Former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan pleaded not guilty Wednesday to charges of bribery and racketeering, one week after he was indicted by federal authorities.
Madigan, who was one of the nation’s most powerful legislators for decades, was charged with a nearly $3 million racketeering and bribery scheme last week, becoming the most prominent politician swept up in a federal investigation of entrenched government corruption in the state.
Madigan, whose arraignment was conducted via phone, will remain free on bond until his next scheduled court appearance, which is set for April 1.
Madigan, 79, is charged with 22 counts, according to the indictment obtained by NBC 5. It "accuses Madigan of leading for nearly a decade a criminal enterprise whose purpose was to enhance Madigan’s political power and financial well-being while also generating income for his political allies and associates," according to a release from the U.S. Attorney's office for the Northern District of Illinois.
Former NBC 5 political editor Carol Marin called it the "most sweeping federal investigation we have ever seen come out of the Dirksen."
The maximum sentence associated with the charges against him is 20 years, authorities said during a press conference announcing the indictment.
Following the announcement of charges, Madigan released the following statement:
"I was never involved in any criminal activity. The government is attempting to criminalize a routine constituent service: job recommendations. That is not illegal, and these other charges are equally unfounded. Throughout my 50 years as a public servant, I worked to address the needs of my constituents, always keeping in mind the high standards required and the trust the public placed in me. I adamantly deny these accusations and look back proudly on my time as an elected official, serving the people of Illinois.
Madigan was implicated in the bribery scheme in July 2020 when a deferred prosecution agreement with ComEd came to light. The utility giant admitted it secured jobs, often requiring little or no work, and contracts for associates of the then-Speaker, at the time referred to only as "Public Official A," from 2011 to 2019 for favorable treatment in regulations. ComEd was slated to pay $200 million in restitution as part of the agreement.
Madigan had previously not been charged in the probe, and described himself as “the target of vicious attacks by people who sought to diminish my many achievements.”
Previously, two former ComEd executives and two consultants, one a longtime Madigan associate and confidant, were indicted on multiple federal charges related to the alleged scheme to influence Madigan - at the time identified only as "Public Official A" - in exchange for legislation favorable to the utility giant, prosecutors say.
The charges against Madigan come nearly one year after his resignation from the state legislature after nearly three decades in power.
Madigan was the longest-serving state House speaker in modern U.S. history and was nicknamed the “Velvet Hammer” for his insistence on strict party discipline. A procession of top state politicians, including three governors, has been charged during his tenure, but politicians long believed the savvy Madigan would never be among them.
As speaker, the ever-confident Madigan tended to shrug off the political scandal of the day. A spokeswoman for Madigan last year denied the ComEd-related allegations and said Madigan would cooperate with the investigation "which he believes will clearly demonstrate that he has done nothing criminal or improper.”
That wasn't good enough for members of his House Democratic caucus, many of whom weren't born when Madigan was first inaugurated in 1971. Despite his determination to win a 19th term as speaker in January, support peeled away and he was unable to garner the 60 votes needed to retain the gavel. Relegated to the rank and file of the 118-member House, he resigned his seat effective Feb. 28, 2021. He resigned as chairman of the Democratic Party of Illinois on Feb. 22.
Madigan’s former chief of staff, Timothy Mapes, was indicted in May for lying under oath to a federal grand jury investigating ComEd. The indictment said Mapes was granted immunity to testify and that his words or evidence can’t be used against him in a criminal case unless he committed perjury.
Four people, including an associate of Madigan's, were indicted in November on charges accusing them of orchestrating a bribery scheme with ComEd.
Among them was Michael McClain, who served with Madigan in the House in the 1970s and early 1980s before becoming a lobbyist. One of his clients was ComEd.
The others charged included former ComEd CEO Anne Pramaggirore; lobbyist and former ComEd executive John Hooker; and Jay Doherty, a consultant and former head of the nonprofit City Club of Chicago.
All pleaded not guilty.
In addition to jobs and contracts, the defendants were accused of conspiring to have ComEd hire a law firm favored by Madigan and to accept into ComEd’s internship program students who resided in Madigan’s 13th Ward, even though some didn’t meet its requirements, according to the indictment.
Former ComEd executive Fidel Marquez pleaded guilty to bribery in September, agreeing to cooperate with federal prosecutors.