Politicial Bribes

Federal prosecutors will be in court with political corruption case in Illinois: NPR

The state’s biggest political corruption case in a decade involves Michael Madigan, the state’s former Democratic chairman and political kingmaker. He faces 22 charges, including racketeering and bribery.



RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

In Illinois, another political corruption case is making its way to federal court. It revolves around a longtime kingmaker at the State House. From member station WBEZ in Chicago, here’s Dan Mihalopoulos.

DAN MIHALOPOULOS, BYLINE: Democrat Michael Madigan served as Speaker of the Illinois House for 36 years, making him the longest serving legislative leader in US history. Former federal corruption prosecutor Patrick Collins said Madigan not only controlled just about every bill in the state Capitol, but also installed his loyalists in patronage jobs in the whole state.

PATRICK COLLINS: What’s unique to Illinois in the Mike Madigan story is the depth and breadth of his influence and control over the entire machinery of government.

MIHALOPOULOS: Former President Madigan once used all of his powers as state Democratic Party chairman to help elect his daughter as Illinois attorney general. But now the soft-spoken Chicago politician known as Velvet Hammer has become a criminal defendant, the boss of what US Attorney John Lausch calls the Madigan Enterprise.

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JOHN LAUSCH: The indictment charges Madigan with running, for almost a decade, a criminal enterprise whose aim was to increase Madigan’s political power and financial well-being, while generating revenue for his allies and political associates.

MIHALOPOULOS: This is the biggest corruption case here in a decade, since Governor Rod Blagojevich was found guilty of auctioning off President Barack Obama’s former Senate seat to the highest bidder. Blagojevich was the fourth Illinois governor to end up in jail, although President Donald Trump released him earlier. U.S. Attorney Lausch says even now prosecutors marvel at the seemingly endless examples of wrongdoing in Chicago and Illinois politics.

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LAUSCH: I think we all shake our heads sometimes when we think there’s another corruption case going on. And that’s why I defined our problem as a very stubborn problem.

MIHALOPOULOS: Michael Madigan’s downfall began when the state’s largest utility, Commonwealth Edison, admitted to bribing him. In return for favorable legislation, ComEd hired Madigan’s cronies on doing-nothing consulting contracts. The federal investigation ultimately led Madigan to lose his hammer as president a year ago. And he will appear in court today for the first time to face 22 charges, including racketeering and bribery. After the indictment was made public last week, Democratic Gov. JB Pritzker said investigators told him about Madigan, but the governor sought to distance himself.

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JB PRITZKER: Michael Madigan must be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law. Ultimately, each elected person is responsible for doing the right thing and not lining their own pockets.

MIHALOPOULOS: But Illinois Republican Leader Jim Durkin accuses Democrats, who have largely dominated state politics, of not taking corruption seriously.

JIM DURKIN: I can’t even clear up all the Democrats who are now charged in the federal courthouse.

MIHALOPOULOS: Democratic lawmaker Kelly Cassidy and 18 others finally helped end Madigan’s reign as president by denying him their support last year.

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KELLY CASSIDY: There were some pretty dark times. I remember in the very beginning, just talking about being frustrated and wanting to say something and people backing off, you know, I had something contagious.

MIHALOPOULOS: Ex-President Madigan denies any wrongdoing. In a statement, he says prosecutors are trying to frame him for merely providing the constituent service of making employment recommendations. And he has already spent nearly $5 million of his campaign funds on defense attorneys.

For NPR News, I’m Dan Mihalopoulos in Chicago.

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