SPRINGFIELD – The General Assembly’s ethics watchdog agreed Friday to open an inquiry into allegations by Gov. Pat Quinn that several votes were improperly cast in the Illinois House when it passed part of a utility rate-hike package this week.
Thomas J. Homer, the state’s legislative inspector general, told the Chicago Sun-Times that he will look into the matter at Quinn’s request but stressed that any breaches of state ethics laws would have to involve legislative staffers or other lawmakers “maliciously” casting votes in an opposite manner than the way an absent legislator had intended.
Homer’s involvement comes after he was singled out Friday by Quinn and asked to undertake an investigation into the matter, which one top House Republican coined “Buttongate.”
“This is not right, and the legislators know this. And I think any wrongdoing there, any monkey business, needs to be investigated by the proper authority, and that’s the legislative inspector general,” Quinn told reporters at a stop in Downstate Bloomington.
As many as 18 House members were called off the floor for a budget briefing Wednesday when the first of two parts of the rate-hike package sought by Commonwealth Edison passed.
Some lawmakers opposed to the bill returned from the briefing to see that their votes had been cast in favor of it, either by staffers or seatmates.
Only seven of the 18 reported to be at the briefing cast votes in favor of ComEd only to vote against the utility later when the final piece of the rate-hike package came up for a vote.
The measure where the questionable votes occurred passed by a 91-24 margin; 71 votes were necessary for passage. That means the questionable votes likely would not have tilted the outcome on that measure.