A special investigative committee formed to probe House Speaker Michael Madigan’s role in a Commonwealth Edison bribery scheme adjourned for good Monday without issuing a single subpoena and drawing sharp criticisms from Republicans for covering up for the scrutinized Speaker.
Democrats moved their own motion to issue subpoenas but did not identify any subjects of the potential subpoenas, specifically Speaker Madigan. All three Democrats voted against their own motion.
In the end, the committee met just four times since the investigative petition was filed in August. Only one witness testified, and no subpoenas were ever issued to any of those involved, including Madigan.
“The people of Illinois deserve to know what’s going on here,” said an exasperated Rep. Grant Wehrli (R-Naperville). “You all should be embarrassed.”
We may have gotten a line into the thinking of Madigan’s key supporters Monday, when Rep. Natalie Manley (D-Joliet), who sits on Madigan’s leadership team, blasted the hearings and “hypocrisy” on the part of Republicans.
“Agents of ComEd, including [Mike] McClain, were working to benefit themselves and advance their legislative agenda by hiring people with connections to legislators, the governor’s office, and people with experience and relationships with the legislative process,” she said.
McClain is a former State Representative and retired lobbyist who was considered by many to be one of Speaker Madigan’s closest associates. McClain has been indicted by a federal grand jury for his role in the ComEd bribery scheme and has pleaded “not guilty.” Dozens of e-mails from McClain were released by the committee last month.
“This is not illegal and does not constitute unbecoming conduct on behalf of Leader Durkin, it simply shows basically hypocrisy of this process and the petition Leader Durkin has submitted,” said Manley.
Some of McClain’s emails insisted House Republican Leader Jim Durkin supported a job for former State Representative and State Senator Tom Walsh of LaGrange Park.
A ComEd official previously testified before the committee that the company was not attempting to bribe Durkin but were attempting to benefit Madigan and his associates.
Though Committee Chairman Rep. Emanuel Chris Welch (D-Hillside) said he interpreted it differently.
A Republican motion to invite ComEd to testify before he committee again was blocked by Democrats.
Rep. Lisa Hernandez (D-Cicero), another member of the investigative committee, who is also on Madigan’s leadership team, blamed Republicans for trying to score political points.
“The Republican members of this committee have maintained that actions by Mr. McClain were always directly attributable to and known by the Speaker. That’s clearly not true,” Hernandez said. “This clearly shows Mr. McClain taking action on behalf of other legislators, including [Durkin.] That you would suggest this activity is inappropriate or illegal is ridiculous.”
But Rep. Deanne Mazzochi (R-Elmhurst) said Democrat suggestions Madigan and McClain’s communications were normal course of business were less than appropriate.
“That is not a job recommendation, that is an improper, unethical quid pro quo,” she said. “There is no innocent explanation here. To conclude that all of this is innocence personified is ridiculous.”
State Representative Tom Demmer (R-Dixon), the top Republican on the committee, said Democrats stopped the committee from doing its job.
“The responsibility of this committee is to conduct a thorough investigation,” he said. “Our duty is to investigate the charges alleged in the petition.”
Democrat Manley said the investigation should be left to the feds.
“I think we should leave the ComEd situation to the federal prosecutor and stop pretending like we’re junior “G-men” here,” she said.
Mazzochi said Democrats worked to “deny any ability for the committee to hear from any witnesses.”
She called it “an absolute travesty.”
Through a spokesperson, Madigan released a statement Monday night attacking Durkin for initiating “political theater.”
“Jim Durkin insisted on initiating this political theater, and through this process we’ve come to learn that he was involved in the very conduct he claims to be so offended by – recommending people for various jobs. If Jim Durkin actually believes it is conduct unbecoming of a legislator to recommend people for jobs or help constituents, he might want to review his own hypocritical behavior. Rather than finger pointing, I suggest we focus on the important work that lies ahead of us.”
Republican Leader Jim Durkin (R-Western Springs), who initiated the investigation, criticized Democrats for stonewalling the investigation.
“The Democratic Party shows again today there is no limit to the lengths they will go to protect Speaker Madigan. Chairman Welch, Rep. Hernandez and Rep. Manley have turned the rule of law on its head by refusing to investigate the charges and demand the testimony of Speaker Madigan in this scandal. I call on Governor Pritzker to finally demand Speaker Madigan resign as it is clear he refuses to answer any questions about his corrupt practices.”