Madigan Refuses Calls That He Resign As Illinois House Speaker Amid ComEd Bribery Scandal

Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan says he heard positive feedback and support from fellow Democrats after facing calls that he resign in the wake of a corruption scandal.

Michael Madigan
Manuel Martinez / WBEZ
Michael Madigan
Manuel Martinez / WBEZ

Madigan Refuses Calls That He Resign As Illinois House Speaker Amid ComEd Bribery Scandal

Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan says he heard positive feedback and support from fellow Democrats after facing calls that he resign in the wake of a corruption scandal.

Following calls that he resign, a defiant Speaker Michael Madigan said Thursday night he’s not going anywhere.

Madigan said he has heard support that he remain in leadership roles from his fellow House Democrats after four of them — plus the top House Republican — called on him to resign in the wake of allegations that he benefited from a bribery scheme by Commonwealth Edison.

“The feedback is positive and demonstrates continued support for me and my leadership roles,” Madigan said in a statement. “I have no plans to resign.”

Madigan’s unusual late night statement comes nearly two weeks after he was implicated — but not charged — by federal investigators probing ComEd.

Earlier this month, U.S. Attorney John Lausch and ComEd agreed to a deal to defer prosecution of a bribery charge against the state’s biggest utility company for three years.

In the government filing outlining that agreement, ComEd acknowledged paying more than $1.3 million to associates of Madigan — who was identified in the filing as “Public Official A” — to ensure its legislative agenda sailed smoothly through the Democratic-led state legislature.

Between 2011 and 2019, the period during which the bribery scheme unfolded, ComEd and its parent, Exelon, scored two major legislative wins.

One in 2011 took most rate-setting authority from state regulators and essentially ensured the utility company would not lose money. The second in 2016 authorized a ratepayer-funded bailout of two failing Exelon nuclear plants worth more than $2.3 billion over a decade.

“I have never made a legislative decision with improper motives and any claim otherwise is unfounded,” Madigan wrote in his statement. “I will continue to lead the effort to defeat Donald Trump, expand the Illinois congressional delegation and the majorities in the Illinois House and Senate.”

Democratic Gov. JB Pritzker has said Madigan should resign if the charges against him are proven. Until Thursday, that also had been the position staked out by House Minority Leader Jim Durkin, R-Western Springs.

“The federal charges outlined in the ComEd prosecution highlight a scheme solely for the benefit of Speaker Madigan,” Durkin said in a statement. “These facts are a disgrace of the highest level to the citizens of Illinois and to the institution of which we serve, the Illinois House of Representatives.”

Democrats hold a supermajority of the seats in the Illinois House of Representatives. That means that while Durkin can file a resolution calling for a new Speaker, the fate of that resolution is up to the majority party.

Madigan was first seated in the Illinois House in 1971 and has been speaker for all but two years since 1983, a hold on power unmatched in American political history. He has been chairman of the Democratic Party of Illinois since 1998.

Within his own 74-member House Democratic caucus, Madigan has now faced five defections, including four this week. State Rep. Kelly Cassidy, D-Chicago, chair of the House Appropriations Committee on public safety, State Rep. Terra Costa Howard, D-Glen Ellyn, Rep. Stephanie Kifowit, D-Aurora, chair of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, State Rep. Anne Stava-Murray, D-Naperville, and State Rep. Jonathan “Yoni” Pizer, D-Chicago, have all called on Madigan to resign.

“As a leader on criminal justice reform, I feel strongly about the principles of innocent until proven guilty and the right to due process,” Cassidy wrote in a statement released Thursday afternoon. “I also believe leadership must be held to a higher standard, and it is clear that the constant drip of corruption stories will interfere with our ability to advance a progressive agenda. Whether these investigations ultimately implicate him or continue to pick away at his inner circle, the damage is done.”

“The actions described in the US Attorney’s Deferred Prosecution Agreement by ComEd show that you have compromised the integrity of the office of speaker of the House and undermined the public trust,” Kifowit said in a letter released Thursday. “In addition, your involvement as ‘Public Official A’ exposes a conflict of interest as we deliberate and evaluate how the legislative process has been manipulated.”

Costa Howard, who was first elected in 2018 and is regarded as a top House Republican target this fall, said the speaker has been irreparably tainted by the accusations spelled out in the ComEd filing.

“Speaker Madigan has not been charged with any crime, and he — like all of us — is entitled to the presumption of innocence and due process. But the corruption and unethical behavior that have been revealed by this investigation make it impossible for Rep. Madigan to continue in his leadership roles. I hope he will do the honorable thing and step down,” she said.

Another dozen House Democrats have said Madigan should resign only if the allegations are true.

If Madigan remains in power, he will need 60 votes to be re-elected speaker early next year. He does not face a Republican opponent in his re-election bid for state representative, representing parts of Chicago’s southwest side.

Democrats in the Illinois Senate who have also called for Madigan to resign include state Sen. Heather Steans, D-Chicago, and state Sen. Melinda Bush, D-Grayslake. State Sen. Iriz Martinez, D-Chicago, has reiterated her call for Madigan to step aside as chairman of the Democratic Party of Illinois.

Dave McKinney and Tony Arnold cover Illinois government and politics for WBEZ. Follow them on Twitter @davemckinney and @tonyjarnold.