Power Struggle: Madigan at Center of Illinois House Hearing

Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan declined to testify Tuesday at a special hearing convened for the sole purpose of vetting whether he engaged in conduct unbefitting of his elected position, and it remains unclear whether he’ll face the pressure of a subpoena – the panel recessed its meeting without a vote on the matter, despite Republican attempts to push the issue.

That’s not to say the hearing, sans Madigan, was brief.

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The six legislators on the Special Investigative Committee met for about five hours, with much of that time spent peppering the Commonwealth Edison vice president who executed the deferred prosecution agreement, David Glockner, with questions about utility’s bribery scheme as described in the DPA.

ComEd and the U.S. attorney’s office reached an agreement in July in which ComEd would pay a $200 million penalty and otherwise reform its ways; should it do so, the company in three years would escape a felony bribery charge.

In the DPA, ComEd admits that its now-former executives spent nearly a decade trying to get in Madigan’s graces by hiring individuals, sometimes through disguised methods — especially as some of the workers did little or no actual work — who were recommended by Madigan, at least via his longtime confidant, lobbyist Michael McClain, who represented himself as Madigan’s intermediary.

Madigan has continually denied any wrongdoing or knowledge of ComEd’s efforts to get on his good side.

“The DPA does not attribute any misconduct to me. It asserts that certain individuals at ComEd hired individuals I purportedly recommended in an attempt to influence me. But let me be clear; that attempt was never made known to me – if it had been, it would have been profoundly unwelcome,” Madigan wrote in the unusually wordy letter sent earlier in September in which he declined the committee’s invitation to appear as a witness. “If they (ComEd) even harbored the thought that they could bribe or influence me, they would have failed miserably. I take offense at any notion otherwise.”

House Republican Leader Jim Durkin, who instigated the rare process that could, in theory, led to Madigan’s removal by his peers from the Illinois House, said it’s inconceivable to imagine the powerful Democrat, who has been speaker for all but two years since 1983, was unaware.

“In order to discredit ComEd’s admissions you would have to believe that Michael Madigan didn’t know what was going on around him. That would be extremely tough sell to this group, to this committee, let along 12 jurors. It’s impossible to sell that to you. You know Michael Madigan. He is not ignorant at what is going on around him. He is not naïve and he is not easily surprised,” Durkin said. “Speaker Michael Madigan abused his office. Speaker Michael Madigan abused the public’s trust.”

Madigan’s involvement or lack thereof came up during the hearing, such as when the committee’s chairman, Democratic Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch, asked Glockner “is a public official guilty of bribery because someone tries to bribe them, or is there more to it?”

Glockner, who was often careful about his answers, responded: “I think with all due respect, my role here is as a fact witness with respect to matters relating to ComEd. I don’t think I’m best equipped to provide legal advice or testimony on matters of law.”

Democrats also questioned Glockner about whether ComEd hired lobbyists who were close to legislative leaders other than Madigan and whether Durkin had recommended any hires. The answer was yes.

The Democratic legislators on the committee also indicated they plan in the future to call Durkin as a witness, given his role negotiating the Future Energy Jobs Act (FEJA), an item referenced in the DPA as beneficial to ComEd and which passed during the latter portion of the bribery scheme.

Throughout the hearing, Glockner was careful to limit his answers. He shared no information to which he was privy via private conversations with federal prosecutors, whose investigation is ongoing.

U.S. Attorney John Lausch has, via correspondence with the committee, including a letter dated Sept. 23 in which Lausch wrote: “to be clear, this office has not objected generally to a witness providing ‘non-public’ information.”

“The SIC (special investigative committee’s) process is independent of our work, and we are not taking a position on how the SIC may call witnesses, other than objecting to any witness being compelled to testify or produce documents pursuant to any proposed grant of immunity, which could interfere with a federal investigation,” the letter reads.

Tuesday’s hearing in Springfield was held just after former ComEd executive Fidel Marquez Jr., during a virtual federal court hearing, became the first individual involved in the scheme to plead guilty. It’s believed Marquez is cooperating with the feds and could receive a lesser penalty as a result.

Follow Amanda Vinicky on Twitter: @AmandaVinicky

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