Hearings into whether House Speaker Michael Madigan should be disciplined for his connections to a Commonwealth Edison bribery scheme have been put on hold until after the November election.
Rep. Emanuel "Chris: Welch, D-Hillside, chair of the House Special Investigating Committee II, said he is delaying the proceedings to prevent the committee from being used "as a stage for political theater."
"Throughout this process, however, we have been made well aware that our Republican colleagues are wearing two hats," Welch said in a statement. "While sitting on a committee that is charged with conducting an impartial investigation based on the petition filed by Leader Durkin, the Republican members of this committee are also engaged in competitive political campaigns in which they have chosen to campaign almost exclusively against the speaker."
Welch said that was particularly evident when Reps. Grant Wehrli of Naperville and Deanne Mazzochi of Elmhurst took part in a news conference Monday with two other House Republicans "effectively confirming their assumption of guilt and chiding Democratic opponents for not jumping to the same conclusion."
All four Republicans in the news conference have Democratic opponents. Wehrli and Mazzochi are members of the Investigating Committee.
"At every step of this process, our cooperation has been accompanied with the proviso that we will not allow this committee to be used as a stage for political theater, an admonishment our Republican colleagues appear to have taken more as a challenge than as a reflection of this committee’s serious work," Welch said. "The committee will meet again on November 5 in Springfield without the backdrop of a political campaign."
Republicans said Welch was acting to protect Madigan.
"Rep. Welch’s decision to postpone the Special Investigating Committee’s work is a disgrace and a slap in the face to the governor, the General Assembly and the citizens of Illinois," said House Republican Leader Jim Durkin, who helped initiate the investigation. "Rep. Welch refuses to do anything except hide the truth about the corruption of Speaker Madigan and the Democratic Party of Illinois. This is just another example of Mike Madigan’s double standard of the House Rules. The rules of the House apply to all except him."
Mazzochi, Wehrli and Rep. Tom Demmer of Dixon, the third Republican member of the Special Investigating Committee, held a news conference Tuesday afternoon to denounce Welch’s decision.
Demmer said he thinks the hearings would continue if it was any member of the House other than Madigan who was being investigated.
"Special treatment is being given to Speaker Madigan," he said. "It deprives the people of Illinois and fellow members from learning what conduct the speaker may have engaged in."
"Chairman Welch’s decision is an utter insult to the people of Illinois," Mazzochi said. "Welch said he would run a professional investigation. This is how a professional politician covers up the truth. The only thing that seems to matter is protecting Mike Madigan."
"I thought Chris Welch was a man of integrity," Wehrli said. "Today Chris Welch decided integrity doesn’t matter. We are being stonewalled. We are being lied to protect one man."
Republicans have also said Welch has asked Commonwealth Edison to turn over emails and other documents showing communications between the company and any number of Illinois politicians. They said that alone could delay the process while ComEd tries to comply with the request.
Welch said the documents are necessary for the committee to understand how ComEd worked with other politicians besides Madigan to get legislation passed that is favorable to the company.
ComEd entered a Deferred Prosecution Agreement with ComEd and agreed to pay a $200 million fine for giving jobs and contracts to Madigan associates in order to curry favor with the speaker. Madigan has denied any wrongdoing and has not been charged.
Contact Doug Finke: firstname.lastname@example.org, 788-1527, twitter.com/dougfinkesjr