CHICAGO (CBS) — In the wake of a fresh round of indictments in the ComEd bribery scandal linked to Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan, Gov. JB Pritzker on Thursday repeated his demand that Madigan come forward to answer questions about the case, or step aside from his leadership position.
“If Speaker Madigan wants to continue in a position of enormous public trust with such a serious public cloud hanging over his head, then he has to at the very least be willing to stand in front of the press and the people and answer every last question to their satisfaction,” Pritzker said Thursday afternoon.READ MORE: Chicago Weather: Colder And Blustery Sunday Night
Wednesday night, longtime Madigan confidant Michael McClain, former ComEd CEO Anne Pramaggiore, former ComEd executive and lobbyist John Hooker, and former lobbyist Jay Doherty were charged with bribery conspiracy, bribery, and willfully falsifying ComEd books and records.
The indictment virtually mirrored the case laid out against ComEd itself earlier this year, accusing the company of a yearslong bribery scheme that sought to curry Madigan’s favor in advancing legislation relaxing state regulation of ComEd’s rates by directing $1.3 million in payments to the speaker’s associates. ComEd acknowledged it stood to benefit by more than $150 million from that legislation.
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Wednesday’s indictment accuses McClain, Pramaggiore, Hooker, and Doherty of using their influence to reward “Public Official A” – not specified by name as Madigan but referred to in the indictment as Speaker of the Illinois House – for about eight years beginning in 2011.
The indictment claims the four defendants conspired to influence and reward the speaker by arranging for jobs and contracts for his political allies and workers. The jobs sometimes involved little or no work, the U.S. Attorney’s office said.
The defendants are also accused of creating false contracts, invoices, and other records to disguise some of the payments and get around ComEd internal controls, the U.S. Attorney’s office said.
Further, the defendants are accused of making other efforts to try to influence Madigan, including having ComEd retain a law firm that was favored by the speaker, and accepting a certain number of students from the official’s Chicago aldermanic ward into the ComEd internship program, prosecutors said.
Pramaggiore and McClain are also accused of working to have someone appointed to the ComEd Board of Directors at the request of the speaker and McClain.
“The pay-to-play quid pro quo situation outlined in these indictments released last night are unspeakably wrong. Anyone who concludes otherwise is insulting the public. If Speaker Madigan wants to continue in a position of enormous public trust with such a serious public cloud hanging over his head, then he has to at the very least be willing to stand in front of the press and the people and answer every last question to their satisfaction,” Pritzker said.
Madigan, the longest-serving House Speaker in the nation, has yet to be charged with a crime, and has denied any wrongdoing, but has yet to speak publicly about the scandal, instead releasing written statements denying any knowledge of ComEd’s attempts to bribe him.READ MORE: 5 Killed, 19 Wounded In Chicago Weekend Shootings
“If that attempt ever happened, it was never made known to me. If it had been known to me, it would have been profoundly unwelcome,” Madigan said in a statement Thursday morning. “If there was an attempt to influence me in my official capacity, it failed, although knowing most of the people who were charged, I doubt there was any scheme as characterized by the government.”
The Illinois House has launched a disciplinary investigation against Madigan, although he has refused to testify, and the Democratic chair of the panel has put the panel’s hearings on hold while they seek documents from ComEd.
Pritzker said Madigan needs to do more to address ComEd scandal, and answer every possible question reporters or the public might have for him.
“Written statements and dodged investigatory hearings are not going to cut it. If the Speaker cannot commit to that level of transparency, then the time has come for him to resign as Speaker,” he said.
Madigan’s future as Speaker is in doubt even if he doesn’t resign, as published reports state at least 16 House Democrats have said they won’t support him for another term. Madigan needs 60 votes from the House to keep his seat, and with 73 Democrats who will be sworn in under the new General Assembly, if all 16 who oppose another term for the Speaker stick to their guns, he would be three votes shy.
However, Pritzker declined to say if he has been urging any other House Democrats to vote against another term for Madigan, saying that’s up to members of the Illinois House.
“These legislators alone hold the unique power to elect the Illinois Speaker, and I trust that they will think long and hard about the duties that they owe to the people that we all work for,” the governor said.
Pritzker also would not say who he believes should replace Madigan if he does step down as Speaker, or if lawmakers refuse to re-elect him.
“I will work with whoever it is that becomes the Speaker of the House,” Pritzker said.
Pritzker already has called on Madigan to resign as chairman of the Democratic Party of Illinois. Madigan is the only House Speaker in the nation to double as party chairman.MORE NEWS: Celebrating Black History Makers: Terrance Wallace Has Brought 10 At-Risk Boys To Live Together In Barrington Hills For A New Life
So far, the only House Democrat who has said they plan to run against Madigan for Speaker is Rep. Stephanie Kifowit, of Oswego.