The House Special Investigating Committee II has so far held two hearings to determine if House Speaker Michael Madigan should face disciplinary action after being implicated in a bribery scandal involving Commonwealth Edison.
When the committee last met, Chair Rep. Emanuel "Chris" Welch, D-Hillside, said the next step should be for the committee to seek testimony from Fidel Marquez, ComEd’s former vice-president of governmental and external affairs. Last week, Marquez pleaded guilty to a corruption charge in the case.
At this time, no further hearings of the committee are scheduled. Here are a few things to know as the committee continues its work.
There isn’t a lengthy record for the committee to build on. This is only the third time formation of the committee has been triggered by a petition filed by House members. The other two times involved former Rep. Derrick Smith, D-Chicago and former Rep. Louis Arroyo, D-Chicago, both of whom faced federal bribery charges. Smith was eventually expelled from the House while Arroyo resigned before any hearings were held.
That makes this only the second time the committee has conducted hearings. For that reason, Welch has said the committee must proceed carefully to establish the proper procedures that will set precedents for future proceedings. Republicans don’t want that to be an excuse to simply drag out the current hearings.
Madigan hasn’t been charged with anything. That sets this investigation apart from Smith and Arroyo. Both had been charged by federal authorities when the investigations committee was initiated.
Democrats contend that puts a different tenor on this version of the Special Investigating Committee. Although Public Official A (Madigan’s designation in court documents) appears throughout a statement of facts that accompanies the deferred prosecution agreement signed by ComEd, Madigan has not been charged with anything and he has denied any wrongdoing. Republican members of the committee argue that distinction is irrelevant for the work before the committee and any decision to reprimand Madigan.
The committee is evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats. That means the committee could deadlock on critical issues like whether to issue subpoenas to Madigan and other witnesses who have declined to appear before the committee voluntarily. It could also foretell a deadlock when it comes time for the committee to make its recommendation on Madigan.
The Democrats on the committee are all considered Madigan loyalists and all represent strongly Democratic areas. None of them have an opponent in the general election.
Two of the three Republicans on the committee are involved in closely contested re-election bids. Any exposure they get for serving on a committee investigating the highly unpopular Madigan likely will be a positive for their campaigns.
The Special Investigating Committee is not the last word on disciplining Madigan even if the committee decides that is the right thing to do. If the Special Investigating Committee recommends action against a member, its report goes to a select committee on discipline made up of 12 House members who go over the recommendations of the Special Investigating Committee. If that committee decides action is warranted, it makes a recommendation to the full House which as the final say. In Derrick Smith’s case, the investigating committee began hearings in March of 2012. He wasn’t expelled until August.
Contact Doug Finke: email@example.com, 788-1527, twitter.com/dougfinkesjr