Attorneys give at least $665,000 to campaign fund



SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP)—Attorneys poured at least $665,000 last year into the personal campaign fund of Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, who has killed legal reform legislation that could cut their income.

Lawyers say they help Madigan, a lawyer himself, because the Chicago Democrat fights proposals to limit the monetary damages that juries may award in personal injury and product liability cases.

In many cases, lawyers’ fees are based on a percentage of those awards.

This year, Madigan blocked a damage cap and other legal reforms that had been approved by the GOP-controlled Senate.

Last year, his campaign got more than $665,000 from lawyers, their firms and their political action committees, an Associated Press review of state campaign records shows.

That gave Madigan more than two-thirds of the total $1 million contributed by Illinois lawyers to eight major legislative fund-raising committees in 1992, the records show.

And nearly $200,000 of Madigan’s contributions came from seven of the state’s best-known trial lawyers. Each kicked in $25,000 or more.

The investments, lawyers say, pay off.

‘‘Madigan has always supported our issues,’‘ said James Collins, executive director of the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association. ‘‘Compared to the other leaders, he’s the best of what any of them could be.’‘

Chicago trial lawyer James T. Demos gave $35,000 to Madigan.

‘‘Michael Madigan is anti-caps, anti-tort reform,’‘ he said. ‘‘Michael Madigan doesn’t come to us; we come to him.’‘

Philip Corboy, a Chicago trial lawyer who is general counsel to the state Democratic Party, said he helps Madigan by soliciting donations from attorneys who have won large personal-injury claims for clients.

Tracy Litsey, head of a citizen watchdog group, said trial lawyers’ explanation for their support gives the Legislature a bad image.

‘‘It sounds like they are saying, ‘We gave money for services rendered,’‘’ said Litsey, executive director of Illinois Common Cause. ‘‘Our state government—in theory—is not for sale.’‘

Madigan said his contributors have good reason to give him money: his voting record for victim’s rights. Opponents of damage caps and other legal reforms say they would limit victims’ rights to be compensated for their suffering.

‘‘I would think that those people have had an opportunity to observe my work in the Legislature,’‘ Madigan said. ‘‘They probably have come to the judgment it’s a good sound work product—something that they think is good for the state—and they want to continue to see that happen.’‘

While the Trial Lawyers contribute heavily to Democrats, the GOP—which supports many of the legal reforms Madigan opposes—gets large contributions from the Illinois State Medical Society.

‘‘Probably the best thing about our system is that the trial lawyers and the Med Society to some extent offset each other,’‘ said Sen. Steve Rauschenberger, R-Elgin.

State law requires all contributions of more than $150 to be itemized, although not by profession. There is no cap on how much a group or individual may give a state campaign committee.

Madigan’s campaign fund collected $2.2 million in contributions in 1992. Of the more than $665,000 from attorneys, $12,523 came from the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association.

Attorneys didn’t limit their contributions to Madigan. The Illinois House Democratic Majority also obtained about $30,000 in direct contributions from lawyers. The Committee to Re-elect a Democratic Senate received about $80,000 from attorneys.

In comparison, two fund-raising committees under the control of House GOP Leader Lee Daniels of Elmhurst received only about $94,000 from attorneys.

Three funds under the control of Senate President James ‘‘Pate’‘ Philip, R-Wood Dale, received about $106,000 from attorneys.

Brown said Madigan meets a couple of times a year with the Trial Lawyers and individual attorneys to drum up contributions.

‘‘If you are going to have an effective fund-raising operation, you need to have an organization working it, contacting people and talking to people, and to sit down with them and tell them what your goals are in terms of an election campaign,’‘ Brown said.