Municipalities have magically switched to Mesirow Financial since Andrew Madigan joined firm
The son of Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan is forging a successful insurance career in the Chicago suburbs with the help of mayors who look to his powerful father to advance their political and legislative agendas.
Andrew Madigan, 26, joined the powerhouse Chicago firm Mesirow Financial in 2008 after interning with the company during college. Since 2010, he has worked in business development for the company's insurance division, where he is now a vice president.
His job: connecting with decision-makers, laying the groundwork for new business and then handing over the details to teams of Mesirow insurance brokers who seal the deals.
His emergence into a political world long dominated by his father raises new questions about the intersection of the speaker's public and private interests.
In the last two years, Mesirow has won new government business tied to Andrew Madigan in more than a half-dozen suburbs, according to public records and Tribune interviews. In at least three towns where Mesirow won business — Chicago Heights, McCook and Bridgeview — the speaker did favors for the mayors around the same time the suburbs hired the firm.
Chicago Heights Mayor David Gonzalez benefited from Madigan's political machine in the closing days of his election. McCook Mayor Jeffrey Tobolski, also a Cook County commissioner, got Madigan's assurance that a legislative effort targeting dual officeholders was going nowhere. And Bridgeview Mayor Steven Landek was appointed to an open seat in the state Senate with Madigan's help.
All three mayors say their connections to the speaker had nothing to do with their decision to hire Mesirow.
Company officials declined to specify the public or private contracts Madigan has helped win nor would they put any dollar figure on his value to the company.
"He's a hardworking kid, and he's done a terrific job for us," said Norm J. Malter, president of the insurance services division at Mesirow. "In business, people hire those who can go out and build relationships. Andrew is one of those people."
Mayors said they have bumped into the younger Madigan at political events attended by local leaders — including at the annual 13th Ward appreciation dinner thrown by his father, the ward boss. Andrew Madigan handed out his business card at last year's event attended by some 300 political supporters, officials and community leaders.
Although Andrew Madigan's success has been good for Mesirow, it has raised the ire of some local brokers who have lost business in his wake.
One longtime broker in Chicago Heights accused Gonzalez of giving Mesirow business as "payback" for Michael Madigan's help in the city election. The mayor said it was a false allegation from a bitter man.
The lack of transparency in Illinois makes it difficult for the taxpayers to know whether favoritism exists and how it might affect the cost of their government, said Rey Lopez-Calderon, executive director of the Illinois office of the government watchdog group Common Cause.
"If he is using his father's political influence to get business, obviously that is fundamentally unethical," Lopez-Calderon said. "People can feel they are being strong-armed or intimidated, and it could end up with business flowing to a small group of family and friends.
"But to us it is a broader issue. These things should be traceable. … Andrew Madigan should be called upon to disclose where he seeks business and which entities are changing contracts. Anyone who hands a business card to our political leaders should be subject to lobbyist laws, but in this state our laws are so weak that none of that is required."
Speaker Madigan's spokesman, Steve Brown, said any attempt to connect Andrew Madigan's business to the work of his father was "kind of a stretch."
Asked about whether it is appropriate for Andrew Madigan to be soliciting business at his father's political events, Brown said he had no knowledge it ever happened.
Brown referenced a Tribune series detailing how the speaker makes public decisions that affect the bottom line for clients of his private property tax law firm. Michael Madigan described those reports as "garbage."
"I talked to the speaker ... and he said to me, 'It looks like the garbage haulers are on a new route, and now they're trying to dirty up my family,'" Brown said. "So that's really about all I would have to say about any of this."
Andrew Madigan declined to be interviewed.
The municipal insurance business is a highly competitive industry long steeped in political connections and personal relationships.
Insurance has been a starting point for the sons of Chicago politicians before. Cook County Commissioner John Daley, one of Richard J. Daley's sons and brother of former Mayor Richard M. Daley, began his career in insurance and still works in the field.
Andrew Madigan's political lineage speaks for itself.