SPRINGFIELD – Cracks are beginning to show in Michael Madigan's hold over the House Democratic caucus that he has led as Speaker for all but two years since 1983.
Three more members of that caucus called for Madigan to resign this week, at least as House Speaker and chair of the state’s Democratic Party. They join another Democratic representative and three senators—all women—and a number of high-profile Republicans in calling for Madigan’s resignation from at least one of his leadership positions.
A Madigan spokesperson declined to comment Thursday on Capitol News Illinois’ questions as to whether Madigan was considering the request.
The latest calls for the Speaker’s resignation come nearly two weeks after he was implicated in a bribery scheme relating to utility giant Commonwealth Edison. In a court document, ComEd admitted to handing out benefits such as lobbying jobs and subcontracts to close associates of the Illinois House Speaker in an effort to gain support for legislation benefitting the company.
Madigan has not been charged with any crime and has denied wrongdoing.
Rep. Anne Stava-Murray, a Naperville Democrat, was the only member of the House Democratic caucus who had called for his resignation before this week. She was also the only Democrat who did not vote for Madigan as speaker at the beginning of this session of the General Assembly.
This week, Reps. Terra Costa Howard, D-Glen Ellyn, and Stephanie Kifowit, D-Oswego, added their names to the growing list seeking Madigan’s resignation. Others have called for the Speaker to resign if the allegations in the ComEd court document are true.
Howard, in a statement Wednesday, called for Madigan’s resignation as Speaker and party chair.
“The sworn statements in the U.S. Attorney’s agreement with Commonwealth Edison detail a years-long scheme of payoffs and bribery involving many of Speaker Madigan’s closest allies. Even if he was not directly involved in this scheme, these accusations clearly demonstrate that the Speaker’s leadership has failed,” she said in the statement. “Speaker Madigan has a duty to recognize that these allegations have cast a deep shadow on the reputation of our House. He must take action now to avoid inflicting further damage on the members of the House and the Democratic Party.”
While she said Madigan has not been charged and is entitled to “the presumption of innocence and due process,” his ties to the investigation “make it impossible for Rep. Madigan to continue in his leadership roles.”
“I hope he will do the honorable thing and step down,” she said.
On Thursday morning, Kifowit tweeted that she “electronically delivered” a letter to the speaker requesting he step down.
“I write this letter as a legislator who voted for you for Speaker in the past,” Kifowit wrote. “The reality is that each time, the vote I made for you was carefully considered. I voted with the view that you would respect and honor the leadership position of the Speaker of the House.”
But, in light of the ComEd document, Kifowit said it was clear that Madigan – or at least those he empowered in his inner circle – “did not hold the respect and dignity of the institution of the Illinois State House and the General Assembly as a whole.”
“The actions described in the U.S. Attorney’s deferred prosecution agreement by ComEd show that you have compromised the integrity of the office of Speaker of the House and undermined the public trust,” she said. “…Therefore, I demand you to do the right thing and step down immediately as Speaker of the House. In the event that you do not, and if you choose to seek nomination to this position again, I will vote against said nomination and will not vote for you should your nomination be successful.”
Hours after Kifowit’s letter, Rep. Kelly Cassidy, D-Chicago, joined her colleagues in calling for the Speaker to resign from his leadership roles.
“I have long been an outspoken critic of Speaker Madigan, but I have always stopped short of calling for his resignation, deferring to many of my colleagues’ concerns about due process,” she said in a statement. “…As a leader on criminal justice reform, I feel strongly about the principles of innocent until proven guilty and the right to due process. I also believe leadership must be held to a higher standard, and it is clear that the constant drip of corruption stories will interfere with our ability to advance a progressive agenda. Whether these investigations ultimately implicate him or continue to pick away at his inner circle, the damage is done.”
Earlier in the week, prominent Democratic Sen. Heather Steans, of Chicago, called on Madigan to resign those two positions as well.
“Some will argue that the Speaker is innocent until charges are filed and he’s proven guilty. But those are not the standards that should apply to his leadership role. Serving as Speaker is not a right; it’s a privilege. A leader’s actions must avoid even the perception of wrongdoing. Speaker Madigan repeatedly has violated that trust,” she wrote in a statement.
Sen. Melinda Bush, D-Grayslake, called for his resignation to both those positions and as a member of the General Assembly shortly after the ComEd news broke as well.
Sen. Iris Martinez, D-Chicago, has called for Madigan’s resignation as party chairman.
Republicans have been steadily beating the drum on the ethics issue since the news broke, with Illinois House Republican Leader Jim Durkin taking a stronger stance Thursday than he had previously.
“After reviewing the facts contained in the ComEd deferred prosecution agreement, it is abundantly clear that Michael J. Madigan is unable to execute his responsibilities as Speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives and as state representative for the 22ndHouse District,” Durkin said in a statement. “I call for the immediate resignation of Speaker Madigan from the Illinois House of Representatives, and will be filing a resolution to have the House Chamber vote on a new Speaker immediately.”
Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government and distributed to more than 400 newspapers statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.