SPRINGFIELD – House Speaker Michael Madigan said Friday that he will not testify before the House Special Investigating Committee that is probing his role in a bribery scheme involving utility giant Commonwealth Edison, and it’s not likely that most of the other potential witnesses that Republicans want to hear from will testify either.
In a two-and-a-half-page letter to the committee, Madigan called the committee “a political stunt” being orchestrated by House Republican Leader Jim Durkin, of Western Springs, and said the ongoing federal criminal investigation, “is more important than Mr. Durkin’s political theatrics.”
“For the record, I am not exercising my Fifth Amendment rights by not appearing before the committee,” Madigan wrote. “As I have said before, I have done nothing wrong.”
Madigan, a Chicago Democrat and the longest serving state legislative speaker in U.S. history, was implicated in the bribery scheme in July when officials with ComEd entered a deferred prosecution agreement with the U.S. Attorney’s office in which they admitted that over a period of years, they awarded jobs and contracts to close associates of Madigan in order to curry his favor for legislation that benefitted the company.
Madigan has not been charged, and the deferred prosecution agreement did not explicitly state that he had personally requested the favors or had direct knowledge of them at the time. He is referred to only as “Public Official A,” although the agreement makes clear the public official is the speaker of the Illinois House.
Republicans have filed a charge under House rules accusing him of “conduct unbecoming to a legislator or which constitutes a breach of public trust.” During the committee’s first meeting Sept. 10, GOP members introduced a list of witnesses they wanted to testify voluntarily. The list included Madigan along with several past and current employees of ComEd.
The committee’s next scheduled meeting is Tuesday, Sept. 29. In a letter to committee Chairman Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch on Thursday, Durkin indicated that one ComEd representative had agreed to testify and that he and the GOP team’s attorney, Ron Safer, a former federal prosecutor, would lead the questioning.
Friday was the deadline for people on the proposed witness list to indicate whether they would testify. Durkin did not indicate which ComEd official had agreed to appear Tuesday. His spokeswoman referred questions about witness responses to Welch, who released letters late Friday from five of the proposed witnesses, all of whom said they were declining the invitation.
Those included Madigan, former ComEd CEO Anne Pramaggiore, and former ComEd lobbyists Michael McClain, a close confident of Madigan’s; Michael R. Zalewski, a former Chicago alderman; and Jay Doherty. That leaves only Fidel Marquez, who was recently indicted in the bribery scheme, and John Hooker as potential witnesses. The list also includes unnamed “current or former employees of Commonwealth Edison.”
The committee has authority to issue subpoenas for witnesses and documents, but Republicans so far have not indicated they intend to pursue that option.
The job of the Special Investigating Committee is to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to support the proposed charge. That would require a majority vote on the six-member disciplinary panel, which is evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats.
If the committee votes to approve the charge, a second, 12-member disciplinary committee would be formed to conduct what amounts to a trial. If that panel finds Madigan guilty, it would send a resolution to the full House, along with recommended disciplinary action that could range from reprimand or censure to expulsion from the House.
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.
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