Pritzker defends Madigan-backed hire to oversee ComEd

Pritzker defends Madigan-backed hire to oversee ComEd

Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan’s relationship with ComEd is under strict scrutiny by federal investigators after he was implicated in bribery charges filed against the electrical company.

As federal investigators zero in on House Speaker Michael Madigan’s relationship with Commonwealth Edison, Gov. J.B. Pritzker is defending a Madigan-backed appointment.

Pritzker appointed Carrie Zalewski as head of the Illinois Commerce Commission in April 2019 after Madigan’s repeated recommendation. Zalewski is the daughter-in-law of former Chicago Ald. Michael R. Zalewski and wife of state Rep. Michael J. Zalewski, D-Chicago. Federal agents raided Michael R. Zalewski’s home  in July 2019.

ComEd has agreed to pay a $200 million fine and cooperate with prosecutors in a bribery case that spans multiple years. Michael R. Zalewski, believed to be “Associate 3” in the charges against ComEd, plays a prominent role in the charges. Associate 3 was given a subcontract from ComEd for $5,000 a month immediately after retiring from the City Council in May 2018. Madigan allegedly set up the deal, just one example of how Madigan used his influence to get jobs for friends with the company.

Shortly after the charges against ComEd were made public, FBI agents delivered a grand jury subpoena to Madigan’s capitol office. Included in the list of requested documents is a request for records about Michael R. Zalewski and any efforts to help him or his family members get jobs or payments.

That leads to Carrie Zalewski’s appointment as head of the ICC at Madigan’s recommendation, which Pritzker defends.

“I think it would be unfair for us to hold against her something that has to do with someone else,” Pritzker said, saying she has done “a good job as a public servant.”

Carrie Zalewski served on the Illinois Pollution Control Board under former Gov. Pat Quinn. Michael McClain, working as a state lobbyist for ComEd, recommended she retain her job even after Quinn lost his election. McClain had his house raided by federal agents in May 2019.

Carrie Zalewski is scheduled to meet with ComEd executives on July 29 to discuss ethics reform. Ethics reform must go beyond ComEd, however.

When state lawmakers return to Springfield in 2021, ethics reform must be front and center on the legislative agenda. For too long, Illinois has suffered under Madigan’s rules that allowed him to control the game and has led the state down this path of corruption and fiscal irresponsibility.

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