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Feds whistling in former HDem members to talk about Madigan’s operation

Thursday, May 6, 2021

* We talked about this yesterday

Defense attorneys have told a judge overseeing the federal bribery case involving members of former House Speaker Michael Madigan’s inner circle that prosecutors are on the “brink” of filing a superseding indictment in the case.

Such an indictment could mean additional charges and more defendants in the case.

“We know they are apparently on the brink of a superseding indictment. When are they going to tell us?” attorney Michael Monico said during a teleconference Wednesday with U.S. District Court Judge Harry Leinenweber to discuss the case.

Monico represents onetime ComEd vice president John Hooker, one of four defendants in the case.

* But this story broke while I was at the Capitol, so I decided to wait until today to post it

At least two former Illinois House Democrats have gone before the federal grand jury within the last week to explain the full scope of Madigan’s power and control of the legislative process while he was speaker, according to sources familiar with the investigation.

At least one of the lawmakers had changed a vote on the House floor that opposed a key piece of ComEd legislation and then supported Gov. Pat Quinn’s veto of the measure, a source said.

The ex-lawmakers themselves were not accused of doing anything improper but were asked a series of questions about the basic way the House operated under Madigan, a source said.

In addition, a third former lawmaker told the Tribune they were recently interviewed by federal authorities, and said questions included “Madigan’s role in the process” about ComEd and other issues.

That second paragraph is more than a little obtuse. The 2011 “Smart Grid” override received more votes than the bill did when it initially passed. But it’s possible that the excerpt is referring to a cleanup “trailer bill” that also included some consumer protections. That proposal was called for a vote the same day as the veto override motion. From the next day’s subscriber edition

The real heart of the matter here is that all four legislative leaders strongly supported the legislation. That’s a tough combo to beat. And, as usual in cases like this, House Speaker Michael Madigan’s backing was crucial. Madigan has whacked ComEd, Exelon and Ameren quite a few times in the past. His proudest legislative achievement was creating the Illinois Power Agency in the wake of huge electric rate hikes. He believed the IPA would force the lower rates that the Illinois Commerce Commission couldn’t provide. Madigan is a former ICC attorney, and believes he understands the weaknesses on both sides of the never-ending regulatory battles. Madigan’s aides say he believes the ICC has failed miserably to upgrade the state’s aging electrical infrastructure, so he was open to ComEd’s proposal. The fact that his best friend and top ComEd lobster Mike McClain made this issue an almost obsessive priority probably didn’t hurt the company’s cause. Madigan has told McClain “No” several times in the past, but the Speaker more than just relented on this one. He worked in favor of it.

The Speaker asked some of his members this week to support the trailer bill. The bill was abruptly called for a vote yesterday while about 20 of Madigan’s members were attending a budget briefing. Madigan’s staff voted most of the absent legislators “Yes,” except, of course, for their political targets. The members hurried back to the floor, but by then it was too late. The bill had already passed with 91 votes. One Democrat after another subsequently rose to ask that their “Yes” votes be changed to “No” in the House Journal.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

28 Comments
  1. - Greta - Thursday, May 6, 21 @ 9:06 am:

    It seems like the Feds are going to put the system on trial…


  2. - NotRich - Thursday, May 6, 21 @ 9:09 am:

    it will be fun when they indict ALL FOUR leaders who helped pass the bill..


  3. - Oswego Willy - Thursday, May 6, 21 @ 9:16 am:

    Someone will have to explain how the Republican leaders are complicit… to Republicans.

    To the post,

    “Don’t wait for it to happen. Don’t even want it to happen. Just watch what does happen.”

    I’m waiting and watching the reporting, which has been outstanding, and the actual court hearings.


  4. - 2Long - Thursday, May 6, 21 @ 9:19 am:

    Buttongate!!!!!


  5. - walker - Thursday, May 6, 21 @ 9:25 am:

    Doubtful that the judiciary will support any changes in how the legislature chooses to generally operate. This is about the underlying rationale for a specific “bribery” charge.


  6. - Big Beef - Thursday, May 6, 21 @ 9:33 am:

    I can see the Feds making the case that so what if the other leaders wanted the legislation enacted for policy reasons. Madigan actually controlled the process and wanted it enacted for his own personal political benefit.


  7. - 47th Ward - Thursday, May 6, 21 @ 9:37 am:

    ===The Speaker asked some of his members this week to support the trailer bill. The bill was abruptly called for a vote yesterday while about 20 of Madigan’s members were attending a budget briefing. Madigan’s staff voted most of the absent legislators “Yes,” …===

    He controlled the process, including when bills are called. He waited until a lot of members were out of the room then ordered his staff to vote yes on their behalf.

    If I was Madigan, I’d be worried about how to explain that in a courtroom.


  8. - Oswego Willy - Thursday, May 6, 21 @ 9:38 am:

    === I can see the Feds making the case that so what if the other leaders wanted the legislation enacted for policy reasons. Madigan actually controlled the process and wanted it enacted for his own personal political benefit.===

    Then how do you find coercion?

    Isn’t that the crux? Coercion? Manipulation?

    How does that roll call show that?


  9. - Mary Sunshine - Thursday, May 6, 21 @ 9:47 am:

    “Buttongate” - google it!


  10. - Hannibal Lecter - Thursday, May 6, 21 @ 9:57 am:

    This case still seems like a ridiculous stretch to me. A purported bribery case where the person who allegedly accepted the bribe personally received no money. If you have to try and fit the square peg into the circular hole, you might want to reconsider your case.


