SPRINGFIELD – A longtime confidante of House Speaker Mike Madigan (D-Chicago) was charged along with two other former Commonwealth Edison lobbyists and the CEO of ComEd’s parent company in a nine-count indictment Wednesday, alleging the four conspired on a wide-ranging bribery scheme all designed to influence Madigan.
Mike McClain, who spent decades lobbying for electric utility ComEd after serving in the legislature alongside Madigan in the 1970s, was named in all nine counts, as was former Exelon CEO Anne Pramaggiore, who stepped down from the company last fall amid a series of federal raids and subpoenas naming her and other ComEd officials as subjects of interests to the feds.
Former ComEd lobbyists John Hooker and Jay Doherty were charged with six of the nine counts. Ex-ComEd CEO Vice President Fidel Marquez is also listed in the indictment as helping to coordinate the bribery efforts. Marquez pleaded guilty to a corruption charge connected to the scheme in September.
The fifty-page indictment spans nine years of alleged wrongdoing by ComEd’s four representatives, shedding new light on actions first alleged in a deferred prosecution agreement against ComEd itself filed in July. Under the agreement, ComEd’s prosecution will be delayed for three years as the company cooperates in the investigation, and must pay a $200 million fine.
Madigan, referred to in the July document and in Wednesday’s indictment only as “Public Official A”, has not been charged with anything, and has denied wrongdoing repeatedly for more than a year, since news of federal raids on McClain’s home in May 2019, as well as raids on the homes and offices of other allies of the speaker. Federal agents last fall also conducted raids on politicians and companies that do not appear directly related to the investigation into Madigan and his inner circle.
In a letter sent to members of a Republican-initiated Special Investigative Committee into ComEd’s undue political influence on Madigan, the speaker said he was declining to appear, calling the committee a “political stunt.”
“The [deferred prosecution agreement] does not attribute any misconduct to me,” Madigan wrote in September. “It asserts that certain individuals at ComEd hired individuals I purportedly recommended in an attempt to influence me. But let me be clear: that attempt was never made known to me — if it had been, it would have been profoundly unwelcome.”
But Wednesday’s indictment put a bit more responsibility onto Madigan for making requests of ComEd, albeit through proxies like McClain.
Back in July, the deferred prosecution agreement alleged that Madigan was behind a push to name Juan Ochoa — the former CEO of the organization that manages the McCormick Place convention center — to ComEd’s board “with the intent to influence and reward [Madigan] in connection with [Madigan’s] official duties,” according to the indictment. But the prosecution agreement provided few details of how Ochoa’s appointment eventually came to fruition.
At the Special Investigative Committee’s one substantive hearing in late September, ComEd’s compliance officer revealed in testimony that an office staffer for Madigan had sent an email to ComEd encouraging Ochoa’s appointment when it was held up.
But Wednesday’s indictment lays out the entire 17-month effort to install Ochoa on the board, beginning in November 2017. When Ochoa’s appointment to the board hit a snag in May 2018, McClain called Madigan and relayed the message that Pramaggiore was getting pushback on Ochoa, and instead had suggested finding Ochoa a job that would pay as much as a board member.
But a few weeks later, McClain checked in on Pramaggiore in a phone call, and according to the indictment, Pramaggiore said “she would, at [Madigan’s] request, ‘keep pressing’ to appoint [Ochoa]” to the board, according to the indictment.
Ochoa was finally appointed in April 2019.
The indictment reveals McClain used coded language to refer to Madigan, including “our friend” when speaking about Madigan to Pramaggiore and Hooker.
In early 2016, McClain pressured ComEd to retain an attorney referred to as “Lawyer A” for 850 billable hours annually.
“I am sure you know how valuable [Lawyer A] is to our Friend,” McClain wrote in the email, according to the indictment. “I know the drill and so do you. If you do not get involve [sic] 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 the drill we must go through?”
McClain went on to imply retributions from Madigan if the requests were not honored.
“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,” McClain wrote.
The indictment also alleges ComEd officials took steps to conceal payments to Madigan allies hired by ComEd, including in “instances where such associates performed little or no work that they were purportedly hired to perform for ComEd,” according to the indictment.
“Conspirators arranged for various associates of [Madigan], including [Madigan’s] political allies and individuals who performed political work for [Madigan], to obtain jobs, contracts, and monetary payments associated with those jobs and contracts from ComEd and its affiliates,” according to the indictment. “…And created and caused the creation of false contracts, invoices and other books and records to disguise the true nature…of the payments and to circumvent internal controls.”
This post will be updated.