By MICHAEL TARM and JOHN O’CONNOR – Associated Press
CHICAGO (AP) — Michael Madigan, the former speaker of the Illinois House and for decades one of the nation’s most powerful lawmakers, was charged Wednesday with a nearly $3 million racketeering and bribery scheme dollars, becoming the most high-profile politician swept up in a federal investigation of entrenched government corruption in the state.
Madigan, 79, is charged with 22 counts charge with a racketeering conspiracy, utilizing interstate facilities using bribes, wire fraud, and attempted extortion.
Madigan, who resigned from the Legislative Assembly a year ago, was the longest-serving speaker of the State House in modern US history and has been dubbed the ‘Velvet Hammer’ for his insistence on strict discipline party. A host of top Illinois politicians, including three governors, were indicted during his tenure, but politicians have long believed the wise Madigan would never be among them.
The 106-page indictment alleges that Madigan used not only his role as a speaker, but various positions of power to further his alleged criminal enterprise, including his chairmanship of the Illinois Democratic Party. He also accuses Madigan of reaping the benefits of private legal work illegally directed to his law firm, including firms with cases before the state or city of Chicago.
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He refers to the alleged conspiracy, which spanned a decade, as “The Madigan Enterprise”, saying its purpose was “to preserve and improve the political power and financial well-being of Madigan” and to ” rewarding Madigan’s political allies”, in particular by using his stranglehold. on the legislative process.
Madigan, in a written statement, “categorically” denied the charges.
“I have never been involved in any criminal activity,” he said.
A statement from his lawyers added: “Neither the law nor the facts support these baseless accusations, and the evidence will prove it.”
The value of the alleged schemes, in bribes and illegal transactions, was at least $2.8 million, according to the indictment.
The filing includes alleged communications in which Madigan appeared to accept pay-to-play offers.
In one case in 2018, Madigan met with an unnamed Chicago alderman who asked Madigan to help him land a state council appointment that paid $100,000 a year in exchange for sending legal work to the neighborhood. from Alderman to Madigan Law Firm.
“Just leave it in my hands,” Madigan told him, according to the indictment.
In 2020, the Chicago Democrat was implicated in a long-running corruption scheme involving the state’s largest electric utility, ComEd, a key part of Wednesday’s filing. Documents filed in court at the time did not name Madigan directly, but clearly indicated that he was the person in the documents referred to as “Public Officer A”.
The indictment names Michael F. McClain, a close friend of Madigan, as a co-defendant. He alleges that they arranged for companies, including ComEd, to make payments to Madigan associates for their loyalty to Madigan.
McClain served with Madigan in the House in the 1970s and early 1980s before becoming a lobbyist. One of his clients was ComEd.
According to the new indictment, McClain in 2016 sent an email pressuring two associates to resolve a dispute over a legal bill Madigan would like to pay.
“I just don’t understand why we have to spend precious minutes on articles like this when we know it will elicit a reaction from our friend,” McClain wrote, referring to Madigan, according to the deed. charge.
ComEd has admitted in previous court documents that it secured jobs and contracts for associates of Public Official A from 2011 to 2019 for favorable treatment in regulatory rules affecting the public service. ComEd agreed in August 2020 to pay $200 million in a settlement to stay the proceedings, although this agreement does not prevent criminal proceedings against anyone.
McClain, 74, of Quincy, is charged with racketeering conspiracy and use of interstate facilities for bribery and wire fraud.
The arraignment dates for Madigan and McClain have not been set.
The federal complaint came after more than half a dozen Democrats — including Madigan’s longtime chief of staff — have been charged with crimes or had their offices and homes raided by federal agents.
As a speaker, the ever-confident Madigan tended to ignore the political scandal of the time. A spokeswoman for Madigan in 2020 denied ComEd-related allegations and said Madigan would cooperate with the investigation which “will clearly demonstrate that he did nothing criminal or improper”.
It wasn’t good enough for his House Democratic caucus, many of whom hadn’t been born when Madigan was first inaugurated in 1971. Despite his determination to win a 19th term as president in January of the last year, support dissipated and he was unable to garner the 60 votes needed to retain the gavel. Relegated to the rank and file of the 118-member House, he resigned his seat in the Legislative Assembly and as chairman of the Illinois Democratic Party in February 2021.
Madigan, the son of a Chicago precinct captain, became Speaker of the House in 1983. He was a throwback to the machine style of politics for which Illinois was once famous, particularly during the reign of 22 years as Richard Daley’s mayor of Chicago, when patronage and partying connections controlled who was hired and what projects were built.
Madigan wielded power through tight control of his caucus and meticulous knowledge of legislation, determining which bills were heard and which died quietly. His loyalists received choice legislative assignments and campaign money. He controlled the drawing of district boundaries after a census.
Madigan’s former chief of staff, Timothy Mapes, was indicted in May for lying under oath to a federal grand jury investigating ComEd. The indictment said Mapes had been granted immunity to testify and that his words or evidence could not be used against him in a criminal case unless he committed perjury.
Four others were indicted in November for orchestrating a bribery scheme with ComEd.
Former ComEd executive Fidel Marquez pleaded guilty to bribery in September and agreed to cooperate with federal prosecutors.
Madigan held the gavel in the House for nearly two years from 1983 to 2021, leading the political agenda regardless of which party controls the governor’s office or other legislative body. He served the terms of seven governors. One, Republican Governor Bruce Rauner, complained that Madigan, not him, was in charge of the state.
His power base was a middle-class neighborhood near Midway International Airport in southwest Chicago, where his loyalists, many of whom were government employees, reliably traveled to solicit neighborhoods and enroll the electors. With an eight-figure campaign fund, he could choose Democratic candidates from all over Illinois to run for office and fund their races. The Chicago Tribune in 2014 found over 400 current and retired state and local government employees with campaign ties to Madigan. Madigan’s daughter Lisa served as Illinois attorney general from 2003 to 2019.
Pay-to-Play Allegations were raised against Madigan, but he denied them and none resulted in criminal charges. In 2013, the head of Chicago’s Metra Rail transit system claimed after being kicked out that Madigan pressured him to give jobs and raises to political favorites.
Madigan has a reputation for despising the media and rarely speaking in public. But when reporters asked in 2019 if he was a target of investigation, Madigan said, “I’m not the target of anything.”
As Madigan’s scrutiny intensified, he also wrote a letter to House colleagues, denying any wrongdoing or personal knowledge of any corruption schemes. He said he never expected anyone to be hired for a job in exchange for an action they took. “Helping people find jobs,” he said, “is not a crime.”
O’Connor reported from Springfield, Illinois.
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