. Ira Silverstein of sexual harassment. Rotheimer claims in the ad that House Republican Leader Jim Durkin and House Speaker Michael Madigan “both ignored claims of sexual harassment.”
“I called Jim Durkin to ask for his help” Rotheimer says as she looks into the camera. “I received none.”
The sexual-harassment issue is playing out in a big way in a four-way race for Chicago Democratic Sen. Ira Silverstein’s seat. An ethics officer found that the 19-year Senate veteran had acted unprofessionally in personal interaction with a legislative activist he was working with, but did not harass her. Silverstein said he’s received a “favorable response” from voters and his campaign is “moving on.” His opponents differ.
Ram Villivalam, a union leader who has raised $175,000 to Silverstein’s $236,000, said voters “need someone effective, someone proactive,” adding that after the harassment complaint, “I knew that he could not be effective moving forward.”
Norine Hammond and Joshua Griffith are in a campaign to be the Republican who runs for Illinois’ 93rd District seat in November.
The campaign has turned contentious as a Super PAC backing Griffith has launched attack ads that accuse Hammond of trying to “silence” Denise Rotheimer, a woman who accused State Sen. Ira Silverstein of sexually inappropriate behavior. Rotheimer even appears in one ad.
Griffith’s campaign officially has only spent about $4,000 on the race but the Liberty Principles PAC has spent over $173,000 in media buys on behalf of Griffith’s candidacy.
Hammond sits on the Legislative Ethics Commission which Rotheimer thinks should’ve let her testify in front of.
The rules of the commission allow her to say little about these cases according to Hammond and thus she thinks it’s unfair to attack on her on the issue.
*** UPDATE *** Kennedy campaign…
Today, Chris Kennedy, Democratic candidate for Governor, released his plan to combat the rampant sexual harassment in political campaigns across Illinois. Last week, the Illinois County Chairs’ Association released a pledge for all candidates regarding sexual harassment policies. Kennedy believes that pledge does not go far enough, though it goes farther than the silence from the Illinois Republican Party on this issue.
“The political culture in Springfield has allowed rampant sexual harassment to go unchecked for far too long,” Kennedy said. “Only now under pressure from the media and the MeToo movement is Speaker Madigan caving and agreeing to an investigation. The problem is we can’t allow politicians to investigate themselves. We need an independent committee to ensure the safety of staff in the political workplace. My plan will provide a true statewide policy for all political campaigns and an independent investigator to stop wrong doing.”
The Kennedy-Joy administration would create an independent committee within the State Board of Elections to investigate claims of sexual and workplace harassment including requiring lobbyists to register as agents of the campaign. This proposal will allow everyone working on a campaign to be held accountable for their actions. The temporary nature of campaigns requires swift and immediate action that cannot be expediently fulfilled by filing a complaint with the Illinois Department of Human Rights, although this option would always be open to a person claiming harassment. The following procedure is a framework of key elements designed to specifically address the expediency required in cases of harassment that occur during the course of political campaigns:
All campaigns will be required as a filing requirement to publicly post and provide employees with information of their rights and how to proceed with filing a complaint at the State Board of Elections.
All employees and interns will be required to sign a statement acknowledging that they understand a campaign’s policies regarding harassment and pledge not to engage in that behavior.
All employees will receive sexual harassment training by a third party provider.
All lobbyists working on a campaign will be required to register as an agent of that campaign so that they can be held responsible for their behavior while working on behalf of the campaign.
Harassment Investigation Committee at the State Board of Elections
The Commissioners of the State Board of Elections will appoint a standing independent committee of four bipartisan (two Democrats, two Republicans) outside legal counselors who have the necessary skills and experience to investigate claims of harassment.
An employee, consultant or intern who believes he or she has been the victim of sexual harassment, or who has witnessed the sexual harassment of another, has the right to report a complaint directly to the committee. The committee will maintain the anonymity of the complainant at all times.
This committee will have discovery power. They will be able to conduct interviews and compel document disclosures including relevant emails, text messages, and other forms of communication.
A final report will be required within 30 days of the initial complaint.
If the committee declines to pursue the claim, the claimant will be referred to the Department of Human Rights if they wish to continue pursuing the claim.
If the committee finds that harassment has occurred, the committee will be empowered to levy a fine on the principal for whom the offending individual is an agent. The principal may be a campaign, a party organization, or a company or organization for whom a lobbyist is under contract. All fines will be public record. The committee can also take direct action against the individual, up to and including a prohibition on involvement in a campaign or requiring termination.
