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Madigan Indictment Sends Shockwaves Through Illinois Political Chambers; ‘Today May Be The Darkest Day In Illinois Government History’

CBS Chicago logo CBS Chicago 3/3/2022 Syndicated Local – CBS Chicago

CHICAGO (CBS) — The federal indictment against former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan on Wednesday sent shockwaves through the halls of state and local government, with politicians from both sides of the aisle condemning Madigan’s alleged behavior as “deplorable” and “disturbing.”

Illinois House Republican Leader Jim Durkin, a political foe of Madigan’s for years, said Wednesday “may be the darkest day in Illinois government history.”

“This is not just an indictment against Michael Madigan, but it’s an indictment against the Democrat Party of Illinois that he ran for decades,” he said. “But the public needs to get answers from the speaker, and also the Democrats and the governor, of why they did not take action against this man earlier; when there was an opportunity, when the whole house of representatives, through the Special Investigation Committee, began a process in which we did have the ability to remove him for cause.”

After federal prosecutors reached a deferred prosecution agreement with ComEd in July 2020, in which it admitted to a sweeping bribery scheme that sought to curry favor with Madigan, Durkin and other House Republicans helped launch a Special Investigating Committee to look into the possibility of disciplinary action against Speaker, but the panel ended its probe without any finding of misconduct against Madigan

Illinois House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch, who chaired that panel months before he replaced Madigan as speaker, defended his handling of the probe.

Welch has repeatedly accused Republicans who initiated the special committee’s investigation of simply trying to put on a “sham show trial,” while insisting he would not allow the committee to interfere with an ongoing criminal probe.

“As Chair of the Special Investigating Committee, I made it clear that this matter needed to be handled in a court of law, completely separate from the legislature. As is evident by this federal indictment, the full weight of the justice system was needed to ensure all charges are investigated properly and thoroughly. At my direction, the Office of the Speaker has fully cooperated with the investigation and will continue to do so,” Welch said in a statement.

On Wednesday night, Welch deflected.

“It’s important to focus on the work that this Legislature is doing under new leadership, and part of my job is to get out there and show the people of this great state that it is a new day in Springfield,” Welch said.


Video: Illinois Republicans Weigh In On Madigan Indictment (CBS Chicago)

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But Madigan is the latest in a long list of Illinois politicians to fall to the feds, and people may be skeptical about it really being a new day in Springfield.

Gov. JB Pritzker called Madigan’s indictment “a condemnation of a system infected with promises of pay-to-play.”

“The era of corruption and self-dealing among Illinois politicians must end. The conduct alleged in this indictment is deplorable and a stark violation of the public’s trust. Michael Madigan must be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law,” Pritzker said in a statement. “Ultimately, every person in elected office is responsible for doing the right thing – and not lining their own pockets. I am fully committed to eradicate the scourge of corruption from our political system, and today’s indictment is an important step in cleaning up Illinois. I have faith that our justice system will help restore the public’s trust in government.”

However, top Illinois Republicans have said Pritzker and other leading Democrats turned a blind eye to Madigan’s corruption for years.

Illinois Republican Party Chairman Don Tracy said the party is committed to defeating every Democrat that has taken money from Madigan, voted his way, or defended him as the former Democratic Party leader.

“The list of those needing to be held accountable for what happened is long, and it starts with Governor JB Pritzker,” he said in a statement. “For many years, Illinois Democrats across the state – from Governor JB Pritzker on down – supported, enabled, and kissed the ring of Mike Madigan as he built a corrupt state government that served to enrich his allies and special interests while Illinois crumbled. Illinois is a diminished state and a laughing stock for the rest of the nation because Mike Madigan cared more about holding on to power than serving the interests of its citizens – and because elected Democrats across the state supported him.”

Many other Illinois Republicans have echoed that sentiment, saying Democrats knew full well the tactics Madigan used while he was in power, yet didn’t act to force him out until it became clear he was the target of a federal investigation.

“Madigan may be gone as America’s most powerful House Speaker, but the culture of corruption that he created and that enabled him to stay in office for so long remains,” Illinois State Rep. Tom Morrison, of Palatine, said in a statement. “The House parliamentary rules he established to secure his iron grip on power are the same rules we operate under today. Illinois has been shortchanged on responsible, bipartisan government for decades as a result. And the damage done to our state will take decades to repair, if ever. Illinois residents must stand up and say ‘enough is enough.’  We need real ethics and other major policy reforms, and we need leadership term limits so that no one individual can ever amass so much power over our state’s laws and policies again.”

Illinois Senate President Don Harmon, an Oak Park Democrat, said the charges against Madigan “are obviously disturbing allegations.”

“I have confidence in our system of justice. Like everyone else, I will be watching to see how this unfolds,” he said.

Ald. Michele Smith (43rd) and Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) issued a joint statement vowing to strengthen the city’s ethics laws.

“No one is above the law. We are grateful for the U.S. attorneys who have been building this case. We will continue to strengthen ethics laws and government transparency at City Hall, building on the laws we passed that prohibit government officials from lobbying City Hall for private interests,” they wrote.

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