Madigan Implicated in ComEd Scheme
By now you have probably heard that House Speaker Mike Madigan has been named as “Public Official A” in the sprawling federal investigation into political corruption in Illinois. In a bombshell that dropped Friday morning, the U.S. Attorney’s office tied House Speaker Mike Madigan to a ComEd scheme where patronage jobs for Madigan friends were exchanged for favorable House votes on bills that benefit the energy giant. It’s the latest in a long list of ethical missteps by high-ranking officials with ties to the Speaker. At this point, Madigan has not been charged with any wrongdoing, but the investigation is continuing and Madigan appears to be at the epicenter of it.
In a plea agreement with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, ComEd admitted that from 2011-2019 it arranged jobs, contracts and payoffs to Madigan allies, some of whom did little or no work for their compensation. ComEd did these favors in order to gain favor with the man who controls the movement, or non-movement, of bills in the Illinois House. In this case, Madigan pushed through legislation that allowed ComEd to raise electric rates on consumers. This 2016 vote took place before I took my seat in the House, but I am a proud co-sponsor of HB3987, which would roll back subsidies delivered to ComEd through that now infamous vote. I’m sure it comes as no surprise that this bill is stuck in Speaker Madigan’s Rules Committee, and has not been allowed to advance.
In all, ComEd admitted to paying out approximately $1.3 million in exchange for the passage of legislation that ultimately benefitted the company to the tune of $150 million. It is a disgusting, but not surprising, revelation that shows just how deep corruption goes in our state.
House Republican Ethics Bills Ignored by Majority Party
The House Republican Caucus has always been a loud voice in the fight for comprehensive ethics reform in Illinois, and members of our caucus have several pending bills that would address the following:
- Put term limits in place for legislative leaders
- Establish a “Revolving Door Policy” to prevent lawmakers from retiring one day and becoming a lobbyist the next
- Ban the use of red-light cameras statewide
- Ban legislators from also serving as paid lobbyists
- Increase criminal penalties for those who violate ethics laws
- Significantly strengthen reporting requirements on the statements of economic interest that lawmakers must file
- Allow any bill with more than five co-sponsors from each political party to be heard and voted on in a substantive committee
- Prohibit a lawmaker who resigns due to an ethics-related arrest from having a role in choosing his/her successor
- End the gerrymandering of political maps
Instead of tackling Illinois’ biggest ethics and corruption issues, this year the majority party only brought forward two of their own watered down bills that failed to address some of the state’s most glaring problems. One of the ethics bills that never received a hearing this year was my HB 4002, which would impose a two-year waiting period between when a lawmaker, statewide office holder or state agency head leaves their position and when they can become a lobbyist.
Silence is Corruption
Mike Madigan is the longest-serving leader of any state legislative body in the history of the United States. He has served as Speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives for 35 of the last 37 years and has amassed enormous power in Illinois politics. As Chairman of the Illinois Democratic Party and Speaker of the House of Representatives, he unilaterally controls the agenda in Springfield. His influence has kept many people silent when they should have spoken out. That needs to change.
Illinois Democrats remained silent when Speaker Madigan, year-after-year, refused to hear ethics reform legislation introduced by House Republicans. They remained silent when Speaker Madigan annually blocked legislation that would create term limits for Illinois legislators by holding it up in Rules Committee. They remained silent when bipartisan legislation to implement fair maps and eradicate gerrymandering was also deferred to the Rules committee and died without debate. And, they remain silent, even now, after Speaker Madigan is the subject of a Federal probe.
It is past time to end the silence. Corruption costs every Illinoisan in higher taxes and reduced services. Keeping silent in the wake of corruption condones these actions. Simply put, silence is corruption. Sign the petition to demand that Governor Pritzker call a special session so lawmakers can pass real ethics reform to end the culture of corruption that has cost Illinoisans dearly.
Rep. Grant to Host Free Child I.D. Event in August
Please mark your calendars for an important event I am hosting in collaboration with the Wheaton Police Department next month. On August 27, we will be hosting a free Child I.D. event at my Wheaton office, located at 416 E. Roosevelt Road, #111. This event is limited to 90 children and is scheduled by appointment only. Parents/guardians will leave with an official I.D. that includes a photo, fingerprints and personal information about each child. Information collected is for parent/guardian use only; police do not keep a copy. Only one family will be permitted in the office at a time, and families can reserve spots between 2:00 PM and 7:00 PM by calling my office at (331) 218-4182, or by accessing an on-line scheduling form that will soon be available at Grant@ilhousegop.org.
