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Bribery case against former Illinois House speaker widens as AT&T agrees to $23 million fine

Capitol News Illinois

Company president Paul La Schiazza also indicted

SPRINGFIELD – The federal case against former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan widened Friday after new charges were filed against him and his longtime ally, Michael McClain, alleging they conspired to accept a bribe from AT&T Illinois in exchange for favorable legislation.

Prosecutors also announced that the company had admitted to bribing Madigan and entered a deferred prosecution agreement while agreeing to pay a $23 million fine. The company’s former president, Paul La Schiazza, 65, also faces charges for conspiring to influence Madigan.

The latest indictments stem from legislation that AT&T pushed in 2017 known as a “carrier of last resort,” or COLR bill. The charges allege that the phone company paid $22,500 to a Madigan ally in exchange for efforts by Madigan and McClain to pass the bill. The payment was allegedly made through an intermediary to conceal its true purpose.

The bill passed the General Assembly twice in different forms. Both were vetoed by then-Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, but in July 2017 the General Assembly overrode the second veto and the bill became law.

La Schiazza has been 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. Arraignment in federal court in Chicago has not yet been scheduled.

Madigan, 80, reigned over the Illinois House for all but two years between 1983 and 2021 and was considered by many to be the state’s most powerful politician. He also chaired the Democratic Party of Illinois from 1998 to 2021 but resigned that position amid the corruption scandal as well.

But he lost his leadership role in 2021 after he was implicated in a bribery scheme involving electric utility giant Commonwealth Edison. He was eventually indicted earlier this year on multiple corruption charges related to that scheme and is still awaiting trial.

The latest charges come less than four weeks before the 2022 midterm elections in which the entire General Assembly and all statewide elected officials are on the ballot.

Democrats hold supermajorities in both chambers of the legislature, but Republicans have campaigned hard on the theme that those majorities are the result of Madigan’s corrupt leadership, both in the House and in the party.

Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government and distributed to more than 400 newspapers statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.

Peter Hancock joined the Capitol News Illinois team as a reporter in January 2019.
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