New criminal charge filed against Madigan, McClain following AT&T deferred prosecution agreement
CHICAGO (WGEM) - Former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan and his close confidant Mike McClain were hit with new conspiracy charges in relation to a corruption scheme involving AT&T Illinois. A federal grand jury in Chicago charged Madigan with corruptly arranging for payments to be made to one of his political allies as part of an alleged conspiracy with Illinois Bell Telephone Company.
Friday’s superseding indictment alleges that Madigan and Quincy native McClain worked with former AT&T Illinois President Paul La Shiazza to arrange for a $22,500 payment to a Madigan ally in 2017. The utility company allegedly made the payments through a lobbying firm that worked on behalf of AT&T Illinois, in order to conceal the true nature of the payments. Federal prosecutors say AT&T was trying to influence and reward the longtime Speaker in order to receive favorable legislation in Springfield. While Madigan, McClain, and La Shiazza arranged a job for the Speaker’s ally while he was being paid, prosecutors note that the individual, former Rep. Eddie Acevedo, did no work for AT&T Illinois and had no role in helping move the legislation in question.
AT&T agreed to a deferred prosecution agreement Friday morning in exchange for details about the 2017 corruption scheme. Court documents show that McClain sent an email to an AT&T employee on February 14, 2017, asking for a “small contract” for Acevedo. McClain later advised La Shiazza that Madigan had assigned him a “special project” to work on carrier of last resort legislation AT&T wanted to advance during the 2017 legislative session. La Shiazza wrote in an email on March 28, 2017, that AT&T Illinois had been approved to hire Acevedo and McClain hoped the contract would include $2,500 or $3,000 per month. The AT&T president wrote another email to employees on March 31, 2017, saying he had no objections against paying Acevedo through an intermediary as a consultant instead of paying him directly as a lobbyist, “as long as you are sure we will get credit and the box checked.”
Court documents show that the Speaker’s office requested a roll call vote on the carrier of last resort legislation on May 26, 2017. Madigan later voted in favor of the legislation on the House floor on May 31, 2017. The COLR language was added as an amendment to a House bill nearly a month later. Madigan allowed House Bill 1811 to be voted on in his chamber and would also call for the House to override the governor’s veto of the plan on July 1, 2017.
Madigan and McClain were previously charged with several counts of leading a criminal enterprise to enhance the political power and financial well-being of the Speaker and allies following a years-long investigation into a bribery scheme with Commonwealth Edison. McClain is facing fewer charges, but will also face a significant amount of jail time if the maximum penalty is pursued. He could face approximately 75 years in prison and also a large amount of money, depending on how much was made in the conspiracy. Both men pled not guilty to the charges on March 9, 2022.
Federal prosecutors noted on Friday that Madigan and McClain will be arraigned on the superseding indictment on a future date set by the U.S. District Court in Chicago. Meanwhile, AT&T Illinois said it will continue to cooperate with federal prosecutors under the terms of the two-year deferred prosecution agreement.
“The public is reminded that charges are not evidence of guilt. Defendants are presumed innocent and entitled to a fair trial at which the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt,” prosecutors stated in a press release. “If convicted, the Court must impose reasonable sentences under federal sentencing statutes and the advisory U.S. Sentencing Guidelines.”
Gov. JB Pritzker said Friday that the indictment further condemns a system rife with promises of pay-to-play. The Chicago Democrat said he has consistently worked to end the era of corruption and self-dealing among Illinois politicians.
“I appreciate the work of law enforcement to help restore the public’s trust in government and urge all parties to move swiftly to bring these charges to a close,” Pritzker said. “When I ran for office, I made clear that I would be beholden to no one, and that I would serve the best interests of the people of Illinois. I have upheld that vow.”
The governor also said that his administration has made clear that such abuses will not be tolerated. Pritzker said he has also worked hard to strengthen the state’s ethics laws, including a new law requiring more robust disclosure from lobbyists to create transparency.
“There is more work to be done, and I will continue to work with the General Assembly to restore the public’s trust and finally end this sad chapter in our history,” Pritzker stated.
La Shiazza is charged with one count of conspiracy, one count of corruptly giving something of value to reward a public official, and three counts of using a facility in interstate commerce to promote unlawful activity. His arraignment date has not been announced at this time.
“We hold ourselves and our contractors to the highest ethical standards. We are committed to ensuring that this never happens again,” the company stated Friday morning.
AT&T Illinois agreed to pay $23 million to resolve the federal criminal investigation surrounding the misconduct with the former Speaker. The utility company will have to pay the large fee to the federal Crime Victims Fund. An arraignment date for AT&T has not been scheduled. Separate from the payment, AT&T Illinois must implement a new compliance and ethics program and provide annual reports to the federal government regarding the remediation and implementation of the program.
“If AT&T Illinois fails to completely fulfill each of its obligations under the agreement during the two-year term, the U.S. Attorney’s Office can initiate prosecution of the charged offense,” prosecutors stated.
The Illinois Republican Party also responded to the AT&T indictment Friday morning. The political organization said Madigan’s legacy continues to haunt Illinois as he now faces additional corruption-related charges.
“Since 2019, nine Chicago Democratic Alderman and women, three Democratic State Representatives, and four Democratic State Senators have been indicted or convicted on corruption-related charges, including Madigan himself,” the Illinois GOP stated. “While these additional charges, as well as AT&T’s settlement, is another step towards justice, with Illinois Democrats and their corruption charges, it’s like the “Never Ending Story.”
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