The top Democrat of the Illinois House of Representatives announced that he, along with his colleagues, are cutting ties to the public relations company SKDK. They learned that the firm had failed to disclose a conflict of interest regarding a sexual harassment and retaliation case that occurred in 2018.
Emanuel Welch, Speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives made the announcement after NPR reported that SKDK advised a powerful Illinois politician how to respond in a sexual harassment retaliation suit. SKDK worked with a #MeToo group that supported the accuser of the lawsuit. The blatant conflict of interest in this case and the conduct that was displayed sends a chilling signal to survivors and victims alike, telling them they cannot trust those who claim to be on their side. This is deeply disappointing and disqualifying to us. Capitol Fax is a political newsletter covering Illinois. Capitol Fax first reported Welch’s announcement. Dunn was a managing Director of SKDK at the time and a cofounder of the company. The D stands for Dunn. Dunn led the firm’s crisis communications work as a response to the sexual harassment scandal. According to campaign finance records, Dunn earned more than $200,000. Welch has never worked with Dunn in the past.
“While this mistake in judgement happened over five years ago, SKDK’s spokesperson Mike Czin stated in an emailed message that we understood the decision of Illinois House Democrats. “We will continue to work hard to gain trust and are proud of our support for survivors. Welch’s announcement comes at a time when Illinois Democrats are preparing to host the Democratic National Convention in Chicago and Biden’s reelection bid in 2024. NPR reported that Dunn had provided “crisis communication” assistance for the former Speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives Michael Madigan after he had been sued over allegedly retaliating towards a sexual harassment victim. Madigan was not personally accused of harassment.
At the same time, Dunn’s firm, SKDK, was assisting the woman who sued Madigan, a political campaign worker named Alaina Hampton, through the firm’s partnership with the anti-harassment group Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund. Hampton said SKDK did not disclose that they worked for Madigan. Hampton discovered this fact only after evidence was introduced in a separate federal corruption trial. After initially defending their actions, SKDK apologized and admitted that representing Madigan had been an “error.”
Dunn is currently in the White House and widely considered to be a member of Biden’s inner group. She had previously referred NPR questions to SKDK. She said that it was the correct move to “ensure our vendors live up our values as Democrats.” “
Cassidy called SKDK’s actions a “direct betrayal of Hampton.” “Gut punch” doesn’t do justice to Cassidy, he told NPR.