Former IL House speaker Michael Madigan indicted on racketeering, bribery, more

Gov. JB Pritzker, State Rep. Kelly Cassidy, former staffer interviewed by feds

ByDiane Pathieu, Chuck Goudie, Craig Wall, Eric Horng, Liz Nagy, and Barb Markoff, Christine Tressel, Ross Weidner and the ABC7 Chicago Digital Team via WLS logo
Thursday, March 3, 2022
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Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker confirmed he talked to the feds, but now we've discovered the list also includes a current state lawmaker and a former Madigan insider.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- New details emerged Thursday about other individuals who were interviewed by federal investigators in the bribery and racketeering indictment of former Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan.

Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker confirmed he talked to the feds, but now we've discovered the list also includes a current state lawmaker and a former Madigan insider.

Federal authorities conducting investigations like this often cast a wide net. A couple of the witnesses they have talked with include two women who butted heads with Mike Madigan in the state legislature, and another who sued him.

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

"It was very clear that the FBI was looking to get him," said Alaina Hampton, a former Madigan campaign worker who settled a lawsuit against Madigan's organization in 2019 over sexual harassment allegations against another staffer.

Hampton, now a political consultant, says she was interviewed about Madigan two and a half years ago. She said there was always suspicious activity going on in the office.

"There were a lot of dealings with quid pro quo going on and I can't state that exactly with Madigan and himself but like a lot of the people in his inner circles, you know, cutting deals and things like that, which always seemed a little fishy and off to me," Hampton said.

State Representative Kelly Cassidy was one of 19 House democrats who blocked Madigan's bid to remain Speaker in 2021. She was interviewed by the Feds last spring.

"I was happy to cooperate, I spoke for several hours, said State Rep. Kelly Cassidy (D) Chicago. She was not surprised by Madigan's indictment.

"And so there were a lot of folks who didn't believe it was going to happen," Cassidy said. "I felt, I felt certain that it would and felt that even if it never did, we had done the right thing."

Pritzker said he was interviewed as a witness in late February about his interactions with Madigan.

"They had questions that were obviously around some wrongdoing but was not clear to me that they were prepared to indict," Pritzker said during an event at Northern Illinois University.

Pritzker said he never witnessed Madigan engaging in any illegal activity. The governor called the corruption allegations against the former speaker deplorable, and a violation of the public trust.

"This should be a wake-up call to everybody in public service that you better toe the line, you better do the right thing," Pritzker said. "You better stand up for the people that you represent and not try to line your own pocket."

The governor joined others in calling for Madigan to resign from his last position of political power: his role as the 13th Ward state committeeman.

Click here to read the full indictment

Former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, once the most powerful politician in Illinois, was indicted on an 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.

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 of 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.

McClain's job was to "shield Madigan" from the enterprise's criminal activity, as well, according to the indictment.

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, told 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.

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 investigators 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.

Pritzker confirmed the FBI questioned him during a press conference Thursday morning.

Alaina Hampton worked closely with Madigan as a former campaign worker. She settled a lawsuit in 2019 alleging sexual harassment by a supervisor in Madigan's campaign office, Kevin Quinn, which he denied.

Hampton, who confirms she too was questioned in this current investigation, believes this indictment against Madigan is the turning point for corruption in the city of Chicago and state of Illinois.

"I think things are moving in a new direction for sure. And you know, younger leaders are being elected, and there's definitely been a shift in Illinois politics since he is no longer the speaker, but I think there's still a lot of corruption to root out, a lot of people that worked in his sphere, but still have deep loyal ties to him that also need to be ushered out of politics here," she said.

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.

He made way for the first Black speaker of the House in Springfield.

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, a 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, another 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, a 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.

McClain and Madigan are scheduled to enter a plea in federal court in Chicago next Wednesday.

If convicted, Madigan, who is 79, is looking at the possibility of a lengthy prison sentence.

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."

Gov. 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."

Congressman Darin LaHood (R-18th District)

"The indictment of former Speaker Michael Madigan is another step in the long process to clean up Illinois corruption. During his half-century in office, Michael Madigan spearheaded Illinois' decline, all while using his position of power and the state government to enrich himself personally.

"Starting with Governor JB Pritzker, Madigan's allies in the Illinois Democrat Party will have to answer for why they enabled this corruption for so long that contributed greatly to our state's challenges.

"As a former federal prosecutor, I applaud the United States Attorney John Lausch and his team for their work. The type of corruption outlined in the indictment must be eradicated from our political system and the people of Illinois deserve justice."