MAY 03, 2023
Four ComEd officials found guilty of working to bribe Madigan; political leaders condemn actions
The Dirksen Federal Building in Chicago is pictured.
Four ComEd officials and close allies of former House Speaker Mike Madigan were found guilty Tuesday on all charges in a sweeping corruption trial that dug into the depths of Illinois’ legislative process.
Prosecutors alleged the four defendants and Madigan allies, ComEd lobbyist and Madigan’s closest ally Mike McClain, former ComEd CEO Anne Pramaggiore, former lobbyist and City Club of Chicago President Jay Doherty and former lobbyist John Hooker worked for years to illegally influence Madigan to support legislation favorable to ComEd. Through the scrutinized period, ComEd’s profits boomed.
The jury, made up of seven women and five men, found the group guilty on all charges of bribery, conspiracy to bribe Madigan and falsifying records. Jurors heard from dozens of witnesses and hours of FBI tapes in the month-long trial. The defendants faced up to five years in prison on bribery conspiracy charges, 10 years on bribery charges and 20 years for falsifying records.
The November 2020 indictment alleged the group worked to secure “do-nothing jobs” for people close to Madigan “for the benefit of [Madigan] and his associates, intending that [Madigan]...be influenced and rewarded in connection with any business, transaction, and series of transactions of the State of Illinois involving things of value of $5,000 or more, namely, legislation affecting ComEd and its business.”
Testimony in the trial revealed how lobbyists used their proximity to Madigan to influence which bills moved through the House as well as how Madigan used his power to control the legislative process.
The trial also largely focused on Madigan’s relationship with the four defendants. Madigan is charged in his own case for running a criminal “enterprise” through which Madigan used his powers as speaker and 13th Ward Democratic committeeperson to dole out personal favors to allies. In that case, which goes to trial next April, prosecutors allege Madigan and McClain were at the head of a multi-faceted racketeering conspiracy going back to at least 2011 and continuing through 2019, the indictment alleges. It detailed previously surfaced allegations that Madigan was advancing legislation favorable to ComEd in return for no-show jobs and other perks for his allies, plus new allegations that the speaker used his role in government to attract business to his private law firm.
Related: Indictment details ‘Madigan enterprise’ devoted to paying off former speaker and his allies
Illinois’ legislative leaders condemned the actions of the defendants on Tuesday. Senate President Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) said he believes the biggest change in the General Assembly is the character of the current group of lawmakers.
“The behavior brought to light and put on display at this trial was shockingly gluttonous and unhealthy to democracy,” Harmon said in a statement. “We’ve taken concrete steps to discourage bad behavior. But most importantly, I believe we have people committed to behaving better.”
A statement from Gov. JB Pritzker’s spokesperson pointed to the governor’s first-term support for ethics legislation.
“Since taking office, Gov. Pritzker has advanced the cause of ethics reform in key areas, especially in bringing more transparency to the process and tightening requirements for lobbyists. The Governor believes we must restore the public’s trust in government and today’s verdicts are proof that no one is above the law,” the spokesperson said.
Madigan’s top adversaries, the House Republican caucus, took the verdict as vindication of years of calling out ethics issues in the Statehouse.
“This guilty on all charges verdict has proven what Republicans already know: we need real ethics reform,” Republican Leader Tony McCombie (R-Savanna) said.
Republicans said Democrats have refused to take up meaningful ethics reform since Madigan left office aside from a “watered down” bipartisan bill in 2021. Rep. Ryan Spain (R-Peoria) pointed to the 2020 special committee that investigated Madigan’s relationship with ComEd and how it ultimately adjourned without any action. The committee was led by current House Speaker Chris Welch (D-Hillside) with now-chair of the Democratic Party of Illinois Rep. Lisa Hernandez (D-Cicero) also serving.
“What was the response from the Democratic legislators who participated in that investigating committee? Cover up and sweeping the facts under the rug. Members of that investigating committee now serve as speaker of the House, now serve as the chairperson of the Democratic Party of the state of Illinois,” Spain said.
“For too long, we have allowed the core ethical behavior of people like Mike Madigan, his associates, and others to become the way we do business in the state of Illinois. Unfortunately, the Madigan way is still the way our government works here in Springfield,” Spain added.
In a statement, Welch defended his speakership and pointed to past statements saying he “emphasized the need for due process and that the federal courtroom was the appropriate venue for questions of guilt or innocence.”
"Since my election as Speaker, I've been clear that restoring trust in government was paramount. I'm proud to stand with a new generation of leadership in Illinois who share these values,” Welch said.
Though the jury found the defendants’ lobbying practices were illegal, Republicans said pursing ethics reform must still be a priority for lawmakers in the final weeks of session. Rep. Patrick Windhorst (R-Metropolis) said more ethics reform would stop people from “getting to the line” in the first place.
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