A campaign to push for legalizing sweepstakes machines in Illinois is connected with House Speaker Michael J. Madigan. A criminal case brought against Rep. Luis Arroyo revealed that a businessman, James T. Weiss, running a political action committee has unusually close connections with Madigan.
What’s the case?
Weiss runs the Alliance of Illinois Taxpayers, which raises several thousand dollars from several personal injury law firms connected with Madigan. Weiss is the son-in-law of former Cook County Democratic Party chairman and county Assessor Joseph Berrios. He runs several sweepstakes machines alongside the PAC and donors to his campaign are all linked to Madigan.
The PAC is chaired by Weiss himself, who also acts as its treasurer. His mother Mary Murray is the committee’s president while Chicago firefighter John Hynes, a close friend of Speaker Madigan’s son Andrew, is the secretary. The network of people connected with the PAC also includes Jennifer Scaccia, the office manager of Michael Del Galdo’s firm Del Galdo Law Group. The firm has also donated to the committee.
In seven years of its existence, the committee has raised more than $630,000 and has funded the campaigns of Larry Dominick, the Town President of Cicero. In 2016, it also spent $20,000 to defeat fellow Democrat Rep. Kenneth Dunkin, who sided with Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and fell out of favors with Madigan.
A bid to legalize sweepstakes
Weiss wants to legalize sweepstakes machines in Illinois and has spent nearly $80,000 via another one of his firms, Collage LLC, to lobby state legislators. Sweepstakes machines look like poker machines that were recently legalized in the state. However, sweepstakes machines operate in a legal grey zone as the law doesn’t explicitly prohibit them but doesn’t recognize them as legal either. However, the machines are banned in Chicago. Weiss lobbies for Ald. Gilbert Villegas’s proposal to legalize the machines last year, but his efforts eventually failed.
The details of this case and Weiss close relationship with Madigan was revealed after Chicago Democrat Arroyo was arrested last week. He was charged with attempting to bribe a senator to push the sweepstakes legalization legislation. He offered a monthly payment of $2,500 to the senator from his client. Arroyo was working for maligned former Chicago Police Department employee John Adreani who had connections with a convict.
Weiss comes from a politically well-connected family with his mother formerly working for a commissioner in Greater Chicago. His grandfather Edward Murray worked for the city treasurer office. He is married to former state Rep. Toni Berrios.