Austin Berg | Yes, Speaker Madigan, you have a culture problem

Austin Berg | Yes, Speaker Madigan, you have a culture problem

By AUSTIN BERG

In a hastily arranged press conference Tuesday, House Speaker Mike Madigan laid out nine more instances of sexual harassment his office has overseen in the past five years, with more potentially excluded.

But Madigan's office doesn't have a sexual harassment problem. Just ask him.

"What does this say about your office?" asked Illinois News Network reporter Greg Bishop. "Is there a culture within your office?"

Madigan passed the buck. "There's no culture with me ... we don't tolerate inappropriate behavior. We just don't tolerate it."

None of the cases listed in the speaker's report resulted in Madigan's office terminating or suspending an employee. In one instance, an outside lobbyist was "removed from his position" as a result of his conduct toward a staffer, which was his employer's decision.

Madigan's actions, or lack thereof, send a clear message: Those that engage in sexual harassment in the workplace will be tolerated. And eventually, they can even be rewarded.

Alaina Hampton, a former campaign worker for the speaker whose story forced the ousting of one state worker/Madigan political operative, Kevin Quinn, has witnessed this firsthand.

She endured months of pathetic, inappropriate advances from Quinn, whose brother, a Chicago alderman, shares his ward office with Madigan.

"I never wanted to do this, but I know my silence only protects the perpetrator and the organization, which will allow this situation to happen to someone else," Hampton said.

"I firmly believe they thought that I was too loyal to ever come forward."

Hampton shed a clear light on what's kept the toxic Statehouse culture afloat for decades: loyalty and fear.

Look at the bizarre remarks from Alderman Pat O'Connor, Mayor Rahm Emanuel's floor leader in Chicago City Council, when asked if Madigan should step down from his state Democratic Party chairmanship.

"If the allies had pulled Eisenhower out of his position when the troops were landing on Normandy, you would take the head of those forces and throw those forces into disarray," he said.

"If you look at the state party and feel that it's important that we elect individuals that the party has backed, then you wouldn't take your leadership out when you're about to have the election."

Victims be damned; can't you see it's an election year?

Notably, Madigan's list only included cases within the Legislature. It did not include any instances reported in the campaign world, where the speaker is the only legislative leader in the nation to also serve as the state party chairman.

Madigan's deflection of responsibility regarding Statehouse culture is insulting to the men and women who have put up with a toxic work environment in Springfield and in political offices across the state.

Organizational culture comes from the top. And no one has been at the top longer than Madigan. He is the longest-serving state legislative leader in American history.

What does Madigan's Springfield culture look like?

For years, participants in the state's legislative intern program were gifted a piece of advice from their superiors at the start of their summers: Don't ever get into an elevator alone with a lawmaker.

Madigan's limited disclosure this week explicitly excluded "complaints by staff about a member regarding manner of treatment or derogatory comments."

The speaker protects his own. Despite the growing tally of victims, that's why so many lawmakers are still lining up to protect him.

This, of course, is the culture at work.

Austin Berg is a writer for the Illinois Policy Institute. His email: aberg@illinoispolicy.org.

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