During the final three months of 2020, ex-Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan spent more than $1 million for work by a Chicago law firm specializing in white-collar criminal cases, newly filed state campaign records show.
The $1.03 million the Friends of Michael J. Madigan political fund spent with Katten Muchin Rosenman represents a sharp uptick in legal spending by the Chicago Democrat and comes as a federal bribery probe intensified.
During the first three quarters of last year, Madigan’s campaign committee spent about $726,000 with the firm.
Madigan has not been charged, but he was referred to 72 times as “Public Official” in a 38-page deferred prosecution agreement last July between U.S. Attorney John Lausch’s office and Commonwealth Edison in which the utility admitted to a long-running Springfield bribery scheme aimed at influencing the ex-speaker.
At the same time of that filing, federal prosecutors subpoenaed the House speaker’s office, seeking records held by Madigan regarding ComEd, his political organization, Walgreen’s, AT&T, Rush University Medical Center and a potential Chinatown real estate deal, among other things.
A month later, Madigan was named in a class-action racketeering lawsuit filed in federal court in which a series of defendants sought damages from the former speaker, ComEd and others as a result of revelations in the deferred prosecution agreement.
In September, Madigan faced a misconduct inquiry in the Illinois House — chaired by his eventual successor, current House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch — that ultimately did not yield any sanctions after Madigan refused a request to testify about his interactions with ComEd.
And in November, federal prosecutors indicted four former ComEd executives or lobbyists on charges of conspiracy bribery, bribery and falsifying utility records. One of those named in the criminal complaint was Michael McClain, a one-time high-profile ComEd lobbyist who was one of Madigan’s closest friends and political advisors.
What Madigan’s political fund paid to Katten Muchin Rosenman appeared to be related to each of those developments.
“The legal fees stemmed from the Special Investigative Committee, subpoenas for documents from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and the civil case filed,” Madigan spokeswoman Maura Possley told WBEZ. “All of this is public record and all required legal services.”
Last week, partly as a result of fallout from the ComEd revelations, Madigan was forced to surrender his speakership when he was unable to line up enough votes from House Democrats for a record-setting 19th term in control of the chamber.
Madigan remains as a state representative for the 22nd House District but has cleared out his longtime Springfield apartment.
His political fund reported $13.4 million at the end of 2020.
State law places no prohibitions on the use of campaign funds for costs associated with a criminal defense. In 2009, under federal court order, impeached ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich drained his $2.6 million campaign fund to pay legal fees tied to his corruption case.
Dave McKinney covers Illinois politics and government for WBEZ. Follow him on Twitter @davemckinney.