FILE - House Speaker Michael Madigan during pandemic special session

Illinois Speaker of the House Mike Madigan, D-Chicago, watches the proceedings from the Speaker's platform during the spring legislative session at the Bank of Springfield Center Friday, May 22, 2020.

(The Center Square) – Add a little more than half a million dollars to the $22 million that Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan has at his disposal.

Madigan is the chairman of four political campaign funds. Illinois campaign finance expert Kent Redfield said Madigan has a lot of options.

“You can move an awful lot of money into the system and then move it around, private money, and it would not be obvious just looking at the basic campaign finance law,” Redfield said.

On Tuesday, the speaker’s personal campaign fund received about $555,000 in one day, mostly from a Chicago area labor group. And while there are campaign finance limits, those caps can be removed after certain conditions.

That money can be used for a variety of things, Redfield notes.

“There are other purposes besides spending them on elections,” Redfield said.

Madigan has used hundreds of thousands of dollars to cover legal fees in the past. The Chicago Sun-Times reported in January Madigan spent nearly $1.3 million on lawyers and related costs in a year’s time. The Speaker’s political operations dealt with a sexual harassment allegation that was ultimately settled. He also faced a legal challenge from a political opponent in his legislative district.

It’s possible Madigan could have legal bills after the ComEd patronage scandal. The company agreed to pay a $200 million fine.

State Rep. Deanne Mazzochi, R-Elmhurst, wants to prohibit politicians from using campaign funds to pay legal bills for corruption cases.

“HB 4481, it prohibits a political committee from making expenses to provide a defense in a criminal case or a civil case related to official misconduct,” Mazzochi said.

Madigan has not been charged with a crime. He has been implicated in the ComEd deferred prosecution agreement released earlier this month. Madigan has denied wrongdoing.

Mazzochi’s proposal would also prohibit campaign dollars from paying for legal fees and other associated costs related to sexual harassment allegations. The proposals would require such allocated dollars to be returned to donors.

“Not to a political party, not to another political candidate,” Mazzochi said. “It also enforces more transparency on this issue.”

The legislature isn’t back until after the November election, despite calls for a special session to address ethics reforms.

Associate Editor

Greg Bishop reports on Illinois government and other issues for The Center Square. Bishop has years of award-winning broadcast experience and hosts the WMAY Morning Newsfeed out of Springfield.