CHICAGO (CBS) — At the urging of Illinois House Minority Leader Jim Durkin (R-Western Springs) and two other Republican lawmakers, the state legislature has formed a special investigative committee to look into Speaker Mike Madigan’s ties to the ComEd bribery scandal, and possibly recommend disciplinary action.
In July, federal prosecutors announced ComEd had been charged with a years-long bribery scheme that sought to influence Madigan by arranging for jobs, contracts, and payments to his allies and associates. The feds say ComEd admitted attempting to influence legislation regarding the regulatory process that determines the rates it is allowed to charge customers for electricity. ComEd acknowledged it stood to benefit by more than $150 million from that legislation.READ MORE: Police Shoot, Kill Man They Say Was Wielding Knife In Englewood
Under a three-year deferred prosecution agreement, ComEd will pay a record $200 million fine, and cooperate with an ongoing federal probe. If it meets its obligations under the agreement, the charges against ComEd will be dropped in 2023.
Madigan was not charged as part of the case, and was identified in court documents as “Public Official A.”
This week, Durkin and two other House Republicans filed a petition requesting the House convene a special investigative committee to look into whether Madigan should be disciplined over the scandal.
“Given the facts admitted by ComEd for its nine-year-long scheme to bribe Speaker Madigan, the Illinois House of Representatives must do its job and conduct a thorough investigation,” Durkin said in a news release.
Republicans and many Democrats have called on Madigan to resign, but he has maintained he has done nothing wrong, and called the petition for an investigative committee “a political stunt” ahead of the 2020 elections.
“As I have stated previously, I have never made a legislative decision with improper motives. The notion that the passage of two consequential pieces of energy legislation was tied to the hiring or retention of a few individuals is seriously mistaken,” Madigan said in a news release. “Those bills had the broad support of Democrats and Republican members, other legislative leaders, labor supporters, consumer advocates, and environmentalists. The bills could not have passed without such broad support, and they were the product of years of deliberation, negotiations, and consensus building. Rep. Durkin knows this because Republican members and staff were directly involved in the negotiations of these bills. They witnessed firsthand that House Democrats challenged representatives of ComEd and Exelon on critical portions of their proposed bills. Rep. Durkin knows it, and all those actually involved in the process know it.”
The speaker also leveled an unusual personal attack on Durkin in his response to the petition.
“If Rep. Durkin wants to question whether legislators should be allowed to make job recommendations, I encourage him to be transparent and disclose all of the jobs he has requested or lobbyists he has recommended over the years. He should also disclose the various actions he personally took to pass the energy bills, both in 2011 and 2016,” Madigan said.
Gov. JB Pritzker said he hopes the investigative panel is able to get answers from Madigan and others on exactly what happened with ComEd’s efforts to pass legislation beneficial to its business.
“This is an extraordinarily important endeavor,” Pritzker said. “As I have said all along, there are questions that need to be answered by the speaker, and perhaps the creation of this legislative committee will actually get some of those answers. So I favor more information, more transparency, and I encourage the speaker and anyone that they may call to give the answers to the questions that this committee will ask.”
Asked if he agrees with Madigan that the petition for an investigative committee is a political stunt, the governor said, “I hope, instead, that they’re going to be seeking real answers.”READ MORE: Police Warn Of Thieves Posing As Buyers Of Items On Facebook Marketplace In South Chicago
Madigan said he would recuse himself from any decisions on the special investigative committee, and tapped House Majority Leader Greg Harris (D-Chicago) to take charge of the matter. Harris tapped Reps. Emanuel “Chris” Welch (D-Hillside), Elizabeth Hernandez (D-Cicero), and Natalie Manley (D-Joliet) as members of the investigative panel. They will serve along Republican Reps. Tom Demmer (R-Dixon), Deanne Mazzochi (R-Elmhurst), and Grant Wehrli (R-Naperville).
“The allegations outlined in the deferred prosecution agreement are quite serious and warrant a comprehensive investigation. House Rule 91 provides for the creation of a special investigative committee, and it is an honor to be chosen to serve. This is incredibly important work and I look forward to our deliberations,” Wehrli said in a news release.
