Illinois Republicans are demanding stronger ethics reforms in the wake of the corruption scandals involving red-light camera operators and Commonwealth Edison.
In May, four of former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan’s allies were found guilty on all charges of conspiring to bribe the former speaker to shepherd and pass ComEd’s legislative agenda. Madigan’s former chief of staff, Tim Mapes, was convicted last week of lying to federal prosecutors to protect “the boss.”
Former lawmaker and ex-ComEd lobbyist Michael McClain, who was part of the “ComEd Four” found guilty earlier this year, faces a separate racketeering indictment as part of the same ComEd bribery plot along with Madigan in April. Both men have pleaded not guilty.
House Democrats say they have passed a number of reforms after the investigation and indictments in the ComEd case became public. Those measures include adding a disclosure requirement of spouses and immediate family members employed by an Illinois public utility and forcing each utility to establish the position of a chief ethics and compliance officer who must submit annual reports to the ICC.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s spokesman Alex Gough said in a statement: “Since taking office, Gov. Pritzker has advanced the cause of ethics reform in key areas, especially in bringing more transparency to the process and tightening requirements for lobbyists. The Governor believes we must restore the public’s trust in government, and he will continue to work with the General Assembly to ensure that those who violate that trust are held accountable.”
“As the tangled web of corruption has unraveled in federal court, reform efforts in the statehouse are being stalled by Democratic Leadership–who are obviously content with the status quo,” said McCombie in a statement. “The public deserves better and we must do more to enforce good government, and that needs to start with a call for legislative action.”
McCombie wants to end the practice of using campaign war chests for criminal defense attorneys; she introduced a bill early August. Madigan has used his Friends of Michael J Madigan fund to pay for a reported 10 lawyers in his criminal case. According to state disclosures, the law firm Katten Muchin Rosenman has been paid $8,461,396.35 so far.
“There have been some steps on transparency and disclosures that the General Assembly has taken, but we continue to under-resource and understaff the law enforcement end of it that actually investigates these types of crimes,” said the Illinois Senate’s minority leader, state Sen. John Curran, (R-Lemont). “Leaving it all to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, who are limited in resources, acts as … a strain or a type filter on actually investigating, rooting out all the activity that we want to remove from the legislative process and just from government in general.”
McCombie wants a special session to deal with some of the lapses in the state’s ethics laws including the so-called revolving door in which lawmakers leave office and then become lobbyists.
“It’s amazing to me to think that I could be a mayor of a community, a state representative and a lobbyist all at the same time,” she said. “There’s also a case where a (lawmaker) was charged and convicted and then can turn around and come back and then be a lobbyist,” she added. “I think we should be banning (that) in the General Assembly.”
McCombie and Curran joined “Chicago Tonight” Tuesday to discuss state ethics reforms.