You certainly can’t say Darth Madigan didn’t have a good run, but just as those 60s generals warned us about Communism, those falling dominoes are quickly closing in on The Speaker. Ed Burke, Martin Sandoval, Tom Cullerton, Mike McClain, Kevin Quinn, Michael Zalewski, and Danny Solis wore a wire!
Say it ain’t so, Danny!
But make no mistake my politically perspicuitous friends, the feds have their eyes on one prize and, considering that elected snitches go home for Christmas, Illinois’ own Sith Lord will fall.
Before you Republicans start in with all the self-righteous smirking, the Madigan Machine would be but a mere political speed bump if it weren’t for some truly serious of GOP collaboration every single bleepin’ step of the way. Can you say Pate Philip? I knew you could!
And those swiftly spreading federal tendrils managed to make it all the way out to Elgin, too!
For reference purposes, the “Elgin Cabal” we’re discussing primarily consists of Judge John Dalton, Dalton’s husband and political hanger-on Rich Jacobs, former State Senator and current Judge Michael Noland, and its newest member, Elgin City Councilman Baldemar Lopez.
It’s also important to note this clique that would be Elgin Kingmakers falls squarely into the orbit of none other than State Senator Cristina Castro.
But getting back to the feds, it’s Lopez that suddenly seems to be that group’s weakest link, and I want to thank Chicago’s WBEZ Public Radio for doing all the heavy lifting on this fascinating story.
It starts with Lopez being the co-owner of the Elgin based Stratagem Consulting Group, a firm that generally lobbies the Illinois General Assembly on behalf of their clients. An Elgin alderman who’s a principal proposition is being lobbyist? Oh! There’s no conflict of interest there!
To make matters far more interesting, Stratagem’s other co-owner is the eminently powerful 36th Ward Chicago Alderman Gilbert Villegas, Jr., a man who owes his very political existence to the magnanimity of the legendary Madigan Machine.
Considering the complexities of this scheme, let’s resort to numbered bullet points:
1. In January, Commonwealth Edison Senior Vice President of Government Affairs, Fidel Marquez, Jr., approached Stratagem to perform “lobbying” services to the tune of five grand a month. Nothing unusual there, right?
2. Fast forward to spring, and the fed’s investigation uncovered a Com Ed “shadow lobbying” effort by which the electric utility paid a slew of connected contractors and lobbyists to do a whole lot of nothing! Their point was to curry favor with those individuals and call in that clout when it was the expedient thing to do.
3. As the fed’s dragnet expanded exponentially, Marquez, Jr. abruptly “left” Com Ed in October. I’m sure he’d already put in for retirement.
4. Villegas, who isn’t a registered lobbyist, admitted that Stratagem had been hired by Com Ed, but he didn’t know why that was the case, referring all questions to Lopez. So, Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s City Council floor leader had absolutely no clue what was going on in his own consulting firm. I’m sure it happens all the time!
5. Lopez subsequently admitted that Com Ed had paid Stratagem 60 grand “to conduct general state legislative lobbying activities,” but he had great difficulty describing those efforts in any detail. I suppose, out of the goodness of their electrical hearts, Com Ed coulda said, “Hey Baldemar! Here’s 60 grand. Go forth and spread sunshine and lobby on behalf of CPS, the Lincoln Park Zoo, and the homeless.” That’s just the kind of company they are!
6. With the federal noose tightening quite uncomfortably, Com Ed cut Stratagem loose on October 3rd with no explanation whatsoever. Lopez explained “they were doing some restructuring of their lobbying activities.” Oh! Is that what they call burying the bodies now? Good to know!
7. Really? even a bleeping ADHD Larkin remedial freshman student could figure out that Lopez was paid $60,000 to do nothing more than to sit there and look pretty. His defense is he hasn’t been contacted by the feds, but there’s still plenty of time for that.
To make matters so much worse for our intrepid first term councilman, his 2019 campaign donor list looks a lot like a copy of Michael Madigan’s greatest hits:
- $1,000 from Luis Montgomery, owner of a connected Chicago engineering firm
- $2,000 from former State Rep Linda Chapa LaVia
- $1,000 from 65th District Democratic State Rep candidate Richard Johnson
- $5,000 from the 36th Ward PAC which nothing more than Villegas himself
- $1,875 from 6 Chicago donors suddenly interested in a little old Elgin City Council race
- And $2,000 in “consulting” from the illustrious Senator Castro.
In fact, other than Castro, Lopez’s campaign finance records don’t show a single Elgin donor! And I wonder what kind of “consulting” the Senator could’ve possibly provided to a candidate so steeped in the Madigan Machine? Perhaps Lopez was simply sharing the Commonwealth Edison wealth.
If you recall, Castro was so hell-bent on getting Lopez elected that she went out of her way to persistently threaten Elgin Councilman Rose Martinez for refusing to fall in line. And now Castro is on the Illinois Legislative Ethic Commission, which is a lot like putting Saudi Arabia on the UN Women’s Rights Committee.
So, how does it feel to be played Elgin? These people aren’t representing you, they’re representing the interests that got them where they are and nothing more.
Friday! We’ll continue this theme as Judge John Daltons horrific custody decisions finally catch up with him.