Eye On Illinois: Where Madigan implicated in bribery, CUB opposed legislation

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Mike Madigan was already in hot water, but the pool got deeper last week when federal prosecutors filed new charges against the former House speaker and a longtime ally alleging a conspiracy to accept bribes from AT&T Illinois.

According to Capitol News Illinois, AT&T admitted to using interstate commerce to help facilitate enactment of legislation. The company will pay a $23 million fine as part of a deferred prosecution agreement.

If this sounds familiar, it’s because of similarities to Madigan’s larger legal challenge, his implication in a ComEd bribery scandal. That utility paid a $200 million federal fine linked to bribing Madigan and others in order to pass the Energy Infrastructure and Modernization Act in 2011 and the Future Energy Jobs Act in 2016.

Scott T. Holland

Scott T. Holland

In March, a federal grand jury indicted Madigan on 22 counts related to “a criminal enterprise whose purpose was to enhance Madigan’s political power and financial well-being while also generating income for his political allies and associates,” according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Illinois.

Another commonality any observer could’ve predicted is Republicans reacting to the news with statements linking Madigan to the Democrats still serving in Springfield and those near the end of the campaign trail along with calls to get serious about legislative ethics reform.

Virtually all shots at Madigan are fair game, though most ethics talking points don’t sufficiently focus on Madigan’s House machinations. The feds will focus on bribery, but whether Madigan’s leadership successors have the same power to kill or advance legislation is the kind of question that could help clean up Illinois.

Yet I’d like to focus on another recurring theme: every piece of legislation these investigations incorporate succeeded over the objections of the Citizens Utility Board. Although the nonprofit advocacy group says it’s saved ratepayers more than $20 billion since 1984 by fighting against hikes in electric, gas and phone rates, CUB officials don’t win every battle.

The AT&T legislation ended the practice of forcing the utility to offer landline service to any customer in its service area, pending Federal Communications Commission approval. The General Assembly passed it in two versions, and both times Gov. Bruce Rauner issued a veto. Lawmakers defeated the second veto in July 2017.

It’d be nice if an upshot from these federal investigations – aside from enhanced respect for the FBI’s ability to sniff out crimes regardless of political affiliation – is broader understanding of CUB and its goals. The General Assembly created CUB in 1983. Members elect directors based on Congressional districts. Funding comes from donations and grants.

To learn more, visit citizensutilityboard.org. Support is a personal decision, but all taxpayers should be aware of CUB’s mission and efforts.

Scott T. Holland writes about state government issues for Shaw Media. Follow him on Twitter @sth749. He can be reached at sholland@shawmedia.com.

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October 18, 2022 at 05:16AM

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