Utility giant Commonwealth Edison awarded jobs and contracts to associates of a top state official – identified as House Speaker Michael Madigan – "with intent to influence and reward" the official, federal prosecutors said Friday.
Madigan, the nation’s longest serving House Speaker, has not been charged with any wrongdoing. However, Gov. JB Pritzker said that if the allegations of wrongdoing by Madigan are true, the Speaker must resign.
In a statement, Madigan confirmed that his office received a subpoena Friday morning for documents related to possible job recommendations.
"He will cooperate and respond to those requests for documents, which he believes will clearly demonstrate that he has done nothing criminal or improper," the statement said.
"The Speaker has never helped someone find a job with the expectation that the person would not be asked to perform work by their employer, nor did he ever expect to provide anything to a prospective employer if it should choose to hire a person he recommended," the statement continued. "He has never made a legislative decision with improper motives and has engaged in no wrongdoing here. Any claim to the contrary is unfounded."
The disclosure was made in court documents as Commonwealth Edison agreed to pay $200 million to resolve a federal criminal investigation into a "years-long bribery scheme," prosecutors said.
Court documents said that from 2011 to 2019, political allies and other associates of Public Official A who did political work for the official were given jobs, subcontracts and payments by Com Ed. Documents said they were paid even if they did little or no work for the utility.
Public Official A is identified as the Speaker of the Illinois House.
"ComEd understood that as Speaker of the House of Representatives, Public Official A was able to exercise control over what measures were called for a vote in the House of Representatives and had substantial influence and control over fellow lawmakers concerning legislation including legislation that affected ComEd," the documents said.
Some of those measures proved lucrative for ComEd. Between 2011 and 2019, when ComEd was making payments to the Madigan associates and "extending other benefits for the purpose of influencing and rewarding Public Official A" legislation was passed that Commonwealth Edison estimated was worth over $150 million to the company.
At a Chicago news conference, U.S. Attorney John Lausch Jr. said the ComEd situation "speaks volumes about the nature of the very stubborn public corruption problem we have here in Illinois."
"The admitted facts detail a nearly decade-long corruption scheme involving top management of a large public utility, leaders in state government, consultants and several others inside and outside of government," Lausch said. "In two words, it’s not good. But our federal investigations into corruption in Illinois are ongoing."
There were reports Friday that federal investigators removed documents from Madigan’s Capitol office in response to a grand jury subpoena connected to the ComEd investigation.
Court documents said that from 2011 to 2019 ComEd arranged to hire political allies and others who did political work for Madigan into jobs and as subcontractors for which they were paid. They also said that around that time, Public Official A and a former state lawmaker and ComEd lobbyist identified as Individual A sought jobs and contracts for supporters of the official from ComEd. Individual A was also described as having a close personal relationship with Madigan.
Previous reports have said that Michael McClain, a former lawmaker, ComEd lobbyist and close associate of Madigan, was under investigation.
In some cases, the associates of Madigan were paid even though they did little or no work for ComEd, according to the court documents. At one point, a person involved in the scheme told another person the payments were made "to keep (Public Official A) happy. I think it’s worth it because you’d hear about it otherwise."
At another point, documents say, a ComEd executive was advised not to mess with the jobs and contracts because "your money comes from Springfield."
Also according to the documents, before ComEd discovered it was under investigation, the company sought the approval of either Madigan or Individual A before payments were stopped to an individual.
In 2017, documents said, Madigan sought to have a person appointed to Commonwealth Edison’s board of directors. The person was appointed to the board after it was determined they were qualified, but ComEd didn’t ask for the appointment and no other candidates were considered.
"ComEd appointed Board Member 1, in part, with the intent to influence and reward Public Official A in connections with Public Official As’s official duties," documents said.
Exelon is the parent company of ComEd. Its CEO Christopher Crane issued a statement saying the company was "committed to maintaining the highest standards of integrity and ethical behavior."
"In the past, some of ComEd’s lobbying practices and interactions with public officials did not live up to that commitment," he said. "When we learned about the inappropriate conduct, we acted swiftly to investigate. We concluded from the investigation that a small number of senior ComEd employees and outside contractors orchestrated this misconduct and they no longer work for the company."
As part of the agreement with prosecutors, ComEd agreed to take a number of remedial measures to ensure the misconduct doesn’t happen again. The company was charged with a single count of bribery that will be dismissed in three years as long as the company abides by terms of the agreement which include cooperating in the ongoing investigation.
Lausch said the agreement announced Friday applies only to Commonwealth Edison as a company and does not absolve any individuals. He also said the agreement stipulates ComEd cannot pay the fine with ratepayer money or by seeking tax deductions.
Madigan, 78, is the longest serving speaker in the nation’s history. He has served as speaker for all but two years since 1983. As speaker, he holds control over what bills are considered in the Democratic-controlled House. He also shapes policy as a negotiator with other legislative leaders on major bills like the budget, pensions or gambling.
Madigan also is chairman of the Illinois Democratic Party which gives him control over financial assistance the party provides candidates, newcomers and incumbents. Critics complain that it gives Madigan too much control over rank and file lawmakers and further solidifies his grip on the House.
Illinois has a long history of political corruptions. The most recent cases involved former Sen. Martin Sandoval, D-Chicago, and former Rep. Luis Arroyo, D-Chicago.
Sandoval pleaded guilty to bribery and tax evasion charges and admitted in court that he took $250,000 in bribes. Arroyo was also charged with bribery for attempting to buy support from a state senator.
Those cases led to calls by lawmakers for tougher ethics laws. Instead of passing bills during the veto session, through, Madigan opted for form a commission to look into additional ethics laws. Lawmakers have not acted on ethics legislation because the coronavirus pandemic forced the General Assembly to hold only an severely curtailed spring session.
Contact Doug Finke: firstname.lastname@example.org, 788-1527, twitter.com/dougfinkesjr