State Sen. Martin Sandoval, D-Chicago, stepped down as the chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee on Friday as new details emerged showing the broad scope of the federal probe.
Federal agents raided Sandoval’s offices inside the Illinois State Capitol last month. They also searched his home and office in Cicero. Senate Democrats released a redacted copy of the search warrant a week later. Gov. J.B. Pritzker said then that even though Sandoval had not being charged with a crime, he should step aside. It wasn’t until Friday, when Senate Democrats released an unredacted copy of the search warrant, that Sandoval resigned from the committee.
“Pursuant to Senate [rules], effective immediately, I am resigning as Chairperson of the Senate Transportation Committee,” Sandoval wrote in a letter to the Secretary of the Senate. “Thank you for your attention to this matter.”
Senate President John Cullerton has not yet named a replacement.
The search warrant includes the names of several businesses, including a video gambling company, a red-light traffic camera company, an asphalt contractor and unnamed officials from energy company ComEd.
After reviewing the warrant, Saint Xavier University Center for Fraud and Corruption Director David Parker said it looked expansive. And he said it appeared that federal investigators were looking at a large swath of Sandoval's interactions with businesses, state officials and municipal officials. Investigators sought evidence related to Sandoval's dealings with ComEd and Exelon, including legislation supported by the companies and potential energy rate hikes.
“You have to wait and see just how deep it really goes,” Parker said. “If it’s a matter of corporate culture with a lot of the top executives knowing exactly what was going on and putting their blessing on it that is certainly different than a few rogue executives.”
ComEd revealed it received a grand jury request for "records of any communications with certain individuals and entities, including Illinois State Senator Martin Sandoval.”
Another name included in the search warrant caught Pritzker’s attention Friday.
Pritzker nominated Cesar Santoy to the Illinois Tollways Authority in February. Santoy’s name was included in the search warrant in relation to red light camera operator SafeSpeed. On Friday, Pritzker said that although Santoy had not been charged with a crime, he should step down.
“But still it’s important for us to make sure that there is no cloud that is carried over any of the work that gets done at the tollway and so he should step aside,” the governor said.
Messages seeking comment from the tollway authority were not returned. Santoy’s attorney said his client had turned over the records investigators requested.
“I’ve been informed that Mr. Santoy is not a target,” Santoy's attorney, Brendan Shiller, said. “The government got a warrant for certain communications and Mr. Santoy cooperated fully and provided those communications.”
Pritzker later withdrew Santoy's nomination.
The head of the Illinois Republican Party said the search warrant “provides another glimpse into the vast network of background players involved in the corrupt Chicago Democrat machine that runs this state.”
“From another close [House Speaker Michael] Madigan ally to Pritzker’s Tollway appointee, there is virtually no level of state and local government in Cook County that is not teeming with self-dealing Democrats looking to screw over taxpayers,” Illinois GOP Chairman Tim Schneider said. “The Illinois Democratic Party is a crime ring masquerading as a political party.”
Messages seeking comment from the Democratic Party of Illinois were not returned.
Parker said he expected corruption to be an issue in the 2020 election.
“We’ve got Republicans screaming ‘we’re looking at lobbying’ and now this is a Democratic state Senator under investigation,” Parker said. “So it becomes even more newsworthy if you can tie it back to the parties.”