Madigan released a statement after The Chicago Tribune reported that he backed 28 applicants whose relatives contributed to his campaign get into the Urbana-Champaign or Chicago campuses. Twenty three of those applicants got into undergraduate, graduate and law school programs, according to the Tribune report, and many would not have been admitted on their own merit.
The Tribune report indicates relatives of those applicants made direct contributions to Madigan; his daughter, Attorney General Lisa Madigan; and the group he chairs, Democratic Party of Illinois. The Tribune says it connected the applicants to Madigan through multiple sources and university documents provided through the Freedom of Information Act.
Michael Madigan told the Tribune he never insisted anyone be admitted in a statement on April 28: As a state representative, and as the Speaker of the House, it is unsurprising that people would ask for my assistance in a matter involving state government. One of my responsibilities, when it is appropriate, is to try to be responsive to my constituents and the people of Illinois.
While I cannot confirm each of the instances you raised, I can tell you that when my office would receive inquiries regarding university admissions, I would refer them to the relevant university official. I would do so without regard or consideration as to any political relationships or campaign contributions.
At no time did I insist on anyone being admitted. Nor did I ask that an unqualified student be admitted over the objections of admissions counselors. If I was informed that a student had been judged to be not-qualified or unlikely to succeed, I would not hesitate to tell the student or her parent that they should seek out a different school.
It is also relevant to note that the testimony before the Mikva Commission reported that no displacement of other deserving applicants was caused by the students that were admitted after an initial rejection. Based on the reported good academic standing of the students who were eventually admitted, it seems that an imperfect screening and review system, rather than a lack of merit and achievement, might have been the real cause of their denial for admission or placement on a waiting list. This, too, is not a great revelation as the admissions process is inherently a subjective, not completely scientific, one.
The so-called U of I 'clout list' was first called into question in 2009 and led to the resignation of the university president last fall.
University of Illinois released this statement: The University has reforms in place that revamped the admissions process and established 'firewalls' so that no one-elected officials or otherwise-can insert themselves in the process. Incidents that a year ago amounted to a fraction of 1% of all 26,000-plus applications for admission at Urbana-Champaign are now down to 0%. We look forward to enrolling another exceptional incoming class of students.