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Sunday, August 18, 2019

FBI raids home of Madigan confidant in third search surrounding the speaker

Their View

By Austin Berg, Illinois Policy Institute | Jul 25, 2019

Federal agents in mid-May raided the Western Illinois home of one of House Speaker Mike Madigan’s closest allies, former state lawmaker and lobbyist Mike McClain.

The FBI is spending a lot of time checking out members of Madigan’s inner circle.

According to the Chicago Tribune, authorities knocked on McClain’s door around the same time they executed search warrants at the homes of two other close Madigan allies: former Chicago Ald. Michael Zalewski and former Madigan political lieutenant Kevin Quinn.

In obtaining a search warrant, law enforcement agents would have had to convince a judge of probable cause of a crime, and that evidence of a crime existed in each home.

More than any other political figure, McClain is known to have Madigan’s ear, often dining and traveling with the speaker. He served as assistant minority leader under Madigan from 1981 to 1983 and was formerly a Springfield lobbyist for some of the state’s most powerful interest groups, including Commonwealth Edison.

McClain retired from lobbying in 2016. “I feel like I’m very close to [Madigan] and I love him like a brother, and I’m loyal to him,” McClain told the State Journal-Register at the time. He originally planned to retire in 2015, but efforts to extend subsidies to two nuclear power plants in Illinois owned by Exelon kept him in Springfield. McClain was a longtime lobbyist for ComEd, Exelon’s parent company.

“[W]e had the Exelon bill come up, and my friend Mike Madigan was facing some tough times, and so [the retirement] kind of got put on hold,” McClain told the Quincy Herald-Whig.

McClain helped pass the Exelon deal, which raised rates on ComEd customers by between 25 cents and $4.54 a month. One Democratic state representative at the time joked that energy industry lobbyists “probably made a lot of money this last year or two,” according to the Chicago Tribune.

Meanwhile, the Better Government Association and WBEZ reported the Zalewski raid was part of a probe into “efforts to get work for Zalewski” at ComEd, as well as “interactions” between Zalewski, Madigan and McClain. Authorities also subpoenaed records from ComEd related to their Statehouse lobbying activity, according to BGA and WBEZ.

Zalewski served as an alderman for 20 years in Chicago’s 23rd Ward, which overlaps with Madigan’s 22nd House District on Chicago’s Southwest Side. That district has re-elected Madigan to the House every two years since 1970. Also in Madigan’s district is 13th Ward Ald. Marty Quinn, whose brother Kevin saw his home searched by federal authorities in May.

Kevin was ousted from Madigan’s political operation in 2018 after a campaign worker accused him of sexual harassment. He was also deposed as part of a lawsuit alleging Madigan recruited two “sham candidates” to siphon Hispanic votes away from the speaker’s 2016 Democratic primary challenger, Jason Gonzales. In that deposition, Quinn admitted to attempting to recruit one of those candidates.

What will come of the raids on McClain, Zalewski and Quinn is still unclear.

“The governor has said previously there is an ongoing investigation and we need to see how that plays out,” Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s administration told political blog Capitol Fax in response to news of the raids. As of April, the governor himself was the subject of an active federal investigation into property tax appeals on his Gold Coast mansion, according to WBEZ.

So far, Madigan has not been charged with any wrongdoing. But his power is clear, and unrivaled.

He is the longest-serving legislative leader in U.S. history, holding the speaker’s gavel for all but two years since 1983. He has wielded the most undemocratic House rules in the nation to single-handedly kill popular legislation, and is the only legislative leader in any state to also serve as chairman of his party organization. He has drawn the state’s gerrymandered political maps for three of the past four decades. And he has long been criticized for his highly lucrative side-job as the owner of property tax appeals firm Madigan & Getzendanner.

Still, his grip on the state has never appeared more tenuous.

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