POWER PLAY BY ILLINOIS HOUSE REPUBLICANS
3 GOP legislators launch committee to probe Madigan’s ComEd dealings citing ‘pattern of concerning behavior’; speaker denounces ‘political stunt’
Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan’s dealings with ComEd will now be investigated by a special bipartisan legislative panel Republicans called for this week to determine if the powerful lawmaker did anything wrong — a rare move that has only happened twice before in the past two decades.
Madigan immediately recused himself from the process, but not before denouncing the maneuver Wednesday as a “political stunt” by Republicans seeking to create a “political circus.”
Three Republicans invoked the House rule for “disciplinary proceedings” on Monday, more than a month after a deferred prosecution agreement for the utility company revealed what the GOP legislators deemed “a pattern of concerning behavior” in the speaker’s office.
House Republican Leader Jim Durkin, Rep. Andrew Chesney, RFreeport, and Rep. Ryan Spain, R-Peoria, filed the petition to create the committee, which will be comprised of three Republicans and three Democrats.
“The U.S. attorney’s office has been advised of the petition and the legislative process moving forward,” the Republicans said in a statement. “It is Leader Durkin’s intention not to interfere in any way with the federal investigation.”
Members of the panel will decide if there was wrongdoing on Madigan’s end, and, if they conclude there was any, refer it to the House’s Select Committee on Discipline to decide on charges for the speaker, similar to proceedings in a jury trial.
Upon learning about the petition, Madigan recused himself, appointing House Majority Leader Greg Harris to “handle all aspects of this matter.” He also took a shot at the Republicans who petitioned for the committee, calling it “a political stunt only months away from one of the most consequential elections of our lifetimes.”
Madigan, 78, has not been charged with any crime, but in July, an explosive federal court filing implicated him in an alleged bribery scheme in which ComEd is accused of sending $1.3 million to Madigan’s associates for doing little or no work for the utility. Madigan has denied wrongdoing, and he did so again on Wednesday.
“As I have stated previously, I have never made a legislative decision with improper motives,” Madigan said in a statement.
And the powerful Southwest Side Democrat, who has been a Statehouse speaker for longer than anyone else in U.S. history, said his GOP counterpart was motivated by politics.
“I can’t identify one thing Rep.
Durkin and the Illinois Republican Party have done to help Illinois residents struggling from a global pandemic and a weakened economy,” Madigan said. “Rather than focusing on ways to get us out of Donald Trump’s mess, Republicans have spent their time and dollars trying to convince people I am to blame for the type of corruption and unethical conduct Donald Trump emulates every day.”
Madigan went on to say the “notion that the passage of two consequential pieces of energy legislation was tied to the hiring or retention of a few individuals is seriously mistaken.”
“Like their president, the House Republicans know how to create a political circus, but time and again fail to show up when it’s time to govern,” he said.
He also challenged the Republican House leader, saying “if Rep. Durkin “wants to question “whether legislators should be allowed to make job recommendations, I encourage him to be transparent and disclose all of the jobs he has requested or lobbyists he has recommended over the years.
“He should also disclose the various actions he personally took to pass the energy bills, both in 2011 and 2016,” the statement continued.
Neither Durkin nor Madigan was immediately available for comment.
Harris appointed Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch, D-Hillside, to chair the new committee, and Representatives Elizabeth Hernandez, D-Cicero, and Natalie Manley, DRomeoville, to serve on it. They’ll serve alongside Republican Representatives Tom Demmer of Dixon, Deanne Mazzochi of Westmont and Grant Wehrli, whose district includes Naperville.
The move is a rare one — in the past two decades, it has been invoked on two occasions, following the arrest and indictment of former Reps. Derrick Smith and Luis Arroyo.
“The Illinois Constitution gives members of the House the authority to review the actions of its members and determine whether discipline is necessary, including overturning the results of an election or expelling a member,” Harris said in a statement.
Welch said the Republican trio filed their petition over the weekend, and he was asked to chair the committee Tuesday. He doesn’t anticipate any action in the committee before next week, but the group is “organizing as quickly as possible.”
Madigan was implicated in ComEd’s deferred prosecution agreement — the company was charged with bribery in July and is expected to pay a $200 million fine — believed to be the largest criminal fine ever in northern Illinois’ federal court.
A spokesman for U.S. Attorney John R. Lausch Jr. declined to comment on whether the House investigation would interfere with or affect the actions of federal prosecutors.
Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan
House Speaker Michael Madigan denounced a move to launch a House investigation into his dealings with ComEd as a ‘‘political stunt’’ by Republicans.