All Four Illinois Political Insiders in ComEd Bribery Trial Found Guilty

(Justin L. Fowler/The State Journal-Register via AP)

One of the most significant political trials in Illinois history has ended with all four defendants found guilty of trying to bribe former Illinois Speaker of the House Michael Madigan — a politician widely thought to be the most powerful state legislator in U.S. history.

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Michael Madigan confidant Michael McClain, former ComEd CEO Anne Pramaggiore, ex-ComEd lobbyist John Hooker and onetime City Club President Jay Doherty were all found guilty in a near-decades-long conspiracy to bribe the once-powerful Southwest Side Democrat.

Madigan himself is expected to go on trial next year on racketeering and other charges. That trial will prove itself to be an even bigger circus than this one. The former speaker’s presence was keenly felt throughout the trial even by the jurors.

The jury foreperson Sarah Goldenberg told the Chicago Sun-Times that she thought Madigan “had a heavy hand in how this corruption and coercion took place.” Another juror, Amanda Schnitker Sayers, said Madigan’s involvement in the scheme “was, of course, key.”

“Our perception was that [Madigan] really did cause this all to happen,” Schnitker Sayers, of Logan Square, told reporters. “If it wouldn’t have been for him, then these people would not have been in the position that they would need to commit crimes in the first place.”

Jurors heard that five Madigan allies were paid $1.3 million by ComEd over eight years. The money was paid through intermediaries, including Doherty’s consulting firm, but the men allegedly did little or no work for ComEd. The recipients were former Alds. Frank Olivo and Michael R. Zalewski, former Cook County Recorder of Deeds Edward Moody, former state Rep. Edward “Eddie” Acevedo and longtime Madigan campaign worker Raymond Nice.

No charges have been filed against Olivo, Zalewski, Nice or Moody, though prosecutors have said Moody was not charged in exchange for truthful testimony. He testified in the trial April 11. Acevedo has not been charged as part of the scheme, but he recently served a six-month prison sentence for tax evasion in a spinoff prosecution.

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McClain, Pramaggiore, Hooker, and Doherty were accused of participating in an elaborate “pay for play” scheme to arrange for jobs, contracts, and money for Madigan allies in an illegal bid to influence him as legislation moved through Springfield. That legislation brought ComEd back from the brink of bankruptcy early in the 2000s to earning record profits today.

The feds also pointed to three other schemes allegedly designed to influence Madigan. One involved the 2016 renewal of an unusual contract for the law firm Reyes Kurson — where political operative Victor Reyes is partner — in which the firm was assured 850 billable hours a year. Another was an effort by Madigan and McClain between 2017 and 2019 to put former McPier boss Juan Ochoa on ComEd’s board.

Finally, the defendants were accused of making sure internship positions at ComEd were set aside for people associated with Madigan’s power base in Chicago’s 13th Ward.

Everyone got a taste in Madigan’s Illinois.

Madigan’s trial is set to begin next April and may be one of the most complex trials in Illinois history. Madigan’s defense will be that he was conducting “business as usual” in Illinois. If he’s convicted, it will send a strong message to other politicians in the state that “business as usual” just doesn’t cut it anymore.

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