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As ComEd Bribery Defendants Appear In Court, Some Illinois GOP Lawmakers Call For Speaker Mike Madigan To Resign And Leave State Government

CHICAGO (CBS) -- The heat is being turned up another notch for Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan to resign.

This came on the same day as four defendants appeared in U.S. District Court in a ComEd corruption case with ties to the speaker.

As CBS 2 Political Investigator Dana Kozlov reported Wednesday evening, the speaker is not budging.

The four defendants in the ComEd corruption case pleaded not guilty Wednesday to federal charges accusing them of orchestrating a long-running bribery scheme that sought to curry favor with the speaker.

Lobbyist Michael McClain, former ComEd CEO Anne Pramaggiore, former ComEd vice president John Hooker, and former ComEd consultant Jay Doherty made their first court appearance by video Wednesday before U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber.

While they all pleaded not guilty, that did not stop the calls for Madigan to step down. And those calls are growing louder.

"I am asking him to leave the General Assembly," said Illinois House Minority Leader Jim Durkin (R-Western Springs).

Durkin doesn't just want to make Madigan resign as speaker. He wants Madigan gone from state government.

Two other GOP lawmakers echoed that call – saying Madigan, at the very least, has become a distraction as the ComEd corruption case gains steam.

"Is he so morally compromised, is he so ethically compromised, that it has risen to the level of conduct unbecoming of a legislator – such that our Illinois House cannot properly function anymore?" said Rep. Deanna Mazzochi (R-Westmont).

The resignation calls came about an hour after McClain, Prammagiore, Hooker, and Doherty appeared in court.

Federal prosecutors say all conspired to "corruptly solicit and demand" jobs, contracts, and payments for the benefit of Public Official A – Madigan – "in connection with his official duties as speaker of the Illinois House."

The indictment against the defendants largely mirrors a deferred prosecution agreement earlier this year with ComEd, in which the utility giant admitted to a yearslong bribery scheme that sought to curry Madigan's favor in advancing legislation relaxing state regulation of ComEd's rates by directing $1.3 million in payments to the speaker's associates. ComEd acknowledged it stood to benefit by more than $150 million from that legislation.
Madigan has not been charged with any crime.

"If the speaker does not resign, he must come before the Special Investigative Committee and answer these important and relevant questions to allow the Special Investigative Committee to do its job," said state Rep. Tom Demmer (R-Dixon).

State Rep. Emanuel "Chris" Welch (D-Westchester) chairs that committee.

"I'm not protecting the speaker, but I am protecting the process," he said.

But Welch has been criticized on the grounds that he is protecting Madigan, as well as stymieing the committee's work. He denies those claims.

"He still has my support," Welch said of Madigan.

When Kozlov noted that some might wonder why, Welch said, "Well, first of all, I'm a big believer in innocent until proven guilty."

While Welch may support Madigan, other Democratic support is waning. By our count, at least 19 Democrats in the state House of Representatives are on record saying they will not vote for him as speaker.

He needs 60 votes to keep his position.

As for Madigan, he had no new comment Wednesday. A spokesperson referred Kozlov back to his latest statement, which just affirms that Madigan wants to stay speaker.

Meanwhile, the investigative committee released documents it got from ComEd last week. Republican Leader Durkin is mentioned in those documents, raising questions about his own ties to the scandal.

In a transcript of testimony from September, David Glockner – executive vice president of ComEd parent company Exelon – said there was no direct communication between ComEd and Durkin and nothing was ever done on ComEd's behalf to curry favor with him.

Durkin was asked about that on Wednesday. He flatly denied any wrongdoing – something Madigan has also stated from the beginning.

Durkin also wants to be the speaker. But right now, neither he nor Madigan have the votes.

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