(The Center Square) — Months after utility Commonwealth Edison admitted to a patronage scheme to curry favor from Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, some of the Chicago Democrat’s closest allies are now facing criminal charges.
U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois John Lausch released details of criminal charges Wednesday against four former ComEd employees, including Michael McClain, a former state lawmaker-turned lobbyist who allegedly acted as a gatekeeper between Madigan and the company.
In the indictment, McClain consistently refers to Madigan as “our Friend” in communications with others in ComEd. The charges also note the group would hide payments from the utility by falsifying records.
Also charged are former ComEd CEO Anne Pramaggiore, lobbyist John Hooker, and former City Club President Jay Doherty.
Prosecutors charged the utility in July, which cast a shadow over the election cycle. ComEd, along with paying a $200 million fine, admitted to a years-long patronage system that included hiring Madigan allies, entering into contracts with favored companies, and other perks for members of Madigan’s camp. The state-regulated utility paid those allies for jobs that required little or no work, according to a deferred prosecution agreement.
McClain, a Quincy Democrat, is seen as one of Madigan’s oldest and closest confidants. He’s indicated on multiple occasions that he would not cooperate with authorities to leverage a case against the longest-serving legislative leader in American history.
The speaker has not been charged with any crimes and has repeatedly said that he’s done nothing wrong.
All four defendants are facing charges of bribery conspiracy, bribery, and falsification of records, WBEZ reported.
McClain’s attorney, Patrick Cotter, told the Chicago Tribune that the charges were “the result of a misguided investigation and misapplication of the law driven by an obvious desire to find some way to criminally implicate” the speaker.
“In its zeal to find any evidence of criminal misconduct by [Madigan], the government is attempting to rewrite the law on bribery and criminalize long-recognized legitimate, common, and normal lobbying activity into some new form of crime,” Cotter said in the statement to the Tribune.
Illinois House Republican Leader Jim Durkin said the indictments show the House special investigating committee needs to reconvene to decide if Madigan acted improperly.
“Today’s news makes it abundantly clear that the Democratic Party of Illinois, chaired and controlled by Speaker Madigan, also known as Public Official A, is a corrupt organization that has run its course,” Durkin said in a statement. “For the past many months and years, Madigan’s apologists from the Governor to the rank-and-file House Democrats have turned a blind eye to his corrupt practices. Speaker Madigan and his long list of defenders need to be removed from power, and that starts with Chairman Welch reconvening the Special Investigating Committee immediately.”
Illinois Senate Republican Leader-Designate Dan McConchie, R-Hawthorn Woods, said it is time to stop Madigan.
“Obviously, this is no surprise to the public. Democrats have enabled Madigan and his corruption for decades,” McConchie said in a statement. “They must finally and irrevocably reject the machine that controls this state. Cast Madigan aside and give control to the people once again.”