Illinois House launches probe that could lead to expulsion

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Leaders of the Illinois House launched an investigation Tuesday into a Democratic lawmaker who refused to resign despite a bribery charge, a move that could lead to his expulsion.

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House Speaker Michael Madigan filed paperwork to create a committee to investigate fellow Chicago Rep. Luis Arroyo for removal, after Arroyo failed to meet Madigan's demand that he resign Monday.

If 79 of the House's 118 members vote to expel Arroyo, it would be the third expulsion since 1905 and the second in the last seven years.

Arroyo, a state representative since 2006, was named in a federal complaint Monday charging him with bribery . Prosecutors claim Arroyo attempted to bribe a state senator with monthly, $2,500 payments in exchange for the senator's support on legislation legalizing slot-like "sweepstakes" games. At the same time, Arroyo is a lobbyist registered with the Chicago City Council, pushing the same issue.

"This is just a large loophole here," said Jay Young, executive director of Common Cause Illinois. "It's the quintessential backroom deal where people with power are making deals to benefit themselves."

Calls to the office of Arroyo's attorney Tuesday went unanswered.

Republicans tried to get a jump on the fallout. Rep. Tom Demmer of Dixon, a House deputy Republican leader, announced legislation in answer to the Arroyo allegations, including a prohibition on legislators having outside employment as lobbyists, even if it's at a different level of government. The other would require universal state lobbyist registration, not just those lobbying state government.

"We swear an oath to serve the people of Illinois that shouldn't be compromised either in fact or in appearance by a paid contract to take action that overlaps with what our legislative duty is," Demmer said.

Madigan said Monday he would establish a committee to study tighter ethics laws. When asked why legislators should be allowed to work as lobbyists at the same time, Madigan, a lawmaker since 1971, said, "I don't have the answer to that question. That's the type of thing that should be addressed by this group that we're going to convene."

Senate President John Cullerton, another Chicago Democrat, suggested the House and Senate undertake a joint review of ethics-law shortcomings similar to one following former Gov. Rod Blagojevich's impeachment and removal from office in 2009.

"There are clearly some issues we're dealing with that were not addressed 10 years ago with regard to lobbying," Cullerton said.

The Arroyo investigation is the second such review since 2012, when the House voted to remove Democratic Rep. Derrick Smith of Chicago, who had been charged with taking a bribe. He was later sentenced to five months in prison.

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Follow Political Writer John O'Connor at https://twitter.com/apoconnor .