Capitol - Your Illinois News Radar » Anita Dunn was paid for doing comms work for Speaker Madigan while ‘helping’ Alaina Hampton
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Anita Dunn was paid for doing comms work for Speaker Madigan while ‘helping’ Alaina Hampton

Wednesday, Sep 13, 2023 - Posted by Rich Miller

* NPR correspondent Tom Dreisbach

A top adviser to President Joe Biden, whose prominent communications firm helped launch a high-profile effort to assist victims of sexual harassment, rape and assault, was also a paid adviser to a powerful Illinois politician while he was being sued by one of those victims.

Anita Dunn, co-founder of the communications firm SKDK and widely considered a member of the president’s inner circle, provided “crisis communications” assistance to Michael Madigan, the then-Speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives, from 2018 to 2019. That work netted Dunn and her firm more than $200,000, according to campaign finance disclosures.

Madigan, who was also the leader of the state Democratic Party at the time, was not personally accused of sexual misconduct, but was being sued by a former employee of his political committees. That former employee, Alaina Hampton, alleged that Madigan retaliated against her when she reported that her direct supervisor had repeatedly harassed her over text messages.

While Dunn was advising Madigan, Hampton received support in her case from Dunn’s firm, which partnered with the anti-harassment charity Time’s Up. Dunn’s work for Madigan was specifically focused on responding to allegations stemming from Hampton’s lawsuit.

As a result, SKDK (the D stands for “Dunn”) was on the one hand supporting Hampton in her harassment and retaliation case through its partnership with Time’s Up, and on the other getting paid by a defendant in that very lawsuit.

There’s lots more, so go read the whole thing.

* A brief mention was made of this in the Tribune’s August 27th Mapes trial roundup, which I regrettably didn’t read because I was on vacation at the time

In one email to Mapes, McClain described how Madigan’s operation hired SKDK to “handle this problem” and develop a plan to be “assertive” and met with the firm’s Anita Dunn, a top player in the Obama and Biden administrations, to develop a strategy that included beginning with an op-ed.

Mapes had initiated the email exchange on Sept. 21, 2018, the day a Madigan-signed a commentary in the Tribune said he took responsibility for failing to “do enough’ and promising to do more to address inappropriate behavior in Springfield.

Records showed the “Friends of Madigan” campaign fund paid more than $200,000 to SKDK over 2018 and 2019 for advice on how to address the #MeToo issues.

It came around the same time that McClain gathered a group of utility lobbyists — including political gurus Tom Cullen and Will Cousineau — to work out arrangements to send checks to help Kevin Quinn after Madigan had tossed him from the speaker’s organization due to the longtime lieutenant’s own #MeToo scandal.

…Adding… A new Tribune story was just posted

“If I knew SKDK was working with Mike Madigan, I wouldn’t have even applied for funding from Time’s Up,” Hampton said in an interview with the Tribune. “It’s a clear conflict of interest that the communications firm SKDK was working with Mike Madigan while also working with the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund when I was a client and the legal defense fund was paying money for my legal fees and public relation fees.”

Following days of Tribune questions, SKDK issued an apology Wednesday morning.

“We understand the concerns that have been raised,” SKDK partner Jill Zuckman said in a statement to the Tribune. “In retrospect, we realize that the decision to work with then-Speaker Madigan’s campaign on these matters was an error in light of the support Ms. Hampton was receiving from another firm through a separate initiative we were proud to support.

“We apologize to Ms. Hampton and her allies and reiterate our full support for the survivor community,” Zuckman said.

To Hampton, though, the apology fell flat: “It feels like they’re gaslighting me. Even now.”


  1. - Who else - Wednesday, Sep 13, 23 @ 3:29 pm:

    “Apology” not accepted.

  2. - New Day - Wednesday, Sep 13, 23 @ 3:32 pm:

    Wow. Just wow. Raises a while pile of questions about that firm and none of them are good. Shame on them.

  3. - Joe Schmoe - Wednesday, Sep 13, 23 @ 3:36 pm:

    I’d ask for a refund.

  4. - NIU Grad - Wednesday, Sep 13, 23 @ 3:38 pm:

    “of the support Ms. Hampton was receiving from another firm through a separate initiative we were proud to support.”

    That’s a deflection of blame if I’ve ever seen one.

  5. - Rudy’s teeth - Wednesday, Sep 13, 23 @ 3:44 pm:

    So Anita Dunn participates in another Illinois political tradition—-double dipping.

  6. - Stormsw7706 - Wednesday, Sep 13, 23 @ 3:45 pm:

    This really stinks. Diminishes everything she does.

  7. - Donnie Elgin - Wednesday, Sep 13, 23 @ 3:47 pm:

    “In retrospect, we realize that the decision to work with then-Speaker Madigan’s …in light of the support Ms. Hampton was receiving from another firm through a separate initiative we were proud to support”

    Selling out to power (back when MJM had it) and money, was the ultimate betrayal of Alaina Hampton.

