A top Democratic strategy firm founded by one of President Biden’s closest advisers issued an apology Thursday in response to court documents that show the firm advised a disgraced Illinois politician while also being aligned with a firm assisting a woman suing him.
SKDK, a firm founded by White House senior adviser Anita Dunn, told The Hill in a statement that assisting former Illinois Speaker Michael Madigan (D) was “an error” in light of support the firm was also giving a former employee, Alaina Hampton.
From 2018 to 2019 — before the Biden administration — Dunn provided “crisis communications” help to Madigan, who was being sued by Hampton for allegedly retaliating against her when she reported sexual misconduct, according to reporting from NPR. Hampton had reported to Madigan that her direct supervisor harassed her via text messages repeatedly.
Hampton received support in her case from SKDK, in a partnership with the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund, while SKDK was being paid by Madigan. NPR uncovered campaign finance disclosers that found Dunn and SKDK were paid more than $200,000 for the work.
A spokesperson for SKDK told The Hill in a statement that Hampton was not an SKDK client but worked with an outside contractor SKDK engaged with, adding the decision to work with Madigan was “an error.”
“At the time, then-Speaker Madigan’s campaign was a client, and the firm judged that helping him and his staff to take responsibility and correct systemic workplace issues benefited the movement as a whole,” the spokesperson said.
“We understand the concerns that have been raised. In retrospect, we realize that the decision to work with then-Speaker Madigan’s campaign on these matters was an error in light of the support Ms. Hampton was receiving from another firm through a separate initiative we were proud to support.”
The White House referred The Hill to SKDK for comment.
Dunn was at SKDK between the Biden and Obama years. She worked as a chief strategist on the 2008 Obama campaign before serving as White House communications director. And the longtime Democratic operative became a close adviser to Biden during the Obama administration.
SKDK worked with sexual misconduct victims, Christine Blasey Ford, Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s accuser, during his confirmation hearings. And they represented a whistleblower against ex-Today Show host Matt Lauer, among other victims.
The firm’s work with Madigan was uncovered last month during a corruption investigation into the politician. Two Madigan aides, who are now convicted felons, were on an FBI wiretap talking about Dunn’s work for the campaign, according to NPR.
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