AT&T Illinois will pay $23 million after it admitted to making payments to former Illinois Speaker of the House Michael J. Madigan’s political ally in exchange for his “vote and influence on a bill,” according to a statement. Friday. press release from the Ministry of Justice (through Ars Technica). The company will also be required to cooperate with the government’s investigation into the alleged misconduct and establish a compliance and ethics program on which the government will receive reports. If the company sticks to the deal, the government will dismiss the prosecution.
In 2017, according to the DOJ, AT&T paid one of Madigan’s allies $22,500 through a lobbying firm it partnered with. AT&T employees tried to make it look like the ally was hired for a specific purpose, but the person wasn’t actually expected to do any work. The president of AT&T Illinois was aware of the deal and signed it to be done surreptitiously through the company, saying in an email that the method was fine “as long as you’re sure we get credit and the box is checked.” .” (In other words, as long as Madigan and his cohorts knew the company had their backs scratched.)
According to Ars Technica, AT&T Illinois tried to influence a bill that would take it off the hook for providing landline phone service to everyone in the state. The bill was eventually passed, with the state house and Senate voting to override the governor’s veto.
An unnamed AT&T spokesperson told: Ars Technica: “We hold ourselves and our contractors to the highest ethical standards. We are determined to ensure that this never happens again.” Given the hefty compliance program it has signed with the government (the details span seven pages in a document posted by the Department of Justice, and you can read them all below if you’re really into it), you’d hope that would not be the case. being the case.
Of course, that’s not to say AT&T won’t try to use money to influence politics; it, along with other providers and ISPs, spends millions on donations and lobbying to try and get the government to pass laws that benefit them. However, that is usually above board; just don’t try to buy votes directly through a shady deal.