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William Cellini’s business dealings cross party lines

This Sun-Times investigation was originally published Oct. 6, 1996

William Cellini is treasurer of the Sangamon County Republican Party in Springfield, but he is bipartisan in his business dealings, especially in the Chicago area.

Like many savvy businessmen, Cellini has friends in both parties.

Take House Democratic Leader Michael Madigan. Cellini has used the longtime House speaker’s law firm, Madigan & Getzendanner, to handle real estate tax work for his apartment projects in the Chicago area.

Then there is Ald. Edward Burke, another powerful Chicago Democrat.

His law firm gets real estate tax work from another Cellini business, Commonwealth Realty Advisers, which advises the state teachers pension fund. Commonwealth hired Burke to get the real estate taxes reduced on Forest Park Mall, a troubled shopping center that Commonwealth manages for the fund.

Burke also bought 5,000 shares in Cellini’s riverboat company, Argosy Gaming, when it went public in 1993.

Burke shares office space with the law firm of Earl Deutsch, another Democrat and Cellini’s partner in Commonwealth. While Cellini was raising money for Republican Gov. Edgar’s re-election in 1994, Deutsch was one of the major donors for Roland Burris, a Democrat who lost his primary bid for the governor’s seat.

Cellini buys the insurance for some of his buildings from Near North Insurance Agency Inc., the clout-heavy Chicago brokerage firm once owned by George W. Dunne, the former Cook County Board president and onetime chairman of the Cook County Democratic Party.

Near North is now headed by Dunne’s partner, Michael Segal, a power broker in his own right.

Cellini is also a partner in several Chicago area deals with developer Michael Marchese, a close friend of Mayor Daley’s and the owner of Harlem Irving Companies Inc. Cellini was a partner in Marchese’s redevelopment of the large tract of land that formerly housed the Read Mental Health Center. Marchese and Cellini are now developing a shopping center in Northlake.

Cellini is also a close friend and business associate of Victor Cacciatore’s. Cacciatore is a Chicago lawyer and entrepreneur, whose Elgin Sweeping Services Inc. got its first state contract when Cellini headed the Illinois Transportation Department.

Cacciatore donated heavily to Burris in 1994 and also has made real estate investments with once-powerful Democrats such as former Chicago parks boss Edward Kelly and former Ald. Edward Vrdolyak as well as Republican Gayle Franzen, now DuPage County Board president.

Cellini, Cacciatore and Franzen have invested in land together.

Downstate, Cellini partners in the state’s first riverboat, the Alton Belle, included Democrats and Republicans.

The group has been bipartisan in handing out its contracts. They lease their offices from a brother of former state Rep. Jim McPike (D-Alton), the onetime House majority leader under Madigan.

And when they took their company public, they turned for their legal work to Winston & Strawn, the law firm of former Gov. James R. Thompson, and turned for their underwriting to Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette, the investment bank that then employed Franzen.

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