Posts Tagged ‘Springfield’

Ex-Speaker Mike Madigan, Illinois’ Capo di tutti capi

Sometimes events in real life bear odd similarities to events portrayed in movies.

That thought occurred to me last week after reading that the actor Ray Liotta died at age 67 while filming a movie on location. Since I always liked his movies, I decided to watch a few YouTube clips from the movie Goodfellas, a film set in late 1970’s New York. In that film, Liotta played the character of Henry Hill, a young half-Irish, half-Italian guy whose biggest ambition is to be a “made man” in one of the New York mafia crime families. Robert DeNiro also stars in the movie as Hill’s buddy in crime and fellow made man wannabee. But what drew my attention was the film clip depicting the Goodfellas’ Christmas party because it teaches a lesson that the now-indicted ex-Speaker Mike Madigan should have known as the boss of his own state government crime family.

One of the off screen events in Goodfellas is modeled on an actual crime that occurred in December 1978. The DeNiro and Liotta characters and their crew rob the Lufthansa cargo terminal at JFK Airport and get away with $6,000,000 in cash. After they divide the spoils, Robert DeNiro’s character warns the robbery crew not to start spending the money because the FBI will be looking for clues like that to find out who pulled off this heist.

At the gang’s Christmas party at some bar, one of the gang members arrives and proudly shows off his brand-new pink Cadillac. Then another one arrives and shows off the $20,000 white mink coat he just bought for his wife. DeNiro’s character goes berserk, berating his co-gangsters for doing exactly what he told them not to do: buying expensive things and then flaunting them, drawing unwanted FBI attention to them so soon after the Lufthansa heist.

Obviously the FBI agents would ask themselves: “Where’s all this money coming from?”

Mike Madigan should have gone to school on Goodfellas. Madigan was the capo di tutti capi (boss of all the bosses) in the State of Illinois, Cook County and Chicago governments. He was the one who decided what did or didn’t happen in the state. But in any public comments Madigan always played it like the dwarf Bashful from Disney’s Snow White, disavowing any control over anything.

Madigan wanted, and still wants, to keep everything secret. He always tried to keep his fingernails clean by avoiding things like email or texting that could be linked back to him. Like Osama bin Laden, who let others carry his messages out to his far-flung terrorist cells, Madigan used members of his inner circle, like Michael McClain, to convey his orders to his acolytes in Springfield and Chicago. If anybody were to get whacked, it would be a Madigan runner like McClain, not Madigan himself.

In early 2018, Madigan had to fire Kevin Quinn, one of his political aides, after Quinn sexually harassed a woman who also worked in Madigan’s political organization. After he fired Quinn, though, Madigan decided to help Quinn financially. He ordered his harem of lobbyists to start making monthly payments to Quinn, who was having trouble landing a job. The lobbyists, ever eager to display their spaniel-like devotion to Madigan, complied.

Now, if DeNiro’s character in Goodfellas had been in the room when Madigan decided to get money to Quinn, he would have berated him for making the same stupid mistake that his half-witted gang members made: spending money in a way that would likely draw FBI attention. Just as in Goodfellas, the FBI was watching Madigan and his henchmen. The FBI saw Quinn get fired. Then the FBI saw Quinn start to get monthly payments even though he didn’t have a job. So the FBI agents tracking Madigan must have asked themselves the same question that their predecessors asked themselves about Henry Hill’s gang after the Lufthansa heist four decades earlier: “Where’s this money coming from?”

As the supposed brains of his own outfit, Madigan should have known that payments create a trail, and that a trail can always be followed. Hell, even Watergate’s Deep Throat told Woodward and Bernstein to “follow the money.”

Madigan was really lousy as a mob boss.

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