Feds raid former Chicago alderman’s home in search of Madigan records

Feds raid former Chicago alderman’s home in search of Madigan records

The raid on retired Chicago Ald. Michael Zalewski is the latest indication federal authorities could be building a case against the nation’s longest-serving speaker.

Federal agents in May raided the home of former Chicago Ald. Michael Zalewski, according to a new report.

The Better Government Association and WBEZ reported the raid was part of a probe into “efforts to get work for Zalewski” at Commonwealth Edison, as well as “interactions” between Zalewski, Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan and Springfield power player Michael McClain.

Authorities also subpoenaed records from ComEd related to their Statehouse lobbying activity, according to BGA and WBEZ.

McClain, a longtime ComEd lobbyist and former House lawmaker called the “insider’s insider,” retired from lobbying in 2016. He originally planned to retire in 2015, but efforts to extend subsidies to two nuclear power plants in Illinois owned by Exelon, ComEd’s parent company, kept him in Springfield.

“[W]e had the Exelon bill come up, and my friend Mike Madigan was facing some tough times, and so [the retirement] kind of got put on hold,” McClain told the Quincy Herald-Whig.

McClain helped pass the Exelon deal, which raised rates on ComEd customers by between 25 cents and $4.54 a month. One Democratic state representative at the time joked that energy industry lobbyists “probably made a lot of money this last year or two,” according to the Chicago Tribune.

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.

Perhaps more than any other political figure, McClain is known to have Madigan’s ear, often dining and traveling with the speaker. He served as assistant minority leader under Madigan from 1981 to 1983.

“I feel like I’m very close to him and I love him like a brother, and I’m loyal to him,” McClain told the State Journal-Register in 2016.

Federal agents in May also raided the home of former Madigan political lieutenant Kevin Quinn, though it is not clear what they were looking for. Quinn was ousted from Madigan’s political operation in 2018 after campaign worker Alaina Hampton accused Quinn of sexual harassment. He was also deposed as part of a lawsuit alleging Madigan recruited two “sham candidates” to siphon Hispanic votes away from the speaker’s 2016 Democratic primary challenger, Jason Gonzales. In that deposition, Quinn admitted to attempting to recruit one of them, Joe Barboza.

“I had asked [Cicero politician] Charlie [Hernandez] to see if Joe [Barboza] would be interested in running as a Democrat,” he said. “I had simply reached out to Charlie to see if Joe had an interest,” he said.

What will come of the raids on Zalewski and Quinn is still unclear.

Madigan 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 lucrative side-job as the owner of property tax appeals firm Madigan & Getzendanner.

But for a man with such broad power, his inner circle is tightly knit, as McClain noted in a January 1983 Chicago Tribune article on the brand-new speaker.

“It’s hard for him to show affection,” McClain said.

“To be his friend, you have to work hard for it.’”

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