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Corruption roundup

Monday, Nov 4, 2019

* You really should read beyond the excerpts posted here because there’s a lot more to all of them. From WBEZ

Commonwealth Edison cut ties with a lobbying firm co-owned by a top Chicago alderman a month ago, just as a federal criminal investigation into the power company’s state lobbying activities intensified.

ComEd ended its Springfield lobbying contract with Elgin-based Stratagem Consulting Group on Oct. 3, WBEZ has learned. The firm is co-owned by 36th Ward Ald. Gilbert Villegas, Jr., who is Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s floor leader, trusted with guiding major legislative initiatives through the City Council. […]

But on Friday, [Villegas] also told WBEZ that he did not do any work for ComEd personally under that deal. Villegas was not a registered lobbyist for the company in Springfield. Stratagem’s lobbyists for ComEd were Villegas’ business partner, Elgin City Council member Baldemar Lopez, and another man. […]

Stratagem signed a one-year lobbying contract that was to pay $60,000, Lopez said. The deal with ComEd ended early, Lopez said, because, “They were doing some restructuring of their lobbying activities.”

Asked if those changes were prompted by the federal probe, Lopez replied, “I would assume.”

* Tribune

State Rep. Luis Arroyo’s foray into the shady world of sweepstakes machines is at the center of the federal bribery case alleging he agreed to pay off a state senator in exchange for support on legislation that would benefit the largely unregulated industry.

Now other players linked to the alleged scheme are emerging, including businessman James Weiss, the son-in-law of former Cook County assessor and county Democratic Party boss Joseph Berrios, and an ex-Chicago cop who was fired for consorting with a drug trafficker, the Chicago Tribune has confirmed through state records and a source with knowledge of the probe.

The FBI raided Weiss’ business offices Friday after the charges were filed against Arroyo under seal, the source told the Tribune.

State business records show Weiss is connected to the former cop, John Adreani, through a complex web of corporations, many of which list the same address in a south suburban strip mall as their headquarters.

* Sun-Times

A businessman whose lobbying efforts to legalize sweepstakes machines are part of the federal criminal case against state Rep. Luis Arroyo also runs a political action committee with close ties to Illinois House Speaker Michael J. Madigan.

James T. Weiss — a son-in-law of Joseph Berrios, the former Cook County Democratic Party chairman and county assessor — owns and operates sweepstakes machines. Weiss also runs the Alliance of Illinois Taxpayers, which has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars, largely from personal injury law firms allied with Madigan. Other donors include individuals with ties to Madigan’s political organization.

Weiss is chairman and treasurer of the PAC. His mother Mary Murray is president. The secretary is John Hynes, a Chicago firefighter who is part of Madigan’s political organization and a friend of the speaker’s son Andrew Madigan. […]

The PAC has raised $630,000 since it was created seven years ago and has given money to help elect candidates including Cicero Town President Larry Dominick. The PAC also spent nearly $20,000 on fliers in 2016 to defeat state Rep. Kenneth Dunkin after the Chicago Democrat broke ranks with Madigan and sided with Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner on key votes. […]

Weiss and his mother also run two Bridgeport charities, aided by powerful political allies including Cook County Commissioner John Daley and his nephew Ald. Patrick Daley Thompson (11th), Andrew Madigan and former state Rep. Dan Burke, D-Chicago, brother of Ald. Edward M. Burke (14th). One of the charities, Benton House, is a former settlement house that operates an emergency food pantry. The other is a scholarship fund.

Background on Benton House

For 13 years, the Internal Revenue Service hounded a politically connected Bridgeport charity to pay back taxes, slapping it with a series of liens totaling $109,000, records obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times show.

At the same time, the charity, Benton House, let its buildings fall into disrepair, resulting in repeated citations from City Hall inspectors for building code violations.

It got so bad that Benton House’s then-board president, Chicago police Officer Anthony Skokal, and executive director Mark Lennon borrowed $120,000 from another Bridgeport institution, Washington Federal Bank for Savings, to pay the back taxes and make repairs, personally guaranteeing to repay the money. […]

Now, the Murrays run both charities, relying on powerful political backers to support them including Cook County Commissioner John Daley and his nephew Ald. Patrick Daley Thompson (11th), Andrew Madigan, son of Illinois House Speaker Michael J. Madigan, and state Rep. Dan Burke, D-Chicago, brother of Ald. Edward M. Burke (14th).

* More…

* Speaker Madigan’s son got Alsip business, hit up mayor for campaign cash for his dad: A fundraising invitation for an event benefiting Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan came as Andrew Madigan’s insurance firm was angling for business from the south suburb.

* Luis Arroyo: the slow rise and sudden fall of a low-profile, clout-heavy state rep: Much like state Sen. Martin Sandoval, another Chicago legislator facing intense federal scrutiny though not yet charged, a common reaction to state Rep. Luis Arroyo’s arrest in political circles was: ‘What took them so long?’

* Cook County OK’d insider deal for Ald. Carrie Austin’s top aide: Chester Wilson’s delinquent property tax tab on a South Side building topped $200K. County land bank erased that — and gave the property to a Wilson business partner for $40,000.

