Madigan foe wants to ‘inspect’ and ‘photograph’ powerful Dem’s SW Side HQ
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A former political rival accusing Mike Madigan of placing “sham” candidates on the ballot wants to “inspect, measure” and photograph the powerful speaker and state Democratic Party chairman’s political offices — a demand Madigan’s lawyers are fighting as a violation of the First Amendment and “a political fishing expedition.”
Lawyers for Jason Gonzales, an unsuccessful primary challenger who is suing Madigan in federal court, are asking to “inspect, measure, survey, and/or photograph the premises” at two of the speaker’s Southwest Side offices — the political offices of Friends of Michael J. Madigan and the 13th Ward Democratic Organization offices.
Madigan’s attorneys are arguing the request violates the U.S. Constitution.
“Defendants have clear First Amendment rights to associate in their offices that would be infringed by Plaintiff being granted court-ordered access to photograph, measure and inspect,” the filing says. “This Court should not permit Plaintiff to engage in a political fishing expedition in the political committees’ offices.”
Gonzales, a 2016 Madigan primary challenger, 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.”
Gov. Bruce Rauner in August told reporters he doesn’t know Gonzales and has “never spoken with him, never had an interaction with him.”
In an exhibit filed on Tuesday in U.S. District Court, Madigan alleges he had a conversation with the governor in 2016 — specifically the speaker said he “thanked Governor Rauner for the Primary challenger.”
That information was provided in response to a series of questions in an “interrogatory” requested by Gonzales’ attorneys. Madigan answered in written form under oath — in consultation with his lawyers — in December 2017.
Madigan was deposed on Sept. 13, but the transcript of that deposition has not yet been made available.
In one question, Madigan was asked about conversations he had about Gonzales.
“Further, Defendant Madigan recalls a conversation with Governor Rauner in the chamber of the House of Representatives on February 17, 2016, during the Governor’s Budget Address, at which time Defendant Madigan advised Governor Rauner he was aware that the Governor was involved in Jason Gonzales’ candidacy,” the exhibit says. “Specifically, Defendant Madigan thanked Governor Rauner for the Primary challenger.”
Madigan was also asked whether he had given any money to two of the accused “sham” candidates, among others. Madigan said “no one acting on his behalf tendered any money or property.”
Madigan was also asked to identify all individuals with knowledge of the suit and to identify those who “may have discoverable knowledge.” Madigan wrote that question was “vague and overly broad,” but also provided a lengthy list of people. That included much of the original list of those Gonzales’ attorneys wanted to depose, including Rauner, millionaire Blair Hull and several former Rauner staffers.
The federal judge overseeing the case in August ruled that Rauner wouldn’t be required to sit for a deposition in the suit, saying there’s no need to prove “Gov. Rauner hates Speaker Madigan.”
The removal of Rauner reduced Madigan’s attorneys’ deposition list to just one man: Hull, a Madigan foe who spent roughly $30 million of his own fortune on a failed 2004 Democratic U.S. Senate bid. It previously featured a who’s who of Republican operatives, including former Rauner campaign adviser Nick Ayers, who ran Rauner’s first campaign and is now Vice President Mike Pence’s chief-of-staff.
In an answer to an interrogatory, Madigan provided descriptions of those he believed had info about Gonzales’ candidacy. Under Ayers, he wrote that Ayers “provided assistance to Jason Gonzales’ campaign” and “has knowledge of Jason Gonzales’ campaign.”
Under Rauner, Madigan wrote the governor “possesses clout from his public office, including campaign funds and political favors, and who used that clout to support Jason Gonzalez’s [sic] campaign.”
Madigan also responded that he recalled a “discussion with [Ald.] Marty Quinn during in which the two discussed concerns that Jason Gonzales’ potential candidacy was likely orchestrated by Governor Bruce Rauner, Blair Hull, and their Republican allies, and that it was important a Democrat, rather than Mr. Gonzales, an apparent Republican sham candidate, win the primary.”
Another exhibit filed on Tuesday reveals some of Gonzales’ deposition. Gonzales was asked if he got any help in gathering petition signatures during the final week before the deadline.
“I believe I put an — we had put an ad on Craig’s list for circulators with pay of — I believe it was a dollar a signature,” Gonzales said. “And there were a number of people who came forward. I believe that’s how we filled some of them.”
The court file also details Gonzales’ lawyers’ efforts to inspect Madigan’s offices at
6500 S. Pulaski and the 13th Ward Democratic Organization offices at 6104 S. Central Ave. The Pulaski headquarters is on the second floor of the Balzekas Museum of Lithuanian Culture.
Madigan’s attorneys notes the Pulaski office is also where constituents go to reach out to Madigan, while also serving as an office for Ald. Marty Quinn, and Madigan and Quinn’s personal offices.
In fighting off the request, Madigan’s attorneys said there was no mention of an office inspection when Gonzales’ attorneys requested more time to conduct depositions.
“In allowing this case to proceed to discovery, this Court found Plaintiff [Jason Gonzales] had alleged state action because he alleged Speaker Madigan used ‘resources (such as political favors and control of campaign funds and precinct captains — generally ‘clout’)’ to assist in the ‘alleged registration of sham candidates,'” Madigan’s attorneys said in a court filing. “Even if these allegations were true, it is an irrelevant ground to inspect the premises. Simply because events occur on government property does not mean that all actions taken on that property are state actions.”
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