In a bid to keep his job, Democratic Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan appeared over the weekend before members of the Democratic Black Caucus.
He’s expected to win the group’s endorsement, and state Rep. Carol Ammons, D-Urbana, said she intends to follow that lead.
“I’m going to support the
position of the caucus,” Ammons said.
She said it will be “no surprise” if the caucus endorses the beleaguered Madigan’s tenuous bid for re-election to another term as speaker because of the assistance Madigan has given to the group’s policy priorities.
Ammons also said she will be pleased to support Madigan because “he’s helped (my) district” on university- and hospital-funding issues.
Speaker for all but two years since 1983, Madigan has come under increasing political fire since federal prosecutors in July disclosed the long-running Commonwealth Edison bribery scandal and identified Madigan as the individual at the center of the conspiracy.
Although Madigan remains unindicted, a number of his close associates, including close friend Michael McClain, have been charged.
The indictment and the image problems it presents have prompted at least 19 House Democrats to announce that they will not support the 78-year-old Madigan’s re-election to his powerful post.
He has also drawn criticism from Gov. J.B. Pritzker, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and the state’s two Democratic U.S Senators, Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth.
The House Democratic caucus will have 73 members in January, and Madigan needs the support of at least 60 to extend his legendary career as one of most powerful and influential politicians in Illinois history.
With 19 announced “no” votes against him, Madigan is six votes short of 60.
Ammons said she hasn’t reached any conclusions about the bribery allegations and will wait to see how the case unfolds.
“The Black experience is that we’re guilty until proven innocent,” she said.
State Rep. Camille Lilly of Oak Park, who leads the Black caucus, said the group heard from Madigan and Oswego state Rep. Stephanie Kifowit, a former U.S. Marine who is challenging Madigan for speaker.
She said they “addressed the caucus on how they would work with members and the collective body” to address issues confronting the state as well as describe their “vision, goals and experiences.”
Madigan dropped as least one bombshell, announcing that he would support passage of an increase in the state’s 4.95 percent state income-tax rate if urged to do so by Gov. J.B. Pritzker.
Ammons said that the Black caucus will be issuing a statement explaining its endorsement. After that, she said she will issue her own statement explaining her position in greater detail.
While stating that the speaker’s office is no place for a “novice,” Ammons was not critical of those who oppose his re-election as speaker.
“They have the right to speak in what is in their best interest and the best interest of their district,” she said.
The recent announced
opposition of one Madigan opponent — Democratic Caucus Chairwoman Kathleen Willis of Addison — came as a shock because she’s a member of Madigan’s House leadership team. She told Capitol Fax’s Rich Miller that her decision to oppose Madigan was “an ethical decision, a moral decision.”
Willis speculated that none of the 19 Madigan no voters will flip back to being supporters of Madigan because “they all realize that it’s a point of no return.” She also said her phone conversation with Madigan in which she told him she will oppose his re-election as speaker was agonizing.
“It was the most
difficult call I’ve ever made in my life. But after the call was done, I felt like a ton of bricks was off of my shoulders,” she said.
Madigan, a Chicago Democrat and a protege of Mayor Richard J. Daley, has dominated Illinois politics for decades.
Through his positions as House speaker and chairman of the Illinois Democratic Party, he uses his vast influence to pass or block legislation, punish or reward legislators and establish policy priorities.
A master tactician,
he has presided over the passage of House rules that give him
unfettered authority over the legislative process.
Federal prosecutors, however, threaten to end all that. They have alleged that, at Madigan’s urging, ComEd hired many Madigan friends and associates to high-paying, no-show jobs. In exchange, the company received favorable treatment in the legislature, particularly on rate issues.
ComEd has acknowledged the bribery scheme, entering into a deferred-prosecution agreement and agreeing to pay a $200 million fine. One of its top executives, Fidel Marquez, has pleaded guilty and is cooperating with prosecutors
Two weeks ago, in a move that puts further pressure on Madigan, prosecutors indicted four more key players — longtime ComEd lobbyist McClain, former CEO Anne Pramaggiori and lobbyists John Hooker and Jay Doherty.
Jim Dey, a member of The News-Gazette staff, can be reached at email@example.com or 217-351-5369.