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Madigan tells House panel to start the probe without him: ‘I have provided all of the answers I can give’

Madigan’s letter to the committee appears to be his most substantive response yet to the bombshell bribery case against ComEd.

House Speaker Mike Madigan listens to debate during a session of the Illinois House of Representatives at the Bank of Springfield Center in May.
House Speaker Mike Madigan listens to debate during a session of the Illinois House of Representatives at the Bank of Springfield Center in May.
Justin L. Fowler/The State Journal-Register via AP file

The special Illinois House committee looking into the ComEd bribery case laid out by federal prosecutors this summer may have a few witnesses lined up for its meeting next week, but it sounds like one key player will be missing.

House Speaker Michael Madigan.

In a three-page letter that became public Friday, Madigan told the committee he would not be appearing. The Southwest Side Democrat said he is not exercising his Fifth Amendment rights by not testifying about the criminal case in which he was implicated last July, though. Rather, he wrote, “As I have said before, I have done nothing wrong.”

“I cannot provide information I do not have, and I cannot answer questions about issues of which I have no knowledge or conversations to which I was not a party,” Madigan wrote. “I have provided all of the answers I can give.”

House Republican Leader Jim Durkin, who called for the legislative hearings into Madigan’s relationship with ComEd, reacted with his own statement.

“Speaker Madigan continues to take the path that his own House Rules apply to all except him,” Durkin said. “The House Democrats and Governor Pritzker must step up and demand answers about Madigan’s involvement in ComEd’s admission of guilt in a bribery scheme lasting nine years.”

Gov. J.B. Pritzker, left, in March; House Republican Leader Jim Durkin, center, in 2018; House Speaker Mike Madigan, right, in 2015.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker, left, in March; House Republican Leader Jim Durkin, center, in 2018; House Speaker Mike Madigan, right, in 2015.
Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times; Rich Hein/Sun-Times

Madigan’s letter appeared on the political website CapitolFax. Separately, the Chicago Sun-Times obtained a letter to the committee from Chris Niewoehner, criminal defense attorney for Fidel Marquez, the former ComEd senior vice president of governmental and external affairs who has been criminally charged. It asked that Marquez’s appearance before the committee Tuesday be postponed because Marquez expects to be in court.

Niewoehner could not be reached for comment Friday evening. There has been no public notice of a Tuesday hearing in Marquez’s criminal case.

Madigan has not been charged, but federal prosecutors accused ComEd in July of a bribery scheme that sent $1.3 million to Madigan’s associates for doing little or no work for the utility, all while ComEd hoped to land Madigan’s support for legislation in Springfield worth more than $150 million. Though the utility has formally pleaded not guilty in court, it admitted to the conduct in a deferred-prosecution agreement with the U.S. Attorney’s office.

Madigan’s letter appears to be his most substantive response yet to the bombshell case. He wrote that, “I wish to make a few things clear for the Committee.” For starters, he said, ComEd’s deferred-prosecution agreement “does not attribute any misconduct to me.”

State House Republican Leader Jim Durkin, R-Western Springs, left, talks with House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, in May.
State House Republican Leader Jim Durkin, R-Western Springs, left, talks with House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, in May.
Justin L. Fowler/The State Journal-Register via AP-file

“It asserts that certain individuals at ComEd hired individuals I purportedly recommended in an attempt to influence me,” Madigan wrote. “But let me be clear: That attempt was never made known to me — if it had been, it would have been profoundly unwelcome.”

The court document outlining the bribery details does largely paint a picture of a Madigan ally pressuring ComEd officials to give jobs, contracts and money to Madigan associates. It also says Madigan — referred to in the document as “Public Official A” — sought jobs, contracts and money for his associates, including precinct captains in his legislative district.

In his letter, Madigan wrote that if ComEd or its parent company, Exelon, believed they could influence him by making those hires, “they were incredibly mistaken.” Further, he said he saw it as part of his duty “to help people, including helping those seeking employment.”

“Anyone who has ever worked for or around me knows I value, above all else, hard work and dedication, whether you are knocking on doors, collecting garbage, or representing a client,” Madigan wrote.

Finally, Madigan noted that Durkin and then-Gov. Bruce Rauner, a Republican, had “intense involvement” in one piece of legislation specifically mentioned in the ComEd case.

“I urge the committee to allow the federal government to conduct a full, complete, and fair investigation without any interruption or distraction,” Madigan wrote. “I believe that such an investigation, once all of the facts are made available to the public, will demonstrate that I have not engaged in any improper conduct.”