If a majority of the panel, chaired by Welch, determines there is probable cause to file disciplinary charges against Madigan, a separate 12-member disciplinary committee would be formed to vote on each possible charge.
If the disciplinary panel approves any charges, the full House would then vote on any possible disciplinary action. A two-thirds majority vote would be required to sanction Madigan. That would mean, at any point in the process, at least some Democrats would have to support disciplinary charges against Madigan for him to be punished.
Harris noted the House has formed a special investigating committee to vote on disciplining a lawmaker only twice in the past 20 years, following the bribery arrests and indictments of Rep. Derrick Smith in 2012 and Rep. Luis Arroyo last year. The House ultimately voted to expel Smith, who was re-elected months later, but lost another bid for office in 2014. Arroyo resigned before the House could begin any disciplinary proceedings.
Below is Madigan’s complete statement:
“When I learned that Minority Leader Jim Durkin and two Republican members requested the House of Representatives establish an investigative committee related to the ComEd deferred prosecution agreement, I immediately recused myself and designated House Majority Leader Greg Harris to handle all aspects of this matter.
“As I have stated previously, I have never made a legislative decision with improper motives. The notion that the passage of two consequential pieces of energy legislation was tied to the hiring or retention of a few individuals is seriously mistaken. Those bills had the broad support of Democrats and Republican members, other legislative leaders, labor supporters, consumer advocates, and environmentalists. The bills could not have passed without such broad support, and they were the product of years of deliberation, negotiations, and consensus building. Rep. Durkin knows this because Republican members and staff were directly involved in the negotiations of these bills. They witnessed firsthand that House Democrats challenged representatives of ComEd and Exelon on critical portions of their proposed bills. Rep. Durkin knows it, and all those actually involved in the process know it.
“The law does not prohibit members of the General Assembly from making job recommendations. If Rep. Durkin wants to question whether legislators should be allowed to make job recommendations, I encourage him to be transparent and disclose all of the jobs he has requested or lobbyists he has recommended over the years. He should also disclose the various actions he personally took to pass the energy bills, both in 2011 and 2016.
“The request by Rep. Durkin and his members is a political stunt only months away from one of the most consequential elections of our lifetimes. Republicans don’t want to focus on the fact that we have a federal administration that has used the White House to prop up Donald Trump’s wealthy campaign donors and friends at the expense of the American people. The Republicans don’t want people to focus on the nearly 200,000 COVID-19 deaths or the countless number of Illinoisans who have lost their jobs, healthcare coverage and retirement savings due to Trump’s mismanaged COVID-19 response. They certainly don’t want people to draw attention to the intense racial divisions Donald Trump relishes.
“I can’t identify one thing Rep. Durkin and the Illinois Republican Party have done to help Illinois residents struggling from a global pandemic and a weakened economy. Rather than focusing on ways to get us out of Donald Trump’s mess, Republicans have spent their time and dollars trying to convince people I am to blame for the type of corruption and unethical conduct Donald Trump emulates every day. They have spent hundreds of millions of dollars trying to convince people I am the problem so they don’t have to own up to their allegiance to Donald Trump and their political party. However, none of this is surprising, given that for four years Jim Durkin and the Illinois Republican Party sat on the sidelines and took millions of dollars from Bruce Rauner in exchange for their silence as Rauner tried to drive Illinois off a cliff and wage a war against Illinois’ working families.
“As they seek to distract and place blame, the Republicans are also working diligently to elect more Republicans in Springfield and suppress diverse Democratic voices in the 2021 redistricting process in order to install more pro-life and conservative members, backed by the influence of pharmaceutical and insurance companies.MORE NEWS: At Least 9 People Killed, 41 Wounded So Far In Chicago Weekend Gun Violence; 3-Year-Old Boy Among Survivors
“Like their president, the House Republicans know how to create a political circus, but time and again fail to show up when it’s time to govern.”