As committee bickers over subpoenas, Mike Madigan faces challenge

Republican members of a committee investigating influence-peddling at the state Capitol insisted Thursday that subpoenas be issued to reluctant witnesses they want to question, including House Speaker Michael Madigan, the focus of the probe.

Reps. Tom Demmer of Dixon, Deanne Mazzochi of Elmhurst and Grant Wehrli of Naperville said in a teleconference they had sent drafts to the committee’s Democratic chairman, Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch of Hillside.

During a hearing Tuesday in the review of Madigan’s role in a decade-long bribery scandal involving power company ComEd, Welch objected to the request, saying the action demanded deliberation and would probably be fruitless, given the likelihood of court challenges.

Mazzochi said Welch was willing to “preemptively surrender the investigative powers” of the panel.

“Why should this committee give up any tool or opportunity to get to the truth?” she asked.

The day was marked by what until recently would have been a stunning event: A member of Madigan’s caucus, Rep. Stephanie Kifowit, announced her quest to take the gavel from the longest-serving leader of a legislative body in U.S. history when the 78-year-old Madigan’s term expires in January.

The request for subpoenas came after informal invitations to witnesses, including Madigan, were rejected except for one to Exelon Corp. Exelon is the parent company of ComEd, which agreed to pay a $200 million fine after admitting to the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Illinois that the company supplied no-work jobs and contracts to political allies of Madigan in exchange for favorable legislation for nearly a decade beginning in 2011.

Madigan, who is identified not by name but by title in the document, has not been charged and denies wrongdoing. But David Glockner, who joined Exelon as vice president in May, confirmed in testimony Tuesday each instance of favor-trading between ComEd and Madigan documented in the so-called deferred prosecution agreement.

Welch said in a statement Thursday that he received the draft subpoenas, which Republicans protest contain boilerplate language merely directing a witness to appear and the time and place. But Welch said decisions about whether the committee, previously convened only in 1905 and 2012, should issue subpoenas, who should get them and what they should seek “are extremely consequential decisions” setting legislative precedents.

“Republican members have shown that they are not interested in cooperation ...,” Welch said of the minority caucus, outnumbered in the House 74-44. “They are solely interested in headlines, half-truths, and distractions to prop up their dimming political prospects.”

Kifowit, an Oswego Democrat elected to the House in 2012, is a Marine Corps veteran who said in Chicago that she is compelled to challenge Madigan’s leadership based on her values of “honor, trust, integrity, dependability and service above self.” The 48-year-old former financial planner and Aurora alderwoman was among a group of legislators, all women, who called for Madigan to resign in July just after release of the deferred prosecution agreement.

Madigan “has compromised the integrity of the office of the speaker of the House and undermined the public trust,” Kifowit said. “The people of Illinois have put up with this corruption for far too long. Every day we are seeing more and more self-serving actions by Michael Madigan and it is my feeling that there is more to come in the upcoming days.”

Madigan has rarely, if ever, been challenged for the role in his 18 two-year terms, from 1983-1995 and beginning again in 1997. Former Rep. Scott Drury of Highwood voted “present” on Madigan’s election in 2017, and famously indicated he was denied a crystal clock which Madigan gave to every other Democrat celebrating the speakers’ longevity.