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Saturday, December 2, 2023

The Local Pulse – What’s next for Illinois?


Did you note the indictment heard across the state on March 2, 2022?

That day Michael J. Madigan was charged in a 106-page indictment for political crimes that include racketeering, bribery, extortion, and wire fraud. And in the days that followed, lawmakers did one of three things: they either (and rightfully) condemned the acts that led to criminal charges, danced around their inaction, or ducked for cover and remained silent. Those closest to the former Speaker and elected officials who owe their seats to him because he funneled millions in now-questionable campaign cash to them, fall into the last two categories.

While serving in the State Legislature, I also was a member of the Special Investigatory Committee (SIC) into the legislative conduct of Mike Madigan. I had a front row seat to the lengths Madigan’s top allies went in order to protect him. Even though U.S. Attorney John Lausch said the committee’s work wouldn’t interfere with his investigation, the Democrats on the SIC refused to engage in a serious investigation into whether Madigan was guilty of conduct unbecoming of a lawmaker. The committee only met three times and heard from just one voluntary witness. That individual’s testimony was so damning that the committee, led by then State Rep. Chris Welch, was promptly shut down. With subpoena power available to them, they chose to protect Madigan rather than seek the truth.

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Fast forward a few months, and “poof”! Did you note Chris Welch became Speaker of the House? Does anyone think that’s a coincidence?

In a recent court filing for also-indicted former Rep. Luis Arroyo, his attorney said sending Arroyo to jail would do no more to stop political corruption than attempting to drain Lake Michigan with a spoon.

Can you believe how pervasive corruption is in Illinois? It’s not just the bad actors who do the deeds. It’s also the enablers; those who allow it to happen, those who willingly accept the benefits of ill-gotten goods, those who block ethics reform bills, and those who stay quiet and just look the other way.

Democrats and some Republicans have said I haven’t handled my defeat well. But we were onto something. And that’s what I can’t let go.

Dozens of good ethics reform bills have been filed by legislators who want to root out corruption. Predictably, those bills are blocked by the majority party. Take Rep. Deanne Mazzochi’s HB 2929, a measure that would prohibit indicted legislators from using campaign funds to defend themselves in political corruption cases.

Have we reached the point in Illinois where we believe defending oneself against corruption charges can be considered an ordinary political expense? Has Madigan’s massive war chest now become his lifeline? Have his enablers prevented his touching a dime of his own money to defend himself?

What’s next for Illinois?

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Grant Wehrli
Grant Wehrli
Grant Wehrli is a lifelong Naperville Resident and former Representative in the Illinois House of Representatives and Naperville City Councilman.


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