A federal grand jury on Wednesday indicted former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, initiating a perilous new chapter for a politician who once wielded unparalleled influence throughout the state.

The charges, which include racketeering and bribery, mark the latest downturn in the precipitous political decline of the longest-serving statehouse speaker in U.S. history. 

The 22-count, 106-page indictment accuses Madigan of running a criminal enterprise designed to build political power  and exchange government favors to enrich himself, his associates, as well as troops in his vast political patronage army.

“Unfortunately, this type of criminal conduct drastically undermines the public’s confidence in our government,” U.S. Attorney John Lausch said at a press conference after the charges were filed. “Simply put, it’s not a good thing.”

Through his lawyers Madigan issued a written statement calling the charges an unfounded attempt to criminalize the “routine constituent service” of giving job recommendations.

“I adamantly deny these accusations and look back proudly on my time as an elected official, serving the people of Illinois,” Madigan said. 

The downfall for Madigan, 79, a Democrat from Chicago’s Southwest Side, began in 2020 after federal charges against utility giant Commonwealth Edison singled him out as “Public Official A” in an alleged corruption scheme.

That filing, in which ComEd agreed to pay a $200 million fine and cooperate with an ongoing federal corruption probe, sent political shockwaves across Illinois. It alleged a “years-long bribery scheme” in which ComEd steered contracts, jobs and payments to Madigan allies and followed scores of revelations about alleged wrongdoing that have touched politicians from nearly every corner of the state.

Madigan’s indictment echoed those allegations–and added numerous others. The filing lists nearly $3.3 million in alleged payments intended for Madigan and his associates in exchange for favorable treatment in the state legislature. In many ways, the indictment reads like a how-to manual for what many have dubbed “the Chicago way.”

Also charged Wednesday was longtime Madigan ally and lobbyist Michael McClain, 74. McClain was already facing charges related to the alleged ComEd scheme unveiled in 2020.

Some counts Madigan faces carry potential prison sentences ranging up to 20 years, Lausch said.

The indictment came a year after Madigan was ousted from his perch atop Illinois politics. He lost his speaker’s gavel in January 2021. The next month, he resigned from the House and stepped down as the chair of the state Democratic Party.

Over a half-century in politics, Madigan rose to the pinnacle of power. A product of Chicago’s 13th Ward Democratic Organization, he served in the statehouse starting in 1971. In fact, voters in the state’s 22nd legislative district sent Madigan back to the House in November 2020 despite the ongoing corruption investigation.

Madigan’s once vast influence in state and city government is well documented, including his practice of securing private and public jobs for members of his political army and other loyalists. The indictment also lays out how Madigan used his office to solicit work for his private tax appeal law firm, Madigan & Getzendanner, a practice detailed in a three-year long Chicago Tribune series beginning in 2010 called The Madigan Rules.

Federal interest in Madigan was first revealed in the 2019 corruption indictment of Ald. Ed Burke, 14th. One of the key revelations in the Burke case was that ex-Ald. Daniel Solis, 25th, wore a wire for the FBI for two years beginning in 2014.

Court records revealed that among the first conversations recorded was a 2014 meeting in which Madigan discussed his private law firm’s property tax appeal practice with a developer looking to build a hotel in Chinatown.

The court filings in the July 2020 case against ComEd previewed parts of Wednesday’s indictment by alleging ComEd and others close to Madigan worked to influence the longtime speaker as part of a corrupt scheme for favorable legislation.

The charges against the utility came more than a year after the Better Government Association and WBEZ first reported ComEd’s involvement in the sweeping corruption probe following a May 2019 federal raid at the homes and businesses of ComEd lobbyists as well as politicians with ties to Madigan, seeking records tied to the speaker.

According to the 2020 court filings, ComEd “corruptly” awarded jobs with the utility, as well as contracts and cash payments over the past decade, to “exercise control over what measures were called for a vote” before the Illinois House.

Read the Indictment:

Dan Hinkel was an investigative reporter at the Illinois Answers Project from 2022 to 2023, covering criminal justice.