Former Illinois House speaker indicted on racketeering and bribery charges
By Andy Rose, CNN
(CNN) -- Michael J. Madigan, the former speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives, was indicted by a grand jury Wednesday on 22 federal charges related to racketeering, bribery and attempted extortion, prosecutors said.
The indictment accuses Madigan, 79, of using his political power to obtain bribes and steer business toward his private Chicago law firm, Madigan & Getzendanner, according to the Department of Justice. Many of the allegations in the indictment relate to claims that Madigan illegally influenced the Commonwealth Edison Company (ComEd), northern Illinois' primary electric utility, and it supported him in return.
Madigan served as the leader of the Illinois House of Representatives for 38 years, the longest tenure for a state speaker in modern US history. He was also the chair of the Illinois Democratic Party before resigning last year.
"We have a very stubborn public corruption problem here in Illinois," US Attorney John R. Lausch, Jr. stated at a news conference Wednesday, saying allegations against Madigan include having ComEd provide "no-show" jobs to some of his associates. He is also accused in the indictment of demanding an associate be added to the utility's board.
ComEd is also accused of paying more than $2 million in purported consulting fees to a Madigan associate's consulting firm "with a substantial portion of each payment intended for associates of Madigan," according to the indictment.
The 106-page indictment also names Michael McClain, 74, a political ally of Madigan who joined the state House around the same time. The indictment alleges he "carried out illegal activity at Madigan's direction," charging him with crimes related to racketeering and bribery.
The indictment refers to multiple emails allegedly sent from McClain to top ComEd executives in which he repeatedly refers to potential workers and law firms favored by "our Friend," adding in one case, "I know the drill and so do you." The indictment alleges Madigan's associates would often refer to him as "our Friend" or "a Friend of ours," as a way "to conceal the nature and purpose of their conduct."
In another incident, the indictment alleges an unnamed Chicago alderman told McClain, "In the past, I have been able to steer some work to Mike, and these guys will do the same thing," referring to developers seeking Madigan's assistance in avoiding legal hurdles for a real estate deal. The alderman referred to in the indictment was chairman of the Committee on Zoning, Landmarks & Building Standards for a time, the document says.
"I was never involved in any criminal activity. The government is attempting to criminalize a routine constituent service: job recommendations. That is not illegal, and these other charges are equally unfounded," Madigan said in a statement obtained by CNN.
"Throughout my 50 years as a public servant, I worked to address the needs of my constituents, always keeping in mind the high standards required and the trust the public placed in me. I adamantly deny these accusations and look back proudly on my time as an elected official, serving the people of Illinois," the statement continued.
McClain's attorneys told CNN in a statement he is innocent. "For years, the Government has been trying to force Mike McClain to cooperate in its quest against former Speaker Mike Madigan. These latest charges are nothing more than the Government's continued attempt to pressure Mike McClain to do the Government's bidding."
Allegations span multiple years, DOJ says
Prosecutors accuse Madigan of shepherding legislation through the state House that was favorable to ComEd, including one law that specifically overturned a state regulatory decision the company did not like.
"We will not comment on charges related to the former Speaker or beyond what is in the statement of facts in ComEd's deferred prosecution agreement, which resolved the U.S. Attorney's Office's investigation into ComEd and Exelon," the utility told CNN in a statement Wednesday. "ComEd has cooperated fully with the investigation, been transparent with customers, and implemented comprehensive ethics and compliance reforms to ensure that the unacceptable conduct outlined in the agreement never happens again." Exelon is the parent company of ComEd.
The indictment focuses on allegations from 2011 to 2019.
In addition to the potential for prison time if convicted, prosecutors ask that Madigan and McClain forfeit any property and at least $2.8 million they obtained through alleged corruption.
A magistrate judge ruled Wednesday that Madigan and McClain could remain free on a signature bond ahead of a scheduled arraignment March 9.
"An indictment of this magnitude is a condemnation of a system infected with promises of pay-to-play, and the era of corruption and self-dealing among Illinois politicians must end," Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker said in a news release Wednesday.
"The conduct alleged in this indictment is deplorable and a stark violation of the public's trust. Michael Madigan must be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law," he said.
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