Video: Three white collar criminal defense attorneys, who also spent time working at the U.S. Attorney's Office: Patrick Collins of the law firm King & Spalding; Nancy DePodesta of Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr; and Ron Safer of the firm Riley Safer Holmes & Cancila join “Chicago Tonight” for a closer look at the Madigan Enterprise. (Produced by Alex Silets)
A day after Michael Madigan was hit with federal racketeering and bribery charges, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said the former House speaker’s indictment should serve as a “wake up call” to politicians across Illinois.
In his first public comments since the bombshell indictment was announced Wednesday, Pritzker said he cooperated fully with federal investigators and denied ever having conversations with Madigan about appointing disgraced former Chicago Ald. Daniel Solis to a state position.
“I was asked to be a witness and (federal investigators) wanted to talk about any interactions and I was happy to cooperate and answer any and all of their questions,” Pritzker said at an unrelated press event Thursday morning. “I’ve answered all of them, in fact.”
Madigan, 79, was indicted Wednesday on 22 charges, including racketeering and individual counts of using interstate facilities in aid of bribery, wire fraud and attempted extortion. That indictment comes approximately a year after he was ousted as House speaker amid the growing clamor of corruption allegations that swirled around him and his 13th Ward political operation.
Pritzker voluntarily spoke with agents for an hour in late February as part of that investigation, according to his office. But he said even at that point, he was unaware that Madigan would soon be hit with criminal charges.
“It was not clear to me,” he said Thursday. “They had questions that were obviously around some wrongdoing, but it was not clear to me they were prepared to indict.”
Madigan earned $2.8 million from the various schemes, according to the indictment. The U.S. Attorney’s Office on Wednesday 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 Commonwealth Edison, after officials admitted the utility giant arranged jobs, contracts and payoffs for Madigan’s associates to win his support.
The indictment also alleges that Madigan suggested to Solis that he could arrange for Pritzker to appoint Solis to a state position, and did not have to put anything in writing to get it done.
Asked if he’d ever had any such conversations with Madigan, Pritzker on Thursday said simply, “No.” The governor also denied having any interactions with Madigan that were not “above board.”
Madigan, in a statement, said he “adamantly” denies the accusations against him.
Pritzker said he last spoke with Madigan on Tuesday, when the governor called to let him know of upcoming changes being made to the Illinois Arts Council, which is overseen by Madigan’s wife Shirley.
The governor called Madigan’s alleged actions “deplorable” and a “stark violation of the public’s trust,” adding that the indictment should be a “wake up call to everybody in public service that you better toe the line, you better do the right thing.”
“Ultimately every person in elected office is responsible for doing the right thing and not lining their own pockets,” Pritzker said. “I’m fully committed to eradicating the scourge of corruption from our political system and yesterday’s indictment is an important step in cleaning up Illinois. … I have faith that our justice system will help restore the public’s trust in government.”
Heather Cherone contributed to this report.