* Press release…
The people of Illinois are facing unprecedented challenges — from the coronavirus threatening our health, our economy and the education of our children to overdue demands for a more just and equitable society. At such a time, it is imperative that the people of our state can trust in their representatives and that those representatives can trust in their leaders. That is why Michael Madigan should resign as Speaker of the House.
The revelations contained in the U.S. Attorney’s deferred prosecution agreement with Commonwealth Edison paint a sordid picture of bribery, influence peddling and insider-dealing at the highest levels. It shows how yesterday’s political patronage system, severely restricted by the courts, has been transferred lock, stock and barrel to a large corporation seeking the government’s help.
Not only does this undermine public trust in government, but it will cost Illinois ratepayers hundreds of millions of dollars. This follows on the heels of horrendous revelations of sexual harassment and bullying by those within the Speaker’s Office. It is clearly time for a change.
Some will argue that the Speaker is innocent until charges are filed and he’s proven guilty. But those are not the standards that should apply to his leadership role. Serving as Speaker is not a right; it’s a privilege. A leader’s actions must avoid even the perception of wrongdoing. Speaker Madigan repeatedly has violated that trust.
For the same reason, Michael Madigan should step down as chair of the Democratic Party of Illinois. We are in the midst of the most important campaign of our lifetime — to remove a President who routinely violates our Constitution and our trust. In contrast, Democrats must offer voters a level of trust and accountability that Chairman Madigan can no longer provide.
Speaker Madigan’s continued service in the legislature and on the Democratic State Central Committee are matters for his constituents to decide. The many ethical questions swirling around him, however, should disqualify him from legislative or party leadership posts.
The problems in Illinois government go far beyond Speaker Madigan, although he has come to personify the elevation of power and privilege over the needs and concerns of the public. We must enact tough ethics reforms to help ensure that a change in House leadership brings with it the overhaul of a broken system. No longer can we allow it to promote the interests of powerful insiders over those of the people and communities our government is supposed to serve.
I pledge to continue fighting for such reforms with likeminded colleagues who are demanding both a change in unethical leadership and serious reform of a system that has tolerated it for far too long.