Madigan’s Troubles Reach Towards Pritzker

Written by Christine Misner

Could Mike Madigan’s luck have finally run out? That’s what many in Illinois are wondering as news of a federal investigation into a bribery scheme linked to the longtime Democrat and Speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives have revealed. Calls for him to resign are starting to come from around Illinois. Plus, court records are showing that the scandal may have a link to fellow Democratic Governor J.B. Pritzker.

Madigan was named as “Public Official A” on July 17, by U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, in an investigation into a years-long bribery scheme involving Commonwealth Edison (ComEd), the largest electric utility in the state. It is alleged that bribes were passed between ComEd and friends of Speaker Madigan for favorable government deals and legislation.

Governor Pritzker was quick to comment on the scandal at an unrelated press conference in Waukegan after news of the investigation broke. “The speaker has a lot that he needs to answer for — to authorities, to investigators and most importantly to the people of Illinois. If these allegations of wrongdoing by the speaker are true, there is no question that he will have betrayed the public trust and he must resign.” Some suspected the governor was just going through the motions by making the statement.

In a recent media release, the Illinois Republican Party claimed Pritzker is shielding “Madigan from resigning his post as Speaker and as Chair of the Democratic Party of Illinois.” The governor has his own connections to the growing scandal. His political appointee, Carrie Zalewski, is chairperson of the Illinois Commerce Commission. Her father-in-law, former Chicago 23rd Ward Alderman Michael Zalewski, is alleged to have profited from the ComEd bribery scheme.

In addition, the Chicago Sun-Times reported, two of the Illinois Tollway authority’s top officials were given their jobs by the governor after an endorsement by a former ComEd lobbyist, John Hooker, who also happens to be involved in the bribery scheme.

One of those officials was Will Evans, a former Peoples Gas executive, who was named chairperson of the tollway board in 2019. He was appointed after the General Assembly, led by Madigan, passed legislation that restructured the tollway panel to allow the government to make new appointments. The other was Jose Alvarez, a former Chicago Housing Authority official, who now runs the agency’s daily operations.

While Hooker was not originally referred to by name by federal prosecutors, ComEd said it engaged in bribery in the “hopes of winning passage of favorable legislation from Madigan, who holds huge sway on rate hikes and other regulatory matters.”

Court records revealed Madigan’s friend, Michael McClain, and a lobbyist identified by the Sun-Times as Hooker, planned to “help two Madigan associates by funneling money to them as subcontractors through a consulting company.” According to prosecutors, they were falsely billed as advice on “legislative issues” and “legislative risk management activities.”

Illinois Republican Party Chairman Tim Schneider condemned the governor for his actions. “Governor Pritzker has chosen the wrong side of history,” said Schneider. “The people of Illinois will hold this governor accountable for standing in Madigan’s defense and actively covering up corruption. People should see Mr. Pritzker for what he is: a political accessory after the fact to Mike Madigan’s crimes. What else did we expect from a governor facing his own federal investigation for property tax fraud?”

Meanwhile, it’s starting to look as if Madigan could really be in trouble. According to the Associated Press, experts have said “prosecutors are coming for him” and “charges could come any day.” Some of the state’s newspaper editorial boards are even starting to call for the speaker to step down.

The State Journal-Register in Springfield said, “Mr. Madigan, please step aside and let your colleagues lead the way to reform.”

According to an editorial in the Chicago Tribune, “Madigan has held onto the speaker’s job for far too long. This should be the clincher. Step down, Mr. Speaker.” Madigan was first elected to political office in 1970.

From the Suburban Daily Herald: “The suggestions of impropriety in those documents are so overwhelming that Michael J. Madigan, whether innocent or guilty of wrongdoing, cannot escape being a major distraction both to good government and to the hopes of the political party he leads.”

Another newspaper, the Effingham Daily News, warned, “He hasn’t been charged with anything — yet. But Madigan’s effectiveness as a leader in the state can no longer exist in the wake of an agreement the feds reached last week with Commonwealth Edison.”

We take very seriously the trust you place in Illinois Family Action when you send a gift.
We understand that we are accountable before you and God to honor your trust.

Donations to 501c4 organizations are not tax-deductible.