Former lawmaker testifies Madigan confidant urged him to resign at behest of speaker

Former lawmaker testifies Madigan confidant urged him to resign at behest of speaker

By HANNAH MEISEL
Capitol News Illinois
hmeisel@capitolnewsillinois.com

CHICAGO – In the fall of 2018, then-state Rep. Lou Lang, D-Skokie, thought he might have been in line for a big promotion in the Illinois House of Representatives.

He’d unexpectedly run into a stumbling block earlier in the year when a woman publicly accused him of sexual harassment, but the allegations had been thin and he’d expected the episode to blow over.

After serving more than three decades in Springfield, Lang was sure he was still in the running to become majority leader – a position second only to longtime House Speaker Michael Madigan.

Instead, however, Lang received a phone call that, as he testified in federal court on Thursday, altered the course of his career.

The call was from Mike McClain, an influential retired lobbyist who was a well-known close confidant of Madigan. McClain warned Lang that a second woman had approached the speaker’s office and was threatening to go public with her sexual harassment allegations if Lang was reinstated to a leadership position within the House Democratic caucus. Lang that spring had relinquished his deputy majority leader title after the first woman’s allegations, but thought the demotion was just temporary, according to testimony he provided in a related federal trial in March.

But McClain delivered a cold reality check, telling Lang it would be “in your best interest to leave” and not have to face any more allegations while still an elected official.

“So this is no longer me talking,” McClain said in the call, which unbeknownst to either him or Lang was being recorded by an FBI wiretap. “I’m an agent for somebody that cares deeply about you, who thinks that you really oughta move on.”

On the witness stand in a Chicago federal courtroom on Thursday, Lang told prosecutors he understood that McClain was speaking on behalf of Madigan “because he was the message-sender,” he said of McClain’s reputation in the Statehouse.

“Mr. McClain was the person who was dispatched to tell members things that (Madigan) didn’t wanna tell them,” he said.

Lang’s description of McClain is how prosecutors want the jury to think of him as they wrap up their case in the trial of another top Madigan aide, Tim Mapes.

Mapes spent more than 25 years as Madigan’s chief of staff, plus two decades as head of the Democratic Party of Illinois under Madigan, who was its chairman, and the last seven years as clerk of the Illinois House. But all three positions came to an abrupt end when he was forced to resign in June 2018 after a House employee accused him of sexual harassment and bullying.

Even so, Mapes’ loyalty to Madigan did not waver, as evidenced in dozens of wiretapped calls after his firing.

Mapes stands accused of lying to a grand jury that was investigating Madigan and his inner circle. Prosecutors allege Mapes denied knowing McClain acted on Madigan’s behalf out of loyalty to the two men.

The jury in Mapes’ perjury and obstruction of justice trial has now heard all two-plus hours of Mapes’ grand jury testimony from March 2021 – and many wiretaps that contradict Mapes’ claims.

The obstruction of justice charge, which comes with a maximum of 20 years in prison, alleges Mapes gave false testimony about more than a dozen topics, including whether he knew McClain communicated with Lang in 2018, with some of those communications at Madigan’s direction.

“I have no knowledge or recall of that,” Mapes told the grand jury when prosecutors asked if he knew whether McClain was in contact with Lang.

But according to the wiretapped calls, Lang was a frequent topic of conversation between Mapes and McClain in 2018, especially that fall.

“My assignment is to tell Lou Lang he has no life in the House anymore,” McClain told Mapes in an Oct. 26, 2018 call.

Three days later, Mapes asked McClain for an update about the Lang situation.

“Hey, how’s your buddy Lou Lang doing?” Mapes asked, chuckling. “Have you delivered the bad news yet?”

In another two days, the pair talked about Lang again, and two weeks later, McClain told Mapes that Lang would resign before the end of the year.

The last witness in the government’s case is an FBI agent who listened in on McClain’s wiretapped calls at various times from April 2018 to March 2019. She’ll continue her testimony on Friday morning, after which prosecutors are expected to rest. Defense attorneys for Mapes told the judge they’ll begin their case on Monday.

 

Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government. It is distributed to hundreds of print and broadcast outlets statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, along with major contributions from the Illinois Broadcasters Foundation and Southern Illinois Editorial Association.

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