Commonwealth Edison, the largest power provider in Illinois and a major infrastructure owner in the state, agreed July 17 to pay a $200-million criminal fine as part of a federal probe of a bribery scheme dating to 2011 that involved jobs, contracts and payments laundered through other entities and given to allies of Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan (D).
John Lausch, U.S. Attorney for the northern district of Illinois, announced the deferred prosecution agreement in a Chicago news conference.
The utility, a subsidiary of Exelon Corp., also agreed to cooperate with authorities in an ongoing statewide corruption probe and agreed to be liable for prosecution if it does not fulfill its agreement over three years.
Madigan is the longest-serving House Speaker in the U.S. and is said to have exercised "control" in a vote in the Illinois House of Representatives that benefitted ComEd.
The utility agreed that it gave no-or-little-work jobs, vendor subcontracts and monetary payments associated with those jobs and subcontracts for the benefit of Madigan and his associates with the intent to influence and reward the Speaker and his associates. The U.S. Attorney's office said the arrangement was valued at more than $150 million for the company.
“The Speaker has never helped someone find a job with the expectation that the person would not be asked to perform work by their employer, nor did he ever expect to provide anything to a prospective employer if it should choose to hire a person he recommended,” a Madigan spokeswoman said in a statement. “He has never made a legislative decision with improper motives and has engaged in no wrongdoing here. Any claim to the contrary is unfounded."
The agreement includes numerous details of Madigan's associates asking for and receiving no-work jobs, a seat on ComEd's board and payments through third-party companies from the utility.
It details that the 2011 Energy Infrastructure and Modernization Act, which provided a regulatory process by which ComEd could reliably determine rates, and the 2016 Future Energy Jobs Act, which renewed that process, were both benefits ComEd received as a result of its relationship with Madigan. The benefits his associates received as a result of the relationship totaled $1.32 million between 2011 and 2019, the agreement alleges.
The agreement alleges how ComEd requests were funneled through former Illinois representative and lobbyist Michael McClain, a longtime friend and confidant of Madigan and a fixture in the state capital. Identified as "individual A" in the agreement, McClain can be identified by lobbying work he did for ComEd.
The document alleges that McClain developed a 2011 plan to pay two Madigan associates indirectly as subcontractors even though they did little or no work for the utility. In 2018, the document alleges that McClain asked former ComEd CEO Anne Pramaggiore to hire a Madigan ally who was retiring from the Chicago City Council.
The agreement also alleges that when discussing appointing a Madigan associate to ComEd's board of directors in September 2018, Pramaggiore was told by McClain that if the board member Madigan favored was appointed, "You take good care of me and so does our friend [Madigan] and I will do the best that I can do, to take care of you."
Juan Ochoa, former CEO of the Metropolitan Pier and Exhibition Authority, the state agency that manages the McCormick Place convention center and Chicago's Navy Pier, and who also was a ComEd board member, appears to be the person given the board seat. Pramaggiore retired as ComEd CEO in October 2019 as details of the investigation became public.
McClain's Quincy, Ill., home was searched by federal agents in May 2019, the same month ComEd said payments to him stopped, according to settlement documents.
Calls for Madigan to resign were swift.
“For too long, one man, Speaker Michael Madigan, has so much power and the old axiom goes – power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely,” House Republican Leader Jim Durkin [Western Springs] said. “The allegations presented today are troubling and downright depressing. Speaker Madigan needs to speak up on this issue and if the allegations are true, he must resign immediately.”