* Former candidate for state representative charged with theft and money laundering, Lake County authorities say

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - City Zen - Monday, Nov 4, 19 @ 11:13 am:

    “personal injury law firms allied with Madigan”

    A match made in legislative heaven.

  2. - Been There - Monday, Nov 4, 19 @ 11:17 am:

    === A fundraising invitation for an event benefiting Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan came as Andrew Madigan’s insurance firm was angling for business from the south suburb===
    A couple of weird things about this story. First why is it a story? If it was the other way around and the mayor had hit up Andrew Madigan to donate to his campaign then I could understand.
    Second, how did they get the email? They said they FOIA’d it but the email looks to be Mayor Ryan’s personal AOL account and there is no mention of official town business. I didn’t understand why that would be FOIA-able.

  3. - Paddyrollingstone - Monday, Nov 4, 19 @ 11:19 am:

    Been There - you are correct about this story. Some quid pro quo. You can give me business AND you can give money to my father’s campaign.

    It’s like a Monty Python bit. The Piranha Brothers:

    .. They would select a victim and then threaten to beat him up if he paid the so-called protection money. Four months later they started another operation which the called ‘The Other Operation’. In this racket they selected another victim and threatened not to beat him up if he didn’t pay them. One month later they hit upon ‘The Other Other Operation’. In this the victim was threatened that if he didn’t pay them, they would beat him up. This for the Piranha brothers was the turning point.

  4. - Three Dimensional Checkers - Monday, Nov 4, 19 @ 11:24 am:

    ===They said they FOIA’d it but the email looks to be Mayor Ryan’s personal AOL account and there is no mention of official town business. I didn’t understand why that would be FOIA-able.===

    I guess whoever Alsip hired is bad at FOIA, lol.

  5. - Donnie Elgin - Monday, Nov 4, 19 @ 11:29 am:

    Baldemar Lopez, in addition to being a local immigration attorney, Elgin Board member, and lobbyist. has an interesting political pedigree going back to Pat Quinn

    “..his tenure in Governor Pat Quinn’s office on the legislative affairs team as Assistant Chief of Staff and Legislative Counsel.”

  6. - Rich Miller - Monday, Nov 4, 19 @ 11:41 am:

    ===First why is it a story? ===

    I think it’s a placeholder.

  7. - Flat Bed Ford - Monday, Nov 4, 19 @ 11:57 am:

    Methinks the G is building a RICO case here. The purpose of the RICO statute is “the elimination of the infiltration of organized crime and racketeering into legitimate organizations operating in interstate commerce.” Is the Madigan empire operating as organized crime would and/or are they running a racket? Time will tell.

  8. - Where is Andy Shaw? - Monday, Nov 4, 19 @ 12:02 pm:

    Is ComEd playing good government by only firing the Arroyo-connected lobbyist, Lopez? Why not cut the cord with the lot of them?

  9. - Nagidam - Monday, Nov 4, 19 @ 12:09 pm:

    @ Rich

    I think your comment post times are off an hour. As a test, my comment is being posted at 11:09 CDT

  10. - Nagidam - Monday, Nov 4, 19 @ 12:10 pm:

    I was right. Unless you want to be an uppity East Coaster

  11. - Anon - Monday, Nov 4, 19 @ 12:22 pm:

    =personal injury law firms allied with Madigan=

    Are there personal injury law firms opposed to Madigan?

  12. - Donnie Elgin - Monday, Nov 4, 19 @ 12:23 pm:

    Cook County Terminated Baldemar Lopez and Stratagem consulting groups on 3/19/2019..

  13. - West Cook - Monday, Nov 4, 19 @ 12:55 pm:

    The list of mayors hosting the Mayors for Speaker Madigan fundraiser in the Sun-Times article is quite the list:
    Bedford Park, Cicero, Burbank, Lyons, Chicago Heights, North Riverside, Hickory Hills, Bridgeview, Berwyn, Countryside, Franklin Park, Steger, Summit, Melrose Park, Hillside, Broadview, McCook, and Stickney. It’d probably be quicker to name the towns on that list without a certain reputation.

  14. - Been There - Monday, Nov 4, 19 @ 1:34 pm:

    ===I guess whoever Alsip hired is bad at FOIA, lol. ===
    I guess I would have to agree. Or worse some of the people in local government have a problem distinguishing between government and politics. They just think they are one and the same.

  15. - Sue - Monday, Nov 4, 19 @ 1:37 pm:

    As far as a RICO case goes- perhaps the feds could name the entire legislature as the corrupt organization we know it to be

  16. - ETown60120 - Monday, Nov 4, 19 @ 2:07 pm:

    The Villegas and Lopez article is just collateral damage. Now in days if your associated with ComEd or any other firm (that feds are looking at) and you did nothing wrong its damaging.

  17. - dying HDO - Monday, Nov 4, 19 @ 2:45 pm:

    i am pretty sure that john hynes is brian hynes’ brother.

    you remember brian, right:

  18. - E Dundie - Monday, Nov 4, 19 @ 5:18 pm:

    Hynes there’s a connected family name.

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