There will be an online database of all ruled incidents noting the accused individual and the committee’s determination for the past ten years. The committee will be required to consult this database prior to adjudication of complaints to help determine if a pattern or practice of harassment exists.
An anonymous reporting hotline will be established. The committee shall review hotline complaints to uncover problems of sexual harassment and shall have the power to independently initiate an investigation based on hotline tips received.
This process will hold individuals, campaigns, lobbyists, and political organizations responsible for incidents of workplace and sexual harassment. No longer will cultures that tolerate abuse be allowed to exist and thrive unchecked.
Does Dan Proft really care about fighting sexual harassment? I suspect he is out to punish Jim Durkin & Norine Hammond for not taking the state to “junk bond status” by sustaining the Governor’s Budget veto.
Another ugly ad premised upon a falsehood: there was no finding that Silverstein sexually harassed Rotheimer. In fact, the report dismissed this allegation. The only finding was that Silverstein engaged in conduct inappropriate to his position as a legislator.
- Commonsense in Illinois - Monday, Feb 26, 18 @ 1:46 pm:
I’m beginning to wonder if Denise Rotheimer is being compensated? So, she went to Rep. Durkin and Speaker Madigan to complain about Sen. Silverstein? I note she doesn’t say or complain that President Cullerton did nothing.
The “Unwillingness” ad is powerful stuff. Pritzker’s own choice of words on this particular issue make him seem weak and somewhat disingenuous in contrast to his opponents’ more bold statements. This ad effectively spotlights that JB’s sort of hanging out there all alone on a precarious limb when it comes to this issue and being able to recognize Madigan’s organizational culpability and inaction. Grade A-
After reading the Tribune Article, it is clear to me that Hampton wasn’t asked back to the organization because she decided to go work for the opposition - Marie Newman. Anyone who has worked in this business knows that once you go work for “the enemy”, you are never welcome back.
@ Anon 3:30 p.m. good point. But, if she was being boxed out of the DPI/13th Ward for blowing the whistle on Kevin Quinn, where else would a political worker go for a job? I read the texts between Hampton and Quinn. If the MJM folks had been smart, they would have helped her get on the Pritzker campaign. Problem solved.
Actually @anonymous, the speaker and I had a brief conversation at a fundraiser on April 17th, 2017 about me leaving to work for that congressional race and he was not upset that I chose to do that. Of course, at that time, only Marty Quinn knew about the harassment. Heather even told me in our meeting that he believed I left for a new experience until he received my letter. Don’t make assumptions about things you do not know.
Actually @anonymous, the speaker and I had a brief conversation at a fundraiser on April 17th, 2017 about me leaving to work for that congressional race and he was not upset that I chose to do that. Of course, at that time, only Marty Quinn knew about the harassment. Heather even told me in our meeting that he believed I left for a new experience until he received my letter. Don’t make assumptions about things you do not know ==
Whether he was upset or not, the fact that you went to work for Newman seems like a logical reason for not bringing you back. This isn’t a new and novel concept. Good political organizations don’t rehire operatives that have gone against them. If this is the real Alaina, then it is YOU that needs to stop making assumptions about things that you do not know about.
But what Arthur Anderson said above — this isn’t always a fair place to get out the whole truth, and while most of the regular commenters demonstrate integrity, some have hidden agendas. Never good to argue with “Anonymous.”
“I wish I had put everything in my personal and professional life aside and focused solely on this” — What a strange statement. No one asked her to do that. I’m guessing campaign workers just wanted her to do her job.
Heather would deliver MJM’s desired outcome, and would know what that outcome was supposed to be before finalizing anything. Anyone who knows her, knows that.” ==
I don’t think you know her. She’s not one to shy away from her own opinion. If you read the piece, she said Quinn was wrong. If she was a hack she wouldn’t have found misconduct. That would have been easier for Madigan.
To the ILGOP video and the republicans that have spoken out about the Speaker. I have to ask, who were the republicans that Ms. Harold spoke to after the incident occurred and why did it take them 3-4 months to address this issue? If you want to be critical of MJM and DPI, then the ILGOP must be held to the same standards. Where is the independent inevetigation, the state chairman issued a statement last week, when did he know?
“I think that when you are a black woman running for office, you do face comments that are objectionable and it’s very important that we change that within our culture,” Harold said in an interview Thursday, adding that she told others about the conversation after it happened. “I never spoke with the governor, but I did speak with a few people within the party and understood there were people who were telling him that he should not be a candidate for this office.” https://www.politico.com/story/2018/02/22/illinois-republican-attorney-general-candidate-racial-slur-421732