(The Center Square) – House Speaker Michael Madigan said he will recuse himself from taking any part in an investigative committee Republicans requested to look into the ComEd bribery and patronage scandal that implicated him.
“When I learned that Minority Leader Jim Durkin and two Republican members requested the House of Representatives establish an investigative committee related to the ComEd deferred prosecution agreement, I immediately recused myself and designated House Majority Leader Greg Harris to handle all aspects of this matter,” Madigan said in a statement.
House Minority Leader Leader Durkin said that in light of the deferred prosecution agreement that ComEd accepted, an investigation is needed.
“Given the facts admitted by ComEd for its nine-year-long scheme to bribe Speaker Madigan, the Illinois House of Representatives must do its job and conduct a thorough investigation,” Durkin said.
Durkin, along with state Reps. Ryan Spain, R-Peoria, and Andrew Chesney, R-Freeport, signed the petition to create a special investigative committee that was delivered to Madigan's office on Aug. 31.
Harris, D-Chicago, said Republicans used “House Rule 91, requesting the creation of a Special Investigative Committee to review the ComEd deferred prosecution agreement and determine if there are grounds to discipline Speaker Madigan. The petition was delivered to the Speaker’s Office in Springfield.”
In July, ComEd entered into a deferred prosecution agreement with federal prosecutors and agreed to pay a $200 million fine. The agreement laid out a scheme ComEd was part of to give do-nothing jobs to Madigan associates in exchange for favorable legislation. Madigan has not been charged with a crime and has denied wrongdoing.
“The Illinois Constitution gives members of the House the authority to review the actions of its members and determine whether discipline is necessary, including overturning the results of an election or expelling a member,” Harris said. “This is a power that should be judiciously exercised, and one that has rarely been used. In the past two decades, it has been invoked on two occasions, following the arrest and indictment of former Representatives Derrick Smith and Luis Arroyo.”
Smith, who was appointed to the House in 2011, was expelled from the House in 2012 after he was indicted for bribery for allegedly accepting cash from a fictitious daycare in exchange for a letter of recommendation in support of a grant application. Voters returned Smith to his seat after the November 2012 election. Smith was again removed from his seat after he was convicted of bribery in 2014, the Chicago Tribune reported.
Arroyo resigned after he was arrested on bribery charges in October 2019. He resigned the following month.
Madigan said Wednesday that he has never made any legislative decisions with improper motives.
“The notion that the passage of two consequential pieces of energy legislation was tied to the hiring or retention of a few individuals is seriously mistaken,” Madigan said. “Those bills had broad support of Democrats and Republican members …”
Madigan, D-Chicago, also said the law doesn't prohibit members of the General Assembly from making job recommendations and said if Durkin, R-Western Springs, wants to question that, he should be “transparent and disclose all the jobs he has requested or lobbyists he has recommended over the years.”
“The request by Rep. Durkin and his members [for a special investigative committee] is a political stunt only months away from one of the most consequential elections of our lifetimes,” Madigan said. “Like their president, the House Republicans know how to create a political circus, but time and again fail to show up when it’s time to govern.”
Republicans have criticized Democratic legislative leaders for staying on the sidelines as Gov. J.B. Pritzker has issued executive order after executive order during the pandemic. Republicans also have called for a special session to deal with ethics reforms in the wake of the sweeping federal probe into corruption, but Democrats have resisted.
Harris appointed state Reps. Chris Welch, D-Hillside, Elizabeth Hernandez, D-Cicero, and Natalie Manley, D-Joliet, to serve on the committee alongside Republican appointees state Reps. Tom Demmer, R-Dixon, Deanne Mazzochi, R-Elmhurst, and Grant Wehrli, R-Naperville.
Wehrli declined to comment on the committee on Wednesday.
“The Committee will conduct its business in according with all House Rules and with health recommendations to protect all those involved and help prevent the spread of COVID-19,” Harris said. “All proceedings will be public.”