Huge Illinois utility paying $200 million to settle bribery case implicating the real boss of Illinois politics, House Speaker Michael Madigan

Anyone who understands politics in the corrupt state government of Illinois realizes that the power of Michael Madigan, Speaker of the state House of Representatives since 1983 except for two years, dwarfs that of the state’s governor.  He’s been called  “the most powerful Democrat politician in the country” with good reason, and over the years AT has covered him (here, here, and here for instance) for his power, and lately for the appearance that federal investigators have been wiretapping associates and maybe, just maybe closing in on him.

News released in Chicago yesterday by federal prosecutors indicates that that the noose is closing on him, though he still has not (yet) been indicted.

Michael Madigan (YouTube screen grab)

The inimitable John Kass, columnist for the Chicago Tribune puts it well:

When the U.S. Department of Justice dropped that federal hammer on Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan on Friday, I thought of the shock waves spreading out to Democratic bosses across the country, and the sound of Illinois political rats scurrying for cover they won’t find.

But mostly I thought of Boss Madigan’s eyes, blue stones made flat and cold from 50 years as the political boss of the most politically corrupt state in the country.

n my mind I could see Madigan’s eyes widening, as he concentrated on the federal documents filed Friday that are the road map to his end game, like the eyes of Dr. T.J. Eckleburg, the oculist in “The Great Gatsby,” blue, unblinking, omniscient.

Madigan can see what’s coming and he can see the past. For five decades he’s held the tribes together, with his iron will, and his word, his discipline, and expert use of fear and power. (snip)

Madigan wasn’t charged with any crimes, but that wasn’t the point when U.S. Attorney John Lausch pulled that big federal bus out Friday — the one with a driver named RICO — and outlined how Commonwealth Edison would cooperate in the federal investigation.

The giant utility agreed to pay $200 million in fines for assisting in a bribery and corruption scheme to benefit “Public Official A” that cost electric rate payers across Illinois real money in rate increases.

In exchange — though it wasn’t explicitly stated except as “cooperation” — ComEd turned over its intelligence and its people will testify.

Implicated are Madigan’s Democratic precinct captains with those do-nothing jobs, and Madigan-friendly contractors and Madigan-approved political lobbyists.

The Chicago Sun-Times lays out the tawdry specifics of Madigan’s schemes to provide patronage jobs for members of his machine:

A statement of facts attached to the agreement lays out the details of the allegations. They include claims that Madigan sought a job for Zalewski upon his retirement from the City Council, that Madigan had for decades ran an “old-fashioned patronage system” including getting people jobs as ComEd meter readers, that Madigan had an associate appointed to ComEd’s board of directors in 2019 — former McPier CEO Juan Ochoa — and even that ComEd hired students from Madigan’s ward for an internship program.

The allegations in the document date back to 2011, when it said McClain and a lobbyist identified by the Sun-Times as John Hooker developed a plan to help two Madigan associates by funneling money through a consulting company and treating them as subcontractors. ComEd would not pay the unidentified men directly but rather increase its payments to the consulting company to cover the two Madigan associates. Meanwhile, contracts and invoices made it falsely appear that those payments were in return for the consultant’s advice on “legislative issues” and “legislative risk management activities.”

In May 2018 Madigan — through McClain — allegedly asked then-ComEd CEO Anne Pramaggiore to hire Zalewski, the feds allege. Another deal was then struck to pay Zalewski $5,000 monthly as a subcontractor for the consultant. Pramaggiore allegedly agreed that Madigan would get to tell Zalewski about the arrangement.

A spokesman for Pramaggiore, who later became a senior executive for Exelon but retired last year, said in a statement that “Ms. Pramaggiore has done nothing wrong and any inference to the contrary is misguided and false.”

Also in May 2018, McClain allegedly told the ComEd vice president — identified by the Sun-Times as Fidel Marquez — why the Madigan associates were being paid. He explained that one of them was “one of the top three precinct captains” who also “trains people how to go door to door . . . so just to give you an idea how important the guy is.” (snip)

In February 2019, McClain allegedly told Hooker how to explain the payments within the company. McClain allegedly said, “We had to hire these guys because (Madigan) came to us. It’s just that simple.”

