'I hope this signals a turning point': Suburban politicians react to Madigan's indictment

  • Michael Madigan

    Michael Madigan Associated Press, 2017

 
 
Updated 3/3/2022 12:06 AM

Suburban politicians from both sides of the aisle are hopeful Wednesday's indictment of former longtime Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan will lead to widespread operational changes within the state's legislature.

Federal prosecutors announced 22 counts against Madigan and former Madigan aide Michael McClain Wednesday in a 106-page indictment alleging the two men conspired to operate a "criminal enterprise for nearly a decade" also involving utility giant ComEd.

 

Madigan denied the charges.

Sen. Melinda Bush, a Grayslake Democrat, was one of the first Democrats in the legislature to push for Madigan to resign.

"Years ago I was the first to call for Madigan to step down," Bush said. "If today's indictment is a lesson for any of us, it's that the truth eventually will see the light of day and we must forever be diligent in Illinois to ensure that no one person ever again amasses so much political power that it corrupts the system itself."

Madigan had been a member of the Illinois House of Representatives since 1971 until last year when he resigned amid the growing bribery scandal that ensnared multiple elected officials and others within Madigan's inner circle. Madigan is the state's longest serving House Speaker ever, holding the seat since 1983, spare two years when Republicans wrested control of the House from Democrats in 1995.

"I hope this signals a turning point away from the old ways of doing things," Democratic state Rep. Mark Walker of Arlington Heights wrote in a text message to the Daily Herald. "Relying less on personal loyalties and deals, and more on openness and policy discussions."

Long the target of Illinois Republicans' ire, Madigan had ties to almost every Democrat in the state as head of the Illinois Democratic Party.

"This is another chapter in the sad story of corruption that has pervaded every corner of the state that was touched by Mike Madigan and his Democrat enablers and has dismantled true democracy in Illinois," said Republican House Minority Leader Jim Durkin of Western Springs. "Today, the same Democrats who empowered Madigan are still blocking real ethics reform just like they blocked the Special Investigating Committee that was created to get to the bottom of Madigan's corrupt activities. Illinois deserves better."

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Outgoing state Rep. Tom Morrison, a Palatine Republican, also chided Democrats for allowing Madigan to operate without repercussions for so long.

"Today, Madigan is being held accountable. Madigan may be gone as America's most powerful House Speaker, but the culture of corruption that he created and that enabled him to stay in office for so long remains," Morrison said. "Democrats knew full well the power plays Mike Madigan used to stay in office for decades, and yet they didn't act until federal authorities stepped in."

Republican Senate leader Dan McConchie of Hawthorn Woods praised federal investigators from the FBI and IRS who helped in the investigation that led to Madigan's indictment.

"However, the people of Illinois shouldn't have to rely on the feds to continuously clean up the state's mess," McConchie said. "Today's announcement underscores the need to empower officials here in Illinois to investigate and prosecute misconduct and corruption of its own public officials."

Madigan also amassed power through a variety of elected of offices he held and used to generate large campaign coffers.

"While he stepped down as party chair more than a year ago, Michael J. Madigan remains a state central committeeman from the 3rd Congressional District," Illinois Democratic Party Chairwoman Robin Kelly said. "He should resign from that position as well."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The indictment alleges a decadelong conspiracy as "The Madigan Enterprise," saying its purpose was "to preserve and to enhance Madigan's political power and financial well-being" and to "reward Madigan's political allies," including by using his stranglehold over the legislative process.

Glen Ellyn Democratic state Rep. Terra Costa Howard was one of the few Democrats in the House whose vote kept Madigan from getting the necessary 60 votes needed to stay House Speaker last year. Ultimately that led to Emanuel "Chris" Welch of Hillside ascending to the role.

"This has been a long journey and many of us came to this decision from different places," Costa Howard said. "But at the end of the day, this was about being able to look yourself in the mirror and knowing that what you did was the right thing to do."

State Rep. Deb Conroy, a Villa Park Democrat, also voted against Madigan last year.

"Right now, we're just trying to take a deep breath and read what's in there," she said. "And we're thanking God right now that we did what we did because we're in. We have a new speaker and we're in a better place and we can move forward."

Gov. J.B. Pritzker, also a Democrat, weighed in on Madigan's indictment as well.

"The conduct alleged in this indictment is deplorable and a stark violation of the public's trust," the governor said in a news release issued late Wednesday. "I have faith that our justice system will help restore the public's trust in government."

State rep. Stephanie Kifowit, an Oswego Democrat, attempted to unseat Madigan last year by seeking the speaker's seat herself. She noted that Democrats are pursuing changes to leadership roles within the legislature.

"I think deep down everybody wants to believe in the best in people," she said. "I truly believe that we needed change in Illinois and I was joined by many colleagues who believe in that change too. Our comprehensive ethics reform has term limits for Speaker. So that is a change."

Prosecutors are seeking forfeiture of almost $3 million from both Madigan and McClain.

Both men face up to 20 years in prison if convicted, prosecutors said.

• Daily Herald staff writers Christopher Placek and Maria Gardner contributed to this report.

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