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Cullerton says ‘no reason’ to believe Madigan has committed wrongdoings, supports probe into email

Chicago Sun Times

Monday, January 13, 2020  |  Article  |  Tina Sfondeles and Fran Spielman

Cullerton, John--State Senate, 6 , Madigan, Michael--State House, 22

Outgoing Illinois Senate President John Cullerton said the email should be investigated by the Champaign County state’s attorney rather than a special House committee.

Departing Illinois Senate President John Cullerton on Friday echoed calls for a criminal investigation into an alleged rape mentioned in an email sent by Mike Madigan confidant Mike McClain.


And as feds swarm around the powerful speaker and those close to him, Cullerton said he has “no reason to think he’s done anything wrong.”


The Chicago Sun-Times last year revealed the FBI had secretly recorded Madigan in 2014 trying to get business for his private law firm from a developer. Since then, the Sun-Times and other news organizations have disclosed how federal investigators have been examining connections between lobbyists close to Madigan, including McClain, and the utility ComEd. Neither Madigan nor McClain have been charged with any wrongdoing.


“I’d like to think that they investigate crimes, not people. So I know of no, I have no reason to believe that Mike Madigan has done anything wrong,” Cullerton said on the Sun-Times podcast “The Fran Spielman Show.”


“You know that Mr. [former Gov. Bruce] Rauner spent millions of dollars demonizing him, calling him a crook without any apparent evidence. So, you know he’s been the focus of attention, obviously,” Cullerton said. “I know of no reason to think that he’s done anything wrong, If there’s something to the contrary, then that’ll be up to the investigators to find out.”


A WBEZ report Tuesday revealed McClain sent the email to two senior aides to former Gov. Pat Quinn in a bid to win leniency for a worker in a disciplinary case. In it, McClain argued the man “has kept his mouth shut on Jones’ ghost workers, the rape in Champaign and other items.”


“He is loyal to the Administration,” McClain wrote.


Cullerton said he agrees with Madigan and others about the need for a criminal investigation. But he believes it should be investigated by the Champaign County state’s attorney instead of a special House committee.


“This isn’t about legislation. This is about an investigation. So it should be the state’s attorney of the local county. That’s where the jurisdiction is,” Cullerton said.


Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s office said the Office of the Executive Inspector General is investigating the matter, in cooperation with the Illinois State Police. But members of Illinois’ downstate Republican Congressional delegation on Friday called on Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the alleged rape.


“You got to just get Mr. McClain to explain what he was talking about, and somebody’s got to do that in an investigatory fashion and it would be more appropriate for the state’s attorney to do it. That’s all I’m saying,” Cullerton said. “If they don’t, then yes, there should be a special prosecutor.”


Cullerton said he hasn’t had any contact with McClain “for years.”


“I served with him, a 100 years ago, when I was [in the Illinois House] back in the early ’80s, and he’s been a confidant of the speaker, and not me,” Cullerton said.


Cullerton described Madigan as “very, very knowledgeable, very cautious, a tough negotiator, and he doesn’t have an email or cellphone.”


And amid a WBEZ interview in which McClain said the feds asked him to cooperate, Cullerton said, “everybody should cooperate with the feds, no matter what the topic is.”


As for Madigan’s relationship with McClain — who is under federal investigation — Cullerton said it’s still unclear whether McClain is acting on his own or at the direction of the speaker. Cullerton suggested McCLain could have been “freelancing” when he wrote the email in question.


“Maybe he’s just waiting for the proper forum,” Cullerton said of why Madigan hasn’t publicly disclosed what his relationship is with McClain.


Asked whether Madigan should publicly disclose his current relationship with the controversial former lobbyist, Pritzker said Thursday he’d like to know “whether there’s any involvement.”

Would Cullerton have disclosed the McClain relationship if he were in Madigan’s shoes?


“I don’t know,” Cullerton said, with a laugh. “I’m just leaving.”


Also on Friday, Mayor Lori Lightfoot joined the chorus calling for a criminal investigation of the alleged rape mentioned in McClain’s email. But she added a perspective that’s been missed.


“If there was a rape, we have a victim out there who’s watching. Hopefully not. But I have concerns the person is being re-traumatized by the way in which this story is unfolding and the way that we’re talking about it and losing sight of the fact that there’s a potential victim out there,” the mayor said.


“It’s mind-boggling that someone would put something like that in an email so blithely as an argument for why a particular person should be saved from disciplinary action. Mike McClain will have to give account for himself, I would imagine, on a number of different fronts in the coming days and weeks. But this one is something unlike anything I’ve ever seen before.”