Pritzker demands answers from Madigan as more Illinois lawmakers seek resignation
Madigan already had lost enough support to end his 35-year run as House speaker, but the gap continued to widen as Illinois’ governor added his rebuke.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker said embattled Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan either needs to answer questions or quit.
Pritzker’s call for Madigan’s resignation came as more House Democrats pledged they would not support him for another term as speaker. Madigan was trying to survive his implication in the ComEd bribery scandal so he could secure his 36th year in January and oversee the once-a-decade legislative redistricting.
After new charges dropped against members of Madigan’s inner circle, the number of House Democrats who will not support his leadership has grown to 18. With 73 Democrats in the House, Madigan is now five votes below the 60 votes he would need to win another term as speaker.
On Nov. 20, state Rep. Eva-Dina Delgado added her name.
On Nov. 19 after four more defendants were charged in the ComEd bribery scandal, and new allegations emerged against Madigan, state Reps. Jonathan Carroll, Sam Yingling, Will Guzzardi, Daniel Didech and representative-elect Margaret Croke added their names to the list of those wanting Madigan to quit and allow someone else to lead the House.
State Reps. Kelly Cassidy, Jennifer Gong-Gershowitz, Terra Costa Howard, Maurice West, Bob Morgan, Anne Stava-Murray, Stephanie Kifowit and Lindsey LaPointe previously said they would not re-elect Madigan, with Kifowit announcing she would challenge him for the speakership. State Reps. Deb Conroy, Robyn Gabel, Anna Moeller and Ann Williams sent Madigan a letter asking for new leadership.
Pritzker came out with his strongest rebuke of Madigan yet.
“If speaker Madigan wants to continue in a position of enormous public trust with such a serious ethical cloud hanging over his head, then he has to, at the very least, be willing to stand in front of the press and answer every last question to their satisfaction,” Pritzker said.
“If the speaker cannot commit to that level of transparency, then the time has come for him to resign.”
The four defendants were charged with bribery in a case that outlined how hard they worked at ComEd to satisfy Madigan. Charged were: Michael McClain, a longtime Madigan confidant and ComEd lobbyist; former ComEd CEO Anne Pramaggiore; former ComEd lobbyist Jay Hooker; and Jay Doherty, former president of the City Club of Chicago.
The charges in the case outline how decisions were made at the very top of the company to satisfy “our Friend,” the name used to cover that they were really talking about Madigan.
The charges state the four defendants worked “to corruptly solicit and demand, and to accept and agree to accept from another person things of value, namely, jobs, contracts, and monetary payments associated with those jobs and contracts, for the benefit of Public Official A and his associates, intending that Public Official A, an agent of the State of Illinois, be influenced and rewarded in connection with any business, transaction, and series of transactions involving things of value of $5,000 or more, namely, legislation affecting ComEd.” Public Official A is identified as the Illinois House speaker, although Madigan is not charged and has denied wrongdoing.
Madigan responded by denying he did anything wrong, and again stating he believes getting people jobs is part of his job. “I believe a large part of my duty as an elected official is to help people, and I’ve made that a priority since the day I took the oath of office.”
ComEd previously admitted to federal prosecutors it provided more than $1.3 million in bribes to Madigan cronies to gain his backing for legislation worth $150 million to the electric utility. Company leaders agreed to cooperate with investigators and pay a $200 million fine.
With Madigan on the edge of losing a position he has held for the better part of four decades, it’s unclear who in the Democratic Party would replace him as speaker. While Kifowit has said she is mounting a challenge, no one has yet emerged as the front-runner.
State lawmakers have an opportunity to replace Madigan with another Madigan, or to reform the system that allowed him to gather more power than any other lawmaker in the nation. Illinois needs to reform how the legislature operates by taking the redistricting process out of the hands of lawmakers, by reforming the House Rules to limit the speaker’s power, by strengthening ethics rules to mandate transparency and hold lawmakers accountable for their conflicts of interest, and by freeing the legislative inspector general to investigate and publicize wrongdoing without obstruction from lawmakers.
To miss this opportunity would be a crime.