A special committee in the Illinois House of Representatives tasked with investigating a deferred prosecution agreement that implicated powerful Speaker Michael Madigan in an alleged bribery scheme with ComEd will meet Tuesday afternoon, with officials from the state's largest utility set to testify.
The meeting will be held at 2 p.m. at the Capitol in Springfield, per a notice posted on the General Assembly's website, which notes an alternate public viewing at the Bilandic Building in Chicago as well.
The hearing will be chaired by Rep. Emanuel "Chris" Welch, a Democrat, with Rep. Tom Demmer as the Republican spokesperson, according to the notice posted online.
Madigan said Friday that he would not testify before the committee, citing in a letter to its members the "need to ensure that the federal investigation runs its course without interference or distraction."
"While I believe in the Rules of the House of Representatives, the fact remains this Committee has neither the resources nor the ability to recreate a multi-year federal investigation," Madigan wrote, adding, "Nor do I believe that this Committee will be able to gain access to all of the information and testimony it would need for a complete and accurate understanding of the facts and issues underlying the DPA."
Madigan said he was not invoking his Fifth Amendment rights in turning down the invitation to testify, noting, "As I have said before, I have done nothing wrong" and calling House Republican Leader Jim Durkin's allegations to the contrary and move to create the committee "nothing more than a political stunt."
Durkin and two other members of the chamber's GOP caucus earlier this month filed a petition under legislative rules to create the committee to look into the allegations that surfaced in the deferred prosecution agreement with ComEd that was filed in July. The petition noted that the committee's purpose will be to investigate the allegations as well as "determine discipline against Speaker Madigan, if any."
Madigan said in a statement at the time the committee was formed that he recused himself from its proceedings and designated House Majority Leader Greg Harris to "handle all aspects of this matter."
Harris tapped Welch to chair the committee and said in a statement that members of the House have the authority under the state''s Constitution to "review the actions of its members and determine whether discipline is necessary, including overturning the results of an election or expelling a member."
"This is a power that should be judiciously exercised, and one that has rarely been used," Harris said, noting it has been invoked on two occasions in the past two decades, after the arrests and indictments of former Reps. Derrick Smith and Luis Arroyo.
“This is a political process, not action by law enforcement, and the rules are not the same as a court proceeding," Harris said, adding, "The Speaker has not been accused of or charged with any criminal action or wrongdoing and is entitled to the presumption of innocence. With that said, it is important that we follow the process and provide the petitioners and the Speaker with an opportunity to address the petition."
The special committee was formed more than a month after federal prosecutors 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.
Madigan, the longest-serving statehouse speaker in U.S. history, has not been charged with any criminal wrongdoing. He has denied involvement in the alleged scheme on multiple occasions, including his Friday letter.
"First, the DPA does not attribute any misconduct to me," Madigan wrote. "It asserts that certain individuals at ComEd hired individuals I purportedly recommended in an attempt to influence me. But let me be clear: that attempt was never made known to me - if it had been, it would have been profoundly unwelcome."