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CHICAGO — Southeast Side mechanic Joseph Nasella has heard a lot the last three decades as he’s jumped on and off a bunch of government payrolls and worked on political campaigns.
Even so, the request from House Speaker Michael Madigan’s team struck him as “strange.”
Political operative Kevin Quinn wanted Nasella to help a no-name candidate get on the ballot in a 2016 Democratic Illinois House primary to run against Madigan himself.
Why would Madigan’s forces want to put up a candidate against their own powerful guy?
When Nasella asked, he said Quinn gave him “a poker face.” At the time, Quinn was a key part of Madigan’s political organization. But he was ousted last year following sexual harassment allegations. Last month, the FBI raided Quinn’s West Beverly home, sources told the Tribune.
Nasella’s account of what transpired in late 2015 emerged among new, never-before-seen depositions in a federal lawsuit that alleges Madigan pulled off one of Chicago politics’ oldest tricks: putting sham candidates on the ballot to confuse voters and siphon support from a more formidable foe.
A separate set of depositions disclose that a Madigan precinct captain said a friend helped him collect voter signatures for one of the candidates running against the speaker. But it was the friend’s name that appeared on the paperwork, which made it more difficult to connect Madigan’s team to the candidate.
Taken together, the new depositions shed additional light on the lawsuit’s allegations that Madigan and his political army conspired to place two phony candidates with Hispanic-sounding names in the race to draw votes from an ambitious Latino challenger and enhance the speaker’s already overwhelming chance of winning reelection.
Madigan denies the allegations in the suit brought by failed 2016 candidate Jason Gonzales. Attorney Michael Kasper, who is representing Madigan’s political organization, declined to comment because the case is ongoing.