  11. - Sue - Thursday, May 6, 21 @ 10:02 am:

    Based on the questions the feds seem to be asking unless McClain cooperates Madigan appears far from an indictment


  12. - 1st Ward - Thursday, May 6, 21 @ 10:02 am:

    “If I was Madigan, I’d be worried about how to explain that in a courtroom.”

    As the longest serving Speaker of the House in the history of the country in any state I’m obviously a brilliant politician that knows how to play the game. Also, I wrote the rules and the laws. What you want to charge me with? They voted for me every two years for a reason. Being a master tactician isn’t a crime.

    Better have more than I don’t like the rules we all voted for.


  13. - Greta - Thursday, May 6, 21 @ 10:19 am:

    ==He controlled the process, including when bills are called. He waited until a lot of members were out of the room then ordered his staff to vote yes on their behalf.

    If I was Madigan, I’d be worried about how to explain that in a courtroom.==

    How did Madigan get it out of the Senate?


  14. - Hannibal Lecter - Thursday, May 6, 21 @ 10:20 am:

    === He waited until a lot of members were out of the room then ordered his staff to vote yes on their behalf ===

    Not to be persnickety, but I don’t think there is evidence that shows he ordered anyone to do anything.


  15. - Oswego Willy - Thursday, May 6, 21 @ 10:21 am:

    === How did Madigan get it out of the Senate?===

    Yikes. That’s pretty solid work there.

    I will be interested how Madigan got the other 3 Tops to bend to his will.


  16. - Lucky Pierre - Thursday, May 6, 21 @ 10:27 am:

    Com Ed voluntarily agreed to pay a 200 million dollar fine for their actions to favor the “brilliant tactician” in this “ridiculous” episode where the Speaker obviously committed no crime.


  17. - Responsa - Thursday, May 6, 21 @ 10:52 am:

    If it ever gets that far the idea of “our friend”, the one so reticent to speak, sitting in a courtroom, being questioned under oath, will be must watch TV.


  18. - Candy Dogood - Thursday, May 6, 21 @ 10:53 am:

    An enterprising CPA would be making sure our legislators knew that it was never too late to make a correction on their tax returns if they forgot to include some income.


  19. - 47th Ward - Thursday, May 6, 21 @ 10:57 am:

    This is a federal prosecution, not a lesson on legislative process. That the three other leaders supported it is immaterial to the charges against McClain, Doherty, Hooker and Pramaggiore that link them to Madigan. That the feds are bringing former legislators in to explain the process to the grand jury tells me they don’t care that the Senate also approved it. Their case is only about what happened in the House because the defendants are all connected to Madigan.


  20. - Anyone Remember - Thursday, May 6, 21 @ 11:04 am:

    The nature of the Fed’s activities leads me to suspect IF (that is a big IF) Madigan is convicted, any conviction would go the way of the convictions of Otto Kerner, Conrad Black, and Bob McDonnell. Perhaps the Feds would be happy just to tar and feather Madigan, even if the conviction goes the way of the Dodo bird?


  21. - Hmmm - Thursday, May 6, 21 @ 11:25 am:

    Imagine the spreadsheet trying to line up who Comed supported and who they didn’t and when. Agree McClain is key, but I’d guess MM gets indicted. Right now it looks like McClain is going to Sorich route, but they haven’t given him the Fawell treatment. That could change things.


  22. - Hannibal Lecter - Thursday, May 6, 21 @ 11:26 am:

    === Their case is only about what happened in the House because the defendants are all connected to Madigan. ===

    That is true. With that said, unless there is more to the story, I don’t see how the facts will lead to a conviction of those already charged let alone an indictment of the former Speaker of the House.


  23. - Annonin' - Thursday, May 6, 21 @ 11:38 am:

    “Madigan has whacked ComEd, Exelon and Ameren quite a few times in the past. His proudest legislative achievement was creating the Illinois Power Agency in the wake of huge electric rate hikes.”
    Th package also force ComEd and other to pay $1 billion back to rate payers….


  24. - Arsenal - Thursday, May 6, 21 @ 12:46 pm:

    ==Com Ed voluntarily agreed to pay a 200 million dollar fine for their actions to favor the “brilliant tactician” in this “ridiculous” episode where the Speaker obviously committed no crime. ==

    I’m not 100% what point you think you’re making, but ComEd paid a fine because *ComEd* committed a crime. Generally speaking, you don’t pay a fine for someone else’s crime.


  25. - Not for nothing - Thursday, May 6, 21 @ 12:54 pm:

    @arsenal- you do, however, pay a 200m to get the feds out of your kitchen without ever having to say I’m sorry.


  26. - Pizza Man - Thursday, May 6, 21 @ 12:56 pm:

    the sharks are circling Madigan…they already have the ComEd’s 4-tops cornered (above).

    They want Madigan period. Will they indict him? With thousands of recorded calls, emails, and now testimony from former HDem legislators–on MJM–they are getting closer to the jackpot.

    McClain will most likely not squeal but he has had missteps in e-mail communications and via recorded calls as alleged. Just sayin..


  27. - Loop Lady - Thursday, May 6, 21 @ 1:19 pm:

    Imagine, Com Ed and or Excelon hoodwinking their captive
    ratepayers…


  28. - RNUG - Thursday, May 6, 21 @ 4:22 pm:

    You never KNOW what the Feds have until they talk, but right now I would say the Feds case is something like this:

    We have his fingerprints at the scene … but we don’t have them on the gun.


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