Former IL House Speaker Mike Madigan indicted on charges including bribery, racketeering

Indictment includes charges for bribery, racketeering, wire fraud

ByChuck Goudie, Craig Wall, Eric Horng, Liz Nagy, and Barb Markoff, Christine Tressel, Ross Weidner and the ABC7 Chicago Digital Team WLS logo
Thursday, March 3, 2022
Mike Madigan indicted on corruption charges
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Former Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan indicted on corruption charges including bribery, racketeering and attempted extortion.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan has been indicted on a array of corruption charges.

Federal prosecutors announced the charges in downtown Chicago Wednesday afternoon. The full indictment, obtained by the I-Team, contains a complex list of 22 counts, including for bribery and racketeering, allegedly executed by Madigan and a web of co-conspirators.

Click here to read the full indictment

The alleged scheme stretches from Chicago to Springfield and connects politicians, lobbyists, business and utility executives and Madigan's law firm. Prosecutors allege Madigan, 79, led a criminal enterprise meant to enhance Madigan's political power and financial well-being while also generating income for his allies and associates for nearly a decade.

Madigan's close friend Michael McClain is named as a co-defendant, and prosecutors allege he carried out criminal activities at Madigan's behest.

The indictment accuses Madigan and McClain and other members the conspiracy of unlawfully soliciting benefits from businesses and other private entities, and accuses Madigan of engaging in multiple schemes to benefit from private legal work unlawfully steered to his law firm.

Madigan and McClain are charged with racketeering conspiracy and individual counts of using interstate facilities in aid of bribery, and wire fraud, prosecutors said. Madigan is additionally charged with attempted extortion.

Madigan released a statement responding to the charges, saying, "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."

As part of the scheme, prosecutors allege that Madigan and his conspirators used "coded language in their discussions" and attempted to "reduce law enforcement's ability to intercept their communications" by meeting in person or using third-party cell phones to communicate. Prosecutors say Madigan was often referred to by ComEd officials as "our Friend," or "a Friend of ours" rather than using his name, in an effort to conceal the scheme.

READ MORE: Mike Madigan's former chief of staff Tim Mapes indicted for allegedly lying to grand jury

In the indictment, prosecutors allege that ComEd officials arranged jobs for Madigan's political allies where they "performed little or no work" in exchange for Madigan's influence in passing legislation favorable to the utility or defeating legislation that would harm its business.

As part of the conspiracy, prosecutors say internships with ComEd were set aside for people associated with Madigan's home ward, the 13th Ward on the southwest side of Chicago. They alleged that McClain identified candidates for the internships and some didn't meet the minimum academic requirements for the position.

ComEd released a statement, saying, "We are not in a position to comment on charges related to the former Speaker or beyond what is in the statement of facts in ComEd's deferred prosecution agreement, which resolved the U.S. Attorney's Office's investigation into ComEd and Exelon. ComEd has cooperated fully with the investigation, been transparent with customers, and implemented comprehensive ethics and compliance reforms to ensure that the unacceptable conduct outlined in the agreement never happens again."

In the indictment, prosecutors also allege a scheme former Chicago Alderman Danny Solis called a "quid pro quo" where a company seeking approval for an apartment complex's zoning change would provide work to Madigan's law firm. Prosecutors say Madigan told Solis later privately "not to use the phrase quid pro quo" and suggested a false pretext for Solis' to connect the company with Madigan's firm for tax services. Danny Solis' attorney Lisa Noller tells ABC7 "we have no comment at this time."

Some of the alleged conduct made public was already known as part of previous corruption investigations but in the indictment additional schemes emerge. According to prosecutors, Madigan sought to appoint a retiring Chicago alderman to a paid state board position in exchange for business steered to his private law firm.

