Illinois lawmaker charged with bribery resigns
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — A state representative in Illinois charged with bribery, one of several prominent Democrats under scrutiny in federal investigations this year, resigned Friday.
Rep. Luis Arroyo, a 13-year veteran, stepped down just hours before a special investigating committee of House members was scheduled to begin considering his expulsion.
Prosecutors claim the 65-year-old Arroyo, a Chicago Democrat, tried to bribe a state senator for the senator’s support on legislation legalizing slot-like “sweepstakes” games, which would allegedly benefit one of Arroyo’s lobbying clients.
In his letter to House Speaker Michael Madigan, Arroyo did not mention the charge against him, but said he respected his colleagues and “decided that continuing my public service would cause a distraction to this august body.”
Alluding to the 79 out of 118 votes it would take to oust him, Arroyo said he wanted to spare House members the problematic vote coming so soon before they face voters in November 2020.
“Keep in mind that public service should be for a duration of time wherein you are an effective member of the body,” Arroyo added. “Once you have gone beyond your period of peak effectiveness, you should really call it a day.”
While Arroyo’s resignation halts the disciplinary process, Madigan, in a statement, cautioned against letting it blur the fact that the allegations “go beyond anything that could be considered a lapse of judgment or minor indiscretion. These allegations are beyond extraordinary.”
Madigan and his fellow Chicago Democrat, Senate President John Cullerton, have both called for wholesale review of ethics laws to “prevent,” in Madigan’s words, “this unacceptable conduct.”
The complaint alleges that Arroyo met in August with the unnamed senator and presented him with a check for $2,500, promising the same amount monthly for up to a year if the senator would push Arroyo’s legislation to legalize slot-like “sweepstakes” games machines, which are unregulated in Illinois. They are popular in Chicago, where video gambling is illegal.
At the same time, Arroyo’s other job as a lobbyist has him trying to influence the Chicago City Council on the issue of sweepstakes games, according to authorities.
Arroyo’s is one of several legal entanglements that prominent Democrats have found themselves in since January, when Chicago’s most powerful alderman, Ed Burke, was charged with trying to shake down a fast-food chain seeking city permits.
Madigan has watched a half-dozen of his Democratic allies including Burke get charged with crimes or have their homes and offices raided by federal agents. Madigan has not been accused of wrongdoing. When asked by reporters this week whether he is a target in the probe, he said, “I’m not a target of anything.”
In August, Sen. Thomas Cullerton of Villa Park was indicted on multiple counts of embezzlement for allegedly taking more than $275,000 in salary and benefits from a Teamsters union local over three years while doing little or no work as a union organizer.
And agents raided the home and offices of Sen. Martin Sandoval of Chicago in September, removing boxes of documents and computer equipment that dealt with, among other things, road construction. A subpoena shows they were searching for evidence that Sandoval traded an official act for personal gain.
Sandoval stepped down as chairman of the Transportation Committee, but he remains in the Senate, as does Cullerton, a distant cousin of the Senate president.
In a statement Friday from House Republicans, Deputy Minority Leader Tom Demmer of Dixon said the complaint against Arroyo “has shaken any trust the public had left in the General Assembly.”
Follow Political Writer John O’Connor at https://twitter.com/apoconnor .