FILE - Michael Madigan, 2016

Former Illinois Speaker of the House Michael Madigan

(The Center Square) – Evidence developing in a sweeping federal corruption probe that snagged undercover recordings of former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan should send a message to other bad actors, a corruption expert says.

Madigan, D-Chicago, has pleaded not guilty to a 22-count federal indictment on corruption-related charges.

The Chicago Sun-Times reports that unsealed federal filings in a case against Madigan codefendant Michael McClain shows Madigan and McClain were recorded talking about a scheme of transferring money from lobbyists to a political aid at the center of a sexual harrassment case.

Another report indicates Madigan was captured talking with McClain about a board position with ComEd for a $78,000 salary.

St. Xavier University professor David Parker studies corruption cases. He said such evidence found in federal filings is damning.

“They got him on tape, it’s direct, there’s no hearsay or anything else, it’s like caught with a smoking gun with that,” Parker told The Center Square. “You play that for someone, it’s like ‘yeah, that’s hard to deny, that’s your voice.’”

McClain and several former ComEd officials have pleaded not guilty to a nearly decade-long bribery scheme that was revealed in the summer of 2020. Madigan was referred to as “Public Official A” in that deferred prosecution agreement with ComEd where the utility agreed to pay $200 million for it’s role in the scheme.

In March, Madigan was charged with McClain in a separate corruption case for allegedly operating “Madigan Enterprise” for nearly a decade.

“It’s hard to unring the bell,” Parker said of the tapes.

“If you’ve got tapes of Madigan or anything, it’s like you don’t unhear it,” Parker said. “You could be given a jury instruction to disregard it, but these people are people.”

The developing evidence should send a clear message to bad actors, he said.

“Hopefully the message is that you’re not as safe as you think and there’s a chance that you’re going to be the next individual under investigation,” Parker said. “They're serious about following up on the issues of corruption.”

Parker expects more evidence to surface as the cases progress.

In 2019, a separate corruption investigation of a Chicago alderman revealed the FBI had secretly recorded a conversation between Madigan and a potential client to his law firm.

Asked then by The Center Square what it was like to be caught on a surreptitious recording, Madigan laughed and replied, “it’s a tough world that we live in.”

The case against Madigan and McClain has a status hearing set for August. The McClain case is set for a jury trial Sept. 12.

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.