For years, state lawmakers in the Quad-Cities have danced with the specter of Mike Madigan.
They’ve benefitted from his money and clout even as many have parried Republican attempts to use Madigan to drag them down.
Mostly, those attempts have failed.
Will this time be any different?
We don’t know the answer to that question, but we know the Republicans’ job just got easier.
A week ago, the giant utility Commonwealth Edison admitted to providing jobs, contracts and cash to Madigan confidants in order to influence the speaker. This went on, prosecutors say, for years – from 2011 through 2019 – as ComEd has won favorable legislative treatment.
Madigan hasn’t been charged, and a spokesperson said he’s done nothing wrong. But the allegations are breathtaking, and it defies reason to believe ComEd made these investments without expecting it would get a healthy return.
The utility agreed to pay a $200 million fine and pledged to cooperate with the feds in the ongoing investigation. (We should note that some of the legislation the utility sought benefited the Quad-Cities, including a measure that kept open the nuclear power plant in Cordova that is operated by Exelon, ComEd's parent.
Madigan has been under threat before, and he’s always survived. He began in the legislature in 1971 and has, for all but two years, been the speaker since 1983.
His iron-fisted control over Illinois politics is legendary.
So far, most rank-and-file Democratic lawmakers are keeping their heads down, though a few have said Madigan should step down if the allegations are true.
In our area, Rep. Mike Halpin, D-Rock Island, had made no statement about this until we asked. He faulted ComEd, but declined to criticize Madigan. We asked him if he thought Madigan should resign if the allegations are true, to which he responded: "I tend to not make an issue as far as asking people to resign."
Halpin was first elected in 2016. And at one point during the campaign, he said Madigan was "part of the problem" in Springfield. But Halpin also got Madigan’s help during the campaign, and he went on to vote for him to be speaker.
With these new allegations, Republicans are trying to use Madigan like never before. And we would guess voters will be pretty receptive to that message – like never before. It’s hard to ignore corruption that is this bold.
We think it’s time for Democratic lawmakers to stop dancing around Mike Madigan. They should demand that he resign.
Catch the latest in Opinion
Get opinion pieces, letters and editorials sent directly to your inbox weekly!