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Madigan panel’s Mendoza claims independence despite ties to ousted operatives

Illinois state Comptroller Susana Mendoza. | Rich Hein / Sun-Times

Illinois state Comptroller Susana Mendoza is one of three female politicians House Speaker Michael Madigan named to “take the lead on facilitating a statewide discussion about the role of women” in the Illinois Democratic Party after two Madigan operatives were forced out amid allegations of harassment and other inappropriate behavior.

Mendoza and the others — U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos and state Rep. Carol Ammons, D-Urbana — have vowed their work will be done independently of Madigan and the state Democratic Party. But records show Mendoza has ties to the ousted operatives, Kevin Quinn and Shaw Decremer, who both have worked on her political campaigns.

Quinn — the brother of Ald. Marty Quinn (13th) and a fixture in Madigan’s political machine — was fired last month after his former subordinate Alaina Hampton said he’d sent her a series of harassing and in some cases explicit text messages.

Hampton has filed a federal lawsuit in which she accuses Marty Quinn and Madigan of not doing enough to address Kevin Quinn’s behavior, which she said included repeated requests to date him, comments about her appearance in a swimsuit and questions about her personal life.

State House Speaker Mike Madigan (left) in 2016 and Alaina Hampton (right) in Chicago last month. | AP, Ashlee Rezin/ Sun-Times
State House Speaker Mike Madigan (left) in 2016 and Alaina Hampton (right) in Chicago last month. | AP, Ashlee Rezin/ Sun-Times

Her statements left Madigan scrambling. He declared it was time to “rethink the culture of politics” and appointed Mendoza, Bustos and Ammons to his newly created panel in a #MeToo reckoning in the state party he leads.

Hampton met with the panel on March 11, gave a rundown of what happened to her and answered questions, according to a Hampton spokeswoman.

Mendoza bristled when asked about her ability to act independently, telling the Chicago Sun-Times, “Attacks like this are part of the reason more women don’t get involved in politics.”

This undated photo provided by the Evergreen Park Police Department In Evergreen Park, Ill., shows Kevin Quinn.  (Evergreen Park Police Department via AP)
Kevin Quinn, an ex-campaign worker for Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan’s Democratic organization, in a police mug shot after he was arrested for violating a protective order. | Evergreen Park Police Department via AP

Kevin Quinn repeatedly was listed on Mendoza’s campaign petitions as the notary, meaning he helped certify signatures to get Mendoza on the ballot in 2016.

“He handles all signatures” for politically friendly candidates “in the 13th Ward,” a source said, referring to a Madigan Southwest Side stronghold.

Among the petition circulators whose work Kevin Quinn notarized was Patrick Ward, records show.

In 2013, while working for Metra and serving as a Madigan precinct captain, Ward was at the center of a patronage scandal over revelations Madigan pressured top officials at the commuter rail agency to give him a pay raise.

Marty Quinn was involved behind the scenes in Mendoza’s successful campaign for comptroller, sources told the Sun-Times. Also, Illinois State Board of Elections records show Madigan was a big contributor to Mendoza, as well as providing political foot soldiers to help her campaign.

The state Democratic Party made four contributions — totaling $650,000 — to Mendoza’s campaign in two weeks in 2016, election records show.

Shaw Decremer, fired political operative for House Speaker Mike Madigan | Illinois Secretary of State
Shaw Decremer, fired political operative for House Speaker Mike Madigan | Illinois Secretary of State

Also giving to Mendoza’s campaign was a consulting business run by Decremer, the other ousted Madigan operative. He was forced out of the speaker’s political organization last month over what Madigan described only as allegations of unspecified “inappropriate behavior.”

Decremer’s business — Shaw Decremer Consulting — gave Mendoza’s campaign $250 in 2016, records show.

One of Madigan’s political funds paid Decremer a small amount — under $100 — for unspecified work for Mendoza’s campaign years earlier, the records show.

In December, Decremer’s business gave $500 to Ammons’ campaign fund.

Ammons also has gotten campaign money and other help from Madigan’s political organizations, including $10,000 in 2016 from Friends of Michael J. Madigan.

Ammons said that won’t sway her, that she’ll pursue the issue independently even if the panel finds fault on the part of Madigan or others in the party hierarchy.

State Rep. Carol Ammons | Twitter
State Rep. Carol Ammons | Twitter

“We won’t take anything off the table,” Ammons said.

She said that although the panel isn’t a “judicial investigative body,” it will try to identify problems relating to sexism, sexual harassment and inequality not only involving the party but also state government. Ammons said the group will seek out women with stories to tell and make recommendations to the state party’s governing committee.

Mendoza wouldn’t speak with a reporter but in a written statement said:

“Our panel’s mission is to identify and help eliminate obstacles, including sexual harassment, and to elevate women into positions of leadership in the Democratic Party. My campaign elevated the status of women by hiring women as campaign manager, fundraisers and spokeswomen.

“To inflate the minor contributions of a few men who sent checks; or provided an $86 in-kind contribution; or notarized petitions over the meaningful leadership of women — attacks like this are part of the reason more women don’t get involved in politics.

“We declared our independence from the Democratic Party of Illinois by saying our panel would take no money, staff or direction from them. It’s our goal to help women create success stories that look like our stories.”

Also regarding her independence, Mendoza said: “Under this story’s standard, any woman who has worked with the party to get elected would not be able to serve on this panel. That’s ridiculous.”