SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - The U.S. attorney investigating a state government bribery scandal that implicates the longtime House speaker on Thursday OK’d a separate probe by a House committee, but Democrats and Republicans don’t agree one how far it can go.
The chairman of the special investigating committee, a Democrat like the investigation’s target, House Speaker Michael Madigan, has taken a view rigid enough to preclude anything happening when the panel reconvenes as early as next week. Republicans, whose petition activated the probe, were buoyed by the response to their inquiry, which disclosed that they planned to call Madigan to testify by subpoena if necessary.
John Lausch, U.S. attorney for the northern district of Illinois, told committee leaders by letter that he doesn’t object to its investigation of Madigan’s role in a decade-long bribery scandal outlined in July in a deferred prosecution agreement with utility company ComEd.
Lausch said the committee would not interfere with the federal investigation as long as it doesn’t attempt to link testimony or documents directly to federal prosecutors’ activity.
“We just can’t ask a witness, ‘Tell us everything you told the feds,’” said Rep. Tom Demmer of Dixon, the committee’s leading Republican.
But the chairman, Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch, a Hillside Democrat, said he believes Lausch draws the line at seeking any information that is not already made public in the deferred prosecution agreement. He said he would reject any questions or requests for information that exceeded that boundary.
A spokesman for Lausch did not respond to a request for comment.
In the agreement, which identifies Madigan only by title, ComEd admits that it traded jobs and subcontracting agreements with political allies and affiliates of the speaker in exchange for favorable legislation. Madigan has not been charged with wrongdoing and says he has never engaged in fraudulent activity.