Two days later, the consultant allegedly cautioned Hooker that ComEd should not tamper with the arrangement because “your money comes from Springfield” and the consultant had “every reason to believe” McClain had spoken to Madigan about the deal.

The consultant allegedly added that the Madigan associates “keep their mouth shut, and, you know, so. But, do they do anything for me on a day-to-day basis? No.” He said the payments were made “to keep (Madigan) happy, I think it’s worth it, because you’d hear otherwise.”

The document also alleges Madigan sought the appointment of Ochoa to the ComEd board of directors through McClain in 2017. However, opposition within the company to that appointment in May 2018 allegedly prompted Pramaggiore to ask McClain if Madigan would be satisfied with a part-time job for Ochoa that paid the same amount as the board position — $78,000 a year.

McClain allegedly told Pramaggiore that Madigan would appreciate it if she would “keep pressing” for the appointment. Pramaggiore allegedly agreed to do so, telling McClain later in the year that, “you take good care of me and so does our friend (Madigan) and I will do the best that I can to, to take care of you.”

In February 2019, McClain allegedly told Hooker how to explain the payments within the company. McClain allegedly said, “We had to hire these guys because (Madigan) came to us. It’s just that simple.”

Two days later, the consultant allegedly cautioned Hooker that ComEd should not tamper with the arrangement because “your money comes from Springfield” and the consultant had “every reason to believe” McClain had spoken to Madigan about the deal.

The consultant allegedly added that the Madigan associates “keep their mouth shut, and, you know, so. But, do they do anything for me on a day-to-day basis? No.” He said the payments were made “to keep (Madigan) happy, I think it’s worth it, because you’d hear otherwise.”

The document also alleges Madigan sought the appointment of Ochoa to the ComEd board of directors through McClain in 2017. However, opposition within the company to that appointment in May 2018 allegedly prompted Pramaggiore to ask McClain if Madigan would be satisfied with a part-time job for Ochoa that paid the same amount as the board position — $78,000 a year.

McClain allegedly told Pramaggiore that Madigan would appreciate it if she would “keep pressing” for the appointment. Pramaggiore allegedly agreed to do so, telling McClain later in the year that, “you take good care of me and so does our friend (Madigan) and I will do the best that I can to, to take care of you.”

Madigan is denying any criminal activity in a press release:

Below is a statement on behalf of Speaker Madigan. There will be no further comment.

“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. He has never made a legislative decision with improper motives and has engaged in no wrongdoing here. Any claim to the contrary is unfounded.

“This morning the Speaker accepted subpoenas related to his various offices for documents, asking for, among other things, documents related to possible job recommendations. He will cooperate and respond to those requests for documents, which he believes will clearly demonstrate that he has done nothing criminal or improper.”

Yesterday, the next act in the drama started unfolding as Illinois Policy explains:

Madigan’s office July 17 received a grand jury subpoena for documents related to the ongoing federal investigation, according to WGN. According to Mark Maxwell of WCIA-TV, Capitol Police at the Illinois State Capitol in Springfield saw men in suits enter the building Friday morning. One flashed an FBI badge.

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker called on Madigan to resign if the allegations are true. Madigan said they aren’t true, and he is cooperating.

Com Ed has not entered a guilty plea. Instead the feds are using what is called a “deferred prosecution agreement,” in which the company can avoid future prosecution by cooperating with investigators and paying the $200 million fine. They have every reason to spill the beans, as do others named in corruption. As John Kas puts it:

…there won’t be any deal for Madigan. He’s the target. Targets don’t make deals. Targets see their families on visitors day.

A historical note: At the time that Barrack Obama was first establishing himself in Chicago, he was reportedly assisted by the father of his friend Bill Ayers in obtaining a summer internship at one of Chicago’s most prestigious law firms. That father was Tom Ayers, the longtime head of Com Ed, and the law firm where Obama got his summer internship was the corporate counsel for Com Ed.

