Update: 2:17 p.m.
Former Illinois State Rep. Luis Arroyo pleaded not guilty Tuesday to a federal bribery charge, despite undercover government recordings that allegedly capture him paying a bribe to a state senator.
Arroyo, a Democrat who represented Chicago’s West and Northwest sides in the state House of Representatives for 13 years, is accused of offering a bribe to an unnamed state senator to help advance legislation to expand gambling.
Arroyo, once a member of Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan’s leadership team, left a downtown courthouse following Tuesday afternoon’s arraignment without talking to reporters.
Arroyo’s maneuver comes one week after another Chicago Democrat – former state Sen. Martin Sandoval – pleaded guilty to accepting more than $250,000 in bribes and to tax evasion. Sandoval’s sentencing was postponed until late July while he continues to cooperate with federal agents in other matters.
The feds are in the midst of a sprawling criminal probe of the Illinois statehouse that has touched the lobbying activities of utility giant Commonwealth Edison, the powerful former lobbyist Michael McClain and several suburban village halls. Federal agents in several instances also sought information on Madigan or allies, though no one appears to have been charged in connection with the probe.
In October Arroyo was charged with offering monthly payments of $2,500 to an unnamed state senator who was cooperating with federal agents. In addition to being a state representative, Arroyo was also a lobbyist for a company that operates “sweepstakes” machines, an unregulated industry that operates similarly to video gambling. According to the criminal complaint, Arroyo offered the bribe in exchange for the senator’s agreement that he would carry friendly legislation on behalf of one of Arroyo’s sweepstakes clients.
WBEZ has confirmed independently that the unnamed senator is Terry Link, D-Vernon Hills. The Chicago Sun-Times and Chicago Tribune both identified Link as the cooperating witness in previous reports. Link has vehemently and repeatedly told WBEZ he was not the government mole.
“What’s in it for me, though?” the cooperating senator is quoted in the complaint as asking Arroyo outside a Highland Park restaurant while federal agents surveilled the conversation.
“If you put a price on it, I mean, if you want to get paid, you want somebody else to get a check monthly, a monthly stipend, we could put them on contract,” Arroyo replied, according to charging documents, “We could put you on a contract.”
Almost three weeks later, prosecutors say Arroyo wrote a $2,500 check made out to a name the cooperating senator gave him.
“This is the jackpot,” Arroyo said, according to the criminal complaint.
“I’m not too happy about doing this, but I’m doin’ it for ya,” the unnamed senator allegedly said during the conversation.
“I know you’re not,” Arroyo replied.
Faced with the prospect of being voted out of the House by his fellow representatives, Arroyo wrote in his resignation letter that he was stepping down “to spare the members of this body from having to take such a difficult vote at a time when you are all running for re-election, considering how well we have all worked together.
“Once you have gone beyond your period of peak effectiveness, you should really call it a day and retire while you can still enjoy the later years in your life,” he continued in his resignation letter.