A lengthy federal investigation into former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan has finally led to his indictment on federal racketeering charges on Wednesday.
The 22-count indictment charges both Madigan and another former Illinois politician of taking advantage of their public office.
Madigan was a fixture in Illinois politics for half a century. He had been a member of their state house since 1971 (and speaker for 38 of those years), but controversy caught up with Madigan’s career, including allegations of corruption that were previously described as "lobbying" and "patronage."
"The 22-count indictment against Michael Madigan includes a forfeiture request of $2.8 million forfeiture of alleged ill-gotten gains," explained local reporter Jason Mesiner.
According to the Chicago Tribune, Madigan is being charged for bribery and using his office for personal gains, with former state legislator Michael McClain being charged in connection to the "criminal enterprise."
"Corruption by an elected official and his associates undermines the public’s confidence in our government. The indictment alleges a long-term, multifaceted scheme to use public positions for unlawful private gain. Rooting out and prosecuting the kind of corruption alleged in the indictment will always be a top priority for this office," stated US Attorney John R. Lausch in Wednesday’s DOJ announcement.
In their reporting on the matter, the Chicago Sun-Times lays out the background of how Madigan ended up here. The outlet takes credit for publicly revealing federal authorities had recorded former alderman Danny Solis setting a land development scheme to build a hotel in Chinatown, leveraging the use of "private benefits" that’d favor Madigan personally.
The key piece to Madigan’s involvement being how the Chinatown lot was state owned land and it needed to be sold in order for it to become a private commercial enterprise.
Solis recorded conversations with Madigan. In March 2018, the former Illinois House speaker told Solis about looking for a fellow politician to sponsor the Chinatown land sale. He reportedly said: "I have to find out about who would be the proponent in the House, we gotta find the appropriate person for that. I have to think it through."
By July 2020 that led to accusations of bribery with a business called Commonwealth Edison (ComEd). Madigan’s associates worked there but were reportedly on the take and in waiting for the former house speaker to make moves as a public official in favor of their business.
Michael McClain has been described as the intermediary between ComEd and Madigan.
"ComEd admitted it secured jobs, often requiring little or no work, and contracts for his associates from 2011 to 2019 for favorable treatment in regulations," NBC Chicago summarized.
In denying the scheme to his associates in the Illinois House, Madigan commented "helping people find jobs is not a crime." The theme of plausible deniability persisted as members of ComEd were charged by authorities.
"They have argued in court filings that the indictment against them fails to connect hiring decisions made by ComEd to any agreement or understanding with Madigan," wrote the Sun-Times.
The investigation was still ongoing in February 2021 when Madigan made the decision to resign from his longtime position as Illinois House speaker.
"Arraignments in U.S. District Court in Chicago have not yet been scheduled," the DOJ announcement stated.