On witness stand, former ComEd CEO denies knowing contractors were tied to Madigan: ‘I didn’t know who they were’

Anne Pramaggiore testifies in her defense that she was unaware that the contractors hired by the utility through Jay Doherty’s company had connections to the ex- speaker.

SHARE On witness stand, former ComEd CEO denies knowing contractors were tied to Madigan: ‘I didn’t know who they were’
Former ComEd CEO Anne Pramaggiore (right) walks into the Everett M. Dirksen U.S. Courthouse in the Loop for the ComEd bribery trial, Tuesday, March 28, 2023. | Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Former ComEd CEO Anne Pramaggiore spent a full day Monday testifying in her defense, confronting recordings presented by prosecutors in her bribery case.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

A month after he began to cooperate with the FBI, then-ComEd executive Fidel Marquez helped the feds secretly record a phone call that would become key to their case against rising-star energy executive Anne Pramaggiore.

Marquez told Pramaggiore that people working for a ComEd contractor “pretty much collect a check” and that messing around with it could mean things could go “bad for us in Springfield.” Pramaggiore warned him about what could happen if somebody “gets their nose out of joint.”

But Monday, during her first full day testifying in her own defense, Pramaggiore confronted that and other recordings head-on. Even though Marquez name-dropped Frank Olivo, who once represented then-Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan’s 13th Ward power base on the City Council, Pramaggiore insisted she didn’t grasp the Madigan connection at the time.

“I didn’t know who they were,” Pramaggiore, a former ComEd CEO, said of the men being paid by ComEd through a contract with then-City Club President Jay Doherty’s consulting firm.

Pramaggiore and Doherty are now on trial with two others for an alleged bribery conspiracy. The pair are accused with Madigan confidant Michael McClain and ex-ComEd lobbyist John Hooker of arranging for jobs, contracts and money for Madigan allies in an illegal bid to sway Madigan as legislation crucial to ComEd moved through Springfield.

Though the trial is now entering its sixth week, there were hints Monday that it could be nearing its end. McClain’s attorney, Patrick Cotter, told the judge that defense attorneys could wrap their case by Thursday. Federal prosecutors still might decide to present rebuttal evidence, but it suggests closing arguments could begin as soon as next week.

First, prosecutors are expected to begin cross-examining Pramaggiore on Tuesday morning. And that will give them an opportunity to question her about some of the explanations she offered Monday.

By the time of her crucial phone call with Marquez on Feb. 18, 2019, Pramaggiore had moved on from ComEd and become CEO of Exelon Utilities. ComEd had a new CEO, Joseph Dominguez, and Marquez claimed he needed to figure out how to explain Doherty’s contract to him.

The contract was paid out of the CEO’s budget, including when Pramaggiore had the job.

Pramaggiore suggested in the call that Marquez tell Dominguez “it’s probably a good time to make a switch,” but she suggested he wait until after the end of the legislative session. She said they did not want someone to get “their nose out of joint,” forcing ComEd to give someone “a five-year contract because we’re in the middle of needing to get something done in Springfield.” She also mentioned turnover in the legislature.

On Monday, Pramaggiore explained that she didn’t understand who the subcontractors would have been affiliated with in the legislature. She said she mentioned turnover because she was thinking “maybe those legislators are no longer in the legislature.”

Pramaggiore said “we don’t like to disrupt things during session.” And as for who would be getting their “nose out of joint,” Pramaggiore said she was referring to whoever the subcontractors “are connected to.”

Pramaggiore also unpacked a Sept. 7, 2018, phone call in which she assured McClain that former McPier boss Juan Ochoa would be appointed to ComEd’s board “barring anything, like, bizarre.” Later she told McClain, “You take good care of me and so does our friend, and I will do the best that I can to, to take care of you.”

On the stand, Pramaggiore said she meant that she would try to help McClain, whom she called “my friend.”

“I’m trying to be helpful to him,” Pramaggiore said. “He’s the one that brought the recommendation, and I’m trying to help him out.” Of her use of the phrase, “our friend” in the recorded call, Pramaggiore said she used the term because McClain “reveres the speaker.”

“I would often mention him [Madigan] in our conversation in order to enhance our relationship,” Pramaggiore said.

Pramaggiore also tried to explain away another unflattering call to McClain, a May 8, 2018, recorded conversation in which she seemingly referred to Hooker, McClain and Madigan as her “spirit guides.” Pramaggiore called McClain to tell him she was being named CEO of Exelon Utilities. She had already called Madigan to tell him the news.

“Never would’ve happened without you, and John, and the Speaker and, I mean hones-, really,” Pramaggiore said. “‘Cause, the, only reason that I’m in this position is ‘cause ComEd has done so well, and you guys have been my, my spirit guides. (Laughs). And more, on that.”

Pramaggiore on the stand said her “spirit guides” were McClain and Hooker, not Madigan.

“Well they had been very helpful to me during my CEO tenure at ComEd,” Pramaggiore said of the two.

“Did you say to McClain, ‘Boy we’re going to be in trouble because whoever is the next head of ComEd is going to find out that we’ve been bribing Speaker Madigan?” Pramaggiore’s attorney Scott Lassar asked.

“No,” Pramaggiore answered.

“Were you concerned about that?” Lassar asked.

“No,” Pramaggiore said. “We weren’t bribing Speaker Madigan.”

ComEd trial timeline

ComEd scandal timeline

This timeline looks at the key players involved in the trial and the main events that led to it. Scroll through it here.

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