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Michael Madigan attends John Boehner fund-raiser in Lemont

Michael Madigan (left); John Boehner

Michael Madigan (left); John Boehner

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Updated: November 3, 2011 6:16PM

Talk about strange bedfellows.

Two weeks ago, U.S. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) came to Hinsdale to raise money for Republicans to fight the congressional map drawn under the direction of state Democratic Party chief and Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan.

The very next night, the congressman broke bread with Madigan (D-Chicago) at a fund-raiser for Boehner’s leadership fund at the Lemont home of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Chairman Terry Duffy.

Madigan’s little-known appearance has left partisans in both political camps in a state of disbelief.

It all comes as the wily Illinois House speaker is supposed to be fighting to regain congressional seats lost last year to Republicans who helped Boehner become speaker.

And Boehner, the principle impediment to President Barack Obama’s congressional agenda, is supposed to be leading Republicans against Madigan’s map so they can keep their U.S. House majority and he can remain speaker.

So why was Madigan there?

“We’ve said for more than a year, one of the messages of 2010 is the need for people to cooperate, and that’s what Madigan’s tried to do,” Madigan spokesman Steve Brown said.

Brown underscored that Madigan was an invited guest of Duffy’s and that the speaker did not make a contribution to Boehner during the Aug. 13 function.

A Boehner campaign spokesman declined comment about Madigan’s unexpected appearance.

The odd political coupling prompted jokes from the state Republican chief.

“I’d like to hear what their conversation was like. ‘Hey, Mike, nice map.’ ‘Hey John, can I have a cigarette?’” quipped state Republican chairman Pat Brady.

But other Republicans took a less light-hearted view of Duffy’s invite, questioning why anyone would allow a Democratic enemy like Madigan into such an exclusive GOP realm.

“That’s a damn good question. I’m astounded by that,” said Mike Birck, a Hinsdale Republican who hosted the redistricting fund-raiser that Boehner attended.

“I had no idea that had happened,” Birck said when told by the Chicago Sun-Times about the next night’s Boehner event where Madigan appeared. “I don’t know why they’d invite Mike Madigan, and I don’t know why he’d show up. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.”

After making the Boehner event, Madigan skipped last week’s Governor’s Day Democratic day at the Illinois State Fair, opting instead for an out-of-state vacation with his family. His absence drew murmurs from some Democrats about why the speaker would miss the traditional Downstate party pep rally.

That same day, Madigan was a no-show for Obama’s visits to four stops in northwestern and central Illinois and didn’t attend Obama’s Aug. 3 birthday fund-raiser on Chicago’s North Side, which Gov. Pat Quinn, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Mayor Rahm Emanuel and U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) attended.

Though Madigan was re-elected state party chairman without opposition in 2010, his appearance at the Boehner event on top of his recent string of absences at key Democratic functions has drawn ire from some within his party.

“Going to a fund-raiser for the speaker of the House, who has done nothing to cooperate with the president of the United States, really is unfortunate,” Democratic Party strategist and consultant Kitty Kurth said. “I think that the speaker could strengthen the Democratic Party in Illinois if he showed the same kind of respect and cooperation with other Democrats, including Gov. Quinn.

“I would hope that the chairman of our Democratic Party in Illinois can find some time to attend events with Democrats across the state and support their campaigns,” she continued. “If you want Democrats to show up for you, you need to show up for them.”

But such criticism drew merely a shrug from Madigan’s forces.

“I don’t think anybody can question the success of Democrats in Illinois since Mike Madigan has been chairman,” Brown said, referring to a stint as Democratic Party of Illinois chairman that began in 1998. “That record speaks for itself.”

Republican sources said the Friday night fund-raiser to fight the Democratic map raised about $150,000 and the Saturday night event to raise money for Boehner’s leadership fund raised about $700,000.

Over the years, Duffy has contributed more than $150,000 to the Republican party and candidates such as Boehner, President Bush, and Reps. Peter Roskam, Judy Biggert and Randy Hultgren and Sen. Mark Kirk. He has given more than $40,000 to Democratic candidates including Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, Rahm Emanuel, Sen. Dick Durbin and Alexi Giannoulias. The only time he voted in a primary election, in 2002, he pulled a Republican ballot.

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