SCAN­DAL COULD BE THE WRENCH TO JAM UP MADI­GAN’ SMACHINE

Chicago Sun-Times - - NEWS - MARK BROWN Email: mark­brown@ sun­times. com

As with other pow­er­ful Demo­cratic Ma­chine politi­cians be­fore him, House Speaker Mike Madi­gan’s ward or­ga­ni­za­tion is the ul­ti­mate source of his strength— but it’s also his A Achilles’ heel.

That was nev­er­more ev­i­dent d than this week af­ter Alaina Hamp­ton, a young po­lit­i­cal worker nur­tured on the in­side of Madi­gan’s 13thWard op­er­a­tion and trained in its self- pro­tec­tive ways, went pub­lic w with al­le­ga­tions of sex­ual ha­rass­ment against one of his top po­lit­i­cal lieu­tenants.

This was not some­one sym­pa­thetic to “Gov. Rauner’s rad­i­cal right agenda,” which is howMadi­gan on Tues­day tried to char­ac­ter­ize de­mands by Demo­cratic op­po­nents that he step down as speaker or state party chair­man in light of his han­dling of the mat­ter.

This was a young woman who well un­der­stood she was part of a po­lit­i­cal or­ga­ni­za­tion built on pa­tron­age and loy­alty and never put­ting its busi­ness in the street.

Hamp­ton knew she could risk los­ing ev­ery­thing by mak­ing waves but re­luc­tantly did so any­way like other trail­blaz­ers of the # MeToo move­ment.

It’s that com­bi­na­tion that makes this scan­dal as dan­ger­ous to Madi­gan po­lit­i­cally as any that have gone be­fore it. Rather than fac­ing down an­other Repub­li­can gover­nor or a Demo­cratic in­sur­gent, he now finds him­self in dan­ger of swim­ming against a po­lit­i­cal move­ment­more pow­er­ful than him­self.

If more women in­Madi­gan’s wide do­main come for­ward with claims of mis­han­dled sex­ual ha­rass­ment claims— and Hamp­ton as­serted she knows of fe­male work­ers in Spring­field with sim­i­lar sto­ries of com­plaints swept un­der the rug— then this has a chance of snow­balling.

That would be true even if this wasn’t an elec­tion year in which Madi­gan’s ten­ure has emerged again as a ma­jor cam­paign is­sue un­der at­tack not only by Rauner but also by Demo­cratic can­di­dates for gover­nor Chris Kennedy and Daniel Biss.

If it stays con­fined to this one case, then Madi­gan may be able to ride it out, which ob­vi­ously will be his in­stinct— the same in­stinct that has made him the na­tion’s longest­serv­ing leg­isla­tive leader.

But it will be hard to over­come the im­pres­sion cre­ated here that while Madi­gan’s po­lit­i­cal or­ga­ni­za­tion has cre­ated op­por­tu­ni­ties for women in pol­i­tics it was ul­ti­mately more com­mit­ted to pro­tect­ing the old boys’ net­work at its core.

In an ap­pear­ance be­fore re­porters Tues­day, Hamp­ton made a con­vinc­ing case that she had al­ways looked up to Madi­gan as she learned to work cam­paigns on his be­half — and even­more so the speaker’s right- hand po­lit­i­cal op­er­a­tive in Chicago, Ald. Marty Quinn— un­til she be­lieved she had been be­trayed.

Hamp­ton said she re­garded Quinn as her men­tor, and as such, she sug­gested his be­trayal was greater for his fail­ure to pun­ish his brother Kevin Quinn, her su­per­vi­sor, for ha­rass­ing her via in­ap­pro­pri­ate text mes­sages.

But she made clear she also be­lievedMadi­gan had taken too long to act on her con­cerns af­ter she sent a let­ter to his home in Novem­ber.

In the first pub­lic ac­knowl­edg­ment of the scan­dal, Madi­gan an­nouncedMon­day that he had cut ties to Kevin Quinn be­cause of his con­duct, say­ing he was “no longer an em­ployee of any of my po­lit­i­cal com­mit­tees” and wouldn’t be re­turn­ing to his state job in Madi­gan’s of­fice.

Hamp­ton said she be­lieved the an­nounce­ment was a pre­emp­tive move by Madi­gan to get in front of her fil­ing of an Equal Op­por­tu­nity Com­mis­sion com­plaint and a re­lated in­ter­view she gave over the week­end to a Chicago Tri­bune re­porter.

HeatherWier Vaught, Madi­gan’s lawyer, said she was un­aware Hamp­ton had gone to the news me­dia and that Madi­gan de­cided to make a pub­lic state­ment be­cause peo­ple were ask­ing ques­tions af­ter Quinn left his job last week.

In hisMon­day state­ment, Madi­gan called Hamp­ton a “coura­geous woman.” At a news con­fer­ence in Spring­field on Tues­day, Madi­gan had lit­tle to say, de­fer­ring ques­tions to Vaught.

Hamp­ton wouldn’t com­ment on whether she thoughtMadi­gan should re­sign. But her ad­viser, Lorna Brett, for­mer Pres­i­dent of Chicago NOW, saidMadi­gan needs to step down.

Omi­nously for Madi­gan, Brett said she has been work­ing­most re­cently with Har­veyWe­in­stein’s ac­cusers.

| JOHN O’CON­NOR/ AP

House Speaker Michael Madi­gan ap­pears in Spring­field with Heather WierVaught, at­tor­ney for Madi­gan’s per­sonal po­lit­i­cal com­mit­tee.

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