The curtain has come down on an ill-fated special investigating committee in the Illinois House.
Democratic Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan needs all the good publicity — in this case, that’s defined as the absence of bad publicity — he can get.
So it was good news for him when Democrats on the special House committee created to investigate allegedly unethical behavior by Madigan this week pulled the plug on the probe.
Republicans, of course, howled about the unfairness of it all. They complained bitterly that the committee met just three times and hadn’t had much of a chance to do anything. But Democrats said there’s nothing to see, and it’s time to move on.
Actually, there’s plenty to see, as the grand-jury indictments in the massive Commonwealth Edison bribery scandal reveal. But there was nothing this hyper-partisan committee made up of three Democrats and three Republicans was going to discover, because crucial witnesses would simply cite their constitutional rights and refuse to testify.
If that wasn’t enough, the 3-3 partisan divide prevents the committee from taking action.
The investigating committee was created by Republicans, much to the chagrin of Democrats, to generate negative pre-election publicity about Madigan’s complicity in the long-running bribery scandal. It was designed to fail by Democrats, much to the chagrin of Republicans.
In that sense, both parties played their political cards as best they could, each getting some of what they wanted. It was political cynicism at its best.
One aspect of the showdown, however, is intriguing — it’s the extent to which committee Democrats and Madigan himself have targeted House Republican Leader Jim Durkin as the bad guy.
They’re suggesting that because Durkin, who has called for Madigan’s resignation, also recommended individuals for employment to ComEd, he’s no different than Madigan, and because of that, the allegations against the 78-year-old political master are much ado about nothing.
“If Jim Durkin actually believes it is conduct unbecoming of a legislator to recommend people for jobs or help constituents, he might want to review his own hypocritical conduct,” the speaker said. “Rather than finger-pointing, I suggest we focus on the important work that lies ahead of us.”
Madigan is a clever guy, but his statement doesn’t meet that standard.
Madigan is under investigation for putting a small army of his friends and associates in no-show jobs at ComEd in exchange for him acting favorably on utility-friendly legislation. That’s why the multiple defendants indicted in the case are charged with bribery.
Madigan remains uncharged, but the feds have specifically identified him by title — House speaker — as the ringleader of this ugly conspiracy.
Now if either Madigan or the House Democrats have evidence incriminating Durkin in the ComEd conspiracy — or any other criminal conspiracy — they ought to bring it to the attention of federal prosecutors in Chicago. The feds won’t look the other way if presented solid grounds to investigate.
Until then, however, this business involves federal prosecutors and members of Madigan’s team. Any talk otherwise, particularly as it relates to Durkin, is just an understandable, but unpersuasive, misdirection play.