CHICAGO, Ill. - As more people in Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan's close circle face bribery and other misconduct charges, the Democrat's days in leadership look short.
Less than 24 hours after the indictment announcement, Gov. JB Pritzker said it's time for Madigan to step up and answer questions from the press or step aside.
"Written statements and dodged investigatory hearings are not going to cut it," Pritzker explained Thursday. "If the Speaker cannot commit to that level of transparency, then the time has come for him to resign as Speaker."
Madigan states the U.S. Attorney's office has charged, but has not proven, that certain Commonwealth Edison employees, consultants, and lobbyists conspired to influence him.
"Let me be clear: if that attempt ever happened, it was never made known to me," Madigan wrote. "If it had been known to me, it would have been profoundly unwelcome."
House Republican Leader Jim Durkin doesn't buy Madigan's argument.
"Everyone involved in this process knows you are fully aware of all matters of politics and legislation in Illinois - either under the roof or outside the roof," Durkin exclaimed.
Madigan has served as Speaker of the Illinois House for 35 of the last 37 years. While federal prosecutors never name the Chicago native in the indictment, they constantly refer to Public Official A. They also document emails and phone conversations where his associates described "our friend."
Closing in on the Speaker
Quincy native Mike McClain - a former lawmaker and ComEd lobbyist - has the closest connection to Madigan. Other individuals charged include former ComEd CEO Anne Pramaggiore, former executive John Hooker, and lobbyist Jay Doherty. They each face charges of bribery conspiracy, bribery, and willfully falsifying ComEd and Exelon books, records, and accounts.
Now, a growing number of House Democrats have announced they won't support Madigan for a 19th term as Speaker.
"These legislators alone hold the unique power to elect the Illinois Speaker," Pritzker said. "I trust that they will think long and hard about the duties that they owe to the people that we all work for."
Meanwhile, House Republicans want Rep. Emanuel "Chris" Welch to reconvene the special investigating committee as soon as possible. Welch and the other Democratic members - Representatives Natalie Manley and Elizabeth Hernandez - say insistence from Republicans to rush forward is "nothing more than political theater."
"If this investigation is not conducted in a fair and aboveboard way, it will come at the expense of already waning public trust in the institution of the legislature and of the House of Representatives," said Rep. Tom Demmer (R-Dixon).
The committee has only met twice, and lawmakers haven't discussed the issue in person since September 29. Still, the Democrats don't want to hold another hearing until they receive critical documents from ComEd.
"We believe it would be more prudent for a Special Investigating Committee to actually receive and review these documents rather than following the pronouncements of those who reached their conclusions long before the committee was created," the Democrats stated.
What comes next?
Each of the individuals charged Wednesday previously declined invitations to voluntarily testify before this committee. Republican members hope they can vote to issue subpoenas whenever the group reconvenes.
Attorneys for the individuals tied to Madigan say they plan to plead not guilty. Their arraignment date is December 2.
The Capitol Bureau asked a spokesperson for Madigan if he's willing to answer questions about the ComEd scheme. They haven't responded at this time. For now, reporters only have Madigan's recent statement.
"Despite baseless speculation alluding to the contrary, I have always gone to great lengths to ensure my conduct is legal and ethical, and any claim to the contrary is patently false," Madigan stated. "I have always steadfastly worked to build a strong Democratic Party and House Democratic Caucus in an effort to help the hardworking people of Illinois."