CHICAGO — Former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan has been indicted by federal prosecutors for his alleged role in a racketeering conspiracy linked to lobbying practices during his time in politics.
Madigan, 79, is is charged with 22 counts, according to the indictment. Federal prosecutors allege Madigan was essentially the leader of a group that engaged in criminal conduct for his benefit. They call it the “Madigan Enterprise.”
The indictment says members of Madigan’s crew allegedly engaged in illegal activities such as “soliciting and receiving bribes and unlawful personal financial advantage from persons and parties having business with the State of Illinois and the City of Chicago.”
He resigned from political life one year ago as federal investigators focused their inquiries on the Democrat’s allies and their lucrative lobbying practices. In 2020, prosecutors revealed a plea agreement with utility giant ComEd, in which the company admitted to courting Madigan’s favor by sending jobs and contracts to his cronies.
They agreed in August 2020 to pay $200 million in a settlement to defer prosecution, though that agreement did not preclude criminal charges against any individual.
The man himself wasn’t named, or charged with any wrong doing at the time; but filings spelled it out clearly: “Public Official A is the Speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives and the longest serving member of the House of Representatives.”
The branding as “Public Official A” led to Madigan’s downfall as Illinois Speaker, state party chairman and eventually as a state representative in 2021.
As speaker, the ever-confident Madigan tended to shrug off the political scandal of the day. A spokeswoman for Madigan last year denied the ComEd-related allegations and said Madigan would cooperate with the investigation “which he believes will clearly demonstrate that he has done nothing criminal or improper.”
That wasn’t good enough for members of his House Democratic caucus, many of whom weren’t born when Madigan was first inaugurated in 1971. Despite his determination to win a 19th term as speaker in January, support peeled away and he was unable to garner the 60 votes needed to retain the gavel. Relegated to the rank and file of the 118-member House, he resigned his seat effective Feb. 28, 2021.
Madigan, the son of a Chicago precinct captain, became House speaker in 1983. He was a throwback to the style of machine politics for which Illinois was once famous, especially during the 22-year mayoral reign of Chicago’s Richard Daley, when patronage and party connections controlled who was hired and which projects got built.
Madigan wielded power through stern control of his caucus and meticulous knowledge of legislation, determining which bills received hearings and which quietly died. His loyalists received choice legislative assignments and campaign cash. He controlled the drawing of district boundaries after a census.
Madigan’s former chief of staff, Timothy Mapes, was indicted in May for lying under oath to a federal grand jury investigating ComEd. The indictment said Mapes was granted immunity to testify and that his words or evidence can’t be used against him in a criminal case unless he committed perjury.
Four people, including an associate of Madigan’s, were indicted in November on charges accusing them of orchestrating a bribery scheme with ComEd.
Among them was Michael McClain, who served with Madigan in the House in the 1970s and early 1980s before becoming a lobbyist. One of his clients was ComEd. McClain was also indicted on separate charges Wednesday with prosecutors believing he carried out illegal activities on Madigan’s behalf.
If convicted, Madigan could spend 20 years in prison.
In a statement released a few hours after the indictment was announced, Madigan denied the accusations and said he “looks back proudly on my time as an elected official.”
“I was never involved in any criminal activity. The government is attempting to criminalize a routine constituent service: job recommendations. That is not illegal, and these other charges are equally unfounded. Throughout my 50 years as a public servant, I worked to address the needs of my constituents, always keeping in mind the high standards required and the trust the public placed in me. I adamantly deny these accusations and look back proudly on my time as an elected official, serving the people of Illinois.“
Quick to distance himself from Madigan, Gov. Pritzker released the following statement.
“An indictment of this magnitude is a condemnation of a system infected with promises of pay-to-play, and the era of corruption and self-dealing among Illinois politicians must end. The conduct alleged in this indictment is deplorable and a stark violation of the public’s trust. Michael Madigan must be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law.
Ultimately, every person in elected office is responsible for doing the right thing – and not lining their own pockets. I am fully committed to eradicate the scourge of corruption from our political system, and today’s indictment is an important step in cleaning up Illinois. I have faith that our justice system will help restore the public’s trust in government.
When I ran for office, I made clear that I would be beholden to no one, and that I would serve the best interests of the people of Illinois. I have upheld that vow. For the past three years, my administration has made clear that such abuses will not be tolerated, and we’ve tightened our ethics laws. I will continue to work with the General Assembly to restore the public’s trust.“
Convicted former Governor Rod Blagojevich, who was known for having a contentious working relationship with Madigan, said the people of Illinois understand Madigan’s alleged behavior.
“Just about everybody down there in Springfield, Madigan and his minions got rich. And the people of Illinois get that and that’s why they are angry and so distrustful of government,” Blagojevich said.
In a GOP press conference following the indictment, GOP House leader Jim Durkin was quick to blast his former colleague from across the aisle.
“Today may be the darkest day in Illinois government history,” GOP House leader Jim Durkin said.
Read the indictment below.