Ex-Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan had a huge amount of power and ruled Springfield’s Capitol building for decades.
But last week in a Chicago federal courthouse, a grand jury said he spent many of those years enriching himself illegally using his political connections.
The political corruption allegation is detailed in a 100-page indictment that apparently is the work product of a federal investigation on Chicago political movers and shakers.
Madigan is one of the most well-known and powerful Illinois politicians to face federal charges even though he left politics in 2020. The Democrat was known as the Velvet Hammer for his quiet but intense way of using state power.
He held his seat in the state’s House of Representatives for 50 years and was the speaker for most of the years between 1983 and 2020.
Indictment Was Years In The Making
The corruption indictment was largely the work of Danny Solis, a Chicago City Council member. It was first reported that he was cooperating with federal agents in January 2019. Solis helped the Department Of Justice build a related indictment against Edward Burke, a long-serving member on the city council.
The Chicago Sun-times reported in 2019 the details of the federal investigation that resulted in Solis cooperating with the feds. An affidavit states that federal agents recorded Madigan in his office in 2014.
Federal investigators also recently convicted Alderman Patrick Thompson, the grandson of a Chicago mayor.
Madigan Faces Several Federal Charges
Madigan is 79 and has been charged with racketeering conspiracy, wire fraud, attempted extortion, and using interstate facilities for bribery. The arraignment for the federal corruption case is on March 9.
Madigan’s attorney has denied the charges and said the federal investigators are overreaching. Madigan told the press last week that he was never involved in anything illegal. The federal government, he added, is trying to make it criminal to offer job recommendations.
Recommending people for certain jobs isn’t illegal, and the other charges are also unfounded, Madigan noted. He claimed that he tried to help his constituents in his 50 years in politics and always remembered the high standards that he should follow.
Madigan concluded that he denies the corruption and related allegations and is proud of the time he served in the Illinois state legislature.
Indictment Sent Shock Waves The State
Madigan left public office more than a year ago but the federal indictment shocked much of the Illinois political establishment. Governor Pritzker, who was mentioned in the federal indictment but was not charged with anything, said the indictment shows the problems with pay-to-play politics that are common in Illinois.
A spokesperson for Pritzker said that the governor talked to federal agents in February by phone for an hour, but the call was voluntary and didn’t involve anything he had done. The governor answered their questions and the feds said he was just a witness.
The federal attorney handling the case said that the Madigan indictment undermines confidence in the state government. He said that Illinois has a serious political corruption problem that has gone on for decades.
Additional Federal Charges Indictments Involved
It isn’t clear what the federal charges mean for another indictment filed in November 2020 that alleged McClain and other politicians trying to get Madigan to vote for a bill that influenced the Illinois company ComEd.
The former ComEd CEO has been charged in that case and it will go to trial in September.
ComEd was hit with a bribery charge in 2020, which was a case that made clear that Madigan could be involved in something illegal. ComEd said they would pay $200 million in fines and agreed to deferred prosecution in the case. That was a three-year deal and it’s been more than a year and a half so far.
Like the 2020 indictment of McClain, this week’s indictment said that Madigan and McClain tried to get contracts, money, and jobs for Madigan’s friends from ComEd from 2011 to 2019. The indictment also claims that Madigan used his influence to pass legislation favorable to ComEd.
The federal documents also showed another conspiracy involving Solis in his last weeks as a federal government informant. The indictment states that Madigan tried to help Solis get a job on a state board that paid at least $93,000 per year.
Madigan told Solis in 2018 that he would help Solis get the job by talking to Pritzker, who would soon be the governor. Madigan then told the other man that he would take care of it. But he requested that Solis aid a Madigan relative regarding a job.
In October 2018, after Solis informed Madigan that a person not in the indictment agreed to give a case to Madigan’s law firm, the Chicago politician told Solis he would pressure the governor to appoint Solis to the state board.
Madigan added that the communication with Pritzker only needed to be verbal.
Last, the Sun-Times showed that Solis was an informant for the feds two months after the meeting that was detailed in the federal indictment. About two months later, the newspaper detailed unsuccessful efforts by Solis to move a Chinatown property from state ownership to city ownership to greenlight a real estate developer’s proposal.
The indictment stated that Madigan agrees to help the transfer move along if legal business was sent to his law firm. Solis told McClain in December 2017 that he was steering legal work to Madigan.