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When your word isn’t your bond

Monday, Dec 2, 2019

* My Crain’s Chicago Business column

I’ve known Mike McClain for years.

I couldn’t possibly count the number of times House Speaker Michael Madigan’s most trusted adviser and I went out together in Springfield, mostly with other people but sometimes just us. Yes, he was a useful conduit into Madigan’s mind, but we were also friends, even though we regularly argued about almost everything having to do with Madigan. I didn’t write “nice” things about Madigan because of him, but I felt that I did write informed things.

I respected him, but I now know that he lied to me.

McClain told several folks and me that he wasn’t being paid by Commonwealth Edison after he officially “retired” from lobbying in late 2016. He regularly joked about being on a tight budget whenever he came to Springfield to meet with Madigan.

But he wasn’t telling the truth. WBEZ reported Nov. 13 that ComEd paid McClain $361,000 for “legal services” in 2017 and 2018. The company claimed the designation was an error after reporters pointed out that he’d deactivated his law license. He was actually paid for “political consulting services,” a company spokesperson said.

Why he felt the need to lie about something as inconsequential as getting paid by ComEd simply baffles me. But more importantly, it’s totally natural to feel that if he would lie about that, you gotta wonder what else he did.

The Democratic political world in this state is freaked out about McClain being in the crosshairs. First they learned that the insider’s house was raided in mid-May, and then they found out that the government was listening to his phone conversations.

And then it was revealed that McClain foolishly overshared information in emails to a group of campaign bundlers and a presumably smaller group of lobbyists. We also discovered along the way that he recruited a handful of pals to make secret payments to Kevin Quinn, the brother of Madigan’s alderman who was fired for sexually harassing Alaina Hampton. McClain warned Quinn by email not to divulge that secret to anyone.

But some of the panic is a little overblown. For instance

Click here to read the rest before commenting please.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Sayitaintso - Monday, Dec 2, 19 @ 9:52 am:

    I think your key statement is “if he would lie about that, you gotta wonder what else he did”. True of this guy, and all pol’s should pay heed here. But, then again, that might be an outmoded way to think these days.

  2. - DuPage Saint - Monday, Dec 2, 19 @ 10:05 am:

    I guess some people have a different type of definition of a tight budget

  3. - Bruce (no not him) - Monday, Dec 2, 19 @ 10:07 am:

    Surprised a politician would lie to you? How long you been around Springfield?

  4. - Bruce (no not him) - Monday, Dec 2, 19 @ 10:10 am:

    Oops Forgot the /s at the end

  5. - Donnie Elgin - Monday, Dec 2, 19 @ 10:16 am:

    ” House Speaker Michael Madigan’s most trusted adviser….I respected him, but I now know that he lied to me”

    Speaks volumes about MJM and the culture that he engendered.

  6. - low level - Monday, Dec 2, 19 @ 10:20 am:

    Orwell’s 1984 talked about “inner party” members and “outer party” people. Most were of the outer party variety. Clearly the Feds have McClain on tape and email w other inner party people.

    I’d be panicking as well if I were among the inner party at this point.

    i cant believe he was so careless but absolute power gonna make you absolutely sloppy after a while I suppose. Or absolute power gonna corrupt absolutely to use a phrase used earlier today.

  7. - Just Me 2 - Monday, Dec 2, 19 @ 10:26 am:

    It also has to make you think about who else from the Speaker’s organization you’ve trusted these past few decades, and whether trusting them was foolish on your part. It isn’t like these folks play by a high set of ethical standards. For crying out loud, the Speaker’s spokesman is also a lobbyist (exclamation point).

  8. - Three Dimensional Checkers - Monday, Dec 2, 19 @ 10:30 am:

    It is a little nasty for the Feds to use family members and wives as pressure points to gather evidence for a case. But let’s be honest, it is much nastier for someone to use their wife as cover in a possible criminal scheme. It seems like McClain maybe have done just that in having his wife sign checks to Kevin Quinn. It would really be karma for the Feds to turn that action against McClain.

