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AT&T Illinois to pay $23 million to settle corruption probe

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Pedestrians walk past an AT&T Inc. store in Chicago, Illinois.

Christopher Dilts | Bloomberg | Getty Images

AT&T Illinois has agreed to pay a $23 million tremendous to resolve a federal probe into its illegal efforts to influence former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, who also faces latest charges for his role within the scheme, prosecutors announced Friday.

Under the agreement, the corporate admits that it arranged to make payments to an associate of Madigan, who was one in every of the state’s strongest political figures on the time, in exchange for Madigan’s assist in pushing through laws favorable to the corporate, the U.S. attorney’s office in Chicago said in a news release. In what could spell trouble for Madigan, prosecutors also said the corporate agreed to cooperate with any related investigations.

Madigan’s attorney, Sheldon Zenner, declined to comment when reached by phone.

In a separate release, the U.S. attorney’s office said that Madigan, who was charged in March for his alleged role in an almost $3 million racketeering bribery scheme, was indicted by a federal grand jury for his role within the AT&T scheme. In a separate indictment unsealed Friday, the corporate’s former president, Paul La Schiazza, was charged with participating within the conspiracy and other offenses.

Madigan, 80, has had a dramatic fall from power since retiring under pressure last 12 months and ending his run because the longest-serving speaker of a state House of Representatives in modern history. Because the Democratic speaker of the solidly Democratic-led Illinois House, Madigan, nicknamed the velvet hammer, wielded immense power. His reward of campaign money and selection legislative assignments helped let him determine which bills received a hearing and which didn’t.

In March, he was charged in an alleged racketeering bribery scheme involving utility Commonwealth Edison. In keeping with prosecutors, Madigan used his speaker role and various other positions of power to further his alleged criminal enterprise. Those charges were filed after federal prosecutors announced in 2020 that the utility had agreed to pay $200 million and cooperate with an investigators of a years-long bribery scheme. McClain is charged in that case as is a lobbyist, a consultant and a former ComEd CEO.

The allegations against Madigan involving AT&T are similar. Of their news release, prosecutors allege that Madigan and his close friend Michael F. McClain, who can also be charged in each alleged schemes, “conspired with AT&T Illinois’s then-president to corruptly arrange for $22,500 to be paid on the direction of the corporate to the Madigan ally.”

In keeping with prosecutors, AT&T admits that in 2017, it arranged for a Madigan ally to receive the payments through a lobbying firm that had done work for the corporate. Prosecutors contend that arrangement was made to “disguise” why the ally, who didn’t work for the corporate, was being paid.

On Friday, prosecutors announced that in exchange for agreeing to pay the tremendous, they suspended their criminal case against AT&T, which alleges that it used an interstate facility to advertise legislative misconduct. If, after two years, the corporate “abides by certain conditions, including continuing to cooperate with any investigation related to the misconduct alleged in the knowledge,” the fees shall be dropped.

In a temporary statement, AT&T said: “We hold ourselves and our contractors to the very best ethical standards. We’re committed to making sure that this never happens again.”

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