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Local Column

EYE ON ILLINOIS: Committee investigating Madigan must honor pledge to fairness, transparency

How long has Mike Madigan been in the Illinois House of Representatives? You can compile the tenures of six colleagues and still come up short of the speaker’s longevity.

Which six? The members of the new committee constituted to investigate Madigan for his role as Public Official A in the deferred prosecution agreement involving Commonwealth Edison and federal investigators. 

The members are Reps. Elizabeth Hernandez, D-Cicero, who joined the House in 2003; Emanuel “Chris” Welch, D-Hillside, Natalie Manley, D-Joliet, and Deputy Minority Leader Tom Demmer, R-Dixon, who started in 2013; Grant Wehrli, R-Naperville. 2015; and Deanne Mazzochi, R-Elmhurst, 2018.

Madigan became a House member in January 1971, nearly 50 years ago, but the conduct the committee will investigate covers 2011 through 2019. On Wednesday House Republican Leader Jim Durkin filed a petition to create the committee, pursuant to House rules, and that was before we learned about the criminal charge against Fidel Marquez, a lobbyist and ComEd’s former senior vice president of governmental affairs.

The committee has subpoena powers and can depose witnesses under oath, although Welch doesn’t have a defined strategy. In a statement that should be broadly appealing, Welch pledged transparency and public hearings. Rules dictate the process will conclude with a report on any charges — only possible with a majority vote — which would lead to creation of a 12-member disciplinary panel.

“Speaker Madigan, like any other member of the House, is entitled to due process,” Welch told Capitol News Illinois. “Fairness is extremely important to me, and that’s what he’s going to get here.”

Other players were less magnanimous.

Durkin issued a release in which he said ComEd engaged in a “nine-year-long scheme to bribe” the speaker. Madigan distributed a retort denying any connection between legislation favorable to ComEd and the utility’s employment decisions. He also noted the bills had broad bipartisan support with key Republicans involved in negotiations.

“The law does not prohibit members of the General Assembly from making job recommendations,” Madigan added. “If Rep. Durkin wants to question whether legislators should be allowed to make job recommendations, I encourage him to be transparent and disclose all of the jobs he has requested or lobbyists he has recommended over the years. He should also disclose the various actions he personally took to pass the energy bills, both in 2011 and 2016.”

If I were the Speaker, I’d stop speaking and let the committee work. Righteous defiance has its place, but what’s gained by further infusing proceedings with partisan rancor?

Hopefully the Statehouse veterans on the committee give the process the respect it deserves. No matter the outcome it won’t satisfy everyone, but a fair, public investigation could represent dramatic evolution in a perpetually corrupt state. 

• Scott T. Holland writes about state government issues for Shaw Media Illinois. Follow him on Twitter at @sth749. He can be reached at [ mailto:sholland@shawmedia.com ]sholland@shawmedia.com.

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