  9. - Rich Miller - Monday, Dec 2, 19 @ 10:34 am:

    Just Me, in order to do what I do, I am in regular contact with all sorts of people in all sorts of political organizations. So, bite me.

  10. - Ok, Boomer - Monday, Dec 2, 19 @ 10:56 am:

    The money paid to McClain could have been passed along to others; maybe that is why he asserted that Com Ed was not paying him? No doubt, the “legal fees” designation calls into question the legitimacy of the payments and clearly McClain was ethically compromised.

  11. - Anon 11:24 - Monday, Dec 2, 19 @ 11:29 am:

    In the bubble that is Illinois state politics, certain individuals have always looked down upon most others as chumps (excluding perhaps the “most trusted of the trusted”?). Mike McClain, clearly, led this pack.

  12. - low level - Monday, Dec 2, 19 @ 11:33 am:

    == For crying out loud, the Speaker’s spokesman is also a lobbyist (exclamation point)==

    For what entities, please? Can you tell us?

  13. - Langhorne - Monday, Dec 2, 19 @ 11:36 am:

    I have a line of “himself “coffee mugs, available just in time for those Christmas lunches, get-togethers, and gift exchanges. I also have some “herself “coffee mugs./S

  14. - Monadnock Pigeon - Monday, Dec 2, 19 @ 11:39 am:

    == For crying out loud, the Speaker’s spokesman is also a lobbyist (exclamation point)==

    Hmm, here’s what I get when I search the Lobbyist List @ SOS. Perhaps you can assist me with the correct search parameters?

    There were no records matching the selection criteria!


    Please try again!

  15. - Just Me 2 - Monday, Dec 2, 19 @ 11:57 am:

    Langhorne and Monadnock: we’ve talked about this before on this blog. Rich always jokingly points out the Spokesman is legally a contract employee. Here is the Tribune story from a couple years ago about it:

  16. - low level - Monday, Dec 2, 19 @ 12:07 pm:

    So Steve Brown is not a lobbyist. I did a quick Google search and came up w this which explains the whole thing.

  17. - Rich Miller - Monday, Dec 2, 19 @ 12:09 pm:

    ===Rich always jokingly points out===

    I don’t jokingly point that out. I correct people who claim he’s a state employee. He’s not. You, however, are a moron.

  18. - L.A. - Monday, Dec 2, 19 @ 12:19 pm:

    My family, and some of my extended family, has known Mike McClain for years. To say that this has been a stunning turn of events is putting it mildly. Thought he was smarter and better than this.

  19. - low level - Monday, Dec 2, 19 @ 12:39 pm:

    Just me: Did u bother to read the article you posted? It makes clear exactly what Brown does.

    Here, maybe,are your search terms?


    (If you are going to blame Brown for anything, make it for his working w Jane Byrne, who was the absolute worst Chicago mayor ever.)

  20. - Thomas Paine - Monday, Dec 2, 19 @ 12:56 pm:

    McClain owes you a personal apology, there is a lot of that going around.

    “Never do anything in politics that you wouldn’t want your mom to read on Capitolfax.”

  21. - Say What? - Monday, Dec 2, 19 @ 2:22 pm:

    The Steve Brown being on the payroll or not (he is a paid consultant), and then currying favor with the Speaker and other members for other clients is extraordinarily poor form that is a nuanced legal distinction that most see as insider trading however you slice it.

    It smells just as bad when David Walsh does it on the GOP side. Burning the candle at both ends simply stinks to high heaven.

    Enriching insiders to play on both teams is deserving of the criticism it endears, legal or not.

  22. - low level - Monday, Dec 2, 19 @ 4:34 pm:

    == then currying favor with the Speaker and other members for other clients==

    Did you read the article?

  23. - Anonanonsir - Monday, Dec 2, 19 @ 8:36 pm:

    ComEd paid MJM’s “most trusted adviser” $361,000, but they can’t seem to decide for what.
    Even Crain’s readers might think that’s of some consequence.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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