Springfield, IL - The House committee reviewing Speaker Mike Madigan's involvement in a bribery scheme with the state's largest utility company met for the first time Thursday.
As planned, members set the rules for future hearings and listened to the Republican's petition for the legislative investigation. The hearing only lasted about 30 minutes, but the discussion heated up before adjournment.
"We are not a court of law," said Committee Chair Emanuel "Chris" Welch. "As such, this committee is not bound by traditional rules of evidence. However, we are bound to adhere to the rules of decorum."
The investigation kicked off almost two months after the U.S. Attorney's office reached a deferred prosecution agreement with Commonwealth Edison, implicating "Public Official A."
House Minority Leader Jim Durkin officially filed a misconduct charge against Madigan during the hearing.
"Representative Madigan engaged in conduct which is unbecoming to a legislator or which constitutes a breach of public trust," Durkin testified.
Finding the focus
The federal investigation into bribery and extortion along with conspiracy to violate state and federal laws will not be examined by the committee. At this point, their sole focus is to determine if Madigan is guilty of misconduct.
"The petition has laid out a series of admitted facts," explained Rep. Tom Demmer. "Our question is: Do those facts and what this committee can find through its investigative powers constitute a breach of the public trust and conduct unbecoming of a legislator?"
Republican members submitted a list of individuals and groups they hope to hear from throughout this process. The list includes many of Madigan's closest allies connected to ComEd, including former Quincy Representative and ComEd lobbyist Mike McClain and former Chicago Alderman Michael R. Zalewski among others.
"We should not have publicly-traded companies violating their internal controls and going all the way up to the CEO, as is stated in the deferred prosecution agreement, to try to do favors for a politician," Rep. Deanne Mazzochi exclaimed.
Stepping in or watching from afar
Although the Speaker isn't required to appear before the committee, Welch says Madigan is invited to participate.
"He certainly has a right to come here and speak to us," Welch explained. "He certainly has a right not to, if that's what he so chooses to do."
While the committee hopes for voluntary testimony, members could use another option to get information.
"I hope we don't have to go the subpoena route, but that's there. I mean, what's in the DPA is fact," Rep. Grant Wehrli added. "The Speaker should come forward. The Governor is on record saying he has questions he needs answered. The Speaker needs to answer."
Representatives Welch and Demmer will contact U.S. Attorney John Lausch to ensure they aren't interfering with the criminal investigation. The group won't meet again until they get a response.