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Madigan deposition: The speaker speaks — on Burke, Rauner, politics and church

House Speaker Michael Madigan addresses the City Club of Chicago, at the University Club of Chicago in 2015. File Photo. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

House Speaker Michael Madigan addresses the City Club of Chicago, at the University Club of Chicago in 2015. File Photo. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

A very careful Mike Madigan sat down last year for what the 76-year-old political power broker said was his first deposition ever, answering questions for more than five hours about everything from whether he goes to church to his relationship with Ald. Ed Burke to his own “philosophy” on separating politics from government.

Those are some of the highlights in a copy of the veteran House Speaker’s deposition, released by lawyers for the former political rival suing Madigan in federal court.

Also on Thursday, attorneys in the suit revealed that they were able to inspect Madigan’s Southwest Side offices on Tuesday, a request the judge in the case OKed last year.

The inspection coincidentally came on the same day the Chicago Sun-Times reported that Madigan was recorded by the FBI in its investigation of Ald. Danny Solis.

In the federal lawsuit, attorneys for the plaintiff Jason Gonzales have contended the inspection would show that the Democratic lawmaker’s line between politics and official government business is a “mirage.” Madigan’s attorneys filed a protective order in U.S. District Court to protect “photographs” and “measurements” taken during the inspection.

House Speaker Mike Madigan's ward and district offices at 6500 S. Pulaski. Google Image.

House Speaker Mike Madigan’s ward and district offices at 6500 S. Pulaski. Google Image.

An unsuccessful 2016 primary challenger to Madigan, Gonzales contends the head of the Democratic Party of Illinois planted “sham” candidates in the race to split the opposition vote. Lawyers have tried to dissect Madigan’s political operations in the matter.

And on Sept. 13, Gonzales’ lawyer, former Republican Cook County Commissioner Tony Peraica, was able to ask Madigan plenty of questions.

“Mr. Madigan, just a routine question, have you ever been charged with any crime involving fraud or dishonesty or perjury or anything dealing with lack of truthfulness,” Peraica asked towards the beginning of the lengthy deposition.

“No,” the speaker answered.

In another instance, Peraica asked how Madigan keeps his many political roles separate from his governmental responsibilities.

“Well, you understand that there are certain legal requirements on separation and that’s what I would abide by. I’m an active member of the Democratic Party and the Democratic Party has certain issue positions that its an adopted (sic),” Madigan said. “I would become an advocate for those positions before the government, but I’m not going to engage in any inappropriate or illegal activity in terms of blending. I’m not going to do that.”

Madigan was asked about his relationship with Burke — who weeks ago was charged with attempted extortion.

“I would not describe it as a close working relationship,” Madigan said of Burke.

Ed Burke

Ald. Ed Burke (14th) walks into the Dirksen Federal Courthouse after he is charged with political corruption. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Madigan also said he was not a member of any church or parish, including St. Mary Star of the Sea, the neighborhood Catholic church less than half a mile from his West Lawn home of the last 42 years.

Asked if he ever regularly attended church, Madigan said, “Once upon a time St. Adrian. And let me amend that, for a time I would be a regular attendee at St. Nicholas of Tolentine.”

Madigan answered many questions with versions of “I do not remember,” or “I do not recall,” which is common in depositions.

When asked about being elected chairman of the Democratic Party of Illinois, the speaker said he didn’t remember the exact date.

“I have information that it was in 1998, would that be about right?” Peraica asked.

“Right,” Madigan said.

“So about 20 years now?” Peraica asked.

Madigan replied, “Maybe more than 20 years. It’s one of those situations where you have so much fun you forget things.”

Attorney Tony Peraica (left), counsel for Jason Gonzales (right), who ran against Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan in the 2016 primary, speaks to reporters inside the Dirksen Federal Courthouse in 2016 after filing a 39-count lawsuit against Madigan. File Photo. | Lou Foglia/Sun-Times

Madigan’s disdain for former Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner was on full display. When asked if he was concerned that a Hispanic candidate would run against him in the increasingly Latino legislative district, Madigan replied, “I was concerned about Bruce Rauner. That’s what I was concerned with.”

“I was concerned with all the money that Bruce Rauner was going to bring into the election. That’s what I was concerned with,” Madigan said, adding he was going to “make sure that the voters in the district knew that Bruce Rauner was on the scene and that he was supporting Jason Gonzales because Bruce is not a popular person in the 22nd District.”

Asked about ads that stated that Gonzales was a “convicted felon,” the speaker said he had “no memory of them.” Asked if he told anyone that Gonzales could not serve due to his past conviction, Madigan again said he had “no memory.”

At issue during the campaign was Gonzales’ teen criminal record, which was expunged and pardoned in 2015 by Gov. Pat Quinn. Gonzales spent two months in jail for the unlawful use of credit cards in 1991.

“I’m not into that,” Madigan said when asked if he was involved in the production or distribution of fliers paid for by his campaign. “Tony, again my focus was to identify people prepared to vote for me and get them voted.”

“I get that,” Peraica said. “But did you instruct anybody, ‘These are just nasty, don’t send them out.’ Did you ever instruct anyone to do that?”

“Have you seen the TV ads put on by Rauner against me, which were running through that period of time?” Madigan asked Peraica.

“I’m asking about these pieces here,” Peraica said.

“No, no, I’m talking about the nastiness of the campaign … and the defamation that’s been performed on me and my family simply because we’ve got a governor that thinks he’s a dictator and he was supporting Gonzales,” Madigan said. “That’s why Gonzales was there, to advance the Rauner agenda.”

House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, listens as Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner delivers his State of the State address in the Illinois House chamber Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2017 in Springfield, Ill. Rauner called on lawmakers. File Photo. (Ted Schurter/The State Journal-Register via AP)

House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, listens as Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner delivers his State of the State address in the Illinois House chamber Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2017 in Springfield. (Ted Schurter/The State Journal-Register via AP)

Part of Madigan’s attorneys’ defense strategy is to try to prove that Gonzales was put up by Rauner and Republicans to run against Madigan. Gonzales has denied that claim and insists he’s an independent Democrat.

During cross-examination, Madigan’s attorney Mike Kasper asked what Madigan meant by saying Rauner would “go after you.”

“That he was going to employ the methods that we’re now familiar with to discredit me, in affect [sic], defame me and my family name, including my daughter, the Attorney General,” Madigan said, referring to Lisa Madigan, the former Illinois attorney general.

There were touches of humor in the deposition, from both Peraica and Madigan.

In one instance Peraica asked about Madigan’s salary in the Illinois House.

“You’re going to embarrass me again because I don’t know the exact amount,” Madigan said.

“You don’t rely on it, huh?” Peraica asked.

Madigan said he also didn’t know how much he received additionally for being speaker.

Madigan got his own dig in, when Peraica was asking whether the speaker’s political fund exclusively supported Democrats.

“Well, as a general rule it supports Democrats,” Madigan replied. “There may be some Republicans that receive support from that committee. I wouldn’t remember at this time.”

Peraica said, “I couldn’t find any, but — “

“You didn’t get any checks?” Madigan countered.

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