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Union: No link between pension vote and $97,000 contribution to Madigan

Updated: September 22, 2012 6:33AM

SPRINGFIELD — One of Illinois’ most influential labor unions denied Monday that nearly $100,000 it contributed to a campaign fund controlled by House Speaker Michael Madigan was part of a “quid pro quo” designed to kill a pension-reform package in his legislative chamber last week.

State campaign records show the Democratic Majority fund reported receiving $97,000 last Friday from SEIU Healthcare Illinois and SEIU Illinois Council, the same day a special legislative session called by Gov. Pat Quinn to fix Illinois’ $83 billion pension crisis ended in failure.

Madigan (D-Chicago) wouldn’t allow a floor vote on Senate-passed legislation that would have reeled in pension benefits for state workers and General Assembly members and only allowed a procedural vote on a slimmed-down measure affecting just lawmakers’ pensions. That latter plan wound up being positioned for a final House vote but was six votes shy of the necessary 60 votes it would need to move to the Senate.

“These contributions have no relationship to the special session called by Gov. Quinn. Fewer than 10 percent of our 170,000 members statewide have pensions administered by the State of Illinois,” said Genie Kastrup, executive director of SEIU Illinois Council, in a prepared statement.

Her union represents 2,450 employees in Secretary of State Jesse White’s office and 525 toll collectors and other workers employed by the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority, all of whom had pensions that would be affected by the outcome of Friday’s special session.

A union spokesman late Monday insisted that the contributions actually were given to Madigan’s fund several weeks ago but that the campaign committee merely got around to reporting them to the State Board of Elections last Friday.

The state Republican Party went on the attack Monday against Madigan, accusing him of doing favors for his “labor boss buddies” on pension reform in exchange for contributions to the Democratic Majority political fund that he controls and uses to fund House campaigns.

“Mike Madigan has been talking a good game about fiscal reform,” said Pat Brady, chairman of the Illinois Republican Party. “But just follow the money to look at who is filling his pot of gold [campaign war chest].

“Is this a quid pro quo? Connect the dots. After being a major part of the problem for over 30 years, did anyone really believe that Mike Madigan would get an extreme makeover and actually do something against his labor boss buddies?” Brady said.

A top Madigan aide ridiculed the GOP allegation that his boss somehow was influenced by the labor donations.

“I’m not aware of any contribution from SEIU. I haven’t seen what Mr. Brady is saying. I don’t spend a lot of time on what he says,” Madigan spokesman Steve Brown said. “Usually he’s not accurate.”

Kastrup, with SEIU, dismissed Brady’s assertion as politically-driven nonsense.

“The allegations levied today by the GOP are baseless election-year rhetoric,” she said. “The facts are the SEIU contributions coincide with our July 23rd endorsement session. The contributions reported are in line with our political donations over the past decade.”

State campaign records show that Democratic Majority and the Democratic Party of Illinois, both funds that Madigan controls, took in a combined $405,595 from SEIU and its affiliates since January 2010.

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