(The Center Square) – Longtime former Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan ruled Springfield with an iron grip, once reportedly dumping a fellow party member from her chairmanship on a powerful committee because she dared to sponsor legislation calling for term-limits on legislative leaders.
Along with sharing those recollections, former State Rep. Carol Sente, D-Vernon Hills, testified during the second day of testimony in the “ComEd 4” trial at the Dirksen Federal Courthouse on Thursday that Madigan often turned to such strong-arm tactics to keep his machine-like operations churning along.
Madigan confidante Michael McClain, former ComEd CEO Anne Pramaggiore, ex-ComED lobbyist John Hooker and Jay Doherty, a lobbyist and consultant who once served as chief of the City Club of Chicago, are all now on trial before U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber in a case where they’re accused of being the masterminds behind a scheme to bribe the longest serving legislative leader in U.S. history with jobs, cash and other perks to the benefit of the utility giant.
As part of her opening argument, Assistant U.S. attorney Sarah Streicker told the court ComEd poured some $1.3 million into payments funneled to ghost “subcontractors” who were actually Madigan’s confidants. Prosecutors allege the eight-year scam also included having a Madigan-backed person on the ComEd board of directors and Madigan being allowed to regularly give out coveted internships to families in his 13th Ward.
All four of the defendants have pleaded not guilty, and Madigan is slated to go on trial in connection with the scheme in early 2024, when he will also face a separate racketeering indictment accusing him of being involved in an assortment of other corruption-related schemes. He too has pleaded not guilty.
Sente left the legislature in 2019, but not before she told the court Madigan confronted her about her term limits proposal. Sente told the court she recalls entering his Capitol office and being shown a copy of her bill by him and being directly asked “if I could explain the bill, and why I was running it.”
Over time, Sente said she introduced the bill on two separate occasions, only to see it stall in the House Rules Committee, a high-powered committee known for being the place where Madigan sent proposed legislation to die.
Later in the day, former Rep. Scott Drury took the stand. Drury recounted that he never passed another bill in Springfield after refusing to vote for Madigan’s reinstallment as speaker at the start of a new term. Over time, Drury added that he was denied a chance to be a committee chairman once he started his own third, two-year term.
Drury said his beef with Madigan dates to 2017, when rumors began circulating that Drury planned to wage his own campaign for the speakership.
“It’s a very disconcerting feeling,” he said. “They were the speaker’s rules. He controlled the flow of legislation … no one else had that power.”
Prosecutors said Drury and Sente are among the pool of witnesses they plan to call to illustrate for the jury how Madigan operated and wielded his power.
This article First appeared in the center square