The hiring of a member of one of Illinois's most powerful families at a major state agency has Republicans up in arms.
Jordan Matyas is a longtime lobbyist and political hand, and also recently married to Tiffany Madigan, the daughter of influential House Speaker Michael Madigan. The Regional Transportation Authority announced that Matyas has been hired as a deputy executive director in charge of the agency's government affairs section.
The RTA has defended Matyas as well-qualified for the job, and his hiring as unmotivated by politics. But the chair of the state GOP, Pat Brady, has wasted no time demanding that the agency rescind his hiring, according to WBEZ. Brady argues that the hire is an attempt by the agency to gain sympathy from the Speaker.
Lending credence to that opinion is the tension the RTA has had with Speaker Madigan in recent years. The Chicago Sun-Times describes RTA Chairman John Gates as having a "strained" relationship with the Speaker, and mentions a piece of legislation in the State House that would have removed Gates from his leadership of the agency. That legislation died recently, just before the hiring of Matyas, the timing of which didn't seem coincidental to one Republican state representative:
"It seems a little shaky this bill comes up and disappears, and then the next thing you know a relative of the speaker is getting hired in a pretty high-paying position," said Rep. Randy Ramey (R-Carol Stream). "I'd suspect we should have an investigation, but I don't who should do that? The attorney general? Maybe not."
Rich Miller at the Capitol Fax blog was more understanding, having spoken with the man in question:
Matyas and I talked a few times about the "appearance" problems he was going to have after he married Madigan's daughter. There's just no avoiding it. Like his sister-in-law the attorney general, he's just going to have to expect these questions about whether he accomplished something on his own or not. And he'll never really know if he's being offered stuff because of his experience (and he has plenty) or his super-powerful father-in-law.
Jordan and Tiffany are the real deal. Also, take if from me, you can't help who you fall in love with. That's just life. Sometimes, it causes problems, but it's usually worth it.
Matyas's name also came up last year in connection with a legislative crackdown on payday lenders as a possible beneficiary of family ties. Attorney General Lisa Madigan, the Speaker's daughter, lobbied hard for the bill, which her father helped push through the legislature. And a lobbying client of Matyas's, Veritec Solutions, "could make millions of dollars" as the state of Illinois's contractor for tracking unsecured consumer loans, business that was much expanded by the legislation, according to a separate Sun-Times report.
The position at the RTA pays $130,000 a year.