New Details on ComEd’s Bribery Investigation Targeting Former Chairman Michael Madigan

A new unsealed search warrant in ComEd’s bribery investigation, targeting former House Speaker Michael Madigan, offers the biggest detail yet about an alleged behind-the-scenes attempt to kill a utility bill backed by Madigan’s daughter, the then Attorney General of Illinois.

‘We have – we have to kill it. Period,” Michael McClain, a trusted confidant of Madigan, reportedly told Anne Pramaggiore, CEO of ComEd, in a taped phone call in May 2018. “The problem is that every day the budget will suck all the oxygen out of the building… members will pay no attention to our lobbyists… and Lisa Madigan will walk in and say, ‘This is my old law, please vote for me.’ †

The conversation was detailed in an FBI affidavit filed in January 2019 in support of a search warrant for the City Club of Chicago headquarters on North Michigan Avenue.

An edited version of the 94-page affidavit, released in the US District Court late Thursday, provided the greatest detail yet about one of the most intriguing chapters of the federal indictment filed against Madigan and McClain in March.

According to the indictment, Madigan quietly gave the green light to attempts to overturn his own daughter’s legislation while urging ComEd to give jobs to two political allies, including a coveted position on the utility’s board of directors.

At the time, the legislation designed to help low-income electricity customers made its way to the floor of a room in Illinois House tightly controlled by Speaker Madigan. One of the main opponents was ComEd, the state’s largest electric utility.

The May 2018 phone call detailed in the affidavit took place as the spring legislative session drew to a close. That same day, McClain had sent Pramaggiore and other ComEd employees an email informing us that “a friend of ours” — what federal authorities said was a code word used for the speaker — had authorized McClain to “go ahead and kill it”, meaning Lisa Madigan’s legislation, the indictment said.

In the ensuing phone call, Pramaggiore told McClain that she had warned Fidel Marquez, ComEd’s top official who oversees lobbyists, “If this bill passes, you’ll probably have to fight for your life here at ComEd, because I’m out. ‘ said the affidavit.

At the time, Pramaggiore was moving into a senior position at ComEd’s parent company, Exelon, and she said her successor would like to “come in and replace you completely with his people.”

Later, McClain issued an “emergency call” warning several ComEd officials, including Marquez, that the Lisa Madigan bill “has substantial legs,” meaning it had momentum to pass the legislature.

The utility feared that expanding eligibility for low-income customers would drive up prices for other customers. Utility officials also argued that ComEd already provided a range of low-income assistance.

While Attorney General Madigan was negotiating with ComEd, prosecutors alleged in the ex-speaker’s indictment, her father was trying to get the utility to approve two deals for its political allies: Juan Ochoa, former head of the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority. , named after the utility’s board of directors, and getting a $5,000-a-month contract for the former Chicago Ald. Michael Zalewski, 23rd.

The speaker eventually got what he wanted: Paramaggiore got Ochoa appointed to the board of directors after Madigan’s persistence, and Zalewski was signed on as well, according to the indictment.

And the bill that Lisa Madigan supported stuck in the House.

Madigan, 80, unseated of the presidency in January 2021, was indicted in March by a federal grand jury on charges of racketeering, alleging that his elected office and political operation were a criminal enterprise that earned him and his associates personal financial rewards.

Also charged was McClain, 74, of the downstate Quincy, a former lawmaker and lobbyist whose connections to Madigan date back to their time in the General Assembly together in the 1970s.

McClain is also facing separate charges, along with Pramaggiore, ex-ComEd lobbyist John Hooker and former head of the City Club of Chicago, Jay Doherty, who allege they orchestrated a scheme to divert jobs and save hundreds of thousands of dollars. payments from ComEd to Madigan approved consultants.

All the defendants have declared their innocence.

The search warrant affidavit is one of many that will be unlocked as the September trial of McClain and the other three ComEd defendants approaches.

New Details on ComEd's Bribery Investigation Targeting Former Chairman Michael Madigan

Many of the details in the document have already been revealed in other court files. But the affidavit does contain some new information about conversations between McClain and his alleged co-conspirators who laid out their political worldview in stark terms.

For example, in a recorded phone call from May 23, 2018, McClain was quoted as allegedly telling Michael Madigan’s son Andrew that he was frustrated by people complaining about being pressured to hire someone else as part of the entrenched state pay-to-play system. †

“That’s what happens when you’re in the game,” McClain was quoted as saying in the affidavit. “And you never know, maybe one day you’ll be able to ask for a favor. I mean, that’s the sys(tem), it’s, you can’t be offended by that. Oh, so you’re busy too? Are you joking?”

Later in the same phone call, McClain continued his diatribe, saying, “I just love these people.”

“They’re in a regulatory body, right?” said McClain, according to the affidavit. “And they are offended when people ask for favors. Hello? Dumb (expletive) s.”

Andrew Madigan has not been charged with wrongdoing. But the charges against his father alleged that the then Speaker of the House asked Ald in August 2018. Daniel Solis to send the insurance business to Andrew at a meeting regarding the councilor’s possible appointment to a lucrative council of state.

As part of a deferred prosecution agreement with the US law firm, ComEd admitted to adding Madigan friends to its payroll, hiring numerous summer interns from the 13th Division, and installing Ochoa on the company’s board of directors, all in an effort to win the speaker’s support for legislation in Springfield. As part of the deal, ComEd paid a record $200 million fine and agreed to cooperate in exchange for dropping bribery charges after three years.

Madigan, meanwhile, has vigorously defended himself to make job recommendations, both before and after his indictment. Not only is “helping people find jobs not a crime,” Madigan wrote to a legislative panel in 2020, it isn’t even “ethically inappropriate” for politicians to make job recommendations.

“On the contrary, I believe it is part of my responsibilities as a community and political leader to put good people into employment — from potential executives to interns and more,” Madigan wrote. “What an employer does with that recommendation depends solely on their discretion.”

rlong@chicagotribune.com

jmeisner@chicagotribune.com

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