Chicago Sun-Times


- BY RACHEL HINTON, PO­LIT­I­CAL RE­PORTER rhin­ton@sun­ | @rrhin­ton Crime · U.S. News · US Politics · White-collar Crime · Politics · United States of America · Congress of the United States · Hillside · Republican Party (United States) · Philadelphia Union · Democratic Party (United States) · Michael Madigan · Commonwealth Edison Company · Welch · Tom Demmer · Dixon, New Mexico · Jim Durkin

Fed­eral pros­e­cu­tors gave the state House com­mit­tee in­ves­ti­gat­ing Speaker Michael Madigan’s deal­ings with ComEd the “green light” to pro­ceed on Thurs­day — but not with­out flash­ing a cau­tion­ary yel­low light.

U.S. At­tor­ney John Lausch wrote to the top state rep­re­sen­ta­tives on the panel — Demo­cratic chair Emanuel “Chris” Welch of Hill­side and Repub­li­can Tom Dem­mer of Dixon, telling them his of­fice did not “have a gen­eral ob­jec­tion” to the House Spe­cial In­ves­tiga­tive Com­mit­tee seek­ing doc­u­ments or tes­ti­mony re­lated to the fed­eral probe of the util­ity com­pany dur­ing the course of its pro­ceed­ings.

But Lausch also set some pa­ram­e­ters. The six-mem­ber panel can’t ask wit­nesses about their par­tic­i­pa­tion in grand jury pro­ceed­ings or re­quest they pro­duce ma­te­ri­als dis­clos­ing grand jury ac­tiv­ity.

In the let­ter re­leased by Repub­li­cans, Lausch also ob­jected to the com­mit­tee ask­ing wit­nesses about any con­tact they’ve had with pros­e­cu­tors or fed­eral law en­force­ment re­lated to the crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the util­ity or to share in­for­ma­tion learned from the feds dur­ing the in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

And, should the com­mit­tee steer too close to his own on­go­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion into ComEd, Lausch said his of­fice “might raise ob­jec­tions to par­tic­u­lar tes­ti­mony or doc­u­ment re­quests” as the two par­al­lel probes go for­ward. Lausch said he was not cur­rently rais­ing that ob­jec­tion.

Lausch also said his of­fice will not pro­vide the com­mit­tee with doc­u­ments, in­for­ma­tion or tes­ti­mony.

“We rec­og­nize the SIC’s sep­a­rate and in­de­pen­dent re­spon­si­bil­i­ties, and, there­fore, we do not ob­ject gen­er­ally to the SIC’s pur­suit of tes­ti­mony … even if the party pre­vi­ously shared the same un­der­ly­ing fac­tual in­for­ma­tion with fed­eral pros­e­cu­tors or law en­force­ment agents,” Lausch’s let­ter reads in part.

Ron Safer — a for­mer fed­eral prose­cu­tor now ad­vis­ing House Repub­li­can Leader Jim Durkin — called the let­ter a “green light to pur­sue all av­enues of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion.”

“The U.S. at­tor­ney’s of­fice has given the Spe­cial In­ves­ti­gat­ing Com­mit­tee the green light to pur­sue all av­enues of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, in­clud­ing tes­ti­mony and doc­u­ments, that were ar­tic­u­lated in the pe­ti­tion,” Safer said in a state­ment re­leased by Repub­li­cans. “We are grate­ful that U.S. At­tor­ney John Lausch told the com­mit­tee that his of­fice rec­og­nizes the SIC’s ‘sep­a­rate and in­de­pen­dent obli­ga­tion to con­duct its in­quiry.’ We look for­ward to the com­mit­tee con­ven­ing promptly to do this im­por­tant work.”

Durkin was one of the three Repub­li­can state leg­is­la­tors who filed the orig­i­nal pe­ti­tion call­ing for the for­ma­tion of the panel.

