Former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan charged with racketeering, bribery

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Illinois Speaker of the House Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, heads into the Governor's Office for a meeting at the Illinois state Capitol in Springfield on May 17, 2016.
Illinois Speaker of the House Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, heads into the Governor's Office for a meeting at the Illinois state Capitol in Springfield on May 17, 2016.

The U.S. Attorney's Office in Chicago announced Wednesday a sweeping indictment against former Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan, one of the most formidable legislators, on racketeering, bribery, wire fraud and extortion charges.

Madigan, 79, is charged with 22 counts, according to the indictment.

"The indictment accuses Madigan of leading for nearly a decade a criminal enterprise whose purpose was to enhance Madigan's political power and financial well-being while generating income for his political allies and associates," said John Lausch Jr., an attorney from the Northern District of Illinois.

An indictment was returned by a federal grand jury after a more than two-year investigation.

Read the indictment charges here

Madigan stepped down from his longtime role as speaker of the House in January 2021.

More Michael Madigan: Madigan resigns as Illinois Democratic Party chairman

In 2020, the Chicago Democrat was implicated in a long-running bribery scheme involving the state’s largest electric utility, Commonwealth Edison. Court filings at the time didn’t name Madigan directly but made it clear he was the person referred to in documents as “Public Official A.”

Illinois Speaker of the House Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, stands in the back of the room during debate on HB 2170 during the lame-duck session of the Illinois House of Representatives held at the Bank of Springfield Center in Springfield on Jan. 11.
Illinois Speaker of the House Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, stands in the back of the room during debate on HB 2170 during the lame-duck session of the Illinois House of Representatives held at the Bank of Springfield Center in Springfield on Jan. 11.

Prosecutors allege that ComEd officials arranged jobs for Madigan's political allies who "performed little or no work" in exchange for Madigan's influence in passing legislation favorable to the utility.

The indictment claimed that Madigan, his close ally Mike F. McClain, 74, of Quincy and other "members of the enterprise" unlawfully solicited benefits from businesses and other private parties.

Madigan engaged in multiple schemes to secure business for his law firm, including work from parties with business before the state of Illinois and the city of Chicago, the indictment alleged.

Madigan was the longest-serving state House speaker in modern U.S. history. Madigan was also forced to resign from his seats in the Illinois House and as head of the Democratic Party of Illinois weeks later.

“Corruption by an elected official and his associates undermines the public’s confidence in our government,” Lausch said. “The indictment alleges a long-term, multifaceted scheme to use public positions for unlawful private gain. Rooting out and prosecuting the kind of corruption alleged in the indictment will always be a top priority for this office.”

Madigan still holds onto several of the levers of power that kept him at the top of party politics for so long.

He remains chair of two campaign committees controlling about $13 million in campaign cash, according to records from the state board of elections. The funds can be given to other people running for office and used to pay campaign staff, which Madigan has continued to do for several people since leaving office.

Timeline: The career of Mike Madigan

March 9 arraignments have been set for Madigan and McClain.

In a statement, Madigan said he was never involved in any criminal activity and that "the government is trying to criminalize a routine constituent service: job recommendations.

"That is not illegal, and these other charges are equally unfounded."

Gov. JB Pritzker condemned Madigan and the actions laid out in the indictment.

"An indictment of this magnitude is a condemnation of a system infected with promises of pay-to-play, and the era of corruption and self-dealing among Illinois politicians must end," said Pritzker. "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."

The indictment alleges a scheme between Madigan and an unnamed Chicago alderman. Madigan promised to work with the "future governor" to try to have the alderman appointed to a state board, it said. The alderman allegedly specifically requested an appointment with a salary of above $100,000 per year.

Illinois House Speaker Emmanuel "Chris" Welch talks about the indictment of former Speaker Michael Madigan at the state Capitol in Springfield on Wednesday, March 2, 2022.
Illinois House Speaker Emmanuel "Chris" Welch talks about the indictment of former Speaker Michael Madigan at the state Capitol in Springfield on Wednesday, March 2, 2022.

“Just leave it in my hands,” said Madigan, according to the indictment.

The indictment does not accuse Pritzker of any wrongdoing.

