SPRINGFIELD, IL — Lawmakers returned to the Illinois capitol Thursday under the dark cloud of a federal corruption probe that a day earlier resulted in criminal charges against their former longtime leader.
The message being heard at the statehouse following the 22-count federal racketeering indictment against former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan is clear – the investigation is not over.
The U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Illinois filed the indictment against Madigan and one of his associates Wednesday, alleging a nearly decade-long racketeering and bribery scheme by the “Madigan Enterprise” in which the longtime former speaker and his associates profited from quid-pro-quo arrangements. Madigan maintains he’s innocent.
House Minority Leader Jim Durkin, R-Western Springs, said the indictment of Madigan should be a wake-up call to majority Democrats at the Illinois statehouse.
“This is their chance to change course and say ‘that we’re going to move away from the way that Madigan and the current speaker have been running this chamber,’” Durkin said, referring to current Speaker Emanual “Chris” Welch, D-Hillside, who was elected by his peers to the position last year after Madigan stepped down amid the federal corruption probe.
State Rep. Kelly Cassidy, D-Chicago, filed retaliation allegations against Madigan several years ago. She said that was a tipping point in her understanding of how things operated under Madigan’s rule. But, she said, Madigan is gone from the statehouse.
“And we have implemented some changes,” Cassidy said. “We have given some more powers to the legislative inspector general, maybe not enough yet, but yes, we are in the midst of some significant change. There’s always more we can do.”
An independent investigator didn’t find any wrongdoing in Cassidy’s case, but in 2019 did find widespread bullying, harassment and bad behavior in Madigan’s office.
Durkin said the U.S. attorney’s statements are clear there’s more to come.
“I can’t say who’s left, but I think it’s clear based on [U.S. Attorney John Lausch’s] statements that this is not over and that there will be further charges against individuals down the road,” Durkin said.
State Rep. LaShawn Ford, D-Chicago, said lawmakers should ensure they do the right thing.
“If Madigan can be taken down, everyone better be careful with their dealings as elected officials,” Ford said.
Other Democrats, including Majority Leader Greg Harris, D-Chicago, and several assistant majority leaders, declined to provide comment Thursday.
A hearing in Madigan’s criminal case is set for March 9 in federal court.