Brian Hynes: The political insider in the middle of FBI’s Solis investigation
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Over the past decade, attorney Brian F. Hynes has gone from being a clout-heavy lobbyist to running a business that’s making him a fortune off of unpaid bills owed by the state of Illinois.
Now, Hynes finds himself in the middle of a City Hall scandal that already has ended the political career of Ald. Danny Solis, who is his close friend as well as his legal client, and threatens to end the record 50-year Chicago City Council reign of Ald. Edward M. Burke.
The growing scandal also has touched one of Hynes’ early political mentors, Illinois House Speaker Michael J. Madigan, D-Chicago. Madigan was caught on an FBI wiretap touting his law firm’s expertise at cutting property taxes to a Chinese developer who wanted to build a hotel in Solis’ ward.
Hynes’ name repeatedly pops up in a 2016 FBI affidavit obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times that authorities filed to win approval for search warrants for Solis’ home and offices after secretly listening in on thousands of the alderman’s cellphone calls.
The affidavit outlines a series of financial transactions an FBI agent says show that Solis was getting money from Hynes in exchange for the alderman supporting development projects — an assertion Hynes denies.
“It doesn’t surprise me that I’m mentioned there,” Hynes says in an interview with the Sun-Times. “I talked to Danny all the time. He called me and asked for advice. If there’s 20,000 phone calls, I’m probably on 3,000 of them. He was and is a friend, and I tried to help him.
“I didn’t pay Danny anything,” Hynes says, though he adds, “In 2011, my real estate company did pay Danny.”
Hynes also popped up when FBI agents reported seizing a file with his name on it during the Nov. 29 raid on Burke’s City Hall offices.
Hynes says he and Burke haven’t spoken since 2010 or 2011 and he has no idea why the alderman kept a file on him.
Hynes has found himself in the midst of a political scandal before. He drew the attention of federal investigators for arranging for then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s wife Patti Blagojevich to receive a $40,000 commission in 2003 from a real estate deal on which she did no work, court testimony showed.
Hynes never was charged in the scandal but has a close relationship with Antoin “Tony” Rezko, the political fixer who went to prison for attempting to extort money from businessmen seeking deals including pension investments from the state.
Hynes also has had a long relationship with Solis and his family. He has given money to the alderman’s campaign funds and to allies of Solis including Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza, whose office oversees the delinquent state bills that have enriched Hynes.
Mendoza, who’s running for mayor of Chicago next month, has purged herself of more than $140,000 in campaign contributions from Solis and Hynes, giving the money to a veterans group.
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Nine years ago, Hynes went into business with Solis’ sister Patti Solis Doyle, a former campaign honcho for President Bill Clinton who later was a top adviser to Hillary Clinton. They set up a company that fronts money to vendors that are owed by the state of Illinois, collecting the interest when the state eventually pays up.
Hynes says the alderman’s sister left the company in the fall of 2016, shortly before Hillary Clinton lost the presidential election to Donald J. Trump.
Hynes, 48, divides his time between Chicago and Puerto Rico. He was raised on politics and government, growing up a block away from Madigan’s home in West Lawn on the city’s Southwest Side.
When Hynes was a teenager, his father Stephen T. Hynes landed a job running the heating and cooling systems at the state’s new Loop office building, now known as the James R. Thompson Center. With Madigan’s help, Hynes’ dad got more than 90,000 votes in a strong but losing bid in 1986 for a Cook County Board seat.
After his father’s sudden death in 1989, Hynes got degrees from the University of Illinois and Loyola University and embarked on a career as a lawyer and lobbyist, helping powerful clients land deals in the Capitol and City Hall.
Over the years, Hynes worked with the Rev. Jesse Jackson’s son Yusef Jackson in failed attempts to buy the Washington Nationals baseball team and the Sun-Times.
According to the affidavit filed against Solis, Hynes has a close relationship with developer Fred Latsko, a former driver for legendary Bears quarterback Sid Luckman. Latsko — who had a criminal record Blagojevich expunged on his final day as governor — once bounced two checks to City Hall totaling $884,509 to cover permits for two developments.
On the morning of June 26, 2015, Hynes called Solis to discuss a Latsko project that apparently had won the approval of Chicago Building Commissioner Judy Frydland.
