Madigan aides sought out, assisted alleged 'sham' candidates in primary election

By Austin Berg, Illinois Policy Institute | Feb 5, 2019

House Speaker Mike Madigan sat down for what he claimed was his first-ever deposition in September 2018, new documents show.

The deposition proceedings arose from a lawsuit filed by Madigan’s 2016 Democratic primary opponent Jason Gonzales, which alleges Madigan abused his political power by “register[ing] two sham candidates with Hispanic last names to split up the Hispanic vote.”

The Chicago Tribune obtained a copy of Madigan’s deposition along with those of his top political operatives. The Chicago Sun-Times published the Madigan deposition in full.

The two candidates joining Madigan and Gonzales on the primary ballot were Joe Barboza and Grasiela Rodriguez. But unlike the typical political campaigns, neither Barboza nor Rodriguez filed financial reports with the state indicating they raised or spent money. Gonzales attorney Tony Peraica asked Madigan about those candidates in the Sept.  13 deposition.

“Did you reach out to any of your political allies to try to get additional candidates onto the 22nd District primary ballot?” Peraica asked.

“I don’t remember that,” Madigan said.

“Is it possible that you did?” Peraica asked.

“No,” Madigan responded.

“So you’re certain that you didn’t?” Peraica asked.

“I don’t remember,” Madigan said.

Madigan’s top political aides at the time offered far more color in their depositions, according to the Tribune.

“I had asked [Cicero politician] Charlie [Hernandez] to see if Joe [Barboza] would be interested in running as a Democrat,” said former Madigan political lieutenant Kevin Quinn. “I had simply reached out to Charlie to see if Joe had an interest,” he said. “I never heard back from Charlie.”

Quinn was removed from Madigan’s political operation in 2018 after campaign worker Alaina Hampton accused Quinn of sexual harassment.

Another key Madigan political operative, Shaw Decremer, confirmed in his deposition that he transported and submitted the necessary signatures for Rodriguez and Barboza to appear on the ballot.

“Why would you be bringing Grasiela Rodriguez’s petitions who is an opponent of Michael Madigan to file for her?” Peraica asked.

“Because someone asked me to,” Decremer said.

“Who?” Peraica asked.

“I don’t know. I don’t recall,” Decremer said.

Decremer also left Madigan’s operation in 2018 after a state lawmaker accused him of bullying and “abuse of power.”

Gonzales’ original lawsuit, in addition to claims of Madigan filing sham candidates, alleged defamation by the speaker for publicizing Gonzales’ criminal record and claiming it prevented Gonzales from holding office. As a teenager, Gonzales was convicted of felony and misdemeanor charges related to illegally using credit cards at shopping malls. But those records had all been sealed or expunged pursuant to a 2015 pardon from former Gov. Pat Quinn.

Gonzales’ lawsuit was dismissed in March 2017. The court allowed Gonzales to file an amended complaint and then dismissed that complaint as well, in June 2017. But Gonzales petitioned the court to alter its judgment dismissing his case, and on Sept. 11, Judge Matthew F. Kennelly granted Gonzales’ motion and reversed course.

Months after the 2016 primary ended, Illinois Policy Action produced a documentary on Madigan featuring an interview with Gonzales, news footage covering the primary race and footage of the announcement of Gonzales’ lawsuit. Lawyers for Madigan sought to depose Illinois Policy Institute employees as part of that lawsuit, but a judge denied those requests.

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