Multiple state lawmakers and two women at the center of high-profile sexual harassment cases in Illinois are calling for an investigation into a bombshell report that emerged Tuesday alleging that a powerful lobbyist in Speaker Michael Madigan's inner circle once advocated for a state employee via email by saying he "kept his mouth shut" on an unspecified rape.
WBEZ reported Tuesday that in 2012, Michael McClain, a former state representative and powerful Springfield lobbyist, emailed two staffers in then-Gov. Pat Quinn's office to ask for leniency for a state worker scheduled to appear at a disciplinary hearing.
"This man is a good compliance person, as I told you," McClain reportedly wrote in the email, which WBEZ said was obtained through an open-records request. "He has kept his mouth shut on Jones’ ghost workers, the rape in Champaign and other items. He is loyal to the Administration."
Madigan denied having any knowledge of the incident.
“These are extremely serious and troubling allegations," Madigan said in a statement. "I had no knowledge of the incident referenced in the story and only learned of this today. I encourage those with any information to come forward.”
McClain is a longtime friend of and adviser to Madigan, dating back to their days serving together in the legislature in the 1970s. McClain is a key figure in an ongoing widespread federal probe into political corruption in Illinois, with investigators reportedly focused in part on his lobbying work for electric utility company ComEd. McClain announced his retirement from lobbying in 2016, though WBEZ reported in November that ComEd continued to pay him hundreds of thousands of dollars over the following two years.
McClain's home in Quincy was raided in May and The Chicago Tribune has reported that federal agents have also recorded conversations on his phone. Neither Madigan - who heads the Democratic Party of Illinois - nor McClain have been charged with any criminal wrongdoing.
The reported email from McClain drew widespread condemnation in Illinois' political circles. In a statement, House Republican Leader Jim Durkin said the revelation was "shocking and beyond words."
"I am disturbed by the fact that horrific and possible criminal actions may have occurred and government officials, Mike McClain and his enablers chose to stay silent instead of taking action," Durkin's statement reads. "There needs to be an immediate criminal investigation into the content of McClain's email to the administration, and I encourage anyone with information on this to report it immediately to the proper authorities."
Democratic Rep. Kelly Cassidy, Alaina Hampton and Sherri Garrett also called for a criminal investigation in a statement issued Wednesday.
"This isn’t the first disgusting, dangerous and brazen display of misogyny we’ve seen from Mr. McClain, but that doesn’t make it any less outrageous. If the reports are even partially true, this represents a conspiracy to conceal a criminal sexual assault at the highest levels of state government," the three said in a joint statement.
In November, Hampton settled a lawsuit she filed against Madigan's political committees in March 2018 alleging the powerful speaker's organization ignored her claims of sexual harassment and swept them under the rug. Garrett came forward in June 2018 with multiple allegations of sexual harassment against Madigan's then-chief of staff, who resigned later that day.
“We call upon law enforcement leaders, including Champaign County State’s Attorney Julie Rietz and the U.S. Attorney’s Office, if appropriate, to immediately open an investigation into these allegations, and, if necessary, to impanel a grand jury," the statement from Cassidy, Hampton and Garrett on McClain's email reads.
"Mr. McClain, relevant members of the Quinn administration and anyone else who had knowledge of this possible rape must be compelled, via subpoena if necessary, to disclose this information to law enforcement to ensure that any possible rapist is brought to justice," they continued. "If the State’s Attorney won’t take action, a special prosecutor should be appointed who will. The only way to end the rape culture that has fully infected our politics in Illinois is to take bold, unequivocal action to root it out, right now."
Other lawmakers decried the report on Twitter, with Reps. Will Guzzardi and Ann Williams, both Chicago Democrats, calling it "disturbing" and Williams calling for an immediate investigation.