Michael Madigan, the House speaker of Illinois’ state government and one of the state’s longest-serving legislators, has been implicated in a federal criminal indictment that involves a company that has been charged with bribery.
The criminal indictment handed down only name the utility company, Commonwealth Edison (referred to as “ComEd”) not Madigan. According to a local Chicago CBS station, the 78-year-old Madigan has been subpoenaed but not charged with anything.
However, the public official – “Public Official A” – that ComEd is alleged to have bribed is listed as the Speaker of Illinois’ House of Representatives, a title belonging to none other than Michael Madigan, also known as “the velvet hammer,” according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
According to the Chicago Sun-Times, Madigan has worked in Springfield’s politics arena for nearly 40 years.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Madigan’s Biography States That He Learned Public Service From His Father
According to his Facebook biography, Madigan was born and raised in Chicago in 1942 and learned about public service from his father, who was ward superintendent for the city’s Southwest Side neighborhood – a role Madigan took over after his father died. That biography noted that Madigan also works on neighborhood services and equity as well as tax relief, helping residents “reclaim more than $1 million in profits.
He went on to attend the University of Notre Dame and Loyola University Law School before he became House Majority Leader, House Minority leaders and was the speaker of the house for four terms.
Madigan is married to his wife Shirley, has three daughters and one son and four grandchildren.
2. Madigan Has Been Blamed For Illinois’ Budget Issues
Madigan’s political website describes him as a democratic state representative with a platform that includes preserving cuts to Medicaid, funding school districts and maintaining Planned Parenthood funding, according to his biography.
However, he was also given the less flattering nickname of “the man behind the fiscal fiasco in Illinois,” according to a Reuters Investigation. In 2017, Reuters reported that Illinois’ unfunded liabilities have gone up from $2.5 billion when Madigan joined the legislature to $129.8 billion in 2016. Some of the legislation the article said contributed to the state’s deficit is a law Madigan supported in 1989 which would compound 3% annual increases in pension payments, allowing state workers to retire at age 50 with full pensions and borrowing billions to cover the increased costs.
Bruce Rauner, Illinois’ previous governor, also blamed Madigan for budget-related issues, such as the state’s failure to pass a budget in May 2015: “He controls the government of Illinois. That’s a fact … We’ve been driven into a ditch.” However, Steve Brown, Madigan’s spokesman, said that past governors and legislators all signed off on laws and budgets that Madigan did, so he is not solely to blame.
3. ‘Public Official A’ Is Identified In the Indictment As Speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives
In the indictment the U.S. Attorney’s office brought against ComEd, it alleged that the utility provided jobs and contracts “for the benefit of Public Offical A and Public Official A’s Associates. According to NBC-5, Madigan is not charged in the criminal indictment against ComEd, but he is identified by his role as speaker of Illinois’ House of Representatives.
Maura Possley, a spokeswoman for Madigan, said:
The Speaker has never helped someone find a job with the expectation that the person would not be asked to perform work by their employer, nor did he ever expect to provide anything to a prospective employer if it should choose to hire a person he recommended. He has never made a legislative decision with improper motives and has engaged in no wrongdoing here. Any claim to the contrary is unfounded.
ComEd, according to prosecutors, admitted that it attempted to “influence and reward” Public Official A from 2011-2019 by appointing people on its board of directors at Public Official A’s request, using a law firm that Public Official A requested and accepting interns from Public Official A’s Chicago ward. In return, the company sought legislative outcomes friendly to its operations and profitability. Federal prosecutors alleged that the utility made roughly $1.3 million in payments to Madigan’s associates over that timeframe, CBS-2 reported.
The Chicago Sun-Times has reported that ComEd has reached an agreement with prosecutors and is expected to pay a $200 million fine for its involvement in the alleged scheme. In the agreement, CBS-2 reported, the prosecutors agreed to drop the bribery charges in three years if the company cooperated and provided information.
4. Madigan Has Nearly $2 Million In Legal Bills
NBC-5 reported that Madigan’s political campaign has spent more than $1.8 million on legal bills. Those legal bills come as he was sent multiple subpoenas related to the ComEd investigation. Supbeoanes included the following, WBEZ reported:
- AT&T, Walgreens and Rush University Medical Center
- Will Cosineau, Madigan’s aide for 18 years whose firm represented ComEd
- Frank Clark, who filed a lawsuit to block a redistricting proposal that would have negatively impacted Madison
- Frank Olivo, a former alderman who became a ComEd lobbyist
- Ed Moody, Democratic Cook County commissioner
- Shaw Decremer, a former political operative for Madigan
- Michael Zalewski, a former alderman whose daughter-in-law, Carrie Zalewski, heads the agency that regulates ComEd
- Ray Nice, a precinct captain that worked for ComEd
- Eddie Acevedo, former Democratic state representative that consulted for ComEd
- The Reyes Kurson law firm
- The Roosevelt Group lobbying company
As part of her statement, Possley said Madigan will cooperate:
This morning the Speaker accepted subpoenas related to his various offices for documents, asking for, among other things, documents related to possible job recommendations. He will cooperate and respond to those requests for documents, which he believes will clearly demonstrate that he has done nothing criminal or improper.
5. Fellow Democrats Have Expressed Disappointment In Madigan
In a Waukegan press conference about Illinois’ preparation for COVID-19, current Democratic Governor J.B. Pritzker said that he was furious about the allegations being made in federal indictments:
I have read several of the articles today and I am deeply troubled and frankly, I’m furious with what is being reported. The speaker has a lot that he needs to answer for – to authorities, to investigators and most importantly, to the people of Illinois. These allegations strike at the core of what public service means. It’s a high calling, one in which we serve with a sacred trust to put the people first.
If these allegations about the speaker are true, there is no question that he will have betrayed the public trust and he must resign, therefore. In the meantime, I urge the speaker to fully cooperate with the investigation and that he answer all questions as quickly as possible.
State Sen. Melinda Bush, a Democrat from Grayslake, as well as House Republican Leader Jim Durkin, both agreed that the allegations were troublesome, the Chicago Sun-Times reported. Bush described what Madigan is alleged to have done is “shameful behavior” and Durkin said they were “troubling and downright depressing.”