Committee adjourns after 3 meetings in 4 months
By SARAH MANSUR
Capitol News Illinois
SPRINGFIELD — After just three hearings in four months, Democrats on the special committee probing House Speaker Michael Madigan’s alleged misconduct and role in a bribery scheme involving Commonwealth Edison voted Monday to end their investigation.
Throughout the combative three-hour hearing, the three House Republicans and three Democrats clashed repeatedly over the rules of procedure, disagreed about the facts contained in the federal court documents and levied accusations of political stunts and a “kangaroo court.”
The House Democratic members — Reps. Chris Welch, of Hillside, Natalie Manley, of Joliet, and Elizabeth Hernandez, of Cicero — voted no on a motion, presented by Manley, that Madigan engaged in conduct unbecoming of legislator.
With a deadlocked vote along party lines, the motion failed to pass.
Madigan issued a statement on Monday that criticized his Republican counterpart, Minority Leader Rep. Jim Durkin of Western Springs, who filed the petition creating the committee.
“Jim Durkin insisted on initiating this political theater, and through this process we’ve come to learn that he was involved in the very conduct he claims to be so offended by – recommending people for various jobs. If Jim Durkin actually believes it is conduct unbecoming of a legislator to recommend people for jobs or help constituents, he might want to review his own hypocritical behavior. Rather than finger pointing, I suggest we focus on the important work that lies ahead of us,” Madigan said in the statement.
The Special Investigating Committee was formed in late August after the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Chicago charged ComEd in a deferred prosecution agreement that alleged ComEd officials conspired with Madigan’s associates to secure no-work jobs and contracts for Madigan’s friends in exchange for favorable legislation in the Illinois General Assembly.
The committee was tasked with investigating whether there was evidence to find Madigan’s conduct was unbecoming of a legislator and whether Madigan should face disciplinary proceedings.
Under the deferred prosecution agreement, ComEd admitted to the bribery scheme and agreed to pay a $200 million and cooperate with the investigation.
Madigan has not been charged with a crime and he denies wrongdoing. He is mentioned in the deferred prosecution agreement and indictments as “Public Official A.”
In September, a former ComEd executive, Fidel Marquez, pleaded guilty to a role in the bribery scheme. Last month, federal prosecutors in Chicago indicted four others — Michael McClain, a former ComEd lobbyist and close Madigan confidant, former ComEd CEO Anne Pramaggiore, former ComEd executive John Hooker, and Jay Doherty, a lobbyist who worked on contract for ComEd — with bribery for allegedly conspiring to influence Madigan with no-work jobs and contracts to his associates.
Last month, Welch released hundreds of pages of documents that the committee had requested from ComEd, including numerous emails between McClain and Marquez, Pramaggiore and others seeking favors for Madigan’s associates and individuals from his district.
The Republicans on the investigating committee — Reps. Tom Demmer, of Dixon, Deanne Mazzochi, of Elmhurst, and Grant Werhli, of Naperville — extensively referenced the emails to show McClain was working on behalf of Madigan, and with Madigan’s knowledge, to secure jobs, contracts and internships that were meant to curry favor with the Speaker.
“This was not a mere job recommendation, this was a demand,” Mazzochi said in reference to an email from McClain instructing ComEd officials to add former CEO of the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority Juan Ochoa to the ComEd Board of Directors at the request of Madigan.
Other emails show McClain asking the company to provide work for attorney Victor Reyes and his law firm, Reyes Kurson, again at the request of Madigan, who is referred to as “our Friend.”
In one email, McClain wrote, “I am sure you know how valuable [Reyes] is to our Friend,” and then went on to write, “I know the drill and so do you. If you do not get involve [sic] and resolve this issue of 850 hours for his law firm per year then he will go to our Friend. Our Friend will call me and then I will call you. Is this a drill we must go through?”
Mazzochi said the exchange was “not a job recommendation. That is an unethical quid pro quo.”
“These internal documents certainly confirm that there is no innocent explanation,” she said.
The three Republican House members of the committee called for additional witnesses to appear before them, including those named in the federal indictment, but a motion to issue subpoenas failed to pass, with a partisan vote deadlocked at 3-3.
In a news conference after the committee adjourned, Demmer said the Democrats on the House committee shut down their investigation.
“It was our duty to conduct this investigation to support and try to rebuild the integrity and trust of the House of Representatives. But what we saw under the leadership of Chairman Welch was a process that sought not to hear from additional witnesses, sought not to have adequate number of hearings and sought to bring the committee to a conclusion before we had the information necessary to make a qualified judgment,” Demmer said.
The committee met twice in September, and has heard testimony from only one witness, David Glockner, the executive vice president of compliance and audit for Exelon Corporation, which is the parent company of ComEd.
Democrats on the committee also used the emails to suggest Durkin improperly sought ComEd jobs for his friends, citing an email from a lobbyist for the Illinois State Medical Society that asked McClain to consider recommending a woman who had been working in Durkin’s office.
Hernandez, along with her Democratic colleagues, maintained that McClain’s emails simply showed someone making job recommendations.
“Recommending jobs is legal, and Leader Durkin asked for job recommendations too,” she said. “In neither case is this illegal or unethical.”
Furthermore, Democrats claimed that the committee’s motive was a power grab by Durkin in an effort to become the next House Speaker, even though he would need the votes of at least 15 House Democrats to be elected to the position.
“This is a political show that was concocted by Minority Leader Durkin. It was a plain power grab by the minority party, as the Republican members of this committee and petitioner have shown in spite of our attempts to conduct this investigation in a nonpartisan impartial manner,” Welch said during a news conference following the committee’s adjournment.
In his own statement Monday, Durkin criticized the Democratic members of the committee for protecting Madigan.
“The Democratic Party shows again today there is no limit to the lengths they will go to protect Speaker Madigan. Chairman Welch, Rep. Hernandez and Rep. Manley have turned the rule of law on its head by refusing to investigate the charges and demand the testimony of Speaker Madigan in this scandal. I call on Governor Pritzker to finally demand Speaker Madigan resign as it is clear he refuses to answer any questions about his corrupt practices,” the statement reads.
PHOTO: Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch, D-Hillside, speaks at the end of a Special Investigating Committee into alleged misconduct of House Speaker Michael Madigan as Rep. Grant Wehrli, R-Naperville, looks on in the foreground. The committee’s Democrats voted to end the investigation Monday after just three meetings in four months. (Credit: Blueroomstream.com)
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