(The Center Square) – After three hearings, one witness, no subpoenas and a hundred emails showing a nine-year scheme to get ComEd jobs and contracts important to House Speaker Michael Madigan, three Democratic votes ended the House Special Investigating Committee on Monday.
This summer, federal prosecutors revealed a deferred prosecution agreement where ComEd admitted officials with the company paid $1.3 million in jobs and contracts to Madigan associates in an effort to influence the speaker.
The scheme prompted House Minority Leader Jim Durkin, R-Western Springs, to file a petition in the Illinois House to have an investigation separate from the ongoing criminal probe. That created the House Special Investigating Committee. It met only three times before Democrats ended the probe.
Monday’s hearing was the first since 100 emails were released showing a pattern of a Madigan associate working ComEd for jobs and contracts that were important to the speaker.
Committee member and state Rep. Natalie Manley, D-Joliet, said there were a few instances of emails sent on behalf of Durkin.
“Once again, this is not illegal and does not constitute unbecoming conduct on behalf of Leader Durkin,” Manley said. “It simply shows basically hypocrisy of this process.”
State Rep. Deanne Mazzochi, R-Elmhurst, said the vast majority of emails showed Madigan’s associate lining up contracts and jobs with ComEd that were important to the speaker.
“To conclude from these emails that all of this was innocence personified is ridiculous,” Mazzochi said.
Republicans attempted to motion for subpoenas, but the effort was blocked by Democrats.
Manley then motioned to advance charges against Madigan only to vote against it with other Democrats on the committee. Republicans supported the motion.
The tie vote killed the motion and the committee concluded its work.
Afterward, committee chairman state Rep. Chris Welch, D-Hillside, called the committee a sham political trial and denied Democrats were acting as a shield for the longtime speaker. He said they were “guardians of the process” against Republicans bent on going after Madigan.
“How are we going to conduct a fair and impartial investigation when they had their minds already made up before the ink was dry on that petition,” Welch said.
Committee minority spokesman and state Rep. Tom Demmer, R-Dixon, said Republicans were looking to get the speaker to answer questions under oath and said it was the Democrats who showed a pattern of working against accountability.
“To avoid having the committee do its job of conducting an investigation and then coming into your first meeting in over two months with a motion teed up that you’re going to vote against and kill, the intent is clear,” Demmer said.
Madigan hasn’t been criminally charged in the federal probe into the bribery scheme with ComEd and maintains he’s done nothing wrong. Two of his associates have been charged in the scheme and pleaded not guilty. Three former ComEd officials have also been charged in the scheme. Two have pleaded not guilty. A third has pleaded guilty.
“The Democratic Party shows again today there is no limit to the lengths they will go to protect Speaker Madigan,” Durkin said in a statement. “[Committee Democrats] 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 [J.B.] Pritzker to finally demand Speaker Madigan resign as it is clear he refuses to answer any questions about his corrupt practices.”
Pritzker has said if Madigan doesn’t address questions, he should resign.
“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,” Madigan said in a statement. “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.”