Two former executives of Illinois public utility Commonwealth Edison, a subsidiary of Exelon Corp., a lobbyist and a former ComEd consultant were all were found guilty May 2 in a federal public corruption trial at the Dirksen Federal Courthouse in downtown Chicago.
Former ComEd lobbyist Michael McClain, former ComEd CEO Ann Prammagiore, retired ComEd vice president John Hooker, and former ComEd consultant Jay Doherty, who was also the former president of the City Club of Chicago, were found guilty on every count of a nine-count indictment accusing them of conspiracy, bribery, and falsifying documents in relation to an influence campaign to reward former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan (D) and his associates for about eight years beginning in 2011.
Madigan, who is scheduled to go on trial next year on related charges, is accused of scheduling votes and even passing legislation in exchange for the political favors including internships for young people who were a part of his political organization. One of the things that Madigan scheduled for a vote in Springfield, according to the indictment, was a 2011 law, known officially as the Energy Infrastructure Modernization Act, which allowed ComEd and Ameren, a major downstate Illinois energy provider, to establish reliability standards and marked $2.6-billion in taxpayer funds for smart grid investments to improve delivery to customers.
"We hope this verdict serves as a warning to utility companies," the Citizens Utility Board, a non-profit utility watchdog group, said in a statement. "Three years ago, ComEd admitted to corruption in a statement to federal prosecutors, and we continue to believe the company owes a debt to its customers for those wrongful acts. If ComEd can pay a $200-million fine to the federal government for misconduct, it should pay more to its customers, who represent the actual victims of its corporate scandal."
The statement referred to a 2020 deferred prosecution agreement ComEd entered into with federal prosecutors that saw it pay a $200-million fine in order to avoid prosecution, as a company, in the matter. ComEd admitted it set up subcontracts, jobs and payments totaling $1.3 million to the former speaker’s associates to influence and reward him for helping the utility with its legislative agenda. A Madigan-connected law firm received $1.8 million, according to the indictment.
"From the start, ComEd has acknowledged its conduct and cooperated fully with the investigations conducted by the government and our regulators," said Paul Elsberg, a ComEd spokesperson. "The deferred prosecution agreement signed in 2020 resolved the Justice Department’s investigation into ComEd. But we want to be clear that we have done much more than that. We made substantial changes to our contracting, lobbying, and compliance operations to ensure that the conduct that was at issue in the trial does not happen again."
While many grid modernization projects have gone into effect since the 2011 legislation was passed, one of the accusations against Prammagiore, Hooker, McClain—who is a former state lawmaker who acted as a gatekeeper and go-between to Madigan and the ComEd executives—and Doherty was that more ambitious bills that would have required more green energy investments and been better for energy consumers were stopped as a result of the back-and-forth with Madigan.This included a 2018 bill, House Bill 5626, that was written as a way to reduce consumer energy costs that was supported by Madigan's own daughter, then-Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan (D).
An attorney for Prammagiore, Scott Lassar, said that they plan to appeal the conviction. None of the other former ComEd executives or lobbyists or their legal representatives commented on the ruling. All four of the defendants face a maximum of 15 years in federal prison for the bribery conspiracy charge but federal sentencing guidelines could bring their sentences down to as little as five years. Madigan's trial is scheduled for early 2024.