Federal prosecutors are digging into House Speaker Michael Madigan’s inner circle, charging several of his friends in connection to a bribery scheme.
Michael Madigan, a Democrat, is the longest-serving leader of any state or federal legislative body in the history of the U.S., having held the position for all but two years since 1983.
Madigan insists that he has taken no bribes, stating “I take offense at any notion otherwise.” But prosecutors don’t seem to agree, as they have indicted several of his confidants and close friends in a bribery scheme.
On Wednesday, prosecutors charged both longtime confidant Michael McClain and ex-ComEd CEO Anne Pramaggiore in a bribery scheme designed to curry favor with the powerful Southwest Side Democrat.
According to The Chicago Sun-Times, “Also named in the 50-page indictment are ex-top ComEd lobbyist John Hooker and Jay Doherty, the former president of the City Club, who was accused of helping to funnel hundreds of thousands of dollars to three people with ties to Madigan’s 13th Ward.”
All four of Madigan’s allies are charged in a document which makes frequent references to ex-ComEd executive Fidel Marquez, who has already pleaded guilty to bribery, and also repeatedly mentions “Public Official A,” who is not specifically named, but is clearly identified as Madigan.
Despite an intense federal probe that is clearly aimed at Madigan, he has yet to be charged with any crime.
A spokesman for U.S. Attorney John Lausch announced that he investigation that led to the indictment “remains ongoing.” McClain, Pramaggiore, Hooker, and Doherty are each charged with bribery conspiracy, bribery, and willfully falsifying ComEd books and records.
All four of their defense attorneys have vowed to fight the case against their respective clients. Doherty’s attorney, Michael Gillespie, said his client was “very disappointed” and “has done nothing wrong and will plead not guilty.” A spokesperson for Pramaggiore stated that she “unequivocally rejects the government’s charges that she engaged in unlawful behavior.”
Patrick Cotter, McClain’s attorney, said the case is the “result of a misguided investigation and misapplication of the law, driven by an obvious desire to find some way to criminally implicate a current elected official, who happens to be Mike McClain’s longtime friend.”
The details of the new indictment correlate with several details revealed in July when prosecutors charged ComEd with bribery in a case that has created political shockwaves in the past four months. It led to a legislative probe of Madigan’s dealings with the company, and may lead to Madigan losing his power as House Speaker in Illinois.
Despite formally pleading not guilty in court, ComEd admitted to several of the allegations in a “deferred prosecution agreement,” leading to the payment of a $200 million fine. If ComEd abides by the terms of the agreement, the bribery charge filed in July will likely be dismissed.
Details of the Indictment
The recent indictment alleges that McClain, Pramaggiore, Hooker and Doherty arranged for Madigan’s associate and allies to get jobs, contracts and money, while doing little or no work, “for the purpose of influencing and rewarding” Madigan. It also focuses on an unnamed law firm, favoring of applicants from the 13th Ward, “Madigan’s attempt to have former McPier CEO Juan Ochoa appointed to ComEd’s board of directors and the hiring of other individuals associated with Madigan,” according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
The indictment also alleges that the four would hide the nature of their conduct by not referring to Madigan by name, but instead calling him “our Friend” or “a Friend of ours.”
It also alleges that payments were made to Doherty’s firm totaling more than $2 million between January 27, 2014, and May 3, 2019. Then, Doherty made $256,000 in payments to an unnamed individual, whom the Sun-Times identified as former Alderman Frank Olivo, $325,000 in payments to another unnamed individual, and $144,000 in payments to a third individual.
Pramaggiore then allegedly signed a false document supporting the renewal of a contract for Doherty’s firm, making it appear as though the large amount of money paid to it was for its “unique insight & perspective to promote ComEd and its business matters.”
McCain allegedly told Pramaggiore and Hooker in an email: “I know the drill and so do you,” and that “Our Friend will call me and then I will call you. Is this a drill we must go through?”
“I just do not understand why we have to spend valuable minutes on items like this when we know it will provoke a reaction from our Friend,” McClain allegedly wrote.