Another scheme detailed in the indictment involves a development group who wanted to convert a parking lot in Chinatown to a commercial development that would include a hotel. Prosecutors allege Madigan used his position as Speaker of the Illinois House to facilitate the transfer of the property from the state to city ownership in exchange for the steering of legal work to his private firm. Prosecutors write that Madigan and McClain worked to facilitate the land transfer by seeking a legislator who would sponsor the bill and introduce the transfer amendment in the fall 2018 veto session. But, after opposition to the transfer emerged from community members and legislators, prosecutors allege Madigan and McClain abandoned the effort to pass it at that time.

READ MORE: Mike Madigan confidant and ex-ComEd CEO charged with bribery in lobbying scheme; speaker denies wrongdoing

McClain's attorneys released a statement after the charges were announced, saying in part, "For years, the Government has been trying to force Mike McClain to cooperate in its quest against former Speaker Mike Madigan. These latest charges are nothing more than the Government's continued attempt to pressure Mike McClain to do the Government's bidding. Mike McClain was innocent of the charges when they were first filed in November of 2020. He remains innocent of the recycled and new charges in this latest Indictment. He will never testify falsely about himself or anyone, no matter how many indictments are brought against him. We will fight to prove his innocence."

Illinois, Chicago politicians react to Madigan indictment

Madigan's name has bubbled up over the years, but he has always brushed aside suggestions of wrongdoing. Even when Madigan was directly linked by federal investigators to the bribery scheme involving top ComEd executives, the state's most potent powerbroker insisted he had done nothing wrong.

The case has been officially under investigation for more than two years, but Madigan has been a top target of federal investigated for much longer.

A titan of Illinois' notoriously corrupt politics, Madigan was thought to be made of Teflon.

"This one is particularly stunning, because Madigan has been such an iconic figure in our politics for so long, and because he has been notoriously cautious about how he's done his business to try and avoid this kind of situation," said David Axelrod, political consultant and University of Chicago Institute of Politics Director.

"I've been saying for years now that we've got to root out corruption wherever it exists in government," said Gov. JB Pritzker when he was told of the charges. "It's why we've passed and I've signed ethics reforms in the state of Illinois, but anybody who is guilty of corruption or corrupt acts in this state should be held to the fullest extent of the law accountable for their actions."

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot also reacted, saying, "So this is a kind of case. If this is factual, of such incredible significance. Somebody who has really shaped Illinois politics for 40 years dominated almost every aspect of life. From a political standpoint, from a legislative standpoint, you better have a tight case, because you're going to take the shot, you're not going to want to miss."

RELATED: 3 plead not guilty in ComEd bribery probe

As a witness in the investigation, Pritzker's office said the governor voluntarily met with federal investigators in February and answered questions about his interactions with the former speaker. U.S. Attorney John Lausch clarified that Pritzker is not implicated in the indictment or under investigation in any way.

The politically charged case will play out at a precarious time for Illinois Democrats.

"This hands a great weapon to the Republican Party in an election year," said ABC7 political analyst Laura Washington. "The Republican party, Republican candidates, can go after the Democratic party and use Mike Madigan as a cudgel and say the party is corrupt."

House Republican Leader Jim Durkin released a statement on the indictment, saying, "Illinois deserves better. This is another chapter in the sad story of corruption that has pervaded every corner of the state that was touched by Mike Madigan and his Democrat enablers and has dismantled true democracy in Illinois. Today, the same Democrats who empowered Madigan are still blocking real ethics reform just like they blocked the Special Investigating Committee that was created to get to the bottom of Madigan's corrupt activities."

Federal prosecutors charged ComEd with bribery in July 2019 in a bombshell case. It prompted a legislative probe of Madigan's dealings with ComEd. Prosecutors said ComEd admitted to rewarding "Public Official A," identified as the House speaker, with vendor contracts in exchange for favorable treatment in the general assembly.

The former Illinois House Speaker from Chicago was the longest serving leader of any legislative body in US history, and held his house seat for more than 50 years.

Madigan first took office as State Representative for the 22nd District in 1971. He served as the Illinois House Speaker from 1983 to 2020, and from 1998 through 2021 served as Chairman of the Democratic Party of Illinois.

