A former candidate who is suing Illinois House Speaker Michael J. Madigan and some of his supporters for allegedly using political tricks to sabotage his campaign, is now locked in a fight in Chicago federal court to secure the release of a 2014 inspector general’s report his lawyer says is needed to shed light on how the longest serving state house speaker in U.S. history and his political organization work, to help substantiate the candidate’s claims.
On Jan. 21, U.S. District Judge Matthew F. Kennelly ordered Julie Porter, who serves as the state’s Special Legislative Inspector General, to turn over to him for his review a selection of documents subpoenaed by counsel for Jason Gonzales, a Chicago Democrat who unsuccessfully campaigned against Madigan in the 2016 Democratic Party primary. Among those documents, according to court filings, was a copy of the so-called “Homer Report,” a report prepared nearly four years ago by former Legislative Inspector General Thomas Homer, purportedly focusing on Madigan’s alleged influence over hiring decisions at the Metra commuter rail agency.
Illinois House Speaker Michael J. Madigan
Porter was given until Jan. 26 to deliver the documents to the judge for his review. She was also instructed to “disclose the identities of all persons outside the SLIG’s office (including members of the state legislature) to whom the so-called ‘Homer Report’ was provided or otherwise disclosed.”
Gonzales had first filed suit against Madigan and his political allies in August 2016, about five months after Madigan easily defeated him in that spring’s primary election. In that complaint, Gonzales alleged Madigan and his associates had violated his rights under the First, 14th and 15th amendments to the U.S. Constitution, and had violated state laws on defamation, criminal history disclosure and had discriminated against him as a Hispanic.
Gonzales’ complaint specifically alleged Madigan and his campaign organizations had planted sham Hispanic candidates on the ballot to prevent Hispanic voters from aligning behind Gonzales, and had used Madigan’s influence within state government to improperly obtain information about Gonzales’ past, feeding the information to a friendly journalist, who publicized it.
According to the court documents, Gonzales had been pardoned in 2015 by then-Gov. Pat Quinn for illegally using credit cards when he was a teenager. However, Gonzales alleged officials at the Prisoner Review Board had improperly provided records about his past offenses to the Daily Herald.
Kennelly had dismissed both Gonzales’ initial complaint and an amended version filed by attorney Anthony Peraica.
However, Gonzales asked the court to reconsider those decisions, and in September, Kennelly agreed, saying Gonzales had persuaded him he had overlooked Gonzales’ allegations that Madigan deployed “political favors, control of campaign funds and precinct captains to discredit Gonzales.”
“Gonzales has adequately alleged that Madigan used resources available to him by virtue of his official positions and therefore that he acted under color of state law,” Kennelly wrote in his September decision reinstating Gonzales’ case.
Following that ruling, court records indicate Peraica sent subpoenas to Porter’s office in November, asking the SLIG, a former federal prosecutor who had been appointed just several months earlier to fill the vacant office to deal with a backlog of unaddressed ethics complaints against state lawmakers, to turn over the Homer Report.
Homer had completed the report purportedly at Madigan’s suggestion amid allegations of wrongdoing against the House Speaker in the wake of the resignation of former Metra CEO Alex Clifford.
Homer resigned as LIG in 2014 after a decade in the office, and the report has never been made public, as the Legislative Ethics Commission, which oversees the LIG office, has refused to release it.
However, in a 2014 article, the Chicago Tribune, who asserted they had obtained a copy, characterized the report as “a rare glimpse into Madigan’s thoughts on getting people government jobs and raises” and said the report “sheds a little light on Madigan’s tightknit 13th Ward operation.”
Madigan’s 13th Ward Democratic Organization is also named as a defendant in Gonzales’ suit.
Porter responded to the subpoena by asking the judge to allow her to keep the report away from public view. In a motion to quash the subpoena, filed by Assistant Illinois Attorney General Sunil Bhave, who serves under Attorney General Lisa Madigan, the Speaker’s daughter, Porter asserts Illinois state law mandates such reports remain confidential, primarily to protect those who may have testified or cooperated with the LIG’s office.
Porter’s motion also asserts Gonzales wouldn’t be able to demonstrate how the Homer Report and his lawsuit are connected.
“Plaintiff alleges that Defendants interfered with Plaintiff’s 2016 efforts to run for elected office, both by highlighting Plaintiff’s status as a convicted felon and by registering ‘fake Hispanics’ to dilute the Hispanic vote, allegedly to Plaintiff’s detriment,” Bhave wrote in Porter’s Dec. 18 motion. “This civil case has nothing to do with the former Legislative Inspector General’s investigation - which, as publicly reported in the news, occurred in 2013 and 2014 - concerning ‘Michael Madigan’s connection to Metra hiring and/or UIC admissions.’”
As a compromise, Porter offered to turn over the documents to the judge for his review before he ruled on the subpoena, an offer Kennelly accepted on Jan. 21.
In response to Porter’s motion to quash, Peraica and Gonzales argued the subpoenaed documents would allow them to buttress their claims asserting “Madigan’s personal actions are inseparable from his political actions” and “Madigan intertwines his political office and campaign.”
“Each of these matters is likely addressed in the Homer Report, the investigation led by Homer and in complaints filed against Michael Madigan,” Gonzales and Peraica said in their reply, filed Jan. 5.
In instances such as this case, federal law and legal precedent supersede the state law Porter cites to block production of the report, they asserted. And, they noted, the report has been provided to a number of others, including the Chicago Tribune.
“Respondent’s (Porter’s) assertion of confidentiality fails at every turn, and must be rejected,” Peraica argued.
On Jan. 21, the judge said he had taken Porter’s motion to quash “under advisement,” pending his review of the documents and other information from Porter’s office. He did not indicate when he might rule on the matter.