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CHICAGO — Former Illinois House Speaker Michael J. Madigan pleaded not guilty during his first appearance in court on federal racketeering, bribery, wire fraud and extortion charges Wednesday.

Madigan did not speak.

Due to COVID protocols, the hearing was held over the phone, sparing the Democrat shame of marching in and out of court.

Political analyst and University of Chicago Illinois professor Christopher Mooney weighed in.

“No perp walk for Mike Madigan, right? I mean, that’s something that you guys in the media love and I’m sure the Republicans would love because that would make great video for campaign commercials, right? He skirted that because of the COVID restrictions but if he goes to trial, which it looks like that’s where this is going, there’s going to be plenty of pictures of him going in and out of courtrooms, sketch artists, pictures of him sitting at the defendant’s table and so forth,” Mooney said.

A wide-ranging 106-page indictment alleges the 79-year-old spent years leading “Madigan Enterprise,” an effort to enrich himself and loyalists criminally.

Prosecutors say Madigan solicited bribes from ComEd – jobs and money for allies – in exchange for favorable legislation.

Both Madigan and his attorneys deny the allegations hinting they’ll argue that conduct described in the charges is just the way business is done in politics.

“The government is attempting to criminalize a routine constituent service: job recommendations,” Madigan previously said in a statement.

The former speaker’s indictment has put new energy into the Republican effort to tie every Democratic lawmaker to Mike Madigan. 

“That sort of campaign to tie Madigan to everybody in the Democratic Party is now in some sense going to bear fruit because people have been primed,” Mooney said. “Ten-to-fifteen years generally, people didn’t know who Mike Madigan was.”

Now voters do.

“Every Republican candidate is going to try to associate closely his or her opponent with Mike Madigan,” Mooney said.

Since the start of the investigation, Madigan has reportedly spent nearly $5 million in campaign funds on legal fees.

To move forward, Democrats are taking a close look at Madigan’s past dealings even as the party tries to move past him. 

At the request of Democratic lawmakers, Governor J.B. Pritzker announced he is freezing tens of millions of dollars in state funding for projects sponsored by Madigan.

“They’re going to do everything they can do to say, ‘Oh, I didn’t know that guy,'” Mooney said. “The reason Mike Madigan left office last year is because his own members kicked him out the speakership. That has to be remembered.”

Also charged is Madigan’s longtime confidant Michael McClain, a former state lawmaker and lobbyist who allegedly orchestrated the Com Ed bribery scheme. McClain denies the allegations.

Madigan served as speaker of the Illinois House for all but two years between 1983 and 2020.

At the request of Democratic lawmakers, Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced he is freezing tens of millions of dollars in state funding for projects sponsored by Madigan.

Madigan is due in court next on April 1.