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’

Chicago Sun-Times - - FRONT PAGE - RACHEL HIN­TON RE­PORTS,

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.

AP FILES

Illi­nois House Speaker Mike Madi­gan

SUN-TIMES FILES

House Speaker Michael Madi­gan de­nounced a move to launch a House in­ves­ti­ga­tion into his deal­ings with ComEd as a ‘‘po­lit­i­cal stunt’’ by Repub­li­cans.

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