This week's charges against a former, now disgraced ComEd CEO and a handful of lobbyists for schemes aimed at bribing Madigan in exchange for lucrative state energy contracts only put a fine point on the massive money grab that's gone unchecked under the speaker's powerful watch in Illinois—much of it coming at the expense of the taxpayers of this state.
The charges alone, which did not include Madigan, should have been bad enough. The indictment from U.S. Attorney John Lausch depicted such an orgy of corruption, ranging from willful altering of documents to job favors and direct payments to help out close associates of Madigan, that we had to wince our way through it while reading.
Indicted Nov. 18 were Anne Pramaggiore, ex-CEO of ComEd; former ComEd lobbyist Michael McClain; John Hooker, a onetime lobbyist of ComEd and parent Exelon; and Jay Doherty, former president of the City Club of Chicago and also a former lobbyist for ComEd.
Attorneys for all four said their clients did no wrong and plan to fight the charges.
The indictment alleges that the four schemed to arrange everything from ComEd internships for individuals in Madigan's AG亚洲国际游戏home 13th Ward to passing on payments "intended for associates of Public Official A''—now known as Madigan—to altering company documents to cover up the schemes. All of this effort was aimed at getting passage of legislation favorable to ComEd.
And while the speaker hasn't been charged with a crime, this latest set of indictments came so close to Madigan we could practically read the labels on his fine shirts.
Worse was the way Madigan responded late this week.
If you're a resident of this state, and no matter whether you vote blue, red or some combination, you should be outraged at Madigan's statement. It dripped of contempt for good government. Perhaps more reprehensible, it made us all out to be suckers.
"To the extent that anyone at ComEd or Exelon believed they could influence my conduct as a legislator by hiring someone I may have recommended, who worked for me, or who did political work for me, they were fundamentally mistaken,'' Madigan said a few days after the latest bombshell indictments were revealed. "To the extent anyone may have suggested to others that I could be influenced, then they, too, were wrong. Had I known about it, I would have made every effort to put a stop to it."
We can agree with Madigan on one point in his statement: It is true he was not charged with a crime. But his long, rambling "nothing to see here'' defense is hardly a litmus test by which we should judge whether our politicians are fit for the office they hold. We elect officials to do what's right, not to sit while the stench of corruption overpowers his or her office from below. The person who looks away while a perpetrator flees a crime scene is hardly the person we want in such a position of power in this state.
If the ComEd scandal alone isn't enough to jar Madigan into recognizing the damage he's causing by sticking around, the November election should have been the moment political reality set in. As columnist Greg Hinz pointed out this week, Republicans did have some success in making Madigan the bogeyman in this year's election, most likely leading to voters ousting Illinois Supreme Court Justice Thomas Kilbride and defeating Gov. J.B. Pritzker's graduated income tax amendment.
Politically, those outcomes were the proverbial canary in the coal mine.
It's clear even Madigan's allies are sending him that message. Now, if he'd only listen.