House Speaker Emanuel "Chris" Welch, who replaced Madigan as speaker, addressed reporters shortly after the indictment was announced.

"We have passed ethics reform, although there may be more work to do, as always," said Welch.

In October, after debating the issue for months, the Legislature passed reforms barring lawmakers from becoming lobbyists in the first six months after they leave office and bans to fundraising in Springfield while the Legislature is in session. Separately, the House put term limits on legislative leadership offices like speaker of the House.

"I believe that the judicial system will handle that matter that's been brought before them," said Welch. "The former speaker will have his day in court."

House Republican Leader Jim Durkin, R-Western Springs, said that Democrats continue to block ethics reform in the Statehouse.

"This is another chapter in the sad story of corruption that has pervaded every corner of the state that was touched by Mike Madigan and his Democrat enablers and has dismantled true democracy in Illinois," Durkin said.

In the wake of the indictment, lawmakers are pointing fingers about how the House of Representatives did or did not handle investigating Madigan's activities.

Illinois Speaker of the House Michael Madigan waves into the crowd as he makes his way off stage at the conclusion of the Illinois Inaugural Ceremony at the Prairie Capital Convention Center, Monday, Jan. 12, 2015, in Springfield, Ill. [Justin L. Fowler/The State Journal-Register]
Illinois Speaker of the House Michael Madigan waves into the crowd as he makes his way off stage at the conclusion of the Illinois Inaugural Ceremony at the Prairie Capital Convention Center, Monday, Jan. 12, 2015, in Springfield, Ill. [Justin L. Fowler/The State Journal-Register]

In September 2020, the House formed a Special Investigative Committee. That committee, which was chaired by Welch before he was elected to lead the House, never issued any subpoenas nor recommended any disciplinary action.

Welch defended the committee's actions by saying that a legislative committee did not have the resources to handle an investigation like this.

"We said that it was proper for the United States Attorney John Lasuch to be the one conducting an investigation, not a legislative committee," said Welch.

But the top Republican in the House views the issue differently. Durkin said the committee didn't go far enough in holding the former Speaker accountable.

"For those Democrats who protected Michael Madigan at the Special Investigative Committee --- Speaker Welch, Representative Manley and Representative Hernandez --- history will not be kind to you," said Durkin. "Your sheltering and protection of Mike Madigan during the Special Investigative Committee was a disservice to Illinois and to all of their constituents."

Rep. Stephanie Kifowit, D-Aurora, was among the first to stand up to Madigan while he was bidding to hold on to his office in 2020.

"His actions undermined the public trust in the office," said Kifowit.

She ran unsuccessfully to replace Madigan and was among a group of lawmakers to vote against him, leading to the loss of his position.

More: Emanuel 'Chris' Welch reflects on his first year as Illinois' House speaker

"The former Speaker Madigan will have his day in court," Kifowit added.

Senate President Don Harmon, D-Oak Park, said he is waiting to see how this process plays out.

“These are obviously disturbing allegations," said Harmon. "I have confidence in our system of justice. Like everyone else, I will be watching to see how this unfolds."

Senate Republican Leader Dan McConchie, R-Hawthorn Woods, said the people of Illinois "shouldn’t have to rely on the feds to continuously clean up the state’s mess.

"Today’s announcement underscores the need to empower officials here in Illinois to investigate and prosecute misconduct and corruption of its own public officials."

Even the Democratic Party of Illinois, an organization that Madigan led for decades, is attempting to cut its ties with the former speaker.

While he stepped down as party chair more than a year ago, Madigan remains a State Central Committeeman from the 3rd Congressional District.

"He should resign from that position as well," said current Democratic Party Chair and U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly of Matteson.

Kelly said the organization will continue to watch the legal process as it unfolds.

"The DPI is committed to building a party that is more transparent, more diverse, and more inclusive in everything we do. Today’s announcement is a stark reminder that elected leaders must hold themselves to the highest ethical standards," Kelly said.

State Journal-Register reporter Steven Spearie contributed to this story. Contact Andrew Adams: aadams1@gannett.com; 312-291-1417; twitter.com/drewjayadams.

This article originally appeared on State Journal-Register: Michael Madigan Illinois indicted on racketeering, bribery charges