A federal grand jury indicted the former CEO of Commonwealth Edison, the big Illinois energy company, and a key assistant in the state legislature, on bribery and conspiracy charges related toi payoffs and a wide-ranging scheme to enrich themselves.
The Nov. 18 indictment targets Anne Pramaggiore, the former utility chief, and Michael McClain, one of Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan’s [D] most trusted confidants, who also is a lobbyist and former state representative
Also charged were lobbyist and former ComEd executive John Hooker, and Jay Doherty, a political consultant and former head of the City Club of Chicago.
The charges show some of the allegedly illegal entanglements between the utility and the lawmakers when ComEd stood to benefit from more than $150 million in energy infrastructure legislation passed by the Illinois General Assembly in 2011 and a 2016 rate adjustment bill.
The charging document includes details of more than $1.3 million in payments to the speaker’s associates through no-work jobs, and legal work by a law firm that McClain was recorded pressuring Pramaggiore to hire.
The illegal exchanges also allegedly included more than $1 million that ComEd paid Doherty's consulting firm, Jay D. Doherty and Associates.
Attorneys for McClain, Pramaggiore, Hooker and Doherty all said that their clients were innocent and implied that the charges were baseless. Madigan denied having any knowledge of the scheme and said “If it had been known to me, it would have been profoundly unwelcome.”
ComEd has indicated that it benefitted from bills passed permitting it to raise rates to support its nuclear plants in Clinton and the Quad Cities area.
The legislation, according to the indictment, received a vote because of Madigan's ability as speaker to pick and choose which bills the general assembly hears. ComEd agreed to a deferred prosecution in the matter last summer and paid a $200-million fine. The utility also admitted it engaged in bribery as part of the agreement.
Madigan is identified in the document as "public official A" but is also identified as the Speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives. In excerpts of recorded conversations and e-mails between McClain and Pramaggiore, McClain always apparently calls Madigan "our Friend" or "a Friend of ours," capitalizing the word friend. The document also identifies people hired from Chicago's 13th Ward democratic political organization as favors to Madigan.
A Seat on the ComEd Board
The 50-page indictment document also alleges that McClain pressured the utility to place an associate on its board of directors and that Pramaggiore eventually agreed and helped secure the board seat. McClain also stands accused of pressuring ComEd to hire a Madigan-favored law firm and lawyer.
"I am sure you know how valuable [Reyes] is to our Friend,” McClain allegedly wrote to Pramaggiore and Hooker. “I know the drill and so do you. If you do not get involve(d) and resolve this issue of 850 hours for his law firm per year then he will go to our Friend. Our Friend will call me and then I will call you. Is this a drill we must go through? For me, Hook, and I am sure you [sic] I just do not understand why we have to spend valuable minutes on items like this when we know it will provoke a reaction from our Friend."
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker [D] had previously declined to call for Madigan's resignation but, in a statement Nov. 19, said, "if Speaker Madigan wants to continue in a position of enormous public trust with such a serious ethical cloud hanging over his head, then he has to at the very least be willing to stand in front of the press and the people and answer every last question to their satisfaction."
Otherwise, added Pritzker, "the time has come for him to resign as speaker."