SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Gov. JB Pritzker has made his strongest comments to date about a growing email scandal with ties to House Speaker Mike Madigan.
The governor has called it a "gathering storm” that threatens others.
"Anyone who thinks it's okay to talk about these things like they're in a crime syndicate doesn't belong in Springfield anymore,”Pritzker said. "We need change."
The strong words strike close to House Speaker Mike Madigan.
It’s Madigan’s longtime friend and fixer turned lobbyist, Michael McClain, who’s at the center of the scandal.
WBEZ first unearthed a 2012 email McLain sent to two top aides to former Gov. Pat Quinn seeking leniency for a state-worker in trouble.
“He has kept his mouth shut on Jones’ ghost workers, the rape in Champaign and other items,” McClain wrote.
“This McClain email is emblematic of a culture that has been poisonous in Springfield for far too long,” Pritzker said. “Those who protect the culture, those who tolerate it, those who promote it will have to answer for their role in it.”
McClain derived his power directly from his decades-long relationship with Madigan. Last year, federal investigators raided McClain’s home looking for evidence in an ongoing case involving ComEd’s lobbying of state lawmakers.
Madigan has not said much publicly about his relationship with McClain other than to release a statement encouraging anyone with information about wrong-doing to cooperate with investigators.
“Let me be clear, every person in Springfield needs to take a good hard look at themselves and ask what their role is in this culture, the availability of engaging in corruption," Pritzker said. “The culture I'm talking about that’s so poisonous. Have they been contributing to that culture or have they been working as I am to change it?”
Earlier this week, the governor fired his agriculture director who was copied on the 2012 email about the rape and ghost payrolling.
“I think there is a gathering storm for people who are headed in the wrong direction,” Pritzker said. “People who created this culture and who are contributing to it."
Both Republican and Democrat politicians are calling for an investigation. Quinn said he had "no idea" about the emails until he learned about them in the WBEZ's reports.