Setting for Madigan hearings in House committee resembles proceedings to impeach Blagojevich

BY ROGER EDDY

I had a front row seat, literally, to corruption in Illinois, when in 2008 I served on the Illinois House committee that recommended impeachment of disgraced Gov. Rod Blagojevich. Now, with the new Illinois panel to investigate Illinois House speaker Mike Madigan, it’s deja vu all over again, as Yogi once observed. Here is what I saw back then, and see now.

Absolutely no one should be surprised.  This is Illinois, and we have become used to this type of story.

Speaker Madigan actually made the decision to deal with Blagojevich.  But, it literally took a pair of handcuffs on the wrists of the governor for Madigan to decide to form a Special Investigative Committee to determine if the behavior warranted impeachment.

The work of that committee took just weeks.  The atmosphere was tense, and media coverage was colossal. It was the first impeachment of a governor in the nearly-200-year history of Illinois.  Committee members voted unanimously to recommend the impeachment of Blagojevich.  Evidence of wrongdoing was overwhelming and breathtaking.  The House then voted near unanimously to impeach Blagojevich.  The lone holdout vote was from Debbie Mell, the governor’s sister-in-law.

In my new book, “A Front Row Seat-The Impeachment of Rod Blagojevich,” I chronicle the Blagojevich years from the perspective of someone who was in office at the exact same time.  Despite the fact that Blagojevich continues to proclaim he did nothing wrong, facts prove otherwise.  The details described in my book are stunning.  The “$25K Donor Club”, the blatant refusal to follow JCAR decisions, and ignoring federal laws regarding use of flu vaccines are just a few examples.

Federal authorities recently had a news conference to announce a criminal investigation of corruption involving the Illinois House. Speaker Madigan is in the crosshairs of this latest investigation. Media reports of insider emails, campaign contributions, office raids, and lobbyists close to the speaker involve utility giant ComEd and LOTS of money.  When ComEd agreed to pay a $200 million fine, the speculation ramped up to a frenzied level.

Something potentially monumental is happening.  Rules that govern the Illinois House include a little known process by which any House member can be the subject of an investigation by peers.  Yes, even the speaker himself.  In a bold move, this House rule was invoked, a special investigation was requested, and now media reports feature renewed speculation.  Speaker Madigan finds himself the subject of a similar investigation to what Blagojevich faced.

Blagojevich defended his behavior by inferring that he was not doing anything that wasn’t accepted practice.  In many ways, sadly, he was correct.  The very fact that large sums of money are often donated to public officials in positions of power without the corresponding expectation that the money donated is without strings attached is laughable.  Individuals, businesses, unions, corporations, and lobbying firms provide large sums of money to powerful political incumbents without the expectation of any consideration?  Really?  You believe that?

In the case of Rod Blagojevich, federal authorities tightly restricted the testimony of witnesses appearing before the House committee.  This time, it appears the feds are willing to be a bit more lenient.  ComEd executives have agreed to provide testimony.  I hope so.  People need to hear what goes on.

Until there is real campaign finance reform in Illinois, and changes made to the House rules that allow one person to be all-powerful, things will not change. Madigan has amassed $25 million using the existing campaign laws this election cycle. Large donations have been received even after the federal investigation has come to light. This bounty was collected after campaign finance reform passed the General Assembly, legislation that was orchestrated by Madigan himself. It is past time for real campaign reform in Illinois.

We should have learned some lessons from the Blagojevich years.  As things stand, no one should be surprised.

Roger Eddy is a retired member of The Illinois House and served on the Special Investigative Committee on The Impeachment of Rod Blagojevich.  He served the 109th District as a Republican from 2003 to 2012. Recently, he authored a book highlighting the impeachment of Blagojevich.  The book, “A Front Row Seat- The Impeachment of Rod Blagojevich,” is available on Amazon and Barnes &  Noble.

Leave a Comment