A-G Madigan under fire for lack of public corruption cases - New York News

A-G Madigan under fire for lack of public corruption cases

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News & Better Government Assoc.) -

Lisa Madigan made some big promises the night she won her first statewide election in 2002.

“Change is on the way!” said Madigan. "Together we will fight corrupt corporations and corrupt public officials!"

And now running for her fourth term, Madigan lists battling corruption as a key issue on her campaign's website. But after nearly 12 years as Illinois’ attorney general, critics said Madigan’s only caught political minnows, while the U-S Attorney has been landing the big fish.

One of the feds favorite targets, city hall, sits right across the street from Madigan’s Chicago office.

"You go back to 2002, there's been a lot of scandal, a lot of corruption in this state. And we've got radio silence from the person elected to be our corruption watchdog, the attorney general," said Senator Matt Murphy.

However, Madigan’s staff and supporters argue most people don't understand the limitations of her office.

"It is totally an unfair criticism given the resources of that office, and given the statutory limitations of that office," said Former Attorney General Roland Burris.

Burris said the A-G's primary function is to act as the state's lawyer, and not prosecutor. He said state law limits what the A-G can do and its authority to investigate.

"The biggest division in the attorney general's office is defending the state of Illinois and that takes up just untold resources," added Burris

Madigan wouldn't talk, but her office provided a list of a couple dozen successful corruption prosecutions under her watch; most of them involving suburban or downstate bureaucrats and elected officials.

Madigan's office also takes credit for starting the investigation against Former Governor Rod Blagojevich before the feds took over. But her staff said they're hamstrung because under Illinois law, the attorney general does not have the authority to convene a grand jury for corruption cases.

Madigan tried to get that power in 2009, but lawmakers, led by her father, Democratic House Speaker Mike Madigan, rejected it.

Her critics said that's no excuse.

"You do not need those expanded powers to use the office of attorney general of Illinois as a bully pulpit to call out corruption and try and lead," said Sen. Murphy.

Madigan has earned praise for creating the state's first Public Access Counselor and strengthening enforcement of the Freedom of Information Act, which allows citizens and media to investigate corruption.

"The A-G's office is limited in terms of jurisdiction and power, but she's had twelve years to change that and so far she hasn't. She's fought hard to protect consumers, but we haven't seen that same sort of resolve when it comes to fighting corruption," said Andy Shaw of the Better Government Association.

A Madigan spokesperson said on any given day they're handling 30,000 ongoing lawsuits against the state, and don't have time to direct resources at areas where they have no legal authority.

Madigan’s office released a statement:

“Attorney General Madigan has taken a very aggressive approach to fighting public corruption within the legal authority of the office. That includes prosecuting public officials where we have the authority, but we have also gone far beyond that by focusing on increasing transparency and fighting to eliminate fraud and abuse in state government. For example, in just the last few months, the Attorney General’s office has recovered $12 million from a construction contractor for defrauding the state, secured a $100,000 penalty from a former state agency director for violating the ethics laws, sued a state vendor for misspending $8 million in taxpayer grant funds, and ordered a city government to disclose public records regarding how it spent taxpayer funds. The office has a strong record of fighting corruption, fraud and abuse using the tools and authority granted by law.”

BGA Story: Where's Lisa?

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