(The Center Square) – A year after former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan was hit with 22 federal corruption charges, Republicans in the minority at the statehouse say more needs to be done to shore up ethics.
Madigan, D-Chicago, and four associates, including former ComEd officials and lobbyists, face allegations of a nearly decade-long scheme in what federal prosecutors called “Madigan Enterprise.”
Former ComEd CEO Anne Pramaggiore, former ComEd lobbyist John Hooker, former ComEd consultant Jay Doherty and former lobbyist and state lawmaker Michael McClain have all pleaded “not guilty” to conspiracy, bribery, and willfully falsifying ComEd books and records. Their trial begins next week. Madigan, who has also pleaded “not guilty,” won’t face trial until spring 2024.
While Madigan was charged with 22 counts in the ComEd case March 2, 2022, he was charged with an additional count of corruption involving AT&T Illinois in October.
State Rep. Blaine Wilhour, R-Beecher City, said federal prosecutors shouldn’t have to be the last stopgap on exposing alleged corruption.
“If we can have mechanisms that can actually shine light on this stuff and expose this stuff, then it’s far less likely that it’s ever going to happen in the first place,” Wilhour said during a news conference Thursday.
He and other Republicans Thursday highlighted their legislation to suspend pensions from retired lawmakers that face corruption charges stemming from their work as legislators (House Bill 1277), prohibit legislature or executive branch officials from being paid lobbyists for local governments (House Bill 3577), increase the powers of the legislative inspector general (House Bill 3582 and House Bill 3756) and other measures.
With the flurry of legislation moving out of committees this week, Wilhour said Illinois’ “corruption crisis” is a “worldwide embarrassment” and impacts the ability for regular people to prosper. He said without more ethical guardrails in place, taxpayers will continue to suffer.
“Big-money special interests come in and give big money to politicians in power who then pass the legislation that is basically for the special interests, mostly written by the special interests, that benefit the status quo at the expense of taxpayers of this state,” Wilhour said.
It’s unclear if any of the measures Republicans are looking for will advance out of committee before Friday’s deadline. State Rep. Ryan Spain, R-Peoria, said they’re ready to move them forward.
“We have bills that are ready to go right now that should not be waived for some potential assembly of an omnibus that may or may not happen late in the session,” Spain said.
Messages to the House Elections and Ethics Committee seeking comment weren’t immediately returned. Other measures remain in the House Rules Committee.
The Republicans also proposed two House Resolutions they said are ways for the state to reflect on “the importance of cleaning out corruption.” One would prohibit the placement of “a Speaker Madigan portrait” in the House chambers.
Another proposed resolution would honor retiring Northern District of Illinois U.S. Attorney John Lausch, who leaves the job this week. Lausch is the prosecutor who brought the charges against Madigan and others. He was appointed by former President Donald Trump and kept on by President Joe Biden.
Lawmakers return Friday.
This article First appeared in the center square