Four Democratic Illinois lawmakers told NBC 5 Thursday that House Speaker Michael Madigan contacted them individually to ask if he should step down, as calls for him to resign continue to grow after he was implicated in a federal court filing alleging a bribery scheme with ComEd that lasted nearly a decade.
One of the legislators said Madigan called at around 9 a.m. Thursday. Another lawmaker who Madigan consulted said they told him he should not resign - saying that Democrats needed to focus on defeating President Donald Trump in November, and that a vacancy in party leadership less than 100 days before the election would harm that effort.
NBC 5 is not identifying the lawmakers, who requested anonymity to openly discuss the ongoing developments. A representative for Madigan declined to comment, while another did not immediately respond to a separate request for a statement on Thursday's calls.
Four Democrats in the Illinois House and three in the Senate - all women - have publicly pushed for Madigan to resign from either his position as speaker, his role as chairman of the Democratic Party of Illinois, or both, some citing the upcoming election specifically as a reason for him to step aside.
They include: State. Sen Melinda Bush, of Grayslake, Sen. Heather Steans, of Chicago, Sen. Iris Martinez, of Chicago, Rep. Anne Stava Murray, of Downers Grove, Rep. Terra Costa Howard, of Lombard, Rep. Stephanie Kifowit, of Oswego, and Rep. Kelly Cassidy, of Chicago.
House Minority Leader Jim Durkin was among several Republicans who also called for Madigan's immediate resignation as both speaker and from his statehouse seat on Thursday, saying in a statement that he planned to file a resolution to have the House "vote on a new Speaker immediately."
The push for Madigan to resign comes after federal prosecutors earlier this month filed a deferred prosecution agreement with ComEd, in which investigators revealed that the utility company admitted to arranging jobs and payments for associates of an elected official, referred to only as “Public Official A," from 2011 to 2019 to curry favor with the official and ultimately pass legislation favorable to ComEd.
The court filing identifies "Public Official A" as "Speaker of the Illinois House and the longest serving member of the House of Representatives," a description that fits only Madigan.
"The company admitted that it arranged for jobs and vendor subcontracts for Public Official A’s political allies and workers even in instances where those people performed little or no work that they were purportedly hired by ComEd to perform," the U.S. Attorney's Office said in a statement when the agreement with ComEd was announced on July 17.
In exchange, prosecutors said the General Assembly "considered bills and passed legislation that had a substantial impact on ComEd’s operations and profitability, including legislation that affected the regulatory process used to determine the electricity rates ComEd charged its customers."
ComEd acknowledged to investigators that the "anticipated benefits" of the legislation favorable to the utility company exceeded $150 million, the court filing says.
Prosecutors filed a one-count charge of bribery against ComEd, as well as a deferred prosecution agreement in which the U.S. Attorney's office will delay prosecution on the charge for three years then seek to dismiss it if ComEd abides by certain conditions. Those conditions include the payment of a $200 million fine as well as continued cooperation with "ongoing investigation of individuals or other entities related to the conduct described in the bribery charge," among other requirements.
A spokeswoman for Madigan denied any wrongdoing in a statement issued after the agreement with ComEd was announced, saying in part that "he has done nothing criminal or improper."
“The Speaker has never helped someone find a job with the expectation that the person would not be asked to perform work by their employer, nor did he ever expect to provide anything to a prospective employer if it should choose to hire a person he recommended," Madigan spokeswoman Maura Possley said.
"He has never made a legislative decision with improper motives and has engaged in no wrongdoing here. Any claim to the contrary is unfounded," she continued, adding that Madigan's offices had received subpoenas for various documents and would cooperate with the requests.
Still, some Democrats in both chambers said the appearance of impropriety alone was enough for them to call for him to step down.
"It is clear that the constant drip of corruption stories will interfere with our ability to advance a progressive agenda," Cassidy's statement, issued Thursday, reads in part. "Whether these investigations ultimately implicate him or continue to pick away at his inner circle, the damage is done.”
"It is imperative that the people of our state can trust in their representatives and that those representatives can trust in their leaders," Steans said Tuesday, adding that the allegations in ComEd's agreement with prosecutors "paint a sordid picture of bribery, influence peddling and insider-dealing at the highest levels."
Kifowit called for Madigan's resignation in a letter she posted on social media, saying she had electronically delivered it to his office on Thursday.
"While at the moment there are no legal charges against you, the actions described… did not hold the respect and dignity of the institution of the Illinois State House and the General Assembly as a whole," she wrote, identifying herself as a legislator who previously voted to elect him speaker - but noting that she will not vote for him again.