He resigned from the Illinois House in 2021.

Madigan's neighbors, constituents have mixed feelings on indictment

No one came to the door at Madigan's home in West Lawn where he's lived for decades in the district he represented, but Wednesday afternoon a Sun-Times photographer captured an image of him pulling into his garage.

Most neighbors ABC7 approached declined to comment, but a few said they think Madigan, over the years, has serve the district well and thought he had been a good neighbor.

"Until he's proven guilty, I still think he's innocent," said John Lazarus, neighbor. "He's a good man for the neighborhood and always been, especially for Illinois."

"He do a lot of good things in here, a lot of good work in here. I feel sorry for them," said Jose Alvarez, neighbor. "Yeah, for sure, I'm surprised."

"Pretty surprising just because, you know, usually you haven't really heard much from him, and then to hear something as big as this, it's like wow. Is this what's really going on?" said Jasmin Antunez, West Lawn resident.

Others were less surprised considering how long Madigan has been under investigation. One neighbor, who declined to go on camera, said simply, "Well, it is Chicago."

A "W" flag, a symbol of victory, was draped on Madigan's front door by nightfall, making it clear he plans to fight the charges.

More reaction to Madigan indictment from political world

Illinois Senate President Dan Harmon (D-Oak Park)

"These are obviously disturbing allegations. I have confidence in our system of justice. Like everyone else, I will be watching to see how this unfolds."

Illinois House Speaker Chris Welch (D-7th District)

"As Chair of the Special Investigating Committee, I made it clear that this matter needed to be handled in a court of law, completely separate from the legislature. As is evident by this federal indictment, the full weight of the justice system was needed to ensure all charges are investigated properly and thoroughly. At my direction, the Office of the Speaker has fully cooperated with the investigation and will continue to do so."

Democratic Party of Illinois Chair Rep. Robin Kelly:

"For the past year, I have been honored to lead our party as the first person of color and the first woman to chair the Democratic Party of Illinois. The DPI is committed to building a party that is more transparent, more diverse, and more inclusive in everything we do. Today's announcement is a stark reminder that elected leaders must hold themselves to the highest ethical standards. We will observe the legal process as it unfolds, but there can be no tolerance of anyone guilty of violating the public trust. While he stepped down as party chair more than a year ago, Michael J. Madigan remains a State Central Committeeman from the 3rd Congressional District. He should resign from that position as well.

"Since I became chair a year ago, our focus has been on electing Democrats up and down the ticket across Illinois and continuing to fight for the things all Democrats believe in, including raising wages, lowering costs, defending reproductive choice, protecting the environment, investing in our infrastructure, providing high quality education for all, and more. We will not let actions of the past distract us from our mission in 2022 and beyond."

Illinois Republican Party Chairman Don Tracy

"For many years, Illinois Democrats across the state -- from Governor JB Pritzker on down -- supported, enabled, and kissed the ring of Mike Madigan as he built a corrupt state government that served to enrich his allies and special interests while Illinois crumbled. Illinois is a diminished state and a laughing stock for the rest of the nation because Mike Madigan cared more about holding on to power than serving the interests of its citizens - and because elected Democrats across the state supported him.

The Illinois Republican Party is committed to exposing and defeating every last Democrat still around that accepted Madigan's money, voted Madigan's way, or defended him as the leader of their party. The list of those needing to be held accountable for what happened is long, and it starts with Governor JB Pritzker."

Governor JB Pritzker

"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."

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle

"Today's indictment of former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan is a shameful day for Illinois politics and further erodes trust in our public officials. It's a sad state of affairs when so many of our officials, past and present, have been involved in criminal investigations.

"The 22 count indictment alleges that for years, Madigan used his office for personal benefit and engaged in bribery and racketeering practices. Our political organizations should not double as criminal enterprises.

"While he resigned as a Representative last year, he remains 13th Ward Committeeperson. I am calling for his resignation from this position as well."