Madigan opposition hits critical mass as his confidant, 3 others charged in ComEd bribery scandal

Madigan opposition hits critical mass as his confidant, 3 others charged in ComEd bribery scandal

The indictments are the closest yet to Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan’s inner circle. Now enough Democrats are pledging they won’t support him to cost him the speaker’s gavel.

Four members of Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan’s inner circle have been charged with multiple counts of bribery in a probe targeting Commonwealth Edison’s relationship with Madigan and his allies.

The new indictments spurred another three House Democrats and one representative-elect to pledge they would not support Madigan for another term as speaker. The number is significant, because he is now three shy of the 60 votes needed in January to continue his 35-year reign.

Charged Nov. 18 were: Michael McClain, a longtime Madigan confidant and ComEd lobbyist; former ComEd CEO Anne Pramaggiore; former ComEd lobbyist Jay Hooker; and Jay Doherty, former president of the City Club of Chicago. Their attorneys accused federal prosecutors of overreach.

They are charged with putting Madigan designees in no-work jobs and internships at ComEd to gain Madigan’s support. Doherty is charged with funneling $725,000 from ComEd to three Madigan associates.

The charges were followed by three more Democratic Illinois House representatives and one representative-elect saying they would not support Madigan for speaker when the new legislature convenes in January. Madigan needs 60 votes to stay in charge, and by losing 16 of the Democrats’ 73 votes he is three shy.

On Thursday, state Rep. Jonathan Carroll, Sam Yingling, Will Guzzardi and representative-elect Margaret Croke added their names to the list of those wanting Madigan to quit and allow someone else to lead the House.

State Reps. Kelly Cassidy, Jennifer Gong-Gershowitz, Terra Costa Howard, Maurice West, Bob Morgan, Anne Stava-Murray, Stephanie Kifowit and Lindsey LaPointe previously said they would not re-elect Madigan, with Kifowit announcing she would challenge him for the speakership. State Reps. Deb Conroy, Robyn Gabel, Anna Moeller and Ann Williams sent Madigan a letter asking for new blood.

The new ComEd charges state the four defendants worked “to corruptly solicit and demand, and to accept and agree to accept from another person things of value, namely, jobs, contracts, and monetary payments associated with those jobs and contracts, for the benefit of Public Official A and his associates, intending that Public Official A, an agent of the State of Illinois, be influenced and rewarded in connection with any business, transaction, and series of transactions involving things of value of $5,000 or more, namely, legislation affecting ComEd.” Public Official A is later identified as the Illinois House speaker, although Madigan is not charged and has denied wrongdoing.

Prosecutors go on to present evidence of work done directly to satisfy Madigan and win his approval, with the defendants constantly referring to him as “our Friend” to avoid suspicion and use third parties to direct payments.

The charges state Madigan and McClain worked together to seek employment at ComEd for their friends, largely in positions where the friend would get paid to do nothing.

It also appears Madigan’s law firm was involved with ComEd. The charges state ComEd retained “Law Firm A” for the purpose of rewarding Madigan.

The speaker’s influence was felt at the top of the company as well.

“You take good care of me and so does our friend and I will do the best that I can to, to take care of you,” Pramaggiore reassured McClain about the appointment of an individual he recommended for the board of directors.

A major focus of the latest charges is on hiring interns from Chicago’s 13th Ward, which Madigan represents as precinct committeeman. A series of emails is presented showing discussions about how many interns the ward should get and how they will satisfy what Madigan wants.

On July 17 prosecutors announced ComEd had entered a prosecution agreement that admitted to a bribery scheme in which over $1.3 million in payments were made to Madigan allies, often with no work required. Madigan was allowed to name people to ComEds jobs, from meter reader on up, a practice he defended as “recommendations” that were part of his public service. The bribes were intended to gain Madigan’s backing for legislation worth $150 million to ComEd. The company agreed to a $200 million fine and to work with federal investigators.

Also on July 17, Madigan’s office was raided by federal agents armed with a subpoena seeking documents related to ComEd and similar schemes to place his patronage army in positions at AT&T, Rush University Medical Center and Walgreens.

While Madigan may be on his way out, Illinois will be no better off if he is merely replaced by another all-powerful boss. Illinois needs to reform how the legislature operates by taking the redistricting process out of the hands of lawmakers, by reforming the House Rules to limit the speaker’s power, by strengthening ethics rules to mandate transparency and hold lawmakers accountable for their conflicts of interest, and by freeing the legislative inspector general to investigate and publicize wrongdoing without obstruction from lawmakers.

A Madigan by any other name will leave Illinois just as corrupt.

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