Illinois House panel to investigate Speaker Michael Madigan

House Speaker Mike Madigan

An Illinois House panel convened at the request of Republicans will investigate Speaker Michael Madigan, a long-serving Democrat who has been implicated in a federal bribery investigation, legislative leaders announced Wednesday.

Republicans filed paperwork to form the bipartisan committee earlier this week, a move that comes nearly two months after federal prosecutors named the Democrat by title in a criminal investigation on ComEd. The utility company has acknowledged engaging in bribery from 2011 to 2019 in the Capitol.

Such an investigative committee, which has been convened two other times since 2012, can recommend discipline, including expulsion, under the Illinois Constitution. Ousting a legislator requires 79 votes of the 118-member House.

The committee will have three Republicans and three Democrats.

“Given the facts admitted by ComEd for its nine-year-long scheme to bribe Speaker Madigan, the Illinois House of Representatives must do its job and conduct a thorough investigation,” House Republican Leader Jim Durkin said in a statement.

Republicans and some Democrats want Madigan, the nation’s longest-serving House speaker, to step down. Gov. J.B. Pritzker, a Democrat, has said Madigan “must resign” if the allegations are true.

Madigan, who hasn’t been charged, has said he won’t resign and has done nothing wrong. He maintained Wednesday that he’s “never made a legislative decision with improper motives.”′

In a scathing statement blasting Republicans, Madigan said he would recuse himself from the committee and called it politically motivated.

“The request by Rep. Durkin and his members is a political stunt only months away from one of the most consequential elections of our lifetimes,” Madigan said, adding that he couldn’t “identify one thing Rep. Durkin and the Illinois Republican Party have done to help Illinois residents struggling from a global pandemic and a weakened economy.”

Federal prosecutors said ComEd agreed to pay $200 million to resolve a criminal investigation. They said the company arranged for jobs and vendor subcontracts “for various associates of a high-level elected official” who was identified in other court filings as the speaker.

Prosecutors agreed to defer prosecution while ComEd cooperates with an ongoing investigation.

Pritzker called the formation of the committee “an extraordinarily important endeavor.”

“There are questions that need to be answered by the speaker,” he told reporters at an unrelated news conference. “Perhaps the creation of this legislative committee will actually get some of those answers.”

A House investigative committee has been formed twice in recent years.

In November 2019, former state Rep. Luis Arroyo, who has pleaded not guilty to bribery allegations, resigned hours before the committee was scheduled to meet. An investigative committee recommended expelling former Rep. Derrick Smith in 2012, which the full House supported. He had been charged with taking a bribe and was later sentenced to five months in prison.