Suspected Ringleader: Mike Madigan, IL Speaker of the House
Nickname: The Velvet Hammer
Status: Under federal investigation
Mike “The Velvet Hammer” Madigan is the single longest serving state Speaker of the House in the history of the country. He’s also the face of cronyism, patronage and machine politics in Illinois. It seems as though his brand of slimy Democrat approved politics may have finally put him in the crosshairs of federal investigators. Over the last year, the FBI has performed public raids of long-time Madigan allies such as political operative Kevin Quinn, former state representative and lobbyist Mike McClain, and former Chicago alderman and lobbyist Mike Zalewski. Most recently, federal investigators sought information about Madigan in a subpoena and warrant served to the City Club of Chicago.
Madigan’s questionable ethics also extend to personnel management within his political and official organizations. Madigan’s Chief of Staff and Executive Director of the Democratic Party of Illinois, Tim Mapes, was ousted hours after House staffer Sherri Garret came forward with harassment allegations. The aforementioned Kevin Quinn was fired after political staffer Alaina Hampton came forward with allegations of inappropriate behavior. Hampton has since filed a lawsuit against Madigan who she says ignored her calls for help.
The lawyer who Madigan hired to investigate Hampton’s harassment, and others, turned out to be the sister of two lobbyists secretly paying Kevin Quinn on the side after Quinn was fired. All in all, Madigan has pilfered his campaign accounts to the tune of $1.5 million in 2019 to pay for all his legal troubles and pending lawsuits.
Here’s what we know, Madigan is clearly at the center of the wide-ranging federal investigation. The Speaker is a shady and corrupt character. We have known this for decades, but for the first time, the feds are shining a light on the corrupt empire he has built.
UPDATE – “The Magic Lobbyist List”:
Recently, more light was shed on one aspect of the Madigan machine, a lobbying conspiracy managed day-to-day by powerful statehouse insider and Mike Madigan’s best friend, Mike McClain.
WBEZ reported that the feds’ deep dive into the statehouse lobbying practices has uncovered a unique lobbyist network of favored insiders. WBEZ obtained an email sent from McClain to a group he dubbed the “Magic Lobbyist List” of former Madigan staffers and allies. McClain made clear it was at his and Madigan’s behest that they made the cut and that they were expected to return the favor by referring lobbying clients to each other and donating to Madigan campaign funds.
Former Madigan staffers cashed in by becoming favored lobbyists, Madigan’s campaign coffers were padded, and the legislative process from beginning to end was controlled by, you guessed it: Mike Madigan. It’s a classic case of Pay-to-Play politics.