Michael Madigan, who served as speaker of the Illinois House for 36 years and ruled the General Assembly with an iron fist, was indicted Wednesday on 22 counts alleging that he participated in — and benefited from — a variety of corruption schemes.
Madigan, 79, was indicted approximately a year after he was ousted as speaker amid the growing clamor of corruption allegations that swirled around him and his 13th Ward political operation. Until Wednesday, many close observers thought Madigan had escaped legal peril — protected by his wall of loyalists and his famous reluctance keep records or even speak on the phone.
“The indictment accuses Madigan of leading, for nearly a decade, a criminal enterprise whose purpose was to enhance Madigan’s political power and financial wellbeing,” U.S. Attorney John Lausch said at a news conference Wednesday. “This type of criminal conduct drastically undermines the public’s confidence in our government. Simply put, it’s not a good thing.”
Madigan earned $2.8 million from the various schemes, according to the indictment signed by Lausch.
Madigan represented the 22nd District on Chicago’s Southwest Side for 50 years and led the Democratic Party of Illinois for 20 years before he was forced from power, his career ending amid scandal despite his carefully cultivated reputation as the “Velvet Hammer,” the state’s most powerful politician and enforcer of party discipline.
Madigan has consistently denied wrongdoing, and was not arrested Wednesday. His arraignment has not yet been scheduled.
In a statement Wednesday evening, Madigan said he was “never involved in any criminal activity” and claimed the feds are “attempting to criminalize a routine constituent service: job recommendations.”
“That is not illegal, and these other charges are equally unfounded,” he said. “Throughout my 50 years as a public servant, I worked to address the needs of my constituents, always keeping in mind the high standards required and the trust the public placed in me. I adamantly deny these accusations and look back proudly on my time as an elected official, serving the people of Illinois.”
Madigan’s decades-old grip on power began to erode in December 2020 when Commonwealth Edison officials admitted the utility giant arranged jobs, contracts and payoffs for Madigan’s associates to win Madigan’s crucial support.
With Madigan’s backing, state lawmakers allowed ComEd to hike electricity rates.
As part of a deferred prosecution agreement, the firm agreed to pay a $200 million fine to resolve federal corruption charges.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office also indicted Michael McClain, one of Madigan’s closest aides and confidants dating back to the 1970s, when they served together as state representatives in the Illinois House.
McClain is accused of orchestrating the scheme to bribe ComEd.
McClain was also charged in November 2020 along with ComEd and Exelon executive Anne Prammagiore, former ComEd government relations vice president and later lobbyist John Hooker, and former City Club of Chicago president Jay Doherty in connection with that scheme.
McClain’s attorney accused the U.S. Attorney’s Office of attempting to force him to cooperate with their probe and implicate Madigan.
“He remains innocent of the recycled and new charges in this latest indictment,” said attorney Patrick J. Cotter. “He will never testify falsely about himself or anyone, no matter how many indictments are brought against him. We will fight to prove his innocence.”
All have pleaded not guilty, and are awaiting trial. In that indictment, Madigan was referred to as “Public Official A.” More than two years later, Madigan stands directly accused of criminal actions.
The U.S. Attorney has also charged Tim Mapes, who served for decades as both Madigan’s legislative chief of staff and executive director of the Madigan-controlled Democratic Party of Illinois, with obstruction of justice and perjury.
Apart from the ComEd bribery scheme, Madigan is charged with illegally steering business to his private property tax law firm amid efforts to turn a vacant piece of land in Chinatown into a commercial development.
Disgraced former Ald. Daniel Solis (25th Ward) was involved in those discussions, according to previous reports by the Chicago Tribune.
The indictment alleges that Madigan suggested to Solis that he could arrange for Gov. J.B. Pritzker to appoint Solis to a state position, and did not have to put anything in writing to get it done.
Pritzker’s communications director Emily Bittner said Madigan never approached Pritzker.
“The governor does not recall Michael Madigan ever asking him to consider Danny Solis for any position," Bittner said. “The administration has no record of Solis being recommended by Madigan. In addition, he was never vetted, appointed or hired for any role in the administration.”
The indictment does not accuse the governor or his staff of wrongdoing, Lausch said.
Pritzker was informed by federal agents that they consider him a witness to Madigan’s alleged criminal conduct in late February, Bittner said.
Pritzker spoke voluntarily to agents for an hour in late February and was “pleased to cooperate and provide information,” Bittner said.
Pritzker said in a statement that “Madigan must be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law.”
“An indictment of this magnitude is a condemnation of a system infected with promises of pay-to-play, and the era of corruption and self-dealing among Illinois politicians must end. The conduct alleged in this indictment is deplorable and a stark violation of the public’s trust,” Pritzker said.
Lausch said the investigation remains ongoing.
“Every time that this office brings another corruption case ... I think we all shake our heads sometimes that we think there’s another corruption case,” he said. “The problem remains a very stubborn one.”
Amanda Vinicky contributed to this report.
This is a developing story. Check back for details.