At least 16 Democrats elected to serve in the Illinois House beginning in January have publicly said as of Thursday that they will not back powerful Speaker Michael Madigan for another term leading the chamber, appearing to leave him short of the 60 votes needed to retain the position as he faces growing outrage and scrutiny after being implicated in multiple court filings alleging a bribery scheme with ComEd that lasted for nearly a decade.
Nine of those lawmakers announced their decision on Thursday, one day after 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 - identified in the indictment as "Public Official A" - in exchange for legislation favorable to the utility giant, prosecutors say.
Madigan is the longest serving statehouse speaker in U.S. history, holding the position for all but two years since 1983, and also chairs the Democratic Party of Illinois.
He has not been charged with any criminal wrongdoing and on Thursday again denied the allegations laid out by prosecutors, saying in part that if the conspiracy to influence him did occur, "it was never made known" to him and if it had been, it "would have been profoundly unwelcome."
Reps. Robyn Gabel, Anna Moeller, Deb Conroy, Ann Williams, Will Guzzardi, Jennifer Gong-Gershowitz, Sam Yingling and Jonathan Carroll, as well as Rep.-elect Margaret Croke, all said in statements Thursday that they would not vote for Madigan for speaker.
"In the wake of yesterday’s expansive and far-reaching indictment, it has become even more clear that the Speaker will no longer be able to effectively lead the House Democratic caucus, and we will not be supporting him for Speaker," Gabel, Moeller, Conroy and Williams said in a joint statement, noting that the four previously sent Madigan a letter on Nov. 8 asking him to "step aside and make room for new leadership."
Yingling and Carroll issued a joint statement as well, not mentioning Madigan by name, but saying simply, "We want to see our caucus go a new direction with different leadership. Therefore, we will not be supporting the current speaker for the 102nd General Assembly."
Gong-Gershowitz said Thursday, "It has become painfully clear that the systems of power that [Madigan] has created and nurtured are detrimental to the people of Illinois and they must be dismantled."
She said new leadership is a "necessary first step" but also called for the passage of ethics reform legislation, including leadership term limits and increased authority for the Legislative Inspector General, tasked with investigating misconduct among lawmakers.
Croke said Thursday that she believed "Springfield cannot afford distractions" that take lawmakers' focus off the challenges facing the state, noting she would not vote for Madigan but instead hoped she would have an opportunity to vote for a speaker who "represents the diversity of our state."
Guzzardi said in his statement that the lawmakers who have announced that they will not back Madigan believed that without their votes, he does not have a path to reelection.
"The charges announced last night only confirm what we already knew: the old ways of doing business in Springfield will not be adequate to rise to our present challenges. We will need new, transformative leadership to meet this moment," Guzzardi said. "I join many of my fellow House members in asking Rep. Madigan not to seek re-election as Speaker of the Illinois House. If he does, we will not be voting for him. And without our votes, we do not believe he will have the requisite number to be re-elected as Speaker."
Those nine lawmakers join several others who had previously publicly pulled their support for Madigan, some immediately after a July court filing implicated Madigan in ComEd's alleged bribery scheme.
Reps. Kelly Cassidy, Terra Costa Howard, Anne Stava Murray, Lindsey LaPointe and Stephanie Kifowit all publicly called on Madigan to resign shortly after the allegations were made public.
Kifowit said in October that she sent Madigan a letter in July asking him to step down as speaker but that his response was to "double down," which she said led her to launch an effort to seek the role herself.
"It is clear to me that he doesn’t hold the same values that I do and falls short of what the public expects from an elected official," she said in a statement announcing her bid for speaker.
Costa Howard said in July that the "corruption and unethical behavior that have been revealed by this investigation make it impossible for Rep. Madigan to continue in his leadership roles," urging him to "do the honorable thing and step down" from both his position as speaker and as party chair.
Cassidy - who has clashed with Madigan multiple times in recent years, particularly over his handling of sexual harassment allegations brought forth in 2018 by current and former staff who accused him of sweeping complaints under the rug - called on him to resign in July.
"It is clear that the constant drip of corruption stories will interfere with our ability to advance a progressive agenda," Cassidy's statement at the time read, in part. "Whether these investigations ultimately implicate him or continue to pick away at his inner circle, the damage is done.”
