Statehouse committee looking into Madigan concludes suddenly — and finds no wrongdoing

In their first meeting since September, members argued over motions to subpoena the speaker and deadlocked on a vote to authorize a charge against Madigan for conduct unbecoming of a legislator.

SHARE Statehouse committee looking into Madigan concludes suddenly — and finds no wrongdoing
Former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan,  seen at the University Club of Chicago in 2015, was often seen as an impediment to reform during his record tenure in Springfield. But, in the first session without him, legislators still backed away from significantly toughening governmental ethics laws.

Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan

Rich Hein / Sun-Times file

The committee looking into Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan’s dealings with ComEd did not find he did anything wrong in a vote that split along party lines, concluding its work after convening three times and hearing from one witness.

In their first meeting since September, members argued over motions to subpoena the speaker and others tied to the investigation surrounding an alleged bribery scheme in which ComEd is accused of sending $1.3 million to Madigan’s associates for doing little or no work for the utility. 

On a motion brought by Rep. Natalie Manley, D-Joliet, to authorize the charge against Madigan, the six-member committee deadlocked, with the three Republicans voting to approve a charge that Madigan engaged in conduct unbecoming of a legislator while the Democrats voted no.

Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch, D-Hillside, who chairs the committee, said, “This was the last committee hearing of the show trial.”

“That’s what this was, a show trial,” Welch said after the meeting. “This is a political show that was concocted by Minority Leader [Jim] Durkin; this was a plain power grab by the minority party.”

Asked why he didn’t push Madigan to appear, Welch said, “I do not support subpoenas in this process. 

“This is a sham, political show trial to help leader Durkin try to become speaker, and he’s abusing what this rule was meant for, and to to vote to support subpoenas in this process is pandering to that abuse, and I refused to do it,” Welch said.

After the meeting, Rep. Tom Demmer, R-Dixon, called it a “failure of the House of Representatives.” 

“It was our duty to conduct this investigation to support and try to rebuild the integrity and trust of the House of Representatives,” Demmer said. “But what we saw under the leadership of Chairman Welch was a process that sought not to hear from additional witnesses . . . and sought to bring the committee to a conclusion before we had the information necessary to make a qualified judgment . . . the people deserve to have a speaker of the House who is not the subject of a federal investigation.”

During the afternoon meeting, the committee debated and but did not pass motions that would have brought another representative from ComEd to testify before them about documents the utility company released to the panel last month, as well as motions to issue subpoenas.

One of those motions, which would issue subpoenas to “certain persons,” sparked the ire of Rep. Grant Wehrli, R-Naperville.

“... I’m supposed to vote on a motion that’s going to subpoena pretty much everybody in the state of Illinois because this body, the three Democrats on this, will not go so far as to even name names,” Wehrli said. “This isn’t Voldemort we’re talking about here, you can actually say the man’s name. You’re going to excruciating lengths to protect Michael J. Madigan from ever having to testify...”

Rep. Deanne Mazzochi, R-Elmhurst, said Welch never gave any indication that the Monday meeting would be the committee’s last.

“I understand that the Democrats are saying ‘Well, you don’t have any evidence that [Madigan] knew, well that’s exactly what we were trying to do today is ‘OK, let’s issue the subpoena, bring Mike Madigan in, put him under oath where there’s penalties of perjury . . . ‘” Mazzochi said. “They didn’t say, ‘Yes, let’s get sunlight,’ they said ‘No, let’s sundown’ . . . How is that an honest investigation when you shut that process down?”

Durkin and two other Republicans filed a petition to create the committee in September. Democrats pointed to a mention of Durkin in documents from ComEd as proof that both Republicans and Democrats make job recommendations.

“The Democratic Party shows again today there is no limit to the lengths they will go to protect Speaker Madigan,” Durkin said in a statement. “I call on Gov. Pritzker to finally demand Speaker Madigan resign as it is clear he refuses to answer any questions about his corrupt practices.”

Madigan, who has not been charged with wrongdoing, said “Jim Durkin insisted on initiating this political theater, and through this process we’ve come to learn that he was involved in the very conduct he claims to be so offended by — recommending people for various jobs.

“If Jim Durkin actually believes it is conduct unbecoming of a legislator to recommend people for jobs or help constituents, he might want to review his own hypocritical behavior. Rather than finger-pointing, I suggest we focus on the important work that lies ahead of us,” the statement continued.

In September, ComEd attorney David Glockner testified before lawmakers that he wasn’t aware that a particular hire was done “with an effort to curry favor with . . . Leader Durkin.”

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