Madigan ruled ‘through fear and intimidation,’ ComEd bribery trial jurors told

Madigan+Book_HERO

Former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan

CHICAGO — A veteran Democratic state lawmaker who sponsored major gaming legislation in the Illinois House of Representatives told a federal jury Monday that former Speaker Michael Madigan once ruled that chamber “through fear and intimidation.”

When asked what Madigan valued most in other legislators, state Rep. Robert “Bob” Rita answered, “loyalty.”

And before the trial of four former political power players broke for the day, the Blue Island Democrat cited the case of a fellow Democrat who dared side with Republicans — only to have Madigan’s organization turn on him in an election. 

Rita took the stand only 40 minutes before testimony ended for the day. He’s expected to resume his testimony Tuesday and further explain his comments about Madigan.

Rita’s testimony came during the trial of Madigan confidant Michael McClain, former ComEd CEO Anne Pramaggiore, ex-ComEd lobbyist John Hooker and onetime City Club President Jay Doherty. The four are accused of arranging for jobs, contracts and money for Madigan’s associates while legislation crucial to ComEd moved through Springfield.

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Chicago Sun-times graphic depicting the players in the federal trial.

Madigan resigned from the legislature in 2021 and faces a separate racketeering indictment. His trial is set for April 2024. 

Like former state Rep. Lou Lang, who took the stand last week, Rita’s testimony is expected to further underscore the notion that McClain acted as an agent for Madigan and passed along the speaker’s demands. When asked who, besides Madigan’s senior staff, had a close relationship with Madigan, Rita named McClain, who served in the legislature decades ago. 

Rita called McClain a “former member of the House and a lobbyist and a friend [of Madigan’s].”

He also explained to jurors how, after onetime Democratic state Rep. Ken Dunkin sided with Republicans on key votes, the Madigan-led Democratic Party of Illinois successfully ran a candidate against him, forcing him out of office.

Rita has been known as a fixer of sorts in Springfield for taking on tough issues and getting them over the finish line. That was certainly the case in 2020, when he helped shepherd the measure that cleared the way for a Chicago casino — a feat decades in the making. 

Rita is now an assistant majority leader in the Illinois House. 

Federal prosecutors planned to have Rita testify about McClain’s role in the gaming legislation. They alleged in a court filing that Rita met with the speaker in his office in 2013, where Madigan told Rita that Rita would sponsor a major gaming bill. When the meeting ended, Madigan walked Rita out of his office and McClain was standing near the doorway. 

Madigan pointed to McClain and said “he will guide you,” according to the feds. 

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