Illinois House committee probes around the edges of ComEd scandal

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Jobs and vendor contracts for associates weren’t good enough for allies of Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, according to ComEd officials. The allies wanted more.

The depth of the scheme the utility admitted to facilitating to curry favor with the longtime House speaker underscores why Republicans are pushing for more testimony from others involved in the bribery scandal.

ComEd signed a deferred prosecution agreement with federal prosecutors this summer that laid out what one Madigan ally was quoted as saying in the document was an “old fashioned patronage scheme.”

Exelon compliance officer David Glockner didn’t stray far from the wording used in the deferred prosecution agreement at Tuesday’s House Special Investigating Committee. The agreement details how the utility paid $1.3 million in jobs and vendor contracts to influence Madigan.

“ComEd has acknowledged that it believed that it was seeking to influence Speaker Madigan through these actions,” Glockner testified.

Those actions included hiding bribes by funneling payments to a third-party vendor to pay allies of Madigan for do-nothing jobs.

Another part of the nearly decade-long scheme laid out in admissions from the utility was a demand from a Madigan ally for another Madigan associate to be appointed to ComEd’s board. A former ComEd official suggested a job instead, but state Rep. Deanne Mazzochi, R-Elmhurst, read from federal records Tuesday that said the ally wanted the board position.

There were even conversations the DPA described where a Madigan ally said the efforts were to make Madigan “happy.”

Glocker said that was the utility’s understanding.

“Certainly ComEd believed that when Mr. [Michael] McClain, for example, was making these demands on behalf of the speaker, they didn’t think that Mr. McClain was lying to them,” Mazzochi said.

“No,” Glockner said.

“They thought that he was authorized to make these statements by Mike Madigan,” Mazzochi said.

“They believed him, yes,” Glockner said.

Federal agents raided the home of former ComEd lobbyist McClain in May 2019. McClain, a former legislator and longtime Madigan ally, also arranged for payments to a disgraced former aide of the House Speaker who was fired from his political job after being accused publicly of sexual harrassment.

Democrats during Tuesday’s hearing pointed out what was missing from the deferred prosecution agreement.

“There’s nothing anywhere in the deferred prosecution agreement that establishes personal knowledge by Speaker Madigan, correct?” asked state Rep. Chris Welch, D-Hillside.

“I would agree with that,” Glockner said.

Federal records also indicate Madigan allies told former ComEd executives not to write anything down and to keep their mouths shut.

Madigan has said he has not done anything wrong. He said he won’t testify in front of the committee. Madigan has not been charged with a crime. But the House investigation is taking up the charge that the speaker’s behavior outlined in the deferred prosecution agreement is unbecoming of a legislator.

Republicans are pushing to subpoena Madigan and his allies to answer questions, but Democrats on the committee have blocked those efforts.

A former ComEd official who pleaded guilty in the scheme on Tuesday is expected to voluntarily testify, but it’s unclear when that will happen.

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