Michael Madigan pleads not guilty in racketeering, bribery case

Former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan has pleaded not guilty to racketeering and bribery. Madigan entered the plea through an attorney Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Chicago

The former Democratic powerhouse is accused in a decade long bribery scheme in which utility company ComEd handed out subcontracts and no-work jobs to Madigan loyalists in exchange for favorable legislation in Springfield. 

Madigan controlled the House and decided the fate of many pieces of legislation for most of the past four decades. He resigned in early 2021 after he couldn't gather enough votes for a 19th term at the helm.


Wednesday’s hearing was held by phone. 

Unlike generations of high-profile indicted politicians before him, Madigan did not have to force his way through a horde of media who would have followed as he made his way through security, up the elevators and to the courtroom.

Madigan’s arraignment is the start of what will likely turn out to be years of hearings and briefings ahead of trial, if it finally comes to that. By comparison, the similar racketeering case filed against Ald. Edward M. Burke (14th) is nearing the end of its third year, and still no trial date has been set.

Madigan is one of the most significant Illinois politicians to face criminal charges, despite having left office more than a year ago. Known as the "Velvet Hammer" for his quiet but forceful use of power, the Southwest Side Democrat had held his seat in the state House of Representatives since 1971 and served as speaker for all but two years between 1983 and 2020.

Similar to a separate November 2020 indictment of co-defendant and longtime confidant of Madigan, Michael F. McClain, Madigan’s indictment alleges that Madigan and McClain sought jobs, contracts and money for Madigan’s associates from ComEd between 2011 and 2019 and that Madigan took official action to help ComEd pass favorable legislation.

But it also alleged other schemes involving former longtime Ald. Danny Solis (25th). It notes that Solis worked undercover for the FBI, "a fact that was unknown to the defendants prior to in or around January 2019." That’s when the Chicago Sun-Times exclusively revealed his cooperation, as well as the investigation of Solis’ activities that led to it. The Sun-Times also exclusively reported then that Madigan had been recorded by the feds during a 2014 meeting.

The investigation that led to Madigan’s indictment goes back to the same year, court records show.

The indictment alleged that Madigan agreed to help Solis land a spot on a state board paying at least $93,926 a year following Solis’ retirement from the City Council. During a meeting Aug. 2, 2018, Madigan allegedly told Solis he would help Solis land the spot by going to J.B. Pritzker, who is identified in the indictment as the then "future Governor of the State of Illinois."

Madigan allegedly told Solis, "you’d come in as [Pritzker’s] recommendation." Madigan and Pritzker met on Dec. 4, 2018, according to the indictment.

U.S. Attorney John Lausch stressed last week that "there’s no allegation in this indictment against the governor or his staff." A Pritzker spokeswoman said Pritzker does not recall Madigan ever asking him to consider Solis for any position.

The indictment also alleged that Madigan agreed to help with the transfer of a Chinatown property from the state to the city, to help clear the way for a developer’s proposal, in exchange for business for his firm, Madigan & Getzendanner.

The Sun-Times first reported on the scheme in March 2019.

Solis allegedly told McClain around Dec. 18, 2017, that, "in the past, I have been able to steer some work to Mike, and these guys will do the same thing." McClain then allegedly agreed that Madigan would assist with the property’s transfer.

The Associated Press contributed to this report