  8. - Centennial - Wednesday, Sep 13, 23 @ 3:56 pm:

    Shrewd move by MJM and staff to find and hire Dunn. Very on brand. Especially for the folks there at the time. Feign like you care, while protecting number one.

  9. - low level - Wednesday, Sep 13, 23 @ 4:13 pm:

    ==Shrewd move by MJM and staff ==.

    Very much so.

  10. - Lincoln Lad - Wednesday, Sep 13, 23 @ 4:14 pm:

    Hampton should have known this at the time; that it was not disclosed makes this a serious breech. Were they ever truly supporting Times Up? Gotta be better than this…

  11. - Oswego Willy - Wednesday, Sep 13, 23 @ 4:24 pm:

    Kind of an odd flex to look at this as shrewd by MJM.

    It’s more on the firm’s choices, no?

  12. - Google Is Your Friend - Wednesday, Sep 13, 23 @ 4:30 pm:

    Leaders from Time’s Up were advising Andrew Cuomo as well.

  13. - hisgirlfriday - Wednesday, Sep 13, 23 @ 4:31 pm:

    This double-dealing is gross and an embarrassment to the Biden admin.

    But isn’t it also kind of embarrassing for Anita Dunn that she did work at all for a guy charged with bribery, racketeering, etc.?

  14. - Amalia - Wednesday, Sep 13, 23 @ 4:34 pm:

    wow. second verse, same as the first. terrible.

  15. - Sue - Wednesday, Sep 13, 23 @ 4:38 pm:

    If Dunn was a lawyer- classic malpractice case with no defense. There is a lobbyist code of ethics which her firm clearly violated. To avoid ongoing news stories reflecting badly on her main client( the President) Dunn should donate the 200k to some woman ‘s group

  16. - Always something - Wednesday, Sep 13, 23 @ 4:44 pm:

    Nonsense like this is why we have Trump. Regular folks see it as all rigged and sometimes they are right. So bad. So unethical. So scummy.

  17. - Frida’s boss - Wednesday, Sep 13, 23 @ 5:04 pm:

    Agree with OW not sure how MJM is blamed for hiring the best firm possible? Not a good look for SKDK to be knowingly supporting Alaina while protecting the people she’s accusing of wrong doing. I agree with Hampton it’s not an acceptable apology from Dunn.

  18. - Oswego Willy - Wednesday, Sep 13, 23 @ 5:09 pm:

    ===not sure how MJM is blamed===

    That’s not even close to what I typed.

    It’s an odd flex thinking it’s shrewd, it’s not “how can you blame them”

    Yes, it’s on the firm and the ethics, yes the apology isn’t sufficient

    That is true.

  19. - 47th Ward - Wednesday, Sep 13, 23 @ 5:20 pm:

    Dunn got $200K and IIRC, Hampton got $60K. I’d be pretty steamed too if I was Hampton.

  20. - Coy Pugh Fan Club - Wednesday, Sep 13, 23 @ 5:25 pm:

    Will Norseman blame Bruce Rauner for this?

  21. - Candy Dogood - Wednesday, Sep 13, 23 @ 5:47 pm:

    ===and reiterate our full support for the survivor community===

    If this statement was true one would need to explain how exactly the $200,000 in services that Mike Madigan received was the “full support for the survivor community.”

    In general I would not recommend hiring a political communications firm or any communications firm that releases an apology or statement like the above that absolutely cannot be true unless they were defrauding Mike Madigan. A consulting firm doesn’t have to take a client. They don’t have to cash a check when they find out what the job is.

    The response to the scandal caused by their two faced money grubbing obvious conflict of interest isn’t great — but their response to their own scandal suggests that no one should ever hire this firm for anything ever again. Any person in their employment that seeks to have any association with integrity needs to quit this week and make it well known why they did.

    It might have been okay if the organization explained how their company operates different divisions with near complete independence and so the conflict of interest wasn’t initially realized until such and such date — but I have the feeling they knew about what they were doing while they were doing it.

    This company and Anita Dunn need to be black listed from political and left leaning organizations. This is unacceptable and should close the door on Ms. Dunn’s career.

    She owes a personal apology to Alaina Hampton.

    Anita Dunn should promptly resign from the Biden Administration before her presence tarnishes the career of one of the biggest proponents of the Violence Against Women Act.

  22. - Marine Life - Wednesday, Sep 13, 23 @ 5:52 pm:

    $200k for a vapid op ed? One of the local shops would have done it for half the price.

    (I realize that there were subsequent payments and presumably other services to address “culture” problems in the speaker’s organization. Based on evidence presented at trial, those services clearly did not penetrate.)

  23. - Centennial - Wednesday, Sep 13, 23 @ 6:14 pm:

    To clarify, I did not intend for “shrewd” to be taken as a compliment or a “flex.” More of an accusation.

  24. - Just Sayin… - Thursday, Sep 14, 23 @ 5:53 pm:

    Did I read this right? McClain was in the phone w Madigan and Dunn what at or around the same time raising money for the offender? There is so much wrong with that picture.
    And for Dunn and her firm a classic case of wanting the cake and eating it too. Wow, just wow!

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