Illinois has long been known for its history of political corruption and that reputation was just reinforced by a major federal indictment against arguably the most powerful Democratic politician ever in the state.
It was announced Wednesday that former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan was hit with a 22-count federal grand jury indictment alleging a massive bribery and racketeering conspiracy, Fox News reported.
These charges stem from an investigation that had resulted in Madigan resigning his position as House speaker last year, an influential and powerful position that he had held for nearly four decades, and signaled an ignominious end to his roughly 50-year political career.
An alleged “criminal enterprise” of bribery and racketeering
According to a Justice Department release, Madigan was indicted on a variety of federal charges that included a racketeering conspiracy along with bribery, wire fraud, and attempted extortion. Indicted alongside Madigan was his close friend and accomplice, Michael McClain, who is alleged to have carried out the numerous crimes on behalf of the former House speaker.
Those crimes allegedly include running a “criminal enterprise” for nearly a decade that served to financially benefit Madigan and his circle of allies and associates by way of soliciting those benefits from businesses and other private individuals in exchange for favorable treatment in the state legislature run by Madigan.
One example of such is how Madigan and McClain were alleged to have forced energy company Commonwealth Edison to make monetary payments to Madigan’s loyal associates even though those individuals had done little or no actual work for the company.
Another example is allegations that Madigan used his influence to unethically steer wealthy clients to his law firm to benefit himself and his associates at the firm.
“Corruption by an elected official and his associates undermines the public’s confidence in our government,” U.S. Attorney John Lausch said in a statement. “The indictment alleges a long-term, multifaceted scheme to use public positions for unlawful private gain. Rooting out and prosecuting the kind of corruption alleged in the indictment will always be a top priority for this office.”
Democrats try to distance themselves from Madigan following the indictment
Local Fox affiliate WFLD reported that the reactions and condemnations of Madigan’s alleged crimes were swift from many of his former friends and colleagues, many of whom sought to distance themselves from the once-powerful politician and his alleged crimes, including Gov. J.B. Pritzker.
But Illinois Republicans were just as quick to point to the close ties between Madigan and his fellow Democrats, including the governor, with one GOP member, state Sen. Darren Bailey (R), suggesting that Pritzker was “Madigan’s handpicked gubernatorial candidate,” while another, former state Sen. Paul Schimpf (R), accused Pritzker of having routinely “bowed down and kissed Madigan’s ring” for his political benefit.
Meanwhile, the Chicago Tribune reported that Madigan has adamantly denied the allegations against him in the federal indictment and proclaimed that he had never done anything “illegal.” That is hard to square with the fact that several of his associates have also been arrested and charged in relation to the alleged crimes over the past few years.
Madigan is expected to appear in federal court for an arraignment on March 9 where, in addition to the 22 criminal counts, federal prosecutors will also seek to force forfeiture of approximately $2.8 million from Madigan and McClain that was purportedly derived from their alleged criminal acts.