WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Speaker Madigan: The Sparkplug For Republican Ethics Calls

Jul 22, 2020
Originally published on July 21, 2020 5:47 pm

As the minority party at the Illinois State Capitol, Republicans only have a bully pulpit. But when House Speaker Mike Madigan was implicated last week in a utility bribery case, they got more of a megaphone to go with it. 

Illinois Republicans say Madigan should resign after Commonwealth Edison last week admitted to bribing the speaker through hiring lobbyists and staff he recommended.  Madigan has not been charged with any wrongdoing.

Members of the Illinois House GOP say that scandal is reason enough for Governor J.B. Pritzker to bring lawmakers back for a special session dealing with ethics legislation. 

A trio of Republican lawmakers want Governor J.B Pritzker to bring the legislature to the capitol. One of those is Naperville House Republican Grant Wehrli.

“Governor..lead. Call us back into session. Let’s address ethics cooperatively and in a bi-partisan manner.”

Because the governor has repeatedly said he wants ethics laws toughened, the Republicans are turning up the heat on the Democratic governor.

“He needs to help put an end to this corruption. We need to have a broad list of ethics reform.  It is long overdue. We need to consider everything that’s been filed and anything that will address the current situation we are now dealing with,” said State Representative Dan Ugaste (R-Geneva).

A legislative panel dealing with ethics was supposed to report its recommendations in late March, but that was pushed off due to the pandemic.

The Republicans suggest a ban on lawmakers becoming lobbyists and using political funds for criminal defense. But they deeply want a change in leadership.

"Speaker Madigan has spent decades creating his Springfield machine. So Madigan must go. That much is clear. But it does the people of Illinois no good if his crony culture stays. Otherwise, another insider is just going to take the reins and the corruption cycle is going to start all over again. This is an area where Governor Pritzker certainly could have been leading it's unfortunate that he didn't, but I'm ultimately here because I want good governance."

"I want real change. I want a culture of public servants who again are choosing people over power, who choose the people of Illinois over a political machine who do what's best for Illinois instead of what's best for the insider political class," said Representative Deanne Mazzochi (R-Naperville).

The Republicans suggest a ban on lawmakers becoming lobbyists and prohibiting the use political funds for criminal defense among many other rules. Pritzker has indicated support for certain ethics changes, but has stopped short of calling a special session.
 
Requests for comments from the Speaker and Governor's offices were not immediately returned Tuesday afternoon.
 
Copyright 2020 NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS. To see more, visit NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS.