CHICAGO — Mike Madigan, the former Illinois House speaker who played a leading role in state politics for decades, was indicted Wednesday on federal racketeering and bribery charges after a years-long investigation.
The indictment accuses Madigan of “leading, for nearly a decade, a criminal enterprise whose purpose was to enhance his political power and financial well-being,” U.S. Attorney John Lausch said at a news conference.
Madigan was long considered Illinois’ most powerful politician, remaining in power even as other figures — from Chicago aldermen to a governor — faced charges in corruption cases.
“We have a very stubborn public corruption problem here in Illinois,” Lausch said. At another point, he said, “I think we all shake our heads sometimes when we think there’s another corruption case happening.”
Madigan and a close friend — Michael McClain, a former House representative and downstate attorney who is also facing charges related to the case — requested companies with various interests in state policy, including Commonwealth Edison, pay Madigan associates as a reward for their loyalty, Lausch said.
Madigan also used “multiple schemes” to get business for his law firm, Madigan & Getzendanner, Lausch said. Their associates were given “no-show and low-show jobs,” and Madigan financially benefitted, Lausch said.
In Chicago, Madigan used his positions as 13th Ward Democratic Committeeman and chair of the 13th Ward Democratic Organization “to direct the activities of his political allies and political workers,” prosecutors said. As chairman of the Illinois Democratic Party, he influenced legislators by providing or withholding staff and funding to legislators and their campaign funds, Lausch said.
Federal prosecutors also allege Madigan demanded jobs and contracts from ComEd, the state’s largest utility company, in exchange for passing legislation for ComEd. Those jobs, internships and contracts benefitted Madigan’s associates, who performed little-to-no work for ComEd. And a series of measures passed by the General Assembly in 2011 and 2016 ultimately helped ComEd’s bottom line.
In 2016, McClain wrote to ComEd’s then-CEO Anne Pramaggiore and another ComEd official, directing them to resolve a billing issue with an attorney on behalf of their mutual “friend,” according to prosecutors.
“I am sure you know how valuable [Lawyer A] is to our Friend,” McClain wrote, according to the indictment. “I know the drill and so do you. If you do not get involve [sic] and resolve this issue of 850 hours for his law firm per year then he will go to our Friend. Our Friend will call me and then I will call you. Is this a drill we must go through? … I just do not understand why we have to spend valuable minutes on items like this when we know it will provoke a reaction from our Friend.”
Pramaggiore responded: “Sorry. No one informed me. I am on this,” prosecutors said.
In 2018, when discussing someone Madigan wanted appointed to the ComEd Board of Directors, McClain said to Pramaggiore: “You take good care of me and so does our
friend and I will do the best that I can to [sic], to take care of you,” according to the indictment.
Federal prosecutors also allege ComEd kept 10 intern slots for the 13th Ward operation to benefit Madigan.
In one case in June 2017, Madigan asked then-Ald. Danny Solis — who was chair of the city’s zoning committee — to introduce him to the representative of a company that needed to get a zoning change through City Council, according to the indictment. Madigan wanted to “seek business” for his law firm, according to the indictment.
Solis told Madigan representatives of the company would meet with the then-speaker so Madigan could try to get business for his law firm — and the company still needed to “deal with” the alderman for its zoning change, according to the indictment.
“I think they understand how this works, you know, the quid pro quo, the quid pro quo,” Solis told Madigan. “OK … . Very good,” Madigan said, according to the indictment.
A few weeks later, during another conversation, Madigan told Solis not to use the phrase “quid pro quo,” according to the indictment. Solis advised Madigan that there was an understanding that the zoning change would be made in exchange for the company giving Madigan’s firm work, according to the indictment.
Also in 2017, a group that wanted to develop a hotel in Chinatown needed to get the state to transfer its ownership of a plot of land to the city so the group could then get it and develop it, according to the indictment. Madigan agreed to use his position to support the passage of legislation that would transfer the land to the city; in exchange, work would be steered toward his law firm, according to the indictment.
“In the past, I have been able to steer some work to Mike [Madigan], and these guys will do the same thing,” Solis told McClain in that case, according to the indictment. McClain then agreed that would Madigan would help get the land transferred to the city, according to prosecutors.
Solis also told Madigan that, if Madigan helped transfer the land, the developers would “appreciate it” and would give Madigan’s firm tax work, according to the indictment. “OK, all right, very good,” Madigan said, according to prosecutors.
If convicted, Madigan could face a range of punishments. One of the racketeering charges carries a maximum sentence of 20 years, for example, Lausch said.
In a statement, Madigan’s attorneys called the charges “baseless.”
“Neither the law nor the facts support these baseless charges, and the evidence will prove it. Mr. Madigan vehemently rejects the notion that he was involved in criminal activity — before, during or after his long career as a public servant,” attorneys Sheldon Zenner and Gil Soffer said. “The government’s overreach in charging him with these alleged crimes is groundless, and we intend to prevail in court.”
Madigan served as speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives for 38 years, until 2021.
But he’s long been embroiled in various controversies, accused of trying to use his influence to get supporters’ children into college or associates into jobs, among other things.
In January 2021, Madigan stopped his campaign for speaker when he struggled to get the votes needed for the post. That February, Madigan — facing an investigation into his ties to Commonwealth Edison — resigned from his house seat.
Gov. JB Pritzker spoke to investigators as a witness last month, a spokesperson told the Tribune. The governor is not implicated in any wrongdoing, Lausch told the Tribune.
“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,” Pritzker said in a statement. “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.”
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