members of Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan’s inner circle have been
charged with multiple counts of bribery in a probe targeting Commonwealth
Edison’s relationship with Madigan and his allies.
The new indictments spurred another three House Democrats and one
representative-elect to pledge they would not support Madigan for another term
as speaker. The number is significant, because he is now three shy of the 60
votes needed in January to continue his 35-year reign.
Charged Nov. 18 were: Michael McClain, a longtime Madigan confidant and ComEd
lobbyist; former ComEd CEO Anne Pramaggiore; former ComEd lobbyist Jay Hooker;
and Jay Doherty, former president of the City Club of Chicago. Their attorneys
accused federal prosecutors of overreach.
They are charged with putting Madigan designees in no-work jobs and internships
at ComEd to gain Madigan’s support. Doherty is charged with funneling $725,000
from ComEd to three Madigan associates.
The charges were followed by three more Democratic Illinois
House representatives and one representative-elect saying they would not support
Madigan for speaker when the new legislature convenes in January. Madigan needs
60 votes to stay in charge, and by losing 16 of the Democrats’ 73 votes he is
On Thursday, state Rep. Jonathan Carroll, Sam Yingling, Will Guzzardi and
representative-elect Margaret Croke added their names to the list of those
wanting Madigan to quit and allow someone else to lead the House.
State Reps. Kelly Cassidy, Jennifer Gong-Gershowitz, Terra Costa Howard, Maurice
West, Bob Morgan, Anne Stava-Murray, Stephanie Kifowit and Lindsey LaPointe
previously said they would not re-elect Madigan, with Kifowit announcing she
would challenge him for the speakership. State Reps. Deb Conroy, Robyn Gabel,
Anna Moeller and Ann Williams sent Madigan a letter asking for new blood.
The new ComEd charges state the four defendants worked “to corruptly solicit and
demand, and to accept and agree to accept from another person things of value,
namely, jobs, contracts, and monetary payments associated with those jobs and
contracts, for the benefit of Public Official A and his associates, intending
that Public Official A, an agent of the State of Illinois, be influenced and
rewarded in connection with any business, transaction, and series of
transactions involving things of value of $5,000 or more, namely, legislation
affecting ComEd.” Public Official A is later identified as the Illinois House
speaker, although Madigan is not charged and has denied wrongdoing.
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Prosecutors go on to present evidence of work done
directly to satisfy Madigan and win his approval, with the
defendants constantly referring to him as “our Friend” to avoid
suspicion and use third parties to direct payments.
The charges state Madigan and McClain worked
together to seek employment at ComEd for their friends, largely in
positions where the friend would get paid to do nothing.
It also appears Madigan’s law firm was involved
with ComEd. The charges state ComEd retained “Law Firm A” for the
purpose of rewarding Madigan.
The speaker’s influence was felt at the top of the company as well.
“You take good care of me and so does our friend and I will do the
best that I can to, to take care of you,” Pramaggiore reassured
McClain about the appointment of an individual he recommended for
the board of directors.
A major focus of the latest charges is on hiring interns from
Chicago’s 13th Ward, which Madigan represents as precinct
committeeman. A series of emails is presented showing discussions
about how many interns the ward should get and how they will satisfy
what Madigan wants.
On July 17 prosecutors announced ComEd had entered a prosecution
agreement that admitted to a bribery scheme in which over $1.3
million in payments were made to Madigan allies, often with no work
required. Madigan was allowed to name people to ComEds jobs, from
meter reader on up, a practice he defended as “recommendations” that
were part of his public service. The bribes were intended to gain
Madigan’s backing for legislation worth $150 million to ComEd. The
company agreed to a $200 million fine and to work with federal
Also on July 17, Madigan’s office was raided by
federal agents armed with a subpoena seeking documents related to
ComEd and similar schemes to place his patronage army in positions
at AT&T, Rush University Medical Center and Walgreens.
While Madigan may be on his way out, Illinois will be no better off
if he is merely replaced by another all-powerful boss. Illinois
needs to reform how the legislature operates by taking the
redistricting process out of the hands of lawmakers, by reforming
the House Rules to limit the speaker’s power, by strengthening
ethics rules to mandate transparency and hold lawmakers accountable
for their conflicts of interest, and by freeing the legislative
inspector general to investigate and publicize wrongdoing without
obstruction from lawmakers.
A Madigan by any other name will leave Illinois just as corrupt.
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