All-powerful Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan has been called many things over the course of his 45-plus year legislative career, with some of the labels being backhanded tributes to his elite political status.
He’s the “Velvet Hammer,” the “Kahn of Madiganistan,” the “Diminutive Don.”
Now another nom de guerre has been added to the list — provided by one of Madigan’s closest political confidants, who’s been caught telling embarrassing and potentially incriminating tales out of school.
“We always called you the ‘Most Trusted of the Trusted.’ So, again, on behalf of Himself, I thank you for ALL your work to help him and the Caucus,” wrote powerhouse lobbyist, former state representative and longtime Madigan buddy Michael McClain in a group email to the Speaker’s favorite lobbyists.
Himself? That carefully unidentified character referenced in McClain’s email is Madigan and the caucus is the Democratic members who serve under Madigan in the Illinois House.
That McClain email, the subject of a news report by Chicago’s WBEZ radio — plus another McClain missive that was the subject of a Chicago Tribune story — have rattled political insiders since their recent disclosure.
The two emails, at the least, create serious political and public relations problems for Madigan. At worst, they could be fodder for federal investigators who are closely examining Exelon/Commonwealth Edison’s lobbying army in Springfield and its ties to Madigan-favored lobbyists pushing legislation sought by the utility giant.
Exelon/ComEd sits in the middle of this complicated web of intrigue that’s already claimed victims high up the company’s food chain.
ComEd has disclosed that it’s cooperating with both federal prosecutors, as well as the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission. On top of that, two top executives, including President and CEO Anne Pramaggiore, suddenly resigned.
One of the two McClain emails solicits payments to a former Madigan campaign worker, Kevin Quinn, who was ostensibly ousted from the Speaker’s political organization after he was credibly accused of sexually harassing a Madigan campaign worker, Alaina Hampton.
Why is a Madigan representative soliciting work and cash from Madigan-affiliated lobbyists on Quinn’s behalf? Is it possible Madigan wasn’t as outraged by a variety of harassment allegations, one involving Quinn, as he publicly professed to be?
That’s what Chicago Democratic state Sen. Iris Martinez charged.
“Madigan lied in public while his cronies paid the harasser,” she said. “This action should not be tolerated from chairman of the Illinois Democratic Party. Speaker Madigan needs to explain these inconsistencies or resign as leader of the party.”
A Madigan spokesman denied any knowledge of the payments McClain solicited that totaled at least $30,000 to Kevin Quinn, the brother of another close Madigan ally, Chicago Alderman Marty Quinn.
The second email, labeled the “Magic Lobby List” by McClain, tells a handful of Madigan insiders that they have been specially chosen by McClain and Madigan to represent powerful, monied political interests that often are regulated by state government.
“There are now a little less than two dozen on the list,” McClain wrote.
The lobby probe is just one of multiple pending corruption investigations focusing on Chicago, Cook County and the General Assembly.
The FBI executed a search warrant at McClain’s Quincy home this past summer, and it obtained a court order to record his telephone calls. It also executed a search warrant at Kevin Quinn’s home, among other locations.
The Madigan lobbying arrangement works like this — those with interests they want addressed hire lobbyists close to Madigan. The lobbyists who are hired pay substantial fees. In turn, they support Madigan’s multiple political and campaign organizations.
The Tribune story quoted one anonymous insider as saying those who don’t hire Madigan lobbyists have “no chance of getting what they want in Springfield.”
“Everybody is working for the good of the speaker’s operation, not for the good of their clients and certainly not for the good of the taxpayers,” the insider told the Tribune.
Chief among the lobbyists is McClain because, the insider explained, “if you want something from Madigan, you don’t ask Madigan, you ask McClain.”
Among those identified as Madigan’s favored lobbyists are former southern Illinois legislator John Bradley and onetime Madigan aides Shaw Decremer, Tom Cullen and Kristen Bauer.
In his email, McClain urged the magic lobbyists to keep all of their business within the club. If they can’t take a client, he said, “please call me and I will have a conversation with someone and get back to you asap.”
Both emails were considered highly confidential within McClain’s lobby group. How they became public has not been revealed.
But their disclosure reaffirms Madigan’s longtime aversions. Famously low-key in public, he reportedly doesn’t use email or cell phones and almost always measures his words.