Anyone who understands politics in the corrupt state government of Illinois realizes that the power of Michael Madigan, Speaker of the state House of Representatives since 1983 except for two years, dwarfs that of the state’s governor.  He’s been called  “the most powerful Democrat politician in the country” with good reason, and over the years AT has covered him (here, here, and here for instance) for his power, and lately for the appearance that federal investigators have been wiretapping associates and maybe, just maybe closing in on him.

News released in Chicago yesterday by federal prosecutors indicates that that the noose is closing on him, though he still has not (yet) been indicted.

Michael Madigan (YouTube screen grab)

The inimitable John Kass, columnist for the Chicago Tribune puts it well:

When the U.S. Department of Justice dropped that federal hammer on Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan on Friday, I thought of the shock waves spreading out to Democratic bosses across the country, and the sound of Illinois political rats scurrying for cover they won’t find.

But mostly I thought of Boss Madigan’s eyes, blue stones made flat and cold from 50 years as the political boss of the most politically corrupt state in the country.

n my mind I could see Madigan’s eyes widening, as he concentrated on the federal documents filed Friday that are the road map to his end game, like the eyes of Dr. T.J. Eckleburg, the oculist in “The Great Gatsby,” blue, unblinking, omniscient.

Madigan can see what’s coming and he can see the past. For five decades he’s held the tribes together, with his iron will, and his word, his discipline, and expert use of fear and power. (snip)

Madigan wasn’t charged with any crimes, but that wasn’t the point when U.S. Attorney John Lausch pulled that big federal bus out Friday — the one with a driver named RICO — and outlined how Commonwealth Edison would cooperate in the federal investigation.

The giant utility agreed to pay $200 million in fines for assisting in a bribery and corruption scheme to benefit “Public Official A” that cost electric rate payers across Illinois real money in rate increases.

In exchange — though it wasn’t explicitly stated except as “cooperation” — ComEd turned over its intelligence and its people will testify.

Implicated are Madigan’s Democratic precinct captains with those do-nothing jobs, and Madigan-friendly contractors and Madigan-approved political lobbyists.

The Chicago Sun-Times lays out the tawdry specifics of Madigan’s schemes to provide patronage jobs for members of his machine:

A statement of facts attached to the agreement lays out the details of the allegations. They include claims that Madigan sought a job for Zalewski upon his retirement from the City Council, that Madigan had for decades ran an “old-fashioned patronage system” including getting people jobs as ComEd meter readers, that Madigan had an associate appointed to ComEd’s board of directors in 2019 — former McPier CEO Juan Ochoa — and even that ComEd hired students from Madigan’s ward for an internship program.

The allegations in the document date back to 2011, when it said McClain and a lobbyist identified by the Sun-Times as John Hooker developed a plan to help two Madigan associates by funneling money through a consulting company and treating them as subcontractors. ComEd would not pay the unidentified men directly but rather increase its payments to the consulting company to cover the two Madigan associates. Meanwhile, contracts and invoices made it falsely appear that those payments were in return for the consultant’s advice on “legislative issues” and “legislative risk management activities.”

In May 2018 Madigan — through McClain — allegedly asked then-ComEd CEO Anne Pramaggiore to hire Zalewski, the feds allege. Another deal was then struck to pay Zalewski $5,000 monthly as a subcontractor for the consultant. Pramaggiore allegedly agreed that Madigan would get to tell Zalewski about the arrangement.

A spokesman for Pramaggiore, who later became a senior executive for Exelon but retired last year, said in a statement that “Ms. Pramaggiore has done nothing wrong and any inference to the contrary is misguided and false.”

Also in May 2018, McClain allegedly told the ComEd vice president — identified by the Sun-Times as Fidel Marquez — why the Madigan associates were being paid. He explained that one of them was “one of the top three precinct captains” who also “trains people how to go door to door . . . so just to give you an idea how important the guy is.” (snip)

In February 2019, McClain allegedly told Hooker how to explain the payments within the company. McClain allegedly said, “We had to hire these guys because (Madigan) came to us. It’s just that simple.”

