Wiretaps show Madigan, through McClain, forced ally out of legislature
to protect himself
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[March 18, 2023]
By HANNAH MEISEL
Capitol News Illinois
CHICAGO – In fall 2018, longtime former State Rep. Lou Lang, D-Skokie,
received a phone call from Mike McClain, who had spent decades lobbying
for electric utility Commonwealth Edison after 10 years in the General
McClain was delivering a message from House Speaker Michael Madigan, who
was worried Lang was becoming a liability to his Democratic caucus – a
liability the now-former speaker would rather not deal with after the
year he’d already had.
Earlier in 2018, a former campaign staffer publicly accused Madigan of
failing to address her complaints of sexual harassment by her colleague
in the speaker’s political organization. And a few months later, Madigan
was forced to axe his longtime chief of staff over his alleged
harassment of subordinates.
Lang had already been publicly accused of harassment and bullying in May
of that year, although the allegations proved thin. Lang came out of the
experience mostly unscathed, hoping for a quick comeback after giving up
his House leadership position – a face-saving move he expected to be
But McClain called Lang with some bad news: Another woman was
threatening to come forward with harassment allegations if Lang was
reinstated to a leadership position. What’s more, Madigan wanted Lang to
resign from office to become a lobbyist.
“So this is no longer me talking,” McClain said in that Nov. 2018 call.
“I’m an agent of somebody that cares deeply about you, who thinks that
you really oughta move on.”
“Agent,” as used by McClain, is exactly how federal prosecutors want the
jury to think of the defendant in the trial where he and three others
stand accused of bribing Madigan with jobs and contracts for the
speaker’s political allies in exchange for legislation favorable – and
lucrative – to ComEd.
Government lawyers played several other recordings of calls from
McClain’s cell phone that they had wiretapped in 2018 and 2019. They
included a call where his directives from Madigan were confirmed by the
“You know, I think the guy’s going to be a continuing problem, that’s my
expectation,” Madigan said of Lang. “And I mean, you can understand my
position, right? I have to sit and think…do I appoint him to the
leadership or not?”
In federal court Thursday, Lang testified that after McClain’s call and
a subsequent meeting with Madigan, he understood that he’d never achieve
his ultimate ambition in his legislative career: rising from third-most
senior leader in the House to deputy majority leader and eventually
“It was very clear to me that there had been a decision made by the
speaker that I was not going to move up in the ranks, and the reputation
I had built over 32 years was not going to avail me to much progress in
my career,” Lang said Thursday during government questioning.
During cross-examination, McClain attorney Pat Cotter said it was
understandable that Madigan wouldn’t want “someone in leadership who was
at that point facing a second sexual harassment claim.”
But Lang declined to acknowledge he was facing harassment claims at the
time, employing the line “just because someone says there was an
allegation does not make it true.” He especially chafed at Cotter’s
later use of the word “charges.”
“I was not facing sexual harassment charges,” Lang said testily. “And
I’ll tell you right here in federal court that I resent the allegation
and the inference.”
Calls between Madigan and McClain mentioned they’d been informed of the
harassment claims against Lang by the former top attorney in the
speaker’s office at the time, Heather Wier Vaught. Wier Vaught on
Thursday confirmed the existence of those 2018-era harassment claims
“I don’t dispute that more than one person came forward with allegations
against Lou,” she told Capitol News Illinois, noting those individuals
whose claims never were made public had a right to privacy.
Lang eventually resigned from the House in January 2019, shortly before
taking the oath of office in what would have been his 17th term in the
legislature. He immediately began lobbying his former colleagues – a
long-common practice in Springfield.
[to top of second column]
Ex-lobbyist Mike McClain is pictured in
his driver's license photo, which was submitted as evidence in his
federal court trial this week in a case where he and three others
allegedly bribed former House Speaker Michael Madigan (right) with
jobs and contracts for the speaker’s political allies in exchange
for legislation favorable to electric utility Commonwealth Edison.
(Madigan photo and illustration by Jerry Nowicki; McClain photo
obtained from trial exhibit)
Cotter did get some favorable testimony out of Lang when he affirmed
that he was not “punished” by Madigan because he didn’t vote for ComEd’s
signature legislation in 2011. He also said he never saw Madigan do
“anything special” to ensure that bill or the utility’s two other major
legislative priorities pass in 2013 and 2016.
“In my entire 32-year career, Mike Madigan never ordered me to do
anything,” Lang said of his experience with the speaker.
In playing other snippets of McClain’s calls, the government sought to
discredit the arguments made in the defense’s opening statements the day
prior, in which Cotter said McClain’s and Madigan’s close relationship
wasn’t evidence of any conspiracy.
“Do you call your friends for advice?” Cotter asked the jury Wednesday.
“Do you call your friends at work? When you do that, are you entering a
conspiracy or is that friendship? I’d argue it’s the very nature of
Over a handful of recordings, the government let McClain’s words speak
for themselves as the former lobbyist explained who his true client was.
“I finally came to peace with that maybe 20 years ago when I convinced
myself that my client is the speaker,” McClain said in a call to a top
staffer in Madigan’s office, who said he was struggling with always
making decisions with Madigan’s best interest in mind.
“My client is not ComEd, my client is not (the Chicago Board Options
Exchange), my client is not Walgreens, my client is the speaker,”
McClain said in the call. “…If that’s the way you think, if that’s the
way you frame your talking points, (Madigan will) never second-guess
Other recordings included McClain referring to an increase in
“assignments” given to him by Madigan after his official retirement as
ComEd’s top contract lobbyist in 2016. McClain thereafter became a
consultant for the utility instead.
Earlier on Thursday, the jury heard testimony from former State Reps.
Carol Sente, D-Vernon Hills, and Scott Drury, D-Highwood, both of whom
said they were punished by Madigan when they refused to go along with
their Democratic colleagues. Drury had refused to vote for Madigan when
he ran for a 17th term as House speaker in 2017, an intra-caucus vote
that for most of Madigan’s career had been both unanimous and a foregone
Drury has loudly – and sometimes proudly – complained that after his
refusal to vote for Madigan the speaker declined to send him a custom
engraved clock given to all the other members of his caucus
commemorating Madigan’s tenure. Neither prosecutors nor defense
attorneys asked Drury about that episode on Thursday, but Drury
testified that he’d not been given any sort of committee chair
assignment and none of his bills passed during that two-year term.
Sente testified that she believed a committee chairmanship role – which
included a stipend – was taken away from her in 2015 as punishment for
things like pushing for term limits on legislative leaders and voting
against a Madigan-proposed constitutional amendment to allow a
After Sente agreed with Cotter’s question that it was “reasonable” for
members of the Democratic caucus to vote with generally Democratic
policies, he asked if it was “reasonable for there to be consequences
for members who don’t go along with their party.”
“I’m not sure I agree with that,” Sente said.
Cotter pointed out that Sente’s committee chair job was restored 10
“This is all politics, isn’t it Ms. Sente?” Cotter asked.
“So I learned,” Sente said.
Trial will resume at 10 a.m. on Monday.
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