Looking ahead, my staff and I are putting the finishing touches on a Mobile DMV event that will be held at my Wheaton office on Thursday, September 10 from 10 AM until 2:00 PM. Representatives from the Secretary of State’s Office will be available for scheduled appointments for basic DMV transactions, including:
- Traditional driver’s license renewals (REAL IDs cannot be processed at this event)
- Vehicle sticker renewals
- Change of address updates
Look for additional information about this event in the coming weeks.
Paycheck Protection Program Extended to August 8
The popular Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) has been extended until August 8. The program has $130 billion to lend. PPP loans funds to small businesses based on 10 weeks worth of payroll expenses. Companies that use the loan proceeds to keep employees on the payroll for eight weeks following disbursement are eligible to have most or even all of the loan forgiven. In the first two rounds of PPP many small retail and restaurant businesses did not apply since they were completely shut down and did not have employees to pay. Those businesses should consider investigating the program and connecting with their lender. Program information and application materials here.
New COVID-19 Regions, Metrics Announced
When the Governor unveiled his “Restore Illinois” plan that included four mega-regions for phase movement, Republicans across the state immediately felt the regions were too large and ignored localized differences. For example, our region, the Northeast region, included the state’s largest urban area (Chicago), and rural counties like Kendall and Grundy. His plan lacked common sense. Republicans pressed the Governor to adjust the regions and suggested he use the existing EMS regions that were already in place for emergency management. Our voices, along with the voices of thousands of frustrated Illinoisans, were heard, and last week the Governor did just that.
The Governor has laid out a new COVID-19 mitigation plan, metrics and revised regions for monitoring the pandemic’s impact on Illinois. The new plan seeks to address localized spikes in coronavirus cases like have been seen in other states. Here’s what has changed:
Instead of four mega-regions, there are now 11 regions in which mitigation strategies will be applied. The City of Chicago is now its own region, and DuPage County is now combined with Kane County in “Region 8”. Our combined DuPage-Kane metrics will determine what restrictions/mitigations will be put in place in the event of a new spike in cases. Click here and navigate to Region 8 to view our metrics as they relate to this new plan.
The following metrics will be used to determine when the spread of the virus in a region requires additional mitigations:
- Sustained increase in 7-day rolling average (7 out of 10 days) in the positivity rate and one of the following severity indicators:
- Sustained 7-day increase in hospital admissions for a COVID-19 like illness.
- Reduction in hospital capacity threatening surge capabilities (ICU capacity or medical/surgical beds < 20%).
- OR three consecutive days averaging ≥ 8% positivity rate
Mitigation strategies in high-risk settings, like bars and restaurants, will be automatically applied in a region that meets resurgence criteria.
DuPage County has an excellent COVID-19. Visit https://covid19-dupage.hub.arcgis.com/ to read DuPage-specific information about cases, testing sites, etc.
IDES Launches New Dial-In Only System for Unemployment Cases
The Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) continues to fail the people of Illinois who need unemployment benefits during this health pandemic. Earlier this month, IDES implemented a “callback only model” as a temporary solution to effectively honor the order in which callers attempt to reach the call center for assistance. This new model will be in effect for the following call centers: Claimant Services Center (800-244-5631), IllinoisJobLink.com (877-342-7533), Benefit Payment Control (800-814-0513) and Employer Hotline (800-247-4984). In theory, rather than a caller waiting on hold for long periods of time or calling multiple times, the caller will receive a callback from IDES when they are next in line without losing their place. For those who utilize the callback system, it is important that they answer the phone when their call is returned. We are now 1 ½ weeks into this new system, and I am getting reports that it is not working very well.
Cases of Unemployment Fraud Surfacing
My office is hearing from constituents who have been the subject of identity fraud by bad actors applying for unemployment benefits through other people’s names. In most cases, people are receiving “unemployment benefit debit cards” in the mail when they did not apply for unemployment. If you believe you have been a target of this new scam, I recommend you take the following steps:
- Call your bank, credit cards and mortgage company and report an identity theft. Contact all 3 credit reporting agencies and put a freeze on your credit history.
- Immediately file a police report for identity theft. Get a copy of the report.
- Report fraud to the Illinois Department of Labor. If you are mailing the complaint, please send it registered mail to verify receipt. I suggest you send it via email as well. Ask for a confirmation response.
- Report Fraud to the Attorney General’s Office using this form: https://www.illinoisattorneygeneral.gov/consumers/consum_id_0714.pdf
This Resource Guide from the Attorney General’s office gives more thorough instructions on how to handle the breach:
Please keep a hard copy file of all your correspondences, letters from the IDES office, and information regarding the debit cards to show your efforts to correct the issue. Please know that my office will do anything we can to assist you if have fallen prey to this scam.