Bribery case involving ComEd officials moves ahead with shadow over Madigan

(The Center Square) – Former House Speaker Michael Madigan spent more than $2.7 million for legal work in 2021, most of it after he left office, after being implicated but not charged in a federal corruption probe that continues to make waves in Springfield.

After it became clear he didn’t have the votes, Madigan withdrew his bid in January 2021 to continue on as speaker of the Illinois House, a position he held for nearly four decades. Shortly after, on Feb. 18, 2021, he resigned from the state legislature. The next day, his campaign fund, Friends of Michael J Madigan, spent $2 million with Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP, a Chicago-based law firm with more than 700 attorneys around the globe. Last year, Friends of Michael J Madigan spent 2,771,890.55 with six law firms, according to campaign finance records from Illinois Sunshine.

The clouds around the former speaker have made it difficult to tell what lies ahead for Madigan.

“The smoke obscures your view so there’s no real clarity,” said David Parker, assistant professor at the Graham School of Management at Saint Xavier University. “There’s something there, there’s something through the mist, the fog, you just don’t really know what it is.”

This week, Judge Harry Leinenweber denied a motion to dismiss corruption charges against four people who prosecutors allege gave jobs and contracts as part of an 8-year long effort to influence Madigan on behalf of ComEd, the state’s largest electrical utility. The decision is the latest ahead of a possible trial in September.

Leinenweber denied the motion to dismiss the key charges against Michael McClain, a former state lawmaker and ComEd lobbyist who was one of Madigan’s closest associates; former ComEd CEO Anne Pramaggiore, former ComEd lobbyist John Hooker and former ComEd consultant Jay Doherty. The four had argued that prosecutors failed to allege specific quid pro quo transactions and that they engaged in legal lobbying.

“The fact that these incentives were laundered partially through jobs does not invalidate the indictment,” Leinenweber wrote in a 25-page decision. “A company cannot use its payroll line on its accounting ledger to circumvent all government oversight of public corruption.”

The judge said prosecutors had met their burden to proceed with the case.

“The Court finds the government has met its burden in the indictment by presenting particular acts that Defendants intended to reward Public Official A,” Leinenweber wrote. “Specifically, the government pointed to the General Assembly’s passage of the Energy Infrastructure and Modernization Act (“EIMA”) in 2011, Senate Bill 9 in 2013 (overturning an adverse interpretation of EIMA), and the Future Energy Jobs Act in 2016, as well as ComEd’s ‘continuing interest in advancing legislation in the General Assembly favorable to its interests, and opposing legislation that was not consistent with its operational and financial success.’ ”

Madigan is referred to as Public Official A in the court proceedings.

“The government does not allege that every hiring decision made by ComEd over eight years could be brought as a corrupt hiring at trial,” the judge wrote. “The only decisions alleged by the government as violating the anticorruption laws are ones where the hiring request was made through the former legislator defendant McClain. The government also provided specific examples in the indictment on how the scheme worked with respect to four hiring decisions, one law firm retention, one board appointment, and one preferential intern program.”

Parker said it’s too early to tell what all this could mean for Madigan.

“He’s still a target and I think there’s still enough developing that it’s not going away,” he said.

A message seeking comment sent to a communications firm paid by Friends of Michael J Madigan wasn’t immediately returned.

McClain, Pramaggiore, Hooker and Doherty have pleaded not guilty. The most serious charges against the four could come with a 20-year prison sentence.

In 2020, federal prosecutors and Exelon subsidiary ComEd reached a deferred prosecution agreement. As part of the agreement, the utility admitted it paid $1.3 million in jobs and contracts to associates of Madigan over the span of nine years in an effort to influence the former House speaker. ComEd also agreed to pay a $200 million fine. Another former ComEd official, Fidel Marquez, pleaded guilty to bribery charges in September 2020.

Prosecutors also indicted Tim Mapes, who served for years under Madigan as the clerk of the Illinois House and as Madigan’s chief of staff, on a charge of lying to a grand jury in May 2021. The indictment alleges Mapes lied to the grand jury when asked about Madigan’s relationship with McClain.

Also this week, AT&T revealed in a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filing that its subsidiary, Illinois Bell Telephone Company LLC, “has been cooperating with the U.S. Attorney’s Office concerning their widely reported investigation of certain elected Illinois politicians and related parties for corruption.”

The SEC filing said that the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Illinois had notified the company that it was considering filing a charge against Illinois Bell over a 2017 consulting contract. Eileen Mitchell, who previously worked for Madigan, is the CEO of Illinois Bell.

“Recently, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Illinois informed us that they are considering filing a charge against one of our subsidiaries, Illinois Bell Telephone Company, LLC (Illinois Bell), arising out of a single, nine-month consulting contract in 2017 worth $22,500,” the company wrote in the filing. “Based on our own extensive investigation of the facts and our engagement with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, we have concluded that the contract at issue was legal in all respects and that any charge against Illinois Bell or its personnel would be without merit.”

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