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Money made selling milk to governments helps politicians

Tuesday, March 27, 2012
Chicago Sun-Times

Having made millions of dollars on government deals for milk and electrical and plumbing work, the McMahon family routinely gives back to politicians.

In all, milk magnate Frank J. McMahon, five of his siblings, their immediate families, their businesses and their business partners have given more than $1 million in campaign contributions and loans to dozens of politicians since 1995.

Tops on the list of politicians who’ve benefitted: Chicago Ald. Edward M. Burke (14th), whose campaign funds have gotten a total of $164,100. That includes contributions from McMahon’s brother Anthony P. McMahon, a former Cook County government electrician who’s a member of Burke’s Democratic Party ward organization.

Anthony McMahon’s wife, Kathleen McMahon, co-owns Windy City Electric Co. with her sister-in-law, Nancy McMahon. The city inspector general’s office is recommending that the company and its owners be banned from getting any work from City Hall for allegedly operating for years as a phony women-owned business

to win millions of dollars in city deals.

Burke’s law firm has won property-tax cuts for the Little Village warehouse, owned by Frank McMahon, that’s home to Windy City Electric and McMahon Food Corp., which has the $20 million-a-year contract to provide milk to Chicago’s schools.

“Ald. Edward M. Burke is a friend of many years,” Frank McMahon’s attorneys say.

Burke declined to comment.

His assistant chief administrative officer at City Hall — Michelle Murphy — is married to Daniel T. Hebert, a business associate of Anthony McMahon and his brother John K. McMahon, a former city of Chicago electrician.

Other politicians the McMahon interests have financially supported the most:

Joseph Birkett, the former DuPage County state’s attorney who’s now an Illinois Appellate Court judge. Birkett, a Republican, is a first cousin of the McMahons, who have contributed $94,900 to his campaign funds and given him another $250,000 in loans that he has since repaid.

“They’re my cousins, and they’ve been helpful to me,” Birkett says, “just like a lot of other family and friends.”

DuPage County Board member Michael McMahon, a Republican who’s a second cousin. He has gotten $57,500, including a $12,000 loan from McMahon Food that he has yet to repay.

Since Michael McMahon took office in 2000, the DuPage County Board has awarded more than $722,000 in contracts to McMahon Food and one of its longtime partners, Nick’s Dairy Service, to deliver milk to the county-owned convalescent center and the county government office campus in Wheaton.

Michael McMahon, who isn’t seeking re-election, says he has abstained from voting on those contracts, though county board records show he voted for a $47,800 contract to Nick’s Dairy in February 2011. McMahon says the records are wrong.

Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez, a Democrat. She has gotten $36,900, which includes the value of food provided for a political fund-raising event that Frank McMahon hosted.

Two of Frank McMahon’s daughters — Mary B. McMahon, 32, and Frances J. McMahon, 28 — are assistant state’s attorneys in Alvarez’s office. Both were hired by Alvarez’s predecessor, former State’s Attorney Richard Devine. Mary McMahon, who’s paid $77,100 a year as a prosecutor, and Frances McMahon, who makes $59,500, also are owners of McMahon Food, which also provides milk to the Cook County Jail and the Cook County Juvenile Detention Center.

Alvarez says she met Frank McMahon after she won the Democratic primary race for state’s attorney in 2008 and that she was unaware that Frank McMahon’s two daughters are owners of McMahon Food.

Devine, a Democrat who has gotten $24,000. “I have high regard for Frank,” Devine says. “I remember his daughter [Mary]. She came through the normal [hiring] process, and she’s done a great job.”

Cook County Commissioner Bridget Gainer, a Democrat who has gotten $22,185, including food and wait staff for a 2009 political fund-raiser that Frank McMahon hosted.

McMahon Food provides milk to the county jail as a subcontractor to Aramark Correctional Services, which got a $7.6 million, six-month contract extension last summer that Gainer voted to approve.

Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart, a Democrat who has gotten $19,750. Dart, who’s in charge of the county jail, supported extending Aramark’s food-service contract there. A spokesman says the sheriff was unaware McMahon Food was an Aramark subcontractor and that Dart has pushed to have the jail food contract re-bid. Those bids are now being evaluated.

Cook County Judge Tom Allen, Chicago’s former 38th Ward alderman, who received $14,500.

Chicago Ald. Tim Cullerton (38th), who replaced Allen, his brother-in-law, in the City Council last year and has gotten $13,000. He says he met Anthony and John McMahon more than 30 years ago, when all three worked as government electricians.

Brian T. Sexton, a Democrat who is the $144,000-a-year chief of Alvarez’s narcotics bureau, where Frances McMahon works, though Sexton doesn’t directly supervise her. He has gotten $12,500, which includes a $10,000 loan in 2008 he has yet to repay. Sexton has made two failed bids for Cook County judge.

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