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An Illinois lawmaker wants to ban ex-Speaker Michael Madigan's portrait from the capitol

Michael Madigan, the former speaker of the Illinois House and for decades one of the nation’s most powerful legislators, was charged with racketeering and bribery on Wednesday March 2, 2022, becoming the most prominent politician swept up in the latest federal investigation of entrenched government corruption in the state.
Seth Perlman
Associated Press
Michael Madigan, the former speaker of the Illinois House and for decades one of the nation’s most powerful legislators, was charged with racketeering and bribery on Wednesday March 2, 2022, becoming the most prominent politician swept up in the latest federal investigation of entrenched government corruption in the state.

Madigan, the longtime Illinois House Speaker, is charged with bribery and conspiracy. A lawmaker wants to ban his portrait from the House.

With the federal criminal trial of former Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan looming, there is a question whether he’ll get a customary honor at the state Capitol that has been reserved for previous speakers.

Throughout the Illinois House, there are oil paintings of six past speakers, dating back to the mid-1960s and including Republican George Ryan, who went on to serve time in federal prison after leaving the governor’s office 20 years ago. Ryan’s portrait hangs in an upper-level gallery directly above the House speaker’s rostrum.

But legislation is pending that would seek to bar any painting of Madigan from being hung there or anywhere else in the statehouse and adjoining Capitol complex in Springfield.

“With indictments delivered for former Speaker Madigan and a trial underway coming up this spring, I thought it was very important that we say no portrait of Speaker Madigan should be hung in the House of Representatives until such time that he may be acquitted,” said the resolution’s sponsor, state Rep. Ryan Spain, R-Peoria.

Spain filed his resolution back in March, and there has been no movement since then in the Democratic-led chamber. But he said he expects interest to heighten, even among Democrats, as Madigan’s corruption trial — set to begin April 1 — draws closer.

“I have had some discussions with my colleagues on the other side of the aisle,” Spain said. “I think there may be some interest in additional co-sponsors, and this is going to actually be a relevant topic during the spring while Speaker Madigan is on trial. So, I expect interest to build.”

Madigan is facing a 23-count racketeering, bribery and conspiracy indictment related, in part, to alleged efforts by Commonwealth Edison and AT&T Illinois to bribe him to help advance legislation. He also is accused of attempting to drum up business for his law firm by allegedly shaking down entities with business before the legislature or at City Hall.

Last week, attorneys for Madigan filed a request to delay the upcoming trial, while the Supreme Court considers a corruption conviction against a Portage, Indiana, mayor that attorneys said could affect Madigan’s case.

But if the Madigan trial takes place as scheduled, it will be the capstone to a remarkable 12-month run when federal prosecutors have tried or won convictions against four former ComEd executives and lobbyists, Madigan’s one-time chief of staff, the clout-heavy son-in-law of former Cook County Assessor Joe Berrios and former longtime Chicago Ald. Edward Burke.

Madigan’s successor, House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch, D-Hillside, isn’t embracing Spain’s attempts to bar recognition for the ex-speaker and needled his GOP colleague for hypocrisy.

“The only person talking about or considering a portrait for former Speaker Madigan is Leader Ryan Spain,” Welch spokeswoman Jaclyn Driscoll told WBEZ. “And that’s a special form of hypocrisy to talk about banning portraits while staring at one of former Gov. George Ryan, hanging in the House chamber.”

Ryan, who like Spain was a Republican, was convicted by a federal jury in 2006 on charges of racketeering, conspiracy, mail and tax fraud and making false statements. The government’s original case against Ryan focused on bribes that drivers’ license applicants paid while he was secretary of state. But it expanded into illegal cash payments and gifts, vacations and personal services he or his family received while he was secretary of state and as governor.

Ryan has both an oil painting hanging in the House chambers to commemorate his time as Illinois House speaker from 1981 to 1983 and a much larger one, commissioned at taxpayer expense, hanging alongside other governors in a second-floor wing of the state Capitol popular with tourists.

Lawmakers have attempted to deprive at least one corrupt past officeholder of that kind of honor.

In 2010, the Democratic-led General Assembly and former Gov. Pat Quinn passed and enacted legislation to bar taxpayer funds from going toward any painting of impeached ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who later was convicted on an array of corruption charges and sentenced to federal prison.

Madigan himself wound up voting for that measure.

As a result, Blagojevich’s likeness isn’t on the walls of the statehouse “Hall of Governors,” even though paintings were hung in recognition of predecessors who spent time in federal prison, including Ryan, former Democratic Gov. Dan Walker and former Democratic Gov. Otto Kerner.

Spain said his legislative initiative might spur a needed discussion on whether those former leaders deserve to be memorialized on canvas in the state seat of government.

“These honors are a very important part of the history of the state of Illinois,” he said. “I think, for good reason, we don’t have a portrait of Rod Blagojevich hanging in the governor’s hall on the second floor of the Capitol.

“There may be, through this discussion, some very relevant exchange about whether it’s appropriate to continue to honor other past officials who have been a part of the legacy of corruption in the state of Illinois,” Spain said.

A Madigan defense lawyer did not offer comment on Spain’s legislation.

Dave McKinney covers Illinois government and politics for WBEZ and was the long-time Springfield bureau chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.
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