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Illinois House Republicans demand ethics reform following ComEd Four guilty verdict

Illinois House GOP leaders

Rep. Ryan Spain, Rep. Patrick Windhorst, and House Republican Leader Tony McCombie talk to reporters in Springfield on May 2, 2023.

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WAND) — Illinois House Republicans renewed calls for ethics reform less than an hour after four of former House Speaker Mike Madigan's closest allies with ties to Commonwealth Edison were found guilty of corruption.

The House GOP caucus leaders told reporters Tuesday night that the Springfield system has allowed bad actors and political insiders to succeed at the expense of honest hardworking Illinoisans. 

House Republican Leader Tony McCombie (R-Savanna) stressed that every state lawmaker should be compelled to work with her caucus to pass accountability measures.

The GOP members said ethics reform should be the General Assembly's top priority.

"How many indictments is too many? How many more court rulings do we need to make unethical behavior stop," McCombie asked. "We will always be ready to work, put ideas forward, and fight for what's right."

The Republican leadership team said lawmakers should pass bills to halt the revolving door for legislators becoming lobbyists and end "pay to play politics."

Rep. Patrick Windhorst (R-Metropolis) said the Legislative Inspector General should also be given subpoena powers to help the office perform thorough investigations and root out bad behavior. 

State senators voted on a joint resolution to appoint former judge Michael McCuskey as the next Inspector General on Feb. 16, 2022. Former Legislative Inspector General Carol Pope told state lawmakers in July 2021 that she would resign at the end of that year. She later pushed back her exit date, hoping to help a successor transition into the role.

Pope famously called the position a "paper tiger" as the LIG had no real power to effect change. The state went four years without a legislative inspector general before Pope took over the office in early 2019.

"Illinois' reputation for public corruption is sadly well-earned," Windhorst said. "But our state's reputation is not beyond saving. It can be rebuilt. Let us delay no longer."

State lawmakers passed an ethics reform package in 2021 that many described as a step in the right direction. Although, many Democrats agreed with Republicans that more needed to be done to address the core of corruption under the dome. 

House Republicans hope some of their colleagues across the aisle will consider joining them in this effort now that the election season is over. Members on both sides of the aisle know that there is plenty of time for legislation to pass before the end of spring session or during veto session this fall.

Windhorst and Rep. Ryan Spain (R-Peoria) serve on the House Ethics & Ethics Committee. However, both men noted that the group has not taken a single vote or held subject matter hearings about ethics reform.

"Today should be a wake up call," Windhorst said. "It should start immediately."

The House Ethics & Elections Committee is not scheduled to meet this week.

"This is embarrassing. For too long, we have allowed the poor ethical behavior of people like Mike Madigan, his associates, and others to become the way we do business in the state of Illinois," Spain said. "Unfortunately, the Madigan way is still the way in which our government works here in Springfield. It has to stop now."

Speaker Emanuel "Chris" Welch stated Tuesday that he emphasized the need for due process for the ComEd associates and noted that the federal courtroom was the appropriate venue for questions of guilt or innocence. Welch said the jury sent a clear message that the behavior of the defendants was criminal.

"Since my election as Speaker, I've been clear that restoring trust in government was paramount," Welch stated. "I'm proud to stand with a new generation of leadership in Illinois who share these values."

Copyright 2023. WAND TV. All rights reserved.

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