In the panel’s first meeting last week, Welch called for mem­bers to fol­low the prece­dent of sim­i­lar com­mit­tees in the past by reach­ing out to Lausch be­fore go­ing any fur­ther.

Mem­bers of the com­mit­tee had a tele­phone con­ver­sa­tion with the U.S. at­tor­ney on Mon­day, but Repub­li­cans and Democrats have spent the time since hag­gling about ex­actly what Lausch said.

On Wed­nes­day, the Demo­cratic chair sent his own let­ter to Lausch, memo­ri­al­iz­ing that Mon­day call, draw­ing the ire of Repub­li­cans who com­plained he sent it “with­out any of our sug­ges­tions or changes.”

In a state­ment Thurs­day, Welch said the let­ter from Lausch “con­firms our un­der­stand­ing that while this com­mit­tee can call in­di­vid­u­als to vol­un­tar­ily ap­pear, they would be lim­ited in what they can dis­cuss.”

“In par­tic­u­lar, in­for­ma­tion un­der­ly­ing the de­ferred prose­cu­tion agree­ment be­yond what is al­ready public could be met with ob­jec­tion by fed­eral in­ves­ti­ga­tors, and any fur­ther in­for­ma­tion col­lected by the fed­eral gov­ern­ment that in­formed that agree­ment is ex­plic­itly off lim­its,” Welch said in a state­ment.

“We also see clearly that Repub­li­can mem­bers of this com­mit­tee at­tempted to go be­yond what has orig­i­nally been dis­cussed with the U.S. at­tor­ney. Once again, I will not al­low this com­mit­tee to in­ap­pro­pri­ately in­ter­fere with the work of the U.S. at­tor­ney, and I will not al­low it to be used as a stage for po­lit­i­cal the­ater.”

Dem­mer sent his own let­ter to Lausch, en­sur­ing him the panel would not in­ter­fere with the fed­eral in­ves­ti­ga­tion and spell­ing out ex­actly what Repub­li­cans will be seek­ing.

“Suf­fice it to say, I have a very dif­fer­ent view of our con­ver­sa­tion than Chair­man Welch,” Dem­mer wrote. “I re­gret that we have pre­sented you with du­el­ing let­ters. You have more im­por­tant work to do than me­di­ate an in­ternecine dispute over what I thought was a straight-for­ward and col­lab­o­ra­tive con­ver­sa­tion. But alas, here we are.”

The spe­cial bi­par­ti­san leg­isla­tive panel is look­ing into any po­ten­tial wrong­do­ing on Madigan’s part af­ter the po­lit­i­cal jug­ger­naut was im­pli­cated in an al­leged bribery scheme in a July fed­eral court fil­ing. In that court fil­ing, ComEd is ac­cused of send­ing $1.3 mil­lion to Madigan’s as­so­ciates for do­ing lit­tle or no work for the util­ity.

Madigan has not been charged with any crime and has de­nied any wrong­do­ing.

But in re­sponse to that July fed­eral court doc­u­ment, Durkin and two other Repub­li­can House mem­bers called for the leg­isla­tive in­ves­ti­ga­tion, in­vok­ing a rarely used House rule for “dis­ci­plinary pro­ceed­ings” against the pow­er­ful South­west Side Demo­crat.

Welch said the com­mit­tee’s next meeting will likely be Sept. 28, and he’s work­ing on in­vi­ta­tions to the wit­nesses on the com­mit­tee’s list.

 ?? PAT NABONG/SUN-TIMES ?? U.S. At­tor­ney John Lausch speaks at a June press con­fer­ence out­side the Dirk­sen Fed­eral Court­house.
PAT NABONG/SUN-TIMES U.S. At­tor­ney John Lausch speaks at a June press con­fer­ence out­side the Dirk­sen Fed­eral Court­house.
 ??  ?? Illi­nois House Speaker Michael Madigan
Illi­nois House Speaker Michael Madigan
 ??  ?? Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch
Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch
 ??  ?? Rep. Tom Dem­mer
Rep. Tom Dem­mer

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