The hits just keep on coming — at least from news media outlets.
Whether and where they will land — in terms of criminal indictments — remains to be seen. Some big shots — Chicago Alderman Ed Burke, state Sen. Martin Sandoval, to name just two — already have been targeted. There will be more.
But the major question in most people’s minds in Illinois is this: Where does Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan stand in the ongoing and extensive criminal investigations being conducted by the FBI?
As stated earlier, the hits continue.
Here’s an example from a story published Wednesday in The Hill.
“Sources who have been interviewed by federal agents told The Hill that authorities are also looking into the relationships between several small towns around Chicago and people in Madigan’s orbit. In September, the FBI raided government offices in McCook, Lyons, Schiller Park and Summit, all towns in Sandoval’s state Senate district,” The Hill story states. “All four towns have insurance contracts with Mesirow Insurance Services, a Chicago-based company that employs Andrew Madigan, the Speaker’s son.”
The FBI wants to know, the Hill reported, “whether the towns were told to sign contracts with (Madigan’s son’s) firm in exchange for legislative favors in Springfield.”
Last week, The Chicago Tribune reported that FBI agents conducting interviews were asking about Madigan himself.
“The sources, all of whom requested anonymity, said FBI agents and prosecutors asked about connections between Commonwealth Edison lobbyists and Madigan, lobbyists giving contracts to people tied to the speaker, and city, state and suburban government jobs held by his associates,” The Tribune reported.
Questions abound about the Madigans, and why not? After all, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
Madigan’s public position could not be more clear.
“I’m not the target of anything,” he recently told reporters.
That statement has the ring of truth, at least from his perspective.
If anything is obvious about Madigan’s long career in Illinois politics, it’s that he has stood — and may well continue to stand — the test of time. Other politicians may go to prison, but he only gets more power, more patronage and more perks.
That’s what motivates him — more.
But he is, nonetheless, slightly beleaguered. Madigan became the target of rare public criticism from Democrats who’ve grown tired of having to ask “how high?” whenever he says, “Jump.”
Consider this recent news story announcing that Madigan had put a serious public-relations problem behind him.
“Lawsuit costs Madigan nearly $900,000”
Actually, it didn’t cost Madigan a dime to settle a sexual-harassment lawsuit a former female campaign operative filed against his political organizations. It cost his many generous donors.
Even though Alaina Hampton’s harassment lawsuit has been settled, the controversy has not.
Hampton complained that a top Madigan campaign boss, Kevin Quinn, repeatedly sexually har-assed her. When she complained within the organization, Hampton alleged, she was blackballed.
Eventually, Hampton went public, a move that prompted Madigan to publicly oust Quinn from his campaign team. Privately, however, a close Madigan associate, Michael McClain, was hitting up Madigan’s friends for cash payments to Quinn. Those payments also are the subject of the FBI’s inquiry as well as a big source of controversy within the Democratic Party.
Sensing Madigan was less than sincere in his condemnation of Quinn, Democratic state Sen. Iris Martinez, already at odds with Madigan over an unrelated political dispute, called for Madigan to give up his leadership of the Illinois Democratic Party.
Expressing public opposition to Madigan is a major league no-no for Illinois Democrats. Those who do generally end up sleeping with the fishes, politically speaking.
Another Madigan problem is his curious relationship with Exelon/Commonwealth Edison, which has hired a slew of Madigan friends as lobbyists and has held annual fundraisers for Madigan where he collects big bucks. A recent news story about the ComEd fundraisers called them “command performances” where invitees were essentially required to attend and bring their fat checkbooks with them.
The bottom-line, as is always in criminal investigations, is whether all this adds up to widespread criminality or widespread politics as usual.
For example, Madigan’s son doesn’t need to sell insurance to municipal officials by pointing out that he’s the speaker’s son and that things will go better for them in Springfield if they sign on the bottom line.
All he has to do is not mention the purple elephant in the corner of the room. In Illinois, people know the score.
So where’s the crime and, more important, who’s going to testify to it? A small army of FBI agents and federal prosecutors are working hard to answer those questions.
Jim Dey, a member of The News-Gazette staff, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 217-351-5369.