“Yeah, so tell Fred we had, we had a really good meeting, and it will go, it will help him out with the property he owns,” Solis tells Hynes, according to the affidavit.
On Aug. 12, 2015, Solis requests that they meet with Latsko on another project, apparently in the alderman’s ward: “I got an interesting proposal I want you to look over. Maybe you and Fred. . . The one where you would trade off, uh, river [planned manufacturing district] property, um, for, uh, maybe, more inland property that, and then put commercial residential in that river PMD property. . . I’m going to set up a meeting with [Chicago Planning Commissioner] David Reifman. I’d like to talk to you and Fred about it first.”
Two days later, Hynes calls, saying he and Latsko would meet with Solis: “The thing about Fred, just so you know, he’s been paying attention to things, and so, when I talked to him about a week ago, he was, like, livid. He was reading about all these properties all these guys are buying . . . So he’s sitting on hundreds of millions in cash, and he hasn’t bought anything. So he wants to start doing stuff.”
The affidavit notes that Latsko has had several projects approved by the City Council Zoning Committee while Solis was its chairman and mentions an overnight graduation party for Solis’ son held at the Indiana farm Latsko bought from Oprah Winfrey. Latsko says he didn’t charge Solis for that.
The affidavit say bank records show Solis Enterprises, the alderman’s company, got $30,000 on Feb. 7, 2011, from Hynes’ Chicago Real Estate Consulting.
Hynes says: “In 2011, Chicago Real Estate Consulting Group, an entity that does no business with the city of Chicago, paid a legal consulting fee to Solis Enterprises for a business referral outside of the city of Chicago.”
The affidavit also talks about Solis’ support for development of land Rezko once owned with Nadhmi Auchi, an Iraqi billionaire living in Great Britain. Rezko reportedly no longer has a stake in the 62-acre site along the Chicago River at Clark Street and Roosevelt Road that Auchi wants to develop with Related Midwest. They’re seeking millions of dollars in city subsidies.
“Hynes has extended various personal benefits to Solis in 2014 and 2015, and Hynes also represents Nadhmi Auchi in a real estate development matter that Solis has taken action on in an official capacity, namely, the Roosevelt Road project,” according to the affidavit.
In a May 29, 2015, call, Solis talks about Hynes working for Auchi, saying, “The only reason that the guy from London hired him is my insistence because I need an attorney I can trust and that is representing [Auchi].”
Hynes says that’s not true: “I introduced Danny to Auchi. I have never received a contract or been paid a penny by Auchi. I don’t represent Auchi on the site. I never have. I made a communication.”
Hynes registered with City Hall in 2016 as a lobbyist for Auchi’s company but says he did so only because he was trying to verify for Solis whether Auchi was still on the U.S. government’s no-fly list, apparently the result of a fraud conviction in France.
The affidavit repeatedly cites Solis’ financial problems, including a bank foreclosing on the alderman’s Little Village home. That case was pending in 2015 when the affidavit says Hynes helped arrange a loan for Solis: “Based on intercepted conversations, Solis borrowed $160,000 from businessman Gary Fears to retire a debt on a property in a loan arranged by Brian Hynes.”
At the time Solis got the loan, the alderman owed $160,000 to a woman named Bing Tie for a condo in the River City complex in the South Loop, county records show. It’s unclear whether Solis used the loan to pay Tie, who tells the Sun-Times she was once the alderman’s girlfriend. She formerly operated a massage parlor in the building where Solis has his ward office.
Solis needed to repay the loan, and Hynes says, “I gave him the names of people who do hard-money loans. It’s a short-duration loan. I didn’t know he used Fears.”
Hynes has been a business partner with Fears, who was deputy director of the Illinois Department of Transportation under former Gov. Dan Walker. Nearly 40 years ago, Fears got a low-interest loan under former Gov. James R. Thompson to build a hotel in downstate Collinsville — a deal that cost taxpayers more than $20 million.
Fears couldn’t be reached.
Solis made a big profit when the River City complex was de-converted from condos to apartments last year. He bought his condo for $200,000 in May 2014 and sold it last year for $394,500.
Contributing: Mark Brown, Jon Seidel