‘ComEd 4’ found guilty on all counts in scheme to bribe Michael Madigan
The four top lobbyists and executives at the state’s largest electric utility were convicted May 2 for their involvement in a multi-year scheme to funnel $1.3 million in jobs, contracts and payments to sway the former Illinois House Speaker.
The “ComEd Four” were found guilty by a federal jury on all counts May 2 for their involvement in multi-year scheme to bribe former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan and influence legislation in Springfield.
The defendants: former state lawmaker and lobbyist Michael McClain, former ComEd CEO Anne Pramaggiore, former ComEd lobbyist John Hooker and former contract lobbyist Jay Doherty were convicted of conspiring to funnel $1.3 million in jobs, contracts and payments to Madigan’s cronies in exchange for favorable treatment on legislation in Springfield that impacted the utility giant.
The guilty verdict marks the end of the eight-week trial involving some 50 witnesses, dozens of wiretapped phone calls and other secret recordings, as well as thousands of emails and internal ComEd documents that detailed the scheme to bribe the now-indicted former House Speaker.
Madigan was not charged in the case but is scheduled to face trial on 23 charges of racketeering, bribery and other crimes in April 2024.
Witness testimony during the ComEd Four trial showed how the control Madigan exercised over the legislative process made him a ripe target and warped the system.
Illinois state Rep. Bob Rita, D-Blue Island, told the jury how Madigan ruled through “fear and intimidation,” and how he controlled the flow of legislation, largely through the House Rules used to govern operation of the chamber. Witnesses pointed specifically to the House Rules as one of the key instruments of Madigan’s control.
The House Rules gave Madigan the authority to appoint committee chairs. Defendant Mike McClain noted that would be needed to “withstand pressure” to pass opponents’ bills.
Madigan’s status as the most powerful man in Springfield allegedly made him an irresistible target for lobbyists looking for favorable results in the legislature. Although Madigan is gone, the structures that consolidated the speaker’s power remain.
If Illinois wants to get past Madigan’s corrupt legacy, that structure needs to be dismantled. The House Rules should be first on the list of reforms. To roll back the speaker’s concentrated power, Illinois should enact the following reforms:
1) Go back to requiring the House Rules Committee refer all bills to a substantive committee in odd-numbered years so each bill has a chance to be heard.
2) Require majority approval of chair and minority spokesperson positions so the speaker cannot use appointments as rewards for loyalty or punishments for dissent.
3) End unnecessary temporary committee substitutes that distort the committee process.
4) Operate the House on a set schedule members can count on so they know what bills will be up for a vote and when.
5) End last-minute “gut and replace” bills that force lawmakers to vote on hundreds of pages of legislation without getting a chance to read them first.
These reforms would put the Illinois House in line with other state legislative chambers and make it that much harder for another Madigan to rise.