Former IL Speaker Michael Madigan indicted by feds, accused of running well-oiled criminal enterprise

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Former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan has joined the ranks of countless corrupt politicians in the state as he finds himself indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of racketeering, bribery, and other illegal activities during his tenure in office as one of the most powerful people in the state.

Chicago’s ABC7 reported on the specifics of the case in which Madigan, 79 and the longest-tenured state speaker in U.S. history, is charged with more than 20 counts of the aforementioned illegalities and allegedly ran a protracted operation of extortion to increase his own wealth and that of his allies. Additional co-conspirators are also named in the findings, namely his close friend Michael McClain who is believed to be a high-ranking member in the caporegime of Madigan’s criminal syndicate.

The outlet reports:

The alleged scheme stretches from Chicago to Springfield and connects politicians, lobbyists, business and utility executives and Madigan’s law firm. Prosecutors allege Madigan, 79, led a criminal enterprise meant to enhance Madigan’s political power and financial well-being while also generating income for his allies and associates for nearly a decade.

Madigan’s close friend Michael McClain is named as a co-defendant, and prosecutors allege he carried out criminal activities at Madigan’s behest.

The indictment accuses Madigan and McClain and other members of the conspiracy of unlawfully soliciting benefits from businesses and other private entities, and accuses Madigan of engaging in multiple schemes to benefit from private legal work unlawfully steered to his law firm.

Madigan and McClain are charged with racketeering conspiracy and individual counts of using interstate facilities in aid of bribery, and wire fraud, prosecutors said. Madigan is additionally charged with attempted extortion.


The investigation has evidently been underway for over two years. One arm of the conspiracy is said to be that internships with ComEd were set aside for people associated with Madigan’s home ward, the 13th Ward on the Southwest Side of Chicago. Prosecutors alleged that McClain identified candidates for the internships although some did not meet the minimum academic requirements for those positions.

Madigan released a statement in his defense that reads, “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.”

The ABC7 report continued:

As part of the scheme, prosecutors allege that Madigan and his conspirators used “coded language in their discussions” and attempted to “reduce law enforcement’s ability to intercept their communications” by meeting in person or using third-party cell phones to communicate. Prosecutors say Madigan was often referred to by ComEd officials as “our Friend,” or “a Friend of ours” rather than using his name, in an effort to conceal the scheme.

McClain’s job was to “shield Madigan” from the enterprise’s criminal activity, as well, according to the indictment.

In the indictment, prosecutors allege that ComEd officials arranged jobs for Madigan’s political allies where they “performed little or no work” in exchange for Madigan’s influence in passing legislation favorable to the utility or defeating legislation that would harm its business.

Prosecutors also allege a scheme former Chicago Alderman Danny Solis called a “quid pro quo” where a company seeking approval for an apartment complex’s zoning change would provide work to Madigan’s law firm. Prosecutors say Madigan told Solis later privately “not to use the phrase quid pro quo” and suggested a false pretext for Solis to connect the company with Madigan’s firm for tax services. Danny Solis’ attorney, Lisa Noller, told ABC7 “we have no comment at this time.”

Some of the alleged conduct made public was already known as part of previous corruption investigations, but in the indictment, additional schemes emerge. According to prosecutors, Madigan sought to appoint a retiring Chicago alderman to a paid state board position in exchange for business steered to his private law firm.


In the realm of Illinois’ notoriously corrupt politics, Madigan was thought to be bulletproof.

“This one is particularly stunning, because Madigan has been such an iconic figure in our politics for so long, and because he has been notoriously cautious about how he’s done his business to try and avoid this kind of situation,” said David Axelrod, political consultant and University of Chicago Institute of Politics director.

“I’ve been saying for years now that we’ve got to root out corruption wherever it exists in government,” said Gov. JB Pritzker when he was told of the charges. “It’s why we’ve passed and I’ve signed ethics reforms in the state of Illinois, but anybody who is guilty of corruption or corrupt acts in this state should be held to the fullest extent of the law accountable for their actions.”

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot also reacted, saying, “So this is a kind of case. If this is factual, of such incredible significance. Somebody who has really shaped Illinois politics for 40 years, dominated almost every aspect of life. From a political standpoint, from a legislative standpoint, you better have a tight case, because you’re going to take the shot, you’re not going to want to miss.”


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