I have written about the dire need for ethics reform in Illinois many times in this column.
The most recent bombshell, which ties House Speaker Mike Madigan to a ComEd scheme where patronage jobs for Madigan friends were exchanged for favorable House votes on bills that benefit the energy giant, is just the latest in a long list of ethical missteps by high-ranking officials with ties to the Speaker. These Madigan loyalists used their positions of power for personal gain and to help the Speaker amass greater power.
In a plea agreement with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, ComEd admitted that from 2011-2019 it arranged jobs, contracts and payoffs to Madigan allies, some of whom did little or no work for their compensation.
ComEd did these favors in order to gain favor with the man who controls the movement (or non-movement) of bills in the Illinois House.
In this case, Madigan pushed through legislation that allowed ComEd to raise electric rates on consumers (a bill I voted against). ComEd admitted to paying out approximately $1.3 billion in exchange for the passage of legislation that ultimately benefited the company to the tune of $150 million.
But this is not the first time Speaker Madigan’s name has been tied to scandal.
Others arrested and/or indicted in through the federal probe have also been members of Madigan’s inner circle. And we cannot forget the sexual harassment problems highlighted in 2016 and 2017. Brave women stepped forward and shared stories of abuse by members of Madigan’s own political and legislative organizations. Their voices led to the firing of a few of Madigan’s close allies, including Tim Mapes, who served as the Executive Director of the IL Democratic Party, as Clerk of the House, and as Chief of Staff to Madigan.
The ComEd news hit on a Friday, and members of Madigan’s Leadership Team spent the weekend making calls to rank-and-file Democrats to smooth the water and proclaim the Speaker’s innocence.
I believe those calls were misguided. Instead of protecting the man who is at the epicenter of Illinois corruption, they should have been laying the groundwork for a caucus-wide call for his immediate resignation.
Rather than encouraging continued support of one man who has violated the public’s trust repeatedly, they should be striving for a higher level of ethical standards that will only become possible under new leadership. For the greater good of all of Illinois, it’s time for Speaker Madigan to resign his Speakership, his House seat, and his Chairmanship of the Illinois Democratic Party.