Former ComEd executive pleads guilty in Madigan corruption probe
Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan is at the center of a federal bribery investigation into Commonwealth Edison.
Former top Commonwealth Edison executive Fidel Marquez pleaded guilty Sept. 29 to one charge of bribery conspiracy in the ongoing federal investigation into the utility’s actions to curry favor with House Speaker Mike Madigan and influence legislation in Springfield.
The charge could cause Marquez to spend as much as five years in prison and face a fine up to $250,000. However, his guilty plea indicates he is cooperating with investigators, which could have serious implications for Madigan.
Marquez worked his way through ComEd from intern to top executive. As senior vice president of government affairs, Marquez directed “jobs, contracts, and monetary payments … even in instances where such associates performed little or no work” for the benefit of Madigan cronies in exchange for Madigan’s support on key legislation in ComEd’s favor. In total, ComEd paid $1.3 million in the scheme that essentially turned the utility into a source of political patronage jobs for Madigan.
Madigan has denied wrongdoing. He recently claimed in a three-page letter that his job is helping people, including to get jobs.
ComEd worked to illegally influence legislation between 2011 and 2019 before the company learned it was under federal investigation for its actions. Marquez and ComEd’s CEO retired soon after. ComEd admitted to federal prosecutors that it received $150 million in legislative benefits from its bribery efforts and agreed to cooperate with the corruption investigation.
Marquez was earning $1.7 million when he left ComEd in 2019. He donated over $60,000, mostly in small amounts, to politicians from both parties and sometimes to political opponents. These included $1,500 to Kwame Raoul’s campaign for attorney general and $3,500 directly to Friends of Michael J. Madigan, as well as $2,500 to the Democratic Party of Illinois, which is under Madigan’s control. Nearly all who reported receiving donations have said they will donate Marquez’s contribution to charity, while Madigan returned no messages on the topic.
Marquez had a good working relationship with Madigan, which helped him land a seat as his guest to the House inauguration in January 2019.
The close relationship was made possibly largely thanks to Madigan’s close ally, Michael McClain. McClain was also a former ComEd lobbyist and allegedly helped arrange payments between the utility and Madigan’s cronies. Prosecutors said a consultant told Marquez he believed McClain spoke to Madigan about the payments, saying they served to “keep [Madigan] happy [and] I think it’s worth it, because you’d hear otherwise.”
The deferred prosecution agreement also detailed how ComEd retained a particular, unnamed law firm in 2011 in an attempt to sway the speaker. When that firm’s contract came up for renewal in 2016, an attorney from the firm complained to McClain that ComEd was seeking to reduce their hours to 850 per year. McClain then wrote to ComEd CEO Anne Pramaggiore to remind her “how valuable” the firm was to “our Friend.”
Madigan, who is identified as “Public Official A” in the case, has not been charged with any crimes and maintains his innocence. ComEd, on the other hand, agreed to pay a $200 million fine, admit to seeking Madigan’s help in passing legislation worth more than $150 million to the company and continue to cooperate with the ongoing federal investigation into public corruption.
Madigan is also under scrutiny in the General Assembly. A special House investigative committee was formed to see whether Madigan took part in action unbecoming of a legislator. He declined to testify in the proceedings, calling them a “political stunt.”