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Illinois Legislative Black Caucus Endorses Michael Madigan For Speaker, Making No Mention Of ComEd Bribery Scandal

CHICAGO (CBS) -- The Illinois Legislative Black Caucus has thrown up a potential roadblock to the bid to oust Michael Madigan as Speaker of the House, throwing their support behind him for another term without mentioning the ComEd bribery scandal that has ensnared him.

The announcement came late Wednesday night, four days after Madigan and Rep. Stephanie Kifowit (D-Oswego), the only lawmaker to formally challenge him for the speakership so far, made their cases to the caucus on Saturday.

"After analysis, we believe our caucus is in a more advantageous position under the leadership of Speaker Madigan to deliver on our priorities. We have a daunting task ahead of us to repair harm done to black communities because of long standing systemic disinvestment, the challenges stemming from COVID-19 and of course the underlying reasons why it is important to pass the Black Caucus' Policy Agenda: Criminal Justice & Police Reform; Education & Workforce Development; Economic Access; and Access to Health Care," the caucus said in a statement. "The members of the House Illinois Legislative Black Caucus have taken a Caucus position in support of Representative Mike Madigan as Speaker for the next General Assembly.  We need a Speaker that will provide strong, consistent leadership and support for the challenges ahead. It's time to refocus on the work in front of us and be prepared to start the next General Assembly's business immediately."

The caucus did not address the ComEd bribery scandal that has led 19 Illinois House Democrats to announce they won't vote for Madigan for another term as speaker.

Last month, longtime Madigan confidant Michael McClain, former ComEd CEO Anne Pramaggiore, former ComEd executive and lobbyist John Hooker, and former lobbyist Jay Doherty were charged with bribery conspiracy, bribery, and willfully falsifying ComEd books and records.

The indictment virtually mirrored the case laid out against ComEd itself earlier this year, accusing the company of 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 himself has not been charged with a crime, and has denied any wrongdoing.

However, at least 19 House Democrats have said they won't support Madigan for another term as speaker when the new Illinois General Assembly is sworn in next month. Madigan needs at least 60 votes to keep his leadership position, and Democrats are expected to hold 73 seats, so if the lawmakers who've said they won't support him hold firm, he'd be six votes shy of winning another term as speaker.

With the Legislative Black Caucus now endorsing Madigan, no other lawmaker could get the necessary 60 votes, either, without some sort of compromise between Madigan supporters and opponents.

Only one member of the 22-member Legislative Black Caucus, Rep. Maurice West (D-Rockford) has voiced opposition to Madigan keeping his seat as speaker.

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