A special House committee will look into House Speaker Michael Madigan’s ties to Commonwealth Edison and determine whether discipline is needed after House Republican leadership filed a petition to initiate the process.
The committee was formed Wednesday pursuant to Illinois House rules after House Republican Leader Jim Durkin, of Western Springs, filed the nine-page petition Monday.
The committee, consisting of three Democrats and three Republicans appointed by each party’s leadership, will investigate Madigan’s identification as Public Official A in a deferred prosecution agreement filed by federal authorities against ComEd. In that court agreement, ComEd admitted to — from 2011 until 2019 — seeking to “influence and reward Public Official A” in return for favorable action on legislation.
“In addition to the deferred prosecution agreement, the office of Speaker of the House received a subpoena from the U.S Attorney’s office seeking records on twelve separate matters (including ComEd). With at least twelve separate matters being examined by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, it indicates a pattern of concerning behavior in the Office of the Speaker, which is run by Speaker Madigan,” Durkin wrote in the petition signed by fellow Republican Reps. Ryan Spain, of Peoria, and Andrew Chesney, of Freeport.
Madigan said in a news release Wednesday morning that he immediately recused himself from action on the petition, putting Rep. Gregory Harris, a Chicago Democrat and House Majority Leader, in charge of the process and which members will serve on the committee. Harris said in a news release he appointed Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch, a Hillside Democrat, to chair the six-person committee.
“The Illinois Constitution gives members of the House the authority to review the actions of its members and determine whether discipline is necessary, including overturning the results of an election or expelling a member,” Harris said in a news release. “This is a power that should be judiciously exercised, and one that has rarely been used. In the past two decades, it has been invoked on two occasions, following the arrest and indictment of former Representatives Derrick Smith and Luis Arroyo.”
Durkin said the U.S. attorney’s office was informed of the petition and it is not his intention to “interfere in any way” with the ongoing investigation.
“Given the facts admitted by ComEd for its nine-year-long scheme to bribe Speaker Madigan, the Illinois House of Representatives must do its job and conduct a thorough investigation,” Durkin said in a news release.
The committee has the task of determining “if reasonable grounds exist” to authorize charges against Madigan that may result in disciplinary action. Such action would require a majority vote from the committee that includes an equal number of Democrats and Republicans.
“I do believe that Speaker Madigan, like any other member of the House, is entitled to due process,” Welch said in a phone call Wednesday. “Fairness is extremely important to me, and that’s what he’s going to get here.”
Welch gave no timeline for the next action of the committee, which includes his fellow Democratic Reps. Natalie Manley, D-Joliet, and Elizabeth Hernandez, D-Cicero. Republican appointees include Deputy Minority Leader Tom Demmer, R-Dixon, and Reps. Deanne Mazzochi, R-Elmhurst, and Grant Wehrli, R-Naperville.
Per House rules, the committee has the authority to subpoena and administer oaths at the discretion of the chair, but Welch said Wednesday it is “too early” to tell what authority will be used.
“Like in the past, I’m sure we will approve rules of procedure,” he said. “So that’s why I believe right now it’s premature to say exactly what we’re going to do.”
Welch said the process will be transparent and hearings will be public. The body will also be required to file a report on alleged charges with the House clerk. If the panel approves charges, the matter would move to a 12-person discipline panel appointed through similar processes.
In response to Durkin’s petition, Madigan issued a statement that was at times defensive, accusatory and a direct political attack on the Republican Party under President Donald Trump. It was distributed by his official state communications department.
He said bills favorable to Commonwealth Edison — which include measures providing hundreds of millions of dollars in subsidies to a pair of nuclear power plants and making rate increases easier for utility companies — passed with broad bipartisan support and backing from environmentalists and other stakeholders.
He denied the assertion that the bills passed in exchange for “hiring and retention of a few individuals.”
“The bills could not have passed without such broad support, and they were the product of years of deliberation, negotiations, and consensus building,” Madigan said in the statement. “Rep. Durkin knows this because Republican members and staff were directly involved in the negotiations of these bills. They witnessed firsthand that House Democrats challenged representatives of ComEd and Exelon on critical portions of their proposed bills. Rep. Durkin knows it, and all those actually involved in the process know it.”
He called Durkin’s petition a “political stunt only months away from one of the most consequential elections of our lifetimes” and questioned the Republican leader’s own legislative dealings.
“The law does not prohibit members of the General Assembly from making job recommendations. If Rep. Durkin wants to question whether legislators should be allowed to make job recommendations, I encourage him to be transparent and disclose all of the jobs he has requested or lobbyists he has recommended over the years. He should also disclose the various actions he personally took to pass the energy bills, both in 2011 and 2016,” Madigan said.
Madigan also claimed he “can’t identify one thing” Durkin and state Republicans have done to help Illinois residents amid a weakened economy and global pandemic. He said Republicans would rather focus on him than “a federal administration that has used the White House to prop up Donald Trump’s wealthy campaign donors and friends at the expense of the American people.”
At an unrelated news conference in Chicago Wednesday, Gov. JB Pritzker said he is hopeful it is an attempt to get “real answers” from the speaker rather than a “political stunt” as characterized by Madigan.
“As I have said all along, there are questions that need to be answered by the speaker, and perhaps the creation of this legislative committee will actually get some of those answers,” he said.
Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government and distributed to more than 400 newspapers statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.