Gov. Bruce Rauner won’t be required to sit for a deposition in a federal lawsuit that alleges Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan put up “sham” candidates in legislative races, after a federal judge ruled Monday that there’s no reason to prove “Gov. Rauner hates Speaker Madigan.”
“You can turn on a TV and see the ads,” U.S. District Judge Matthew Kennelly said during a status hearing, arguing that anyone who’s not fully aware of the Republican governor’s animosity to the Democratic speaker is “like Rip Van Winkle and you just woke up.”
The removal of Rauner reduces Madigan’s attorneys’ deposition list to just one man: millionaire investor Blair Hull.
Former Madigan challenger Jason Gonzales argues in the suit that Madigan put up two “sham” candidates with Latino names to try to split the Hispanic vote in the March 2016 primary. Madigan beat Gonzales 65.2 percent to 27.1 percent. One of Madigan’s defense strategies is to try to prove that Gonzales was a “closet Republican” despite Gonzales’ denial of being a “plant of Gov. Rauner.”
During a status hearing Monday, Kennelly asked Madigan’s lawyers to winnow down their deposition list, which included Rauner, several political operatives and former campaign and staff employees.
“So, the discovery that you want here is basically as I understand it it’s for two purposes. It’s to show that he’s [Gonzales] got Republican support, financial and otherwise and to show that Gov. Rauner hates Speaker Madigan,” Kennelly said. “Now, on the second one, I mean, I’m not sure why anybody’s got to do discovery. All you got to do is turn on the TV and see the ads. I mean, seriously, you need discovery to find out that Gov. Rauner has wanted to, for some extended period of time, diminish the power of Speaker Madigan? I mean, then you’re like Rip Van Winkle and you just woke up.”
Attorneys chose Hull, who made a failed 2004 U.S. Senate bid as a Democrat. He also created the PAC Illinois United for Change, which helped to fund ads and mailers that either helped to promote Gonzales or criticize Madigan.
Madigan’s attorneys last week filed exhibits to show that Hull emailed Rauner’s assistant to provide an update on Gonzales’ 2016 campaign. Madigan’s team is seeking to show why Hull should be deposed in the case, and to try to link that to their theory that Gonzales was planted as a candidate by Republicans.
An attorney for Hull said in court that Hull, whom he called a retired philanthropist, now lives in Idaho. He is 75 and about to get married, his attorney said, as attorneys agreed to a video teleconference deposition.
Hull’s attorney said in court that the philanthropist is “not a Republican.”
Meanwhile, Gonzales attorney Stephen Boulton told the Sun-Times that Cicero Town President Larry Dominick has already been deposed in the case.
Lawyers are still negotiating factors around Madigan’s deposition, including whether it will be videotaped and the accessibility of the transcript. During a July 5 status hearing, Kennelly told lawyers, “I don’t care whether it ends up being 10 depositions or 10,000. The first named defendant in the case [Madigan] is getting his deposition taken.”
“It will occur sometime before now and Sept. 14 [the cut off date for discovery in the case],” Boulton said on Monday. “It’s a case of when and under what conditions.”
While Dominick’s deposition was limited to 90 minutes, Boulton said no time limit has been set on Madigan’s.
“Mr. Madigan could be deposed for seven hours. He is the speaker, but he’s also a party [to the suit],” Boulton said. “There’s no question that Mr. Madigan is going to be deposed. He’s a party defendant.”
Gonzales, the plaintiff, has also not yet been deposed, and Boulton told the judge that he’s still trying to depose petition circulators. He said “one packed up and left,” and that he hoped Madigan’s attorneys would facilitate a deposition with another.
Hull is being deposed because lawyers are trying to show that he had the most participation in funding the Gonzales campaign.
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