Madigan’s office served with grand jury subpoena
America’s longest-serving politician is at the center of a federal corruption investigation into lobbying, bribery and using ComEd for political patronage jobs.
Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan is implicated in a federal bribery case against Commonwealth Edison, alleging the utility won Madigan’s favor to back legislation by directing $1.3 million in contracts and payments to his associates and letting him name people for jobs, from meter reader on up.
Madigan’s office July 17 received a grand jury subpoena for documents related to the ongoing federal investigation, according to WGN. According to Mark Maxwell of WCIA-TV, Capitol Police at the Illinois State Capitol in Springfield saw men in suits enter the building Friday morning. One flashed an FBI badge.
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker called on Madigan to resign if the allegations are true. Madigan said they aren’t true, and he is cooperating.
The deferred prosecution agreement with ComEd was released Friday and outlined years of bribery involving “Public Official A,” who was later referred to as Illinois’ House speaker. ComEd agreed to a $200 million fine and to admit seeking Madigan’s help with legislation worth more than $150 million to the company. Criminal charges will be dropped against the utility if it satisfies the agreement. Madigan himself is not charged with bribery.
“Certain senior executives and agents of ComEd were also aware of the purpose of these payments to Public Official A’s associates, namely, that they were intended to influence and reward Public Official A in connection with Public Official A’s official duties and to advance ComEd’s business interests,” the agreement states.
Madigan has served as the speaker for all but two years since 1983, making him the longest-serving state legislator in American history and one of the most powerful. He is referred to as the “Velvet Hammer,” and learned politics and patronage at the knee of former Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley.
The agreement makes it appear ComEd became a deep-pocketed extension of Madigan’s empire of political patronage, money and influence.
“ComEd arranged for various associates of Public Official A, including Public Official A’s political allies and individuals who performed work for Public Official A, to obtain jobs, vendor subcontracts, and monetary payments associated with those jobs and subcontracts at ComEd, even in instances where certain political allies and workers performed little or no work that they were purportedly hired to perform at ComEd,” the filing states.
ComEd has agreed to “fully and truthfully cooperate.” They acknowledged to authorities that Madigan helped them win legislative victories worth over $150 million.
According to the Sun-Times, the court filing is loaded with references to Madigan’s power and influence. One of Madigan’s associates said, “We had to hire these guys because (Madigan) came to us. It’s just that simple.” He even goes on to say that Madigan named people to become employees at ComEd, but not just for government affairs jobs. The speaker would even name employees to become meter readers.
Madigan’s office responded July 17 with a statement denying wrongdoing, or that making job recommendations carried any expectations of personal gain or currying favor. He said he was cooperating with federal investigators.
“He will cooperate and respond to those requests for documents, which he believes will clearly demonstrate that he has done nothing criminal or improper,” the statement said.
In May 2019, federal agents raided the Quincy home of Madigan’s close friend and confidant, former ComEd employee and former state legislator Michael McClain. McClain was accused of setting up $30,000 in payments through ComEd lobbyists to Kevin Quinn after he was ousted as a Madigan political operative. Quinn was accused of sexual harassment by campaign worker Alaina Hampton, who recently settled with Madigan’s campaign for $275,000.
In September 2019, federal agents also raided the offices of former state Sen. Martin Sandoval seeking information about his work with Exelon and ComEd, including electricity rate increases.
Madigan previously maintained his innocence, saying “I’m not the target of anything.” Then once again, agents subpoenaed suburban Merrionette Park for documents relating to McClain, Quinn and others along with Madigan.
Pritzker said Madigan should resign if the allegations are true. He called on Madigan to cooperate with the federal investigation.
“The speaker has a lot that he needs to answer for – to authorities, to investigators and most importantly to the people of Illinois. If these allegations of wrongdoing by the speaker are true, there is no question that he will have betrayed the public trust and he must resign,” Pritzker said.
“When I think about the possibility of people committing these kinds of wrongdoings, I think people who are in public service need to live up to the integrity of the job they were asked to do,” said Pritzker, who faces his own federal corruption probe.
Federal prosecutors since January requested records from the Cook County assessor’s office regarding the $330,000 property tax break that Pritzker got by removing toilets from a Gold Coast mansion, the Chicago Sun-Times reported. Word of the federal probe first emerged in April 2019.
As the feds close in, Illinois state lawmakers should be asking themselves how much more embarrassment and imprisonment the state needs before enacting ethics reforms. When Republicans called on Madigan to push those changes, he made it clear on July 15 he wasn’t interested and that the problem wasn’t in Springfield.
“I would suggest that the Illinois Republicans who want to pursue ethics reform go out to Washington, follow up on President Trump’s promise to drain the swamp,” Madigan said.
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