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State senator slams Madigan over payments to ex-aide: ‘He wanted a cover-up’

”This action should not be tolerated from Chairman of the Illinois Democratic Party,” Northwest Side state Sen. Iris Martinez said.

Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan (left) and state Sen. Iris Martinez, D-Chicago.
Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan (left) and state Sen. Iris Martinez, D-Chicago.
AP and Sun-Times file photos

A top state senator on Saturday demanded Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan explain why his close associates reportedly directed money to an ousted aide accused of sexual harassment — or else resign as the head of the state Democratic Party.

Sen. Iris Martinez, a Northwest Side Democrat who serves as assistant majority leader, threw down that gauntlet in the wake of a Chicago Tribune report indicating longtime Madigan confidant and retired ComEd lobbyist Michael McClain urged a roster of lobbyists to hand contracts totaling more than $30,000 last year to former Madigan aide Kevin Quinn for minimal work.

That was after Madigan fired Quinn in February 2018 for bombarding former political consultant Alaina Hampton with suggestive text messages when they worked together in the speaker’s ward organization.

“Last year, Speaker Madigan claimed to want to clean up his messes,” Martinez said in a statement. “He publicly promised things would be different. But he didn’t want to change his staff’s behavior. He wanted a cover-up. Madigan lied in public while his cronies paid the harasser,” Martinez said.

Kevin Quinn
Kevin Quinn

”This action should not be tolerated from Chairman of the Illinois Democratic Party. Speaker Madigan needs to explain these inconsistencies or resign as leader of the Party.”

Scrutiny over the alleged payments comes as federal investigators probe ComEd lobbying activity, including some clout hires tied to Madigan, according to WBEZ.

Asked to respond to Martinez’s comments, a Madigan spokeswoman said: “If a group of people were attempting to help Kevin Quinn, the Speaker was not a part of it.”

Martinez’s rebuke marked some of the most stinging criticism of the powerful House speaker since his organization was rocked by a wave of #MeToo allegations last year that put a spotlight on a culture of harassment in the Capitol. Madigan’s longtime chief of staff Tim Mapes was also forced out amid allegations of persistent bullying.

The state senator’s admonishment also comes a week after she joined three other 36th Ward Democratic committeemen in defying Madigan’s order not to include ex-state Rep. Luis Arroyo — who resigned earlier this month after being hit with federal bribery charges — in selecting Arroyo’s replacement.

Ald. Ariel Reboyras (30th) voted by proxy for Arroyo, after Madigan warned the House would challenge the qualifications of anyone appointed through a vote that included the criminally charged ex-legislator. Martinez joined Reboyras and other ward bosses in supporting Eva-Dina Delgado, setting the stage for a Springfield showdown.

And Martinez, who has served in the state Senate in 2003, announced last month that she’s running in the crowded race to replace Dorothy Brown as Cook County Circuit Court clerk in the March election. Party leaders have thrown their support behind Cook County Board of Review Commissioner Michael Cabonargi over Martinez and a handful of other candidates.

Martinez said Saturday neither of those factors played into her barbs against Madigan, saying the Tribune report highlighted the “misogyny of the Madigan era.”

“I urge my colleagues in the party and the legislature to join my demand for answers,” Martinez said. “Speaker Madigan must state what he knew, and when he knew it.”