An influential Illinois lawmaker who chairs the committee charged with investigating House Speaker Michael Madigan has tested positive for COVID-19.
Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch, D-Hillside, said he started feeling symptoms Wednesday and that they remain mild.
“Felt something new each day … so I was tested,” Welch told WBEZ on Sunday.
He said he received the positive test results this weekend and that he can trace the transmission to a family member in his bubble who has also tested positive.
Welch leads a special bipartisan House panel tasked with investigating Madigan for alleged conduct unbecoming of a legislator.
The House GOP took the extraordinary step of creating that committee in August after Commonwealth Edison admitted to federal prosecutors that it provided jobs, contracts, a board appointment and internships to gain Madigan’s favor in exchange for favorable legislation.
Madigan denies wrongdoing and he has not been charged with a crime.
This month, U.S. Attorney John Lausch’s office charged Michael McClain — a close confidante of Madigan’s and a former ComEd lobbyist — in the long-running bribery scheme. Three other former ComEd lobbyists and executives were also charged.
All four have issued statements to the media that they did nothing wrong. They’re expected to plead guilty or not guilty in front of U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber on Wednesday.
But the indictments prompted a fresh wave of House Democrats to call for a new House speaker — a post Madigan has held for all but two years since 1983. If those Democrats stick to that stance into January, when the winners of November’s election are sworn in, Madigan could lose the speaker’s gavel.
Welch has resisted GOP calls for the committee to compel Madigan to testify by issuing subpoenas to the Democratic speaker and the four indicted ComEd lobbyists and executives. All of them have declined to voluntarily appear before the committee, prompting Republicans to accuse Welch of inhibiting the committee’s work to benefit Madigan. Another former ComEd lobbyist has also declined to testify in front of the committee but has pleaded guilty.
WBEZ obtained documents showing Madigan tried to get state jobs for a half-dozen people with close ties to Welch, including relatives. Those relatives did not ultimately obtain the jobs.
So far, only a current ComEd executive has testified before the legislative panel. The utility also presented a cache of emails to the committee on Wednesday evening, as public attention shifted to Thanksgiving.
Those emails revealed that Madigan, who also co-owns one of Chicago’s biggest property-tax appeal firms, appeared to show repeated interest in who was doing property tax work for the largest utility in Illinois.The emails also disclosed for the first time that the power company secretly paid a $4,500 monthly consulting fee to Cook County Recorder of Deeds Ed Moody, a key Madigan ally. Moody, a Democrat, is a veteran precinct captain from the speaker’s home ward on Chicago’s Southwest Side.
Welch said, despite his COVID-19 diagnosis, he hopes to keep a Dec. 14 date for the committee’s next hearing.
Tony Arnold covers Illinois politics for WBEZ. Follow him @tonyjarnold.