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Madigan needs to fully address all of this

Monday, Nov 25, 2019

* My weekly syndicated newspaper column

The Chicago Tribune recently reported that Mike McClain, the most prominent insider connected to House Speaker Michael Madigan, sent a blind-copied email to what he called the “Most Trusted of the Trusted” asking for help raising money in the closing weeks of the 2018 campaign.

After thanking them for their work on behalf of “Himself” (presumed to be Madigan), McClain claimed to have reviewed a “magic Excel sheet” and asked for more contributions, which were to be directed to a Madigan person at the Democratic Party of Illinois so their money could be tracked on said “magic” spreadsheet.

Chicago public radio station WBEZ reported the same day that McClain sent a blind-copied email last December to what he called a “Magic Lobbying List.” McClain claimed the list was compiled by him and Madigan and the two of them had recently culled the roster to less than two dozen. He asked recipients to contact him if they had turned down any lobbying clients so he could apparently funnel them to other “magic” lobbyists.

The two emails are certainly distasteful, but nothing in either appears to directly violate a law. Every legislative leader has trusted contribution bundlers and favored lobbyists. If you’re trying to get close to a leader, it’s not too difficult to figure out how. How far that gets you is another matter. But it certainly never hurts to be on a leader’s good side, which is why so many people try to do it, particularly with someone who controls the strings as closely as Madigan does.

The difference here is that somebody put this stuff in writing. That is just not done. Ever. And that’s why some are wondering what else might have happened.

What’s that line from that movie? Oh, yeah: “Gentlemen, welcome to Fight Club. The first rule of Fight Club is: You do not talk about Fight Club. The second rule of Fight Club is: You do not talk about Fight Club.”

McClain met regularly with Madigan and he worked diligently to maintain his position as the Madigan’s most trusted adviser. The two huddled multiple times a week during legislative session and spoke often when the General Assembly wasn’t in session. It was widely assumed that if McClain said certain things he was speaking for Madigan. And so it’s not much of a leap to think that the folks who received those emails believed that McClain was once again speaking on Madigan’s behalf.

But did it go any further? Was a bill, for instance, kept in committee until a “magic” somebody got a contract? That is the real question. The setup is there, but we’re waiting to see if any official steps were taken to further any alleged conspiracy. So far, we haven’t yet seen any proof of such a thing. But it sure seems like that’s at least one direction this particular branch of the massive ongoing federal investigation is headed.

Another string of McClain emails reported by the Tribune makes one wonder what the “real” Mike Madigan was up to.

Madigan publicly said he believed Alaina Hampton’s story about how the brother of his alderman sexually harassed her and even praised her for having the courage to come forward. But McClain actively raised money for Kevin Quinn through a handful of trusted Madigan loyalists, who were encouraged to put him on their payrolls for six months. Quinn apparently did things like monitor committee hearings for the lobbyists via online video and audio, but connected people like those guys can easily find out what happened in committees by talking to staff or legislators. McClain also coached Quinn how to structure his contracts (perhaps to avoid having to register as a lobbyist) and warned him never to speak of this to anyone, lest they all be dragged through the mud.

Publicly, Madigan said and did almost all the right things when the sexual harassment scandals were breaking around him. But was he also quietly taking care of a guy who might have damaging information about his operation, or at least avoiding creating a grudge and a resulting willingness to talk to the “wrong” people?

Madigan also made a big deal of firing his longtime chief of staff Tim Mapes after allegations were made about Mapes’ conduct. McClain and others near Madigan helped Mapes try to find a soft landing after he was given the boot. Mapes obviously knew where a lot of bones were buried because he helped bury them.

Needless to say, Madigan needs to fully address all of this. The sooner the better.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

19 Comments
  1. - Steve - Monday, Nov 25, 19 @ 9:20 am:

    I do agree with Rich here, Madigan should address this. It’s a question of whether a majority of his caucus thinks this is a big enough issue to hurt them in their districts. The #MeToo movement has taken down a lot of powerful people in the media and Hollywood. Is the Illinois legislature any different? I guess we will find out. No one deserves to be treated like Alaina Hampton was. No one.


  2. - Kauaijim - Monday, Nov 25, 19 @ 9:21 am:

    Well said , you may provide cover for others to speak up


  3. - Amalia - Monday, Nov 25, 19 @ 9:25 am:

    Yep. He has to address this. Iris Martinez is right…on the or resign part too.


  4. - Anon 9:26 - Monday, Nov 25, 19 @ 9:33 am:

    I am still fascinated by the efforts to fill Kevin Quinn’s coffers by those close to the Speaker and those in the 13th Ward organization. As Rich noted several months ago, if the Speaker “banished” Kevin from the ward organization, wouldn’t attempts by those on the “magic lobbyist list” and the “most trusted of the trusted” be viewed by Himself as “disloyal” for helping someone who had become persona non grata?

    Instead, it looks like those who contributed to Kevin’s well-being have become even tighter with the Speaker (and McClain).

