Reporter cites contradiction in Pritzker gathering
Democratic gubernatorial hopeful and self-described progressive J.B. Pritzker met with entrenched suburban Chicago officials and House Speaker Mike Madigan insiders recently, Chicago Sun Times writer Dan Mihalopoulos reported.
Pritzker, a billionaire and heir to the Hyatt hotel chain, has been courting votes based on a progressive record, according to Mihalopoulos. His recent meeting was hosted by Cicero Attorney Michael Del Galdo and held behind closed doors.
“I couldn’t tell you what Pritzker told all these guys Thursday,” Mihalopoulos wrote. “Del Galdo ushered me out of his offices on Harlem Avenue almost as soon as I walked in… . He walked me to the door, all but stepping on my heels in his zeal to make sure I found my way back out as quickly as possible.”
Mihalopoulos named several of the attendees, noting some for their less-than-progressive records and others for their ties to Madigan, whom Mihalopoulos described as no bastion of progressivism. The secrecy of the meeting and ties to Madigan fuel Illinois Republican allegations that Pritzker is part of the so-called Madigan political machine.
“J.B. Pritzker's talks with Mike Madigan and secret meeting with Madigan insiders reveal his true colors," Steven Yaffe, spokesperson for the Illinois Republican Party, said in a press release. "Pritzker wants to be Madigan's financial muscle and strengthen the Chicago machine.”
Not all of those at the meeting were Democrats, but Mihalopoulos contended that some also were not the type of officials from which Pritzker should be courting support.
“If you were running as a progressive candidate for governor, there would be many people you could try to woo to your side,” Mihalopoulos wrote. “Larry Dominick – the Republican president of the Town of Cicero – probably wouldn’t be too high on the list. Assuming you’d want to be seen with him at all.”
According to Mihalopoulos, Dominick’s tenure has been marked by controversy and scandal. The town's payroll includes his wife, mother, sister, brother-in-law, and his son’s mother. In 2016, he was subpoenaed for records on his campaign contributors and recipients of town contracts.
The town has paid more than $1 million to settle accusations of sexual harassment against Dominick: $500,000 in 2011 and $675,000 in 2013.
Mihalopoulos noted that a Pritzker spokesperson acknowledged the candidate had had conversations with Madigan about the Democratic primary race, a statement borne out by the many Madigan-connected officials at the closed-door meeting.
“Cook County Commissioner Ed Moody – for decades a famously effective precinct captain in Madigan’s Southwest Side ward organization – left the meeting Thursday with a ‘J.B.’ sticker on the lapel of his suit coat,” Mihalopoulos reported. “Moody said he’s ‘100 percent’ with Pritzker because ‘we’ve got to get rid of this Rauner.'"
Madigan allies at the meeting included Steve Landek and Frank Zuccarelli, who was famously at the center of a scandal involving former Gov. Pat Quinn trying to put him on the Chicago Transit Authority board. Lobbyist Al Ronan, whose company admitted guilt in a 2004 McCormick Place bid-rigging scheme, also joined the discussions.
“I asked what a progressive candidate like him was doing with the likes of Dominick and Ronan,” Mihalopoulos wrote.
Pritzker responded that he is working to meet with officials at all levels, Mihalopoulos wrote.
“Considering his great wealth, potential, truly progressive backers might hope Pritzker manages to build his support without going to certain levels,” Mihalopoulos wrote.