McCombie Column: Give Illinois Residents the Ethical Government They Deserve

With the two-year anniversary of former Speaker Mike Madigan’s indictment coinciding with national ethics awareness month, I am working to advance ethics reform in the Illinois House this spring.

Federal indictments of public officials and those closely connected to them have rocked the state in recent years, while the majority party has refused to step up to close existing loopholes in current law.

To address some of those shortcomings and restore faith in government, I have filed a measure, HB4119, to prohibit elected officials from using political campaign donations to pay for their criminal defense. Madigan, the longest serving state House speaker in modern U.S. history, was indicted on federal racketeering and bribery charges in March 2022. He was set to stand trial in federal court in April 2024, but the trial has been pushed back to October 8, 2024. To date, he has used millions in campaign funds to pay for his legal defense.

Last week, I was pleased to present HB4119 in a subject matter hearing to the Ethics and Elections Committee in the Illinois House. There, I discussed the need for this measure in moving our legislature toward greater ethics reform.

The silence from Democrat lawmakers – many of whom supported Speaker Madigan – is deafening. My bill is a commonsense approach to ensure campaign financing is used as intended. This is about accountability, and we must hold elected officials to a higher standard.

As House Minority Leader, I am also supporting four other ethics reform measures this year:

1) House Bill 1277 would suspend the benefit or annuity payments to a member or participant in a retirement system or pension fund if the member or participant is charged with a felony; 2) House Bill 4286 would enact a three-year revolving door ban on lobbying; 3) House Bill 4288 would require the Executive and Legislative Ethics Commissions to make reports available within 60 days; and 4) House Bill 4289 would amend the Lobbyist Registration Act to expand the definition of “officials” to include more positions at the local level and expands the definition of “lobbying.”

Inexcusably, getting meaningful ethics reform passed into law remains an uphill battle in the Illinois legislature.  With Mike Madigan’s shadow still looming large over our government, we need to get serious about taking action to improve our ethics laws this year. Illinois residents deserve an ethical government worthy of their trust. There is much more we must do to improve government, and these are the first steps. I encourage residents to follow these as they proceed through the legislative process on and