SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WCIA) — After a trial that exposed illegal corruption in the statehouse, current legislative leaders are trying to highlight ethical changes they’ve made to prevent more pay-to-play politics in Illinois.
Four employees of the ComEd company were found guilty of bribery conspiracy late Tuesday afternoon for promising jobs and money in exchange for legislation that helped the northern Illinois power company to people close to former Illinois Speaker of the House Michael Madigan. They can face up to five years in prison.
Lawmakers reacted to the news, with the new Democratic leaders emphasizing how much has changed in the few years since Madigan was in power, while Republicans urged more needed to be done.
Illinois Speaker of the House Chris Welch (D-Hillside) said after filling Madigan’s shoes, one of his biggest priorities was restoring trust in state government.
“Since my election as Speaker, I’ve been clear that restoring trust in government was paramount,” Welch said. “I’m proud to stand with a new generation of leadership in Illinois who share these values.”
Republicans like House Minority leader Tony McCombie (R-Savana) called out the majority party for corruption.
“This guilty verdict has proven that the system of doing business in Springfield is broken,” McCombie said. “This should not have been the first step to rooting out corruption in Illinois, but after today, it is clear there must be a sense of urgency in bringing back the people’s trust in state government.”
They believe the legislature has not passed enough ethics reform.
“We need real reforms that shine a light on the process and confront the culture of corruption that has gone unchecked for decades,” Senate Minority leader John Curran (R-Downers Grove) said. “It’s time to restore the public’s trust in their state government.”
Senate President Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) believes the General Assembly has changed.
“The behavior brought to light and put on display at this trial was shockingly gluttonous and unhealthy to democracy,” the Senate president said. “We’ve taken concrete steps to discourage bad behavior. But most importantly, I believe we have people committed to behaving better.”
Former speaker Madigan was indicted last year and is expected to face trial in 2024.
This story has been updated to correct the House Minority Leader’s district office.