News & Politics

The Most Powerful State Politician in America Is Resigning His Seat

(Justin L. Fowler/The State Journal-Register via AP)

Former Illinois Speaker of the House Mike Madigan, who dominated politics in the state for decades, is resigning his House seat at the end of this month.

Madigan, a Democrat, was deposed from his speakership by his party last month after becoming embroiled in a “pay-for-play” scandal involving the electric utility, ComEd. He had served for 36 years as speaker and had been in the legislature for 50 years.

In his resignation statement, Madigan never mentioned the scandal but whined about a “whispering campaign” that undermined trust in him.

“It’s no secret that I have been the target of vicious attacks by people who sought to diminish my many achievements lifting up the working people of Illinois. The fact is, my motivation for holding elected office has never wavered. I have been resolute in my dedication to public service and integrity, always acting in the interest of the people of Illinois.”

Some of the people, anyway. If you had a business and could contribute to his campaign fund, he was ready and willing to serve you. Madigan was able to get and keep power by utilizing a dizzying network of connections in business, politics, and the law. He never took a bribe. But his cronies were enriched by peddling influence in various schemes involving contracts and other plums Madigan was capable of picking for those who were connected.

It was a beautifully corrupt system and Madigan was the undoubted king. Associated Press:

Last summer, Madigan was identified in a Justice Department investigation as the beneficiary of a yearslong bribery venture involving ComEd. It has thus far yielded a $200 million fine on the utility giant, a ComEd executive’s guilty plea and indictments of four others, including Madigan’s closest confidante.

Shortly after the Justice Department announced the deferred prosecution agreement with ComEd in July, legislators began backpedaling from Madigan, saying they could not support him. Gov. J.B. Pritzker and other prominent Illinois Democrats blamed him for Election Day losses and sought his ouster as state Democratic Party Chairman.

Madigan managed a political action committee that elected dozens of Democrats to office, making them beholden to his leadership. This made him more powerful than most governors. It’s not for nothing that Madigan was said to be the most powerful politician in Illinois and certainly one of the most powerful state politicians in the country.

Chicago Tribune:

Even as he battled to maintain his grip on the speaker’s gavel, Madigan remained a prodigious fundraiser, bringing in more than $6 million in contributions to his Friends of Michael J. Madigan campaign fund in the final three months of 2020.

Altogether, the four funds under his control, which also include the 13th Ward Democratic Organization, the Democratic Party of Illinois and Democratic Majority, ended 2020 with more than $18.8 million in the bank.

Don’t feel bad for Madigan. His final salary was over $100,000 a year. Beginning in 2022, he’ll get a pension of $149,000 a year. Crime may not pay, but being a powerful Democratic politician in the state of Illinois sure does.