LaPointe said Thursday that she has publicly called on Madigan to resign since August, adding, "I stand by this statement today which I know is in alignment with the views of my constituents and a growing number of my democratic colleagues in the House."
"We are long overdue for new leadership to help us rebuild trust in Illinois state government and politics," she added.
On Nov. 8, Rep. Bob Morgan announced he would not support Madigan in an email to constituents, writing, "I will not support Mike Madigan for House Speaker. You deserve a government you can trust."
"The allegations surrounding Speaker Madigan and Commonwealth Edison are extremely troubling, as are ones about sexual harassment by top aides," he continued.
"Leadership requires taking responsibility, and the pervasive culture of mistrust and corruption in Illinois rests at Mike Madigan’s feet," Morgan said. "Therefore, I will not support Mike Madigan for Speaker under any circumstances. I will work with my colleagues to bring new leadership to the Illinois House of Representatives."
Capitol Fax reported that Rep. Maurice West had also previously publicly pulled support for Madigan. West did not immediately respond to request for comment.
To be elected speaker of the House, a lawmaker in the chamber must receive 60 votes. Democrats won 73 of the House's 118 seats in the general election earlier this month, meaning if those 16 members do vote against Madigan in January, that would leave him with 57 votes at most - at least three below the threshold.
No legislative action can be taken prior to the election of the speaker, according to House rules, meaning a lawmaker must reach 60 votes to assume the leadership role before the session can begin, bills can be introduced or any action can be taken.
Of the 16 lawmakers who have said they won't vote for Madigan, four - Costa Howard, Kifowit, Conroy and Yingling - have taken a combined $6.6 million in contributions from his two main campaign committees over the years, campaign finance records show. Those four lawmakers represent suburban districts that were Republican strongholds within the last decade, but have seemingly grown more Democratic as part of a shift occurring in suburban communities nationwide.
That trend of suburbs turning bluer, as seen prominently in the 2018 midterms and the 2020 presidential election, has seemingly given those Illinois lawmakers more cover to vote against Madigan in that they are less likely to need his financial backing if their seats aren't as vulnerable to a Republican challenge.
While the other 12 lawmakers hold more traditionally safe Democratic seats, some within the city of Chicago, campaign finance records show at least 11 of the 16 have taken a combined $7.2 million from Madigan's two committees over the years - not including any funds they've received at his direction through affiliated organizations, labor unions, colleagues and other ways he has orchestrated political contributions over the years.
In July, federal prosecutors filed a deferred prosecution agreement with ComEd in which investigators revealed that the utility company agreed to pay $200 million dollars in fines and 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.
That court filing, as well as the indictment filed Wednesday, identifies the official not by name but as "Public Official A" and the speaker of the Illinois House, 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."
The indictment announced Wednesday charges longtime Madigan associate Michael McClain, former ComEd CEO Anne Pramaggiore, ComEd's former executive vice president of legislative and external affairs John Hooker and Jay Doherty, a lobbyist and consultant for ComEd, with multiple counts of bribery conspiracy, bribery and willfully falsifying records, according to the court filing.
Prosecutors say the four defendants attempted to influence and reward “Public Official A” for a period of approximately eight years between 2011 and 2019.
“During that time, ‘Public Official A’ controlled what measures were called for a vote in the Illinois House of Representatives and exerted substantial influence over fellow lawmakers concerning legislation affecting ComEd,” the office of the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois said in a statement announcing the charges.
The indictment alleges that the defendants in the case attempted to arrange for jobs and contracts for “Public Official A’s” allies and employees as part of the scheme.
Madigan denied any wrongdoing or knowledge of the alleged scheme on Thursday.
"After a lengthy investigation, the U.S. Attorney's Office has charged, but of course has not proven, that certain ComEd employees, consultants and lobbyists allegedly conspired with one another in the hope of somehow influencing me in my official capacity," he said. "Let me be clear: if that attempt ever happened, it was never made known to me. If it had been known to me, it would have been profoundly unwelcome."
"Nothing in either this indictment or in the earlier filings by the U.S. Attorney's Office alleges otherwise," he continued. "In addition, nothing in this indictment or in the earlier filing alleges that I did anything in my official capacity related to ComEd's legislative agenda as a result of whatever internal decisions ComEd made or didn't make. Any such allegation would be false."
"If there was an attempt to influence me in my official capacity, it failed, although knowing most of the people who were charged, I doubt there was any scheme as characterized by the government."