New emails released by the Special House Investigative committee exploring House Speaker Michael Madigan’s actions in relationship to a federal probe into ComEd show Madigan was often the reason for political hires at the company.
Charges against ComEd and former ComEd employees since July have outlined schemes at Madigan’s request to hire employees for good-paying jobs with little to no work required.
In one set of emails, Cook County Recorder of Deeds Ed Moody was implicated as one of Madigan’s allies who received payments from ComEd. Moody, a 13th Ward precinct captain in Madigan’s House district, received $4,500 a month from ComEd for consulting.
An email chain from June 2014 shed light on Madigan’s interest in property taxes with ComEd. Michael McClain, one of Madigan’s closest allies, wrote to top ComEd lobbyist Fidel Marquez about Madigan’s concern over having one of Madigan’s accounts “hustled.” The concern involved an unknown former congressman, but it’s not clearwhy Madigan was concerned about his accounts or what the former congressman’s involvement was.
However, Madigan owns a property tax appeals law firm and did have an interest in ComEd-related property taxes, according to McClain.
Another exchange shows hirings would be prioritized when Madigan requested them. In 2016, McClain asked to have a school employee hired, which Marquez made happen after learning it was Madigan’s recommendation. Madigan is consistently referred to as “our Friend” in ComEd emails to conceal his identity, prosecutors have said.
“Fidel, this is getting really close to where she will not get out of her contract with the Catholic school. Can we do this item now?” McClain wrote to Marquez. “This has been going on for months. It is our Friend’s request. I have had to pivot to Choose Chicago because cannot get movement in ComEd. Our Friend knows.”
In 2017, a similar scenario played out between McClain and former ComEd CEO Anne Pramaggiore when McClain asked to have a former Kankakee-area state legislator hired.
“Would you appoint her?” McClain asked. “If your answer is ‘yes’ then would you give me a couple day ‘heads up’ so a Friend of ours could call her in advance.”
Other emails show Madigan asked for specific people to be hired as meter readers but to do little work, which Madigan discussed with Marquez directly, according to an email. However, McClain apparently had trouble with one Madigan appointment in particular, a lobbying contract for former state Rep. Eddie Acevedo, telling Marquez that Acevedo needed to show up on time and in person and “watch the booze.”
In November, federal prosecutors charged McClain, Marquez, Pramaggiore and former ComEd lobbyist Jay Hooker in a bribery probe targeting ComEd’s relationship with Madigan. They are charged with putting Madigan designees in no-work jobs and internships at ComEd to gain Madigan’s support for legislation. The charges state the group worked “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.”
Madigan has since lost the support of 19 House Democrats, putting him six votes below the 60 votes he would need to be reelected speaker of the House in January. Most recently, House Democratic Caucus Chair state Rep. Kathleen Willis, D-Addison, said she would not support Madigan’s reelection.
The special house committee investigating Madigan was set to meet again to discuss the additional evidence against Madigan from ComEd on Dec. 14 and continue to discuss whether Madigan engaged in activity unbecoming of a lawmaker and if he should be removed from office. However, the committee’s chairman, state Rep. Chris Welch, D-Westchester, announced Nov. 30 he tested positive for COVID-19 and will isolate for at least the next 10 days.
Whether state lawmakers take Madigan’s speakership away, or boot him from the House, remains to be seen. But lawmakers should cut the power concentrated in the House speaker’s hands by reforming business as usual.
They can do that by taking the redistricting process away from lawmakers, by reforming the House Rules, 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 hindrance from lawmakers.