by Marni Pyke, Daily Herald
Everyone loves a good spy story, and it's even better if the main character is a little flawed.
Meet Cooperating Witness 1, a state senator who has been an FBI source on bad actors in the General Assembly for three years, authorities say in a federal complaint unsealed Monday.
Cooperating Witness 1 isn't perfect, however. He falsified income tax returns, the FBI found, but continued to cooperate with authorities, resulting in the recent arrest of state Rep. Luis Arroyo on federal bribery charges.
Who is this senator who is unnamed in the complaint against Arroyo? Not me, said Lake County state Sen. Terry Link, who the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times have identified, without naming their sources, as the man who wore a wire and was handed a $2,500 check from Arroyo during a meeting in Skokie.
Authorities charged Chicago Democrat Arroyo, 65, with bribing the unnamed senator in exchange for his backing on gambling expansion legislation.
Arroyo manages Spartacus 3 LLC, a lobbying firm that represented a sweepstakes gambling enterprise, according to Chicago records. He did not respond to a request for comment.
Democrat Link, an influential lawmaker of 22 years from Indian Creek, has been the Senate's point man on gambling for years and was a key figure in passing gambling expansion in June as part of a $45 billion capital program.
Link denied he was the FBI source Monday and on Tuesday told reporters, "I'm not going to continually answer this every day of my life," according to Daily Line reporter Hannah Meisel. He did not reply to Daily Herald requests for comment.
Meanwhile, state Rep. Fred Crespo of Hoffman Estates was appointed by Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan to a bipartisan committee to investigate the charges against Arroyo. The committee holds its first meeting Friday.
"Today, I filed the necessary paperwork initiating the official process of removing Rep. Luis Arroyo from office," Madigan stated.
"I want to make sure it's a fair, transparent process and we get as much information as we can and do it as quickly as possible," Crespo said.
The federal complaint states the state senator started as an FBI source in 2016. Later that year, the agency found the senator had submitted false tax returns. He is expected to be charged and is cooperating with the FBI in hopes of obtaining a lesser sentence, authorities said.
The FBI contends that Arroyo met the witness, who recorded the encounter, on Aug. 2, 2019, and offered to pay him to promote sweepstakes legislation in the Senate. The men reconvened Aug. 22 and Arroyo gave the unnamed senator a $2,500 check with the promise of more to come.
Sweepstakes machines resemble video gambling but typically don't involve direct betting.
"This is, this is, this is the jackpot," Arroyo allegedly said.
The fact that Arroyo was working as a lobbyist outside the General Assembly prompted House Republicans to introduce a bill Tuesday that would prohibit such activity.
"Currently we have a ban in place that members of the General Assembly can't lobby the state," state Rep. Tom Demmer of Dixon, the assistant House minority leader, said during a news conference. "We should extend that ban to the remainder of the local government units in the state."
On Monday, a group of GOP House members called for the formation of a state ethics task force to recommend stronger safeguards in state government, and on Tuesday, Democratic Senate President John Cullerton issued a similar call, suggesting it should be a joint committee with the House and Senate.
"The allegations I've read are shocking and disturbing," Cullerton said. "I believe we need to take a new, serious look at how these instances are handled. If someone did something wrong, they should be brought to justice."