Feds investigating lobbyist checks cut to fired Madigan political lieutenant

Feds investigating lobbyist checks cut to fired Madigan political lieutenant

Further details are emerging in the wake of May raids on longtime allies of Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan.

In their scrutiny of Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan’s inner circle, federal authorities are following a new money trail.

Federal agents are investigating $10,000 in payments to former high-ranking Madigan political aide Kevin Quinn from accounts linked to five current or former lobbyists for utility company Commonwealth Edison, including one of Madigan’s closest confidants, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Madigan ousted Quinn from his political organization in 2018 after campaign worker Alaina Hampton accused him of sexual harassment. In a statement, the speaker acknowledged Quinn, who worked for Madigan for nearly 20 years, “engaged in inappropriate conduct and failed to exercise the professional judgment I expect of those affiliated with my political organizations and the Office of the Speaker.”

But after his firing, Quinn was still able to pull in money from Illinois lobbyists whose success often depends on the speaker’s gavel.

The checks to Quinn came from accounts linked to five current or former lobbyists for ComEd, according to the Tribune, including:

  • $1,000 from close Madigan ally Mike McClain, whose wife signed the check from the couple’s joint bank account.
  • $1,000 from Tom Cullen, a former Madigan political operative and current lobbyist.
  • $2,000 from Chicago City Hall lobbyist and former Metropolitan Water Reclamation District board member Michael Alvarez.
  • $2,000 from Cornerstone Government Affairs, a lobbying firm that employs former Madigan political director Will Cousineau.
  • $4,000 from former Democratic state Rep. John Bradley’s law firm. The southern Illinois lawmaker is a former member of Madigan’s House leadership team.

At least two dozen former Illinois state lawmakers have lobbied on behalf of ComEd or Exelon since 2000, according to a 2017 analysis from the Illinois Policy Institute. A majority of those lawmakers served on their chamber’s energy or public utilities committees. Some even chaired those committees, including McClain, who was chairman of the House Environment, Energy and Natural Resources Committee from 1979 to 1980.

Triple threat

After obtaining search warrants, the FBI in May raided the homes of three close Madigan allies: Quinn, former Southwest Side Chicago Ald. Mike Zalewski and McClain.

The Zalewski raid reportedly included a search for evidence of interactions between Zalewski, Madigan and McClain regarding efforts to get ComEd lobbying work for the former alderman after his retirement in 2018. Authorities also subpoenaed records from ComEd related to their Statehouse lobbying activity.

Zalewski served as an alderman for 20 years in Chicago’s 23rd Ward, which overlaps with Madigan’s 22nd House District near Midway Airport. Following his retirement, then-Mayor Rahm Emanuel appointed Madigan ally and former House member Silvana Tabares to the 23rd Ward seat.

What exactly authorities were looking for in McClain’s home is still unclear. Often dining and traveling with the speaker, McClain served as assistant minority leader under Madigan from 1981 to 1983 and was a longtime Springfield lobbyist for some of the state’s most powerful interest groups, including ComEd. His last major push in Springfield before retiring from lobbying in 2016 was a ratepayer-backed bailout of two nuclear power plants owned by ComEd’s parent company, Exelon.

Pritzker silence

“The governor has said previously there is an ongoing investigation and we need to see how that plays out,” Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s administration told Springfield political blog Capitol Fax in response to news of the raids. Pritzker’s campaign fund has given over $10 million to two funds chaired by Madigan – the Democratic Party of Illinois and Democratic Majority.

As of April, the governor himself was the subject of an active federal investigation into property tax appeals on his Gold Coast mansion, according to WBEZ.

Madigan has not been charged with any wrongdoing. But his power is clear, and unrivaled.

He is the longest-serving legislative leader in U.S. history, holding the speaker’s gavel for all but two years since 1983. He has wielded the most undemocratic House rules in the nation to single-handedly kill popular legislation, and is the only legislative leader in any state to also serve as chairman of his party organization. He has drawn the state’s gerrymandered political maps for three of the past four decades. And he has long been criticized for his highly lucrative side-job as the owner of property tax appeals firm Madigan & Getzendanner.

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