    And what ever happened to the GoFundMe effort to help Kevin?


  5. - SAP - Monday, Nov 25, 19 @ 9:37 am:

    It is a paradigm shift to have democrats (beyond the wingnuts like Drury or Stava-Murray) publicly challenging the Speaker. Strange days.


  6. - Oswego Willy - Monday, Nov 25, 19 @ 9:37 am:

    This is really good stuff, important to the story;

    === The two emails are certainly distasteful, but nothing in either appears to directly violate a law. Every legislative leader has trusted contribution bundlers and favored lobbyists. If you’re trying to get close to a leader, it’s not too difficult to figure out how. How far that gets you is another matter. But it certainly never hurts to be on a leader’s good side, which is why so many people try to do it, particularly with someone who controls the strings as closely as Madigan does.===

    Here the “thing”,

    The ethical and questionable actions are on one side, and these emails, (as an aside, putting them in “writing”, wow) show such a lacking in what ethically should be the norm, even with allies, even with like-minded folks in both policy and politics.

    The question that only an indictment, sadly, can answer will be the legal questions to a practice like this, and “who benefits” to the action?

    The charges and such to the indictment will be clearer to whatever questions remain, even the timeline, but this idea that parties, leaders, even first term freshmen have folks they gravitate to and trust. The ethical line, or lines, crossed, what will be the ending here and how will the legal issues maybe change the culture too?


  7. - Flat Bed Ford - Monday, Nov 25, 19 @ 9:42 am:

    “Speaker Madigan, a Mr. Suave for you on line one…”


  8. - Responsa - Monday, Nov 25, 19 @ 9:53 am:

    ==And what ever happened to the GoFundMe effort to help Kevin?==

    A public GoFundMe effort to “help” Kevin was ill-advised.


  9. - Anon 9:26 - Monday, Nov 25, 19 @ 10:01 am:

    =A public GoFundMe effort to “help” Kevin was ill-advised.=

    Yet somewhat successful. I noticed that it raised close to $10,000. Nice haul.


  10. - Levois J - Monday, Nov 25, 19 @ 10:20 am:

    Politics isn’t tiddlywinks….


  11. - Donnie Elgin - Monday, Nov 25, 19 @ 10:20 am:

    “The two emails are certainly distasteful, but nothing in either appears to directly violate a law”

    The emails demonstrate being in speaker since 1983 has allowed MJM to evolve into the consummate power broker. No real news here, we all knew that. Having this in print is quite a threat. Better than “Madigan the movie” . Linking these words to the multiple corruption scandals plaguing the Dems will make the election cycle very fun - and lucrative for local media.


  12. - VerySmallRocks - Monday, Nov 25, 19 @ 11:47 am:

    The Illinois Democrats need to do housecleaning now while they have a comfortable majority and pull those bandaids off fast, or risk giving the Party of Trump an opening.


  13. - thechampaignlife - Monday, Nov 25, 19 @ 11:56 am:

    I am surprised that the GOP has not launched a campaign to encourage people to move to Madigan’s district and vote him out of office. Honestly, that would stand a better chance than their other attempts, given how he has brushed off every threat to his power over the decades.


  14. - Donnie Elgin - Monday, Nov 25, 19 @ 12:28 pm:

    “GOP has not launched a campaign to encourage people to move to Madigan’s district”

    If they pull a GOP ballot in the primary they will see reduced services out of the 13th ward.Llook at the poor soul who dared to not sign a questionable challenge to Kupa’s signatures.

    https://www.chicagotribune.com/investigations/ct-madigan-13th-ward-quinn-election-20191010-6p6bexkfr5htnpbontth2dixeq-story.html


  15. - Huh? - Monday, Nov 25, 19 @ 12:28 pm:

    “Politics isn’t tiddlywinks….”

    But is it beanbag?


  16. - SSL - Monday, Nov 25, 19 @ 2:20 pm:

    Not only won’t he fully address it, he won’t address it at all. And there won’t be any consequences either.

    Business as usual. Now move along.


  17. - Crickets - Monday, Nov 25, 19 @ 4:34 pm:

    It’s surprising, and very disappointing, that the House Dem Caucus hasn’t said a word, especially the House Democratic Women. Where is the outrage? Why is Iris Martinez a lone voice???


  18. - Ginhouse Tommy - Monday, Nov 25, 19 @ 6:21 pm:

    Why do you think there hasn’t been a response. The Speaker has probably put the word out, quietly. If you are unaware he does tend to deal with any resistance harshly.


  19. - Anonymous - Tuesday, Nov 26, 19 @ 9:45 am:

    I don’t understand why so many people are upset that Kevin got a job. He gave his life to the organization. And while what he did was VERY VERY wrong, what are we wanting as a punishment? Should he never be allowed to make a living again? He had legal bills to pay not to mention living expenses. How much flesh do we want? We also can’t forget, Ms. Hampton was asked what she wanted to happen and she said she wanted him fired. He was. It’s not as if he was secretly being paid off the books since then.


Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.


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