CHICAGO — Just two weeks ago, federal agents raided the state offices and home of Illinois Sen. Martin Sandoval.
Since then, WGN has learned the feds are investigating whether he took bribes.
Despite that information, Sandoval still holds onto his seat and influential leadership roles.
At an event Monday about infant safe sleep, WGN reporter Ben Bradley asked State Sen. Omar Aquino (D-Humboldt Park) about his fellow Democrat Sandoval, and the federal investigation that search warrants reveal is looking into whether there was any “official action taken in exchange for a benefit.”
Here’s what happened:
BRADLEY: “As a state senator, what’s your take on Martin Sandoval keeping his transportation committee chairmanship?”
AQUINO: “Um, I appreciate it. I thought you were going to ask questions about what we’re here about.”
BRADLEY: “You don’t answer questions about that?”
AQUINO: “This is not the setting for that.”
The conversation continued:
BRADLEY: “The event is over. This is an important issue.”
AQUINO: “We’re still in this location. We’re talking about this event. I thought you were talking to me about this event.”
BRADLEY: “So do you want to go outside and talk?”
AQUINO: “You can certainly set up a time to call and talk.”
Then, Jose Munoz, who Mayor Lori Lightfoot just appointed to the Park District Board, tried to run interference.
AQUINO: “You can call me anytime and reach out another time.”
BRADLEY: “Do you not think it’s an important issue to talk about?”
AQUINO: “It’s unfortunate that you would come up to me. We’re at an event like this.”
BRADLEY: “The event is actually over and I’m happy to meet you outside.”
AQUINO: “We’re still outside. So that’s unfortunate.”
BRADLEY: “Okay, let’s go outside. You don’t want to talk about a senator who has received search warrants?”
And with that, Aquino went back to dutifully inspecting baby cribs.
Last week, Gov. JB Pritzker said Sandoval should give up his leadership roles in the senate, and if he doesn’t, he should be removed.
“We must, we must assure the public this work is on the up and up,” Pritzker said. “Corruption and self-dealing will not be tolerated.”
Senate President John Cullerton has so far refused to strip Sandoval of his chairmanship. He called the raids “troubling,” and said he’ll “take appropriate action as developments warrant”
Earlier this year, when Cullerton’s distant cousin Tom was indicted and accused of being a ghost pay-roller for a labor union, he was removed as chairman of the senate’s labor committee. But Tom Cullerton was allowed to slide over and become chairman of the Veterans Affairs Committee.
“The Democrats have gotten away with this for so long,” said Illinois Republican Party Chairman Tim Schneider. “They stick together, stay silent and it goes away. I don’t think this is going to go away.”
Only one Illinois Democrat was willing to comment about Sandoval.
“It’s really a difficult time, but during this investigation, I think Sen. Sandoval should step down as chairman of the transportation committee,” said Sen. Laura Murphy (D-Northwest Suburbs).
Holding onto a chairmanship means an extra $10,000 a year in pay for a state senator. That’s on top of their nearly $70,000 a year salaries.
Bradley did take Aquino up on his offer to call his office to schedule an interview. He hasn’t called back.