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Corruption Chronicles

Lawmaker’s Public Actions Enrich Law Firm Clients

In a public corruption scandal that has spanned decades, the most influential politician in Illinois—House Speaker Michael Madigan—has made a fortune by using his legislative clout to financially benefit his private clients at one of Chicago’s most successful property tax law firms.

The veteran Democrat lawmaker has enriched clients of his private law firm (Madigan & Getzendanner) by abusing his influence as a powerful elected official to pass legislation, pressure state agencies and secure public funds to help their lucrative business projects.

The firm’s wealthy clients are mostly developers seeking road projects and state-regulated banks and investment firms that oversee billions of dollars in public pensions. All are subject to decisions made by a state House in the firm control of their tax lawyer, according to the newspaper that broke the scandalous story.

For more than two decades Madigan has operated this obviously unethical and downright crooked system that has made him a rich man, even though his annual legislative salary is below six figures. Among the speaker’s recent public dealings on behalf of his law firm clients: Securing nearly $20 million in state funds to expand a toll way interchange for a client’s housing project, sponsoring a $3.5 million state transportation grant to rebuild a private road for clients’ businesses and pressuring Illinois’ multi billion-dollar public pension funds to stop investing in banks that compete with those represented by his law firm. 

Because public officials in Illinois are not required to detail the value of their personal investments, the true figure of Madigan’s huge personal wealth will never be fully disclosed. Like every unscrupulous politician, he refuses to provide any information that could offer details about his scheme, claiming that state public records law exempts the legislature.

The speaker did, however, assure that his “personal code of conduct and compliance with a wide range of government ethics provisions” have ensured that he’s “maintained ethical standards.” The news report points out that the code of conduct states that Madigan won’t offer state benefits to get a client, cannot intercede with a state agency for a client and will recuse himself from involvement in a bill "if a client of the law office expresses an interest in legislation such as to create a conflict of interest."

The veteran lawmaker maintains that he has committed no wrongdoing and asserts that the newspaper report is a strained attempt to link his legislative actions to clients of his firm who might “remotely” and “incidentally” benefit from such action. Spoken like a true, shady politician. 


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