Longest Serving Legislative Dem Leader in History is in Trouble

There are no regional clues in the headline, but you should still be able to guess that we’re talking about Chicago.

Two former ComEd executives and two consultants, one a longtime confidant of Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan and the other the former president of City Club of Chicago, have been indicted on multiple federal charges alleging they conspired in a bribery scheme to influence the powerful lawmaker – identified only as “Public Official A” – in return for legislation favorable to the utility giant, prosecutors announced Wednesday.

Anne Pramaggiore, John Hooker, Michael McClain and Jay Doherty were each charged with multiple counts of bribery conspiracy, bribery and willfully falsifying ComEd records, according to the indictment.

McClain, 73, worked as a lobbyist and a consultant for ComEd and is a longtime friend and confidant of Madigan’s after the two served together in the Illinois House for 10 years beginning in 1972.

The indictment identifies “Public Official A” as the Speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives and Democratic committeman for Chicago’s 13th Ward – a description that seemingly only fits Madigan, the longest serving statehouse speaker in the U.S. who also serves as the chair of the Democratic Party of Illinois.

Madigan is one of those Democrat machine politics institutions who seemed as if he would be around forever. But maybe not. The tides are beginning to turn.

Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan — the longest-serving state legislative leader in American history — is losing his grip on power as a federal investigation pounds his allies and lackluster election results undermine his influence.

Democrats began to publicly turn on Madigan over the summer, after the inquiry into influence peddling by a local electric utility company came to light. But the revolt against Madigan accelerated this week and, by Thursday, enough legislators had fled Madigan to deny him his title in January, potentially stripping him of the post he’s largely held since 1983.

Madigan’s exit would bring practical concerns for Democrats, and not just in Illinois: Despite having a Democratic supermajority, the speaker’s allies in labor and in the General Assembly worry ousting Madigan now could jeopardize their control over the next redistricting process, which begins in 2021. There is also fear around being alienated from him and “The Program,” Madigan’s fundraising operation and an army of volunteers that help candidates win campaigns.

The Illinois GOP struggles to fund campaigns in a state dominated by Democrats, but the ComEd angle — and it’s connections to Madigan, who also chairs the Illinois Democratic Party — gave them a clear target. Republican candidates across the state capitalized on the investigation, which was announced in July, using it to slam Democratic incumbents and newcomers alike in the Nov. 3 election.

Although President Donald Trump is credited with turning out his base all over the country, some Democrats say the specter of corruption in Illinois helped tank Democratic campaigns for Congress and the General Assembly. And as the election fallout ripples and news of the investigation trickles out, a growing number of high-profile Democrats have called out Madigan.

Madigan is the longest serving legislative leader in American history. Toppling him would be a real coup, in the other sense of the word. Before this, there was talk that the most powerful men in Illinois politics, an old-fashioned Chicago boss of bosses, would stay on forever, before getting his daughter into the governor’s mansion.

But Chicago power brokers aren’t what they used to be, as I wrote about the fall of Alderman Burke.

 And the man dubbed “Alderman-for-Life”, whose wife who sat on the Illinois Supreme Court, had the heft. Burke, an Obama and Blagojevich ally, and the godfather of Chicago politics (dubbed its real mayor), who has been charged with extortion, was also a private detective. When the Firearm Control Card application asked him what agency he worked for, he answered, “Edward Burke”.

Alderman Burke came by his job honestly. He inherited it from his father, Alderman Joseph Burke. And he lived in a Democrat world in which the laws don’t apply to aldermen, only to the little people.

This is how it works in Chicago and so many Democrat cities.

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