Two days later, the consultant allegedly cautioned Hooker that ComEd should not tamper with the arrangement because “your money comes from Springfield” and the consultant had “every reason to believe” McClain had spoken to Madigan about the deal.

The consultant allegedly added that the Madigan associates “keep their mouth shut, and, you know, so. But, do they do anything for me on a day-to-day basis? No.” He said the payments were made “to keep (Madigan) happy, I think it’s worth it, because you’d hear otherwise.”

The document also alleges Madigan sought the appointment of Ochoa to the ComEd board of directors through McClain in 2017. However, opposition within the company to that appointment in May 2018 allegedly prompted Pramaggiore to ask McClain if Madigan would be satisfied with a part-time job for Ochoa that paid the same amount as the board position — $78,000 a year.

McClain allegedly told Pramaggiore that Madigan would appreciate it if she would “keep pressing” for the appointment. Pramaggiore allegedly agreed to do so, telling McClain later in the year that, “you take good care of me and so does our friend (Madigan) and I will do the best that I can to, to take care of you.”

In February 2019, McClain allegedly told Hooker how to explain the payments within the company. McClain allegedly said, “We had to hire these guys because (Madigan) came to us. It’s just that simple.”

Two days later, the consultant allegedly cautioned Hooker that ComEd should not tamper with the arrangement because “your money comes from Springfield” and the consultant had “every reason to believe” McClain had spoken to Madigan about the deal.

The consultant allegedly added that the Madigan associates “keep their mouth shut, and, you know, so. But, do they do anything for me on a day-to-day basis? No.” He said the payments were made “to keep (Madigan) happy, I think it’s worth it, because you’d hear otherwise.”

The document also alleges Madigan sought the appointment of Ochoa to the ComEd board of directors through McClain in 2017. However, opposition within the company to that appointment in May 2018 allegedly prompted Pramaggiore to ask McClain if Madigan would be satisfied with a part-time job for Ochoa that paid the same amount as the board position — $78,000 a year.

McClain allegedly told Pramaggiore that Madigan would appreciate it if she would “keep pressing” for the appointment. Pramaggiore allegedly agreed to do so, telling McClain later in the year that, “you take good care of me and so does our friend (Madigan) and I will do the best that I can to, to take care of you.”

Madigan is denying any criminal activity in a press release:

Below is a statement on behalf of Speaker Madigan. There will be no further comment.

“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. He has never made a legislative decision with improper motives and has engaged in no wrongdoing here. Any claim to the contrary is unfounded.

“This morning the Speaker accepted subpoenas related to his various offices for documents, asking for, among other things, documents related to possible job recommendations. He will cooperate and respond to those requests for documents, which he believes will clearly demonstrate that he has done nothing criminal or improper.”

Yesterday, the next act in the drama started unfolding as Illinois Policy explains:

Madigan’s office July 17 received a grand jury subpoena for documents related to the ongoing federal investigation, according to WGN. According to Mark Maxwell of WCIA-TV, Capitol Police at the Illinois State Capitol in Springfield saw men in suits enter the building Friday morning. One flashed an FBI badge.

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker called on Madigan to resign if the allegations are true. Madigan said they aren’t true, and he is cooperating.

Com Ed has not entered a guilty plea. Instead the feds are using what is called a “deferred prosecution agreement,” in which the company can avoid future prosecution by cooperating with investigators and paying the $200 million fine. They have every reason to spill the beans, as do others named in corruption. As John Kas puts it:

…there won’t be any deal for Madigan. He’s the target. Targets don’t make deals. Targets see their families on visitors day.

A historical note: At the time that Barrack Obama was first establishing himself in Chicago, he was reportedly assisted by the father of his friend Bill Ayers in obtaining a summer internship at one of Chicago’s most prestigious law firms. That father was Tom Ayers, the longtime head of Com Ed, and the law firm where Obama got his summer internship was the corporate counsel for Com Ed.