Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker for the first time Wednesday called on House Speaker Michael Madigan to testify before the state legislative panel investigating his connections to the Commonwealth Edison bribery scandal.
Last week, Madigan — who’s also chairman of the Democratic Party of Illinois — sent a three-page letter to the bipartisan committee informing them that he declined their invitation to testify as they determine whether he’s committed misconduct.
At a virtual press conference Wednesday afternoon, Pritzker called out Madigan — the head of his own party — to answer questions about the scandal.
“I strongly believe that the speaker should take any opportunity — and this is one — to present answers to the questions that I think all of us have,” the Democratic governor said.
Republicans convened the special investigation committee after the power company ComEd admitted it gave jobs and contracts to Madigan associates in order to curry favor with the speaker. In exchange, federal prosecutors and the ComEd say Madigan threw his support behind lucrative legislation pushed by the utility.
This week, ComEd’s former in-house lobbyist pleaded guilty for his role in the scheme. Madigan has not been charged with a crime and denies wrongdoing.
“I cannot provide information I do not have, and I cannot answer questions about issues of which I have no knowledge or conversations to which I was not a party,” the speaker wrote in a letter made public Friday.
The House panel heard testimony Tuesday from a current ComEd executive, who shared new information with the committee — including that Madigan’s own office assistant encouraged the company to to place former McPier chief Juan Ochoa on ComEd’s board of directors.
Ochoa was on the utility’s board from April 2019 until last April. That scheme was mentioned in ComEd’s deferred prosecution agreement with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Chicago, which essentially settles the company’s criminal case.
While no future hearings have been scheduled, the committee had a fiery debate over whether it should issue subpoenas to compel Madigan and other former ComEd lobbyists and executives to provide testimony.
Republicans were prepared to issue the subpoenas, but they were stopped short by the Democratic chairman of the committee, Rep. Chris Welch, of Hillside, who said that he had discretion on whether subpoenas would be issued.
“I have to determine whether invoking the power of subpoena at this point is, at best, premature or even right,” he said shortly before ending the committee.
Tony Arnold covers Illinois politics. Follow him @tonyjarnold.