By Michael Tarm and John O’Connor
CHICAGO (AP) — An Illinois state lawmaker bribed a legislative colleague with an offer of $2,500 a month in exchange for the state senator’s support of sweepstakes-related legislation, according to a federal complaint unsealed on Monday.
Rep. Luis Arroyo, 65, made the offer on Aug. 2 and handed over an initial check on Aug. 22 for the unidentified lawmaker’s backing of the legislation in the Illinois Senate, the complaint says.
The Chicago Democrat’s alleged willingness to arrange regular payments for legislative support stands out even in a state with a history of brazen public corruption.
The 12-page complaint describes the moment Arroyo gave the check to his colleague in a suburban Chicago restaurant, citing a federal wiretap that allegedly captured their conversation.
“I’m going to give you this here,” Arroyo tells the senator, the complaint says. “This is, this is, this is the jackpot.”
When Arroyo asked at an earlier meeting if the lawmaker wanted the $2,500 checks each month for six months or each month for a year, the senator responds: “A year sounds great.”
The complaint describes Arroyo as having a vested interest in the arrangement as manager of Spartacus 3 LLC, a lobbying company, which included as its clients the owner of a firm that deals in video sweepstakes machines. There’s no indication in legislative records that Arroyo introduced any sweepstakes legislation, and when the idea was inserted into a gambling-expansion measure 18 months ago, there was little enthusiasm for it.
Arroyo appeared in Chicago federal court Monday morning on one count of federal program bribery. He looked calm as he stood by his lawyer during the five-minute hearing, his hands folded in front of him. Released on a personal recognizance bond in the afternoon, he didn’t speak to reporters as he left the courthouse.
If convicted, Arroyo faces a maximum 10-year prison term.
Federal authorities have charged or raided the homes and offices of more than half a dozen Illinois Democrats this year. Some have been allies and confidants of Michael Madigan, turning up the pressure on the powerful state House Speaker who also heads the Democratic Party of Illinois.
Madigan, who has not been accused of wrongdoing, has largely remained mum when Democrats have been accused of corruption. But his office issued a statement within hours of Arroyo’s court appearance on Monday, urging him to immediately resign. If Arroyo refuses, Madigan said he would take the “necessary steps” to force him out.
The complaint against Arroyo, who has represented the 3rd district on the West Side since 2006, refers to the senator only as a cooperating witness. It says the person chose to wear a wire in hopes of a reduced sentence for filing false income tax returns.
At one of their first meetings, the senator who secretly recorded their interactions listens to what Arroyo has to say about backing the legislation. But, the lawmaker asks Arroyo: “What’s in it for me?”
“I’m looking for something, you know?” the senator adds. “I’m in the twilight, you know.”
A little later, Arroyo assures his colleague he can be trusted to stay quiet about their arrangement.
“My word is my bond and … my reputation,” Arroyo says, according to the complaint.
Puerto Rico-born Arroyo is chairman of a House appropriations committee and on the public utilities and transportation committees. He was elected the general assembly’s assistant majority leader in 2017.
Arroyo is the third Illinois legislator charged in recent months.
In August, charges were announced against, state Sen. Thomas E. Cullerton, a distant cousin of the Illinois Senate’s top leader, John Cullerton. Thomas Cullerton has pleaded not guilty to embezzlement charges for alleging receiving over $250,000 in salary and benefits from the Teamsters while doing little or no work.
And in September, FBI agents raided the Capital building office of state Sen. Martin Sandoval, another Chicago Democrat. He hasn’t been charged.
Even as federal prosecutors have put an increasing number of Illinois Democrats in their sites, there’s no sign Madigan is losing his more than 35-year stranglehold of the Legislature. Democrats in the state House have a 74-44 majority, and there’s a 40-19 majority in the Senate. Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker is also a Democrat.
For the first time Monday, Madigan also commented on reports — based on court papers mistakenly unsealed this year in a separate case — that a businessman wore an FBI wire and secretly recorded Madigan in 2014. The documents said the businessman discussed a hotel project with Madigan and the possibility of the project’s Chinese developer becoming a client of Madigan’s private law firm, Madigan & Getzendanner.
When asked Monday if he was a target of an investigation, Madigan told reporters: “No, I’m not a target of anything.”