And just like that, another powerful Democrat from the state of Illinois has been indicted on federal charges.
Former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan has been indicted on racketeering charges stemming from Madigan's alleged attempts to solicit bribes for himself and his friends, CBS News reports.
The 22-count indictment includes charges including racketeering conspiracy, along with counts of using interstate facilities in aid of bribery, wire fraud and attempted extortion. All charges stem from alleged abuses of his official position supposedly committed by Madigan.
The investigation was overseen by US Attorney John Lausch, who announced Wednesday that a federal grand jury had returned the indictment. Lausch's description of Madigan's wrong-doing included phrases like "no show jobs" that were once features of American mafia prosecutions of a bygone era. One of the businesses that were allegedly solicited for bribes was Commonwealth Edison, the largest utility in Illinois and the sole electricity provider in Chicago.
"Madigan and McClain unlawfully requested that various companies with interest in state legislation, including utility company Commonwealth Edison, paid Madigan’s associates as a reward for their loyalty to Madigan; at times in return for performing little to no legitimate work for those businesses," Lausch said. "The indictment also accuses Madigan of engaging in multiple schemes to secure business for his law firm, including work from parties with business before the state of Illinois and the city of Chicago."
"Unfortunately, this type of criminal conduct drastically undermines the public’s confidence in our government," Lausch said continued. "Simply put, it’s not a good thing."
Madigan's attorneys issued the following statement, where he vehemently rejected the allegations.
"I was never involved in any criminal activity. The government is attempting to criminalize a routine constituent service: job recommendations. That is not illegal, and these other charges are equally unfounded.
"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."
The longtime Illinois powerbroker, nicknamed "the Velvet Hammer" for his insistence on strict party discipline, was previously the longest-serving state House speaker in modern US history. During his tenure in office, a procession of Illinois politicians - including three governors - have faced federal charges. But given his reputation as a savvy operator, few ever expected Madigan to face prosecution.
The longtime speaker only resigned his state rep seat in February 2021, as the prosecutors drew closer following a deferred prosecution agreement involving ComEd for the bribery scheme. Madigan also resigned his seat as chairman of the Illinois Democratic Party around then.
As Lausch, the US attorney who brought the case against Madigan, told CBS, Illinois has a "very stubborn" public corruption problem.
"We have a very stubborn public corruption problem here in Illinois. Rooting out and prosecuting public corruption has been and will always be a top priority of this office," Lausch said.
Fortunately for Illinoisans, their current governor, JB Pritzker, is already a billionaire, and thus would seemingly have little use for bribes.