U.S. Rep. Sean Casten, right, and U.S. Rep. Lauren Underwood, left.
Campaign records show that Sean Casten (D-6th District) and Lauren Underwood (D-14th District), both freshmen House members, accepted thousands in campaign donations from the law firm that represented sexual predator Jeffrey Epstein, 66, on an earlier sex crimes indictment.
The firm, Kirkland & Ellis, also represented British Petroleum in litigation over the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill, the largest in U.S. history.
Records from OpenSecrets show that Casten, of Downers Grove, accepted $25,352 from Kirkland & Ellis in the 2018 election cycle. The firm was his sixth largest contributor. Underwood, of Naperville, took $10, 355 from the firm in the election cycle – her 11th largest contributor.
Both progressive Democrats won their bids to unseat Republicans in traditionally strong GOP congressional districts. Casten defeated six-term incumbent Peter Roskam in the 6th, and Underwood defeated four-term incumbent Randy Hultgren in the 14th.
In 2007, Epstein’s lawyers at Kirkland & Ellis struck a now highly controversial plea deal with federal prosecutors: Epstein pleaded guilty to state prostitution charges and served 13 months, where he was free up to 16 hours a day.
On July 6 of this year, the wealthy financier was arrested in New York on separate federal charges involving sex trafficking.
In a February 2019 twitter post, Casten blasted President Donald Trump for backing his Labor Secretary Alex Acosta, who in his former position as the top federal prosecutor in Miami cut the 2007 Epstein deal with Kirkland. Before that, Acosta had worked at Kirkland as a litigator.
“Hiring and retaining people who facilitate underage sexual assault does not pass any decent persons’ definition of ‘hiring the best people,’” Casten tweeted on Feb. 24 in response to Trump voicing support at the time for Acosta.
Kirkland is not representing Epstein in new sex trafficking charges, but The American Lawyer in a July 9 story wrote that “the law firm and its alumni’s prints are all over his current criminal case in New York federal court.”
“Epstein’s criminal case history includes several Kirkland litigators, past and present, including longtime partner Jay Lefkowitz and former Kirkland litigators Alexander Acosta, now U.S. labor secretary, and Kenneth Starr,” the story said. "With Epstein’s arrest July 6 for sex trafficking, and a government investigation into a plea deal reached by Epstein’s attorneys in 2007, actions by those Kirkland litigators will likely receive fresh scrutiny."
Acosta resigned on July 12, three days after the story was published.
State Rep. Sue Rezin (R- Morris) is the most recent of at least six to announce a challenge against her.
Thus far, Casten faces a challenge from former GOP Lt. Gov. Evelyn Sanguinetti under Bruce Rauner. She announced in April. And on Monday, Greg Hines of Crain’s Chicago Business reported that former State Rep. Jeanne Ives (R-Wheaton) could announce as early as this weekend that she will challenge Casten. Ives came within an eyelash of defeating incumbent Gov. Bruce Rauner in the 2018 Republican primary.