Afternoon Edition: July 17, 2020

Today’s update is a 5-minute read that will brief you on the day’s biggest stories.

SHARE Afternoon Edition: July 17, 2020

House Speaker Michael Madigan has been implicated in a criminal investigation involving ComEd.


Good afternoon. Here’s the latest news you need to know in Chicago. It’s about a 5-minute read that will brief you on today’s biggest stories.

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Afternoon Edition

Chicago’s most important news of the day, delivered every weekday afternoon. Plus, a bonus issue on Saturdays that dives into the city’s storied history.

Happy Friday! This afternoon will be sunny, with a high near 89 degrees; tonight’s low will be 72 degrees. This weekend will be super hot: tomorrow’s high will be near 95 degrees with heat index values as high as 105 degrees, and Sunday’s high will be around 88 degrees.

Top story

Feds file criminal case against ComEd, implicate Mike Madigan

Federal prosecutors have implicated Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan in a brazen, Chicago-style bribery scheme involving ComEd that allegedly went on for years and involved payments to Madigan associates exceeding $1.3 million.

Though the stunning, lengthy details were revealed today in documents that charged only ComEd — and not Madigan — with bribery, they said ComEd has agreed to “fully and truthfully cooperate” with federal prosecutors. The company has agreed to pay a $200 million fine and acknowledged that it sought Madigan’s help for legislation that could be worth more than $150 million to the utility company.

Madigan is not identified by name in the documents; they refer only to “Public Official A.” But there is no doubt it is him, as the documents identify that person as Illinois’ house speaker. No one in the country has held that title as long as Madigan.

U.S. Attorney John Lausch repeatedly declined to say at a news conference today if Madigan would be criminally charged. Lausch described the ongoing investigation as “vibrant.” “We realize we have a lot of work to do, and we’re going to get that done,” he said.

The court documents filed today are full of colorful, classically Chicago quotes: At one point, a Madigan associate warns, “I would say to you don’t put anything in writing … all it can do is hurt ya.” At another, that person — not named in the court records but identified by us as longtime lobbyist Mike McClain — says, “We had to hire these guys because [Madigan] came to us. It’s just that simple.” A consultant allegedly said payments were made “to keep [Madigan] happy, I think it’s worth it, because you’d hear otherwise.”

The Madigan associate at one point allegedly explained that, for decades, Madigan had hand-picked ComEd employees, for positions like meter readers, as part of an “old-fashioned patronage system.” Madigan’s influence was so great, he even requested a specific candidate be appointed to the ComEd board of directors. While that person is not named in the court document, sources said it’s former McPier CEO Juan Ochoa.

Gov. J. B. Pritzker said he was “deeply troubled, and frankly, I’m furious with what is being reported” about Madigan. “If these allegations of wrongdoing by the speaker are true, there is no question that he will have betrayed the public trust, and he must resign,” Pritzker said.

The criminal charge against ComEd follows more than a year of intrigue regarding the feds’ public corruption investigations and speculation over whether their work would ever touch Madigan, one of the most powerful Democrats in Illinois for decades. He’s wielded as much power as, and often more than, its governors.

Madigan, 78, is known in Springfield as “The Velvet Hammer” for his quiet, but iron-fisted control over his chamber. So legendary is his political acumen and legislative prowess that fellow legislators, lobbyists and insiders toss about the maxim, “Never bet against the speaker.”

Read the full story from Jon Seidel and Tim Novak.

More news you need

  1. The U.S. attorney’s office in Chicago has obtained records on a wide range of property tax appeals made to then-Cook County Assessor Joseph Berrios. Among the clout-heavy law firms involved are ones headed by Illinois House Speaker Michael J. Madigan and Ald. Edward M. Burke.
  2. A northern Illinois woman who subjected her young son to years of physical and emotional abuse culminating in his beating death last year has been sentenced to 35 years in prison. JoAnn Cunningham pleaded guilty in December to killing her son, Andrew “AJ” Freund.
  3. Most Chicago Public Schools students will return to classrooms two days a week this fall under a plan that still leans heavily on part-time remote learning. New safety protocols will include daily temperature checks, universal masking and the addition of 400 new janitors.
  4. Many immigrants hoping to become citizens are stuck in limbo — for some, possibly until after November’s presidential election — because of coronavirus shutdown-related delays that have helped fuel a big backlog for naturalization. In Chicago, there were 21,977 pending applications as of 3/31.
  5. As a high school English teacher and boxing coach, Tom O’Shea sent students on to the Olympics (including Nate Jones), Hollywood (Joseph Sikora) and on to lead productive lives. The father figure to many Chicago students died of COVID-19.
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A bright one

Google this: Corneisha Fowler is an exemplary employee

Corneisha Fowler works in guest relations at Rush University Medical Center, and her boss knows he’s lucky to have her: Fowler is a natural at dealing with patients and family members as they confront the stress that comes with walking through the front door of any hospital: “She puts people at ease. She knows how to talk to people,” said Ricardo Kirgan, Rush’s guest relations manager.

Fowler, 23, is taking college courses in hopes of someday becoming a child-protective specialist for the state Department of Children and Family Services. As her education progresses, Kirgan isn’t sure how long he’ll be able to keep her. There’s just one thing that might hold her back: a column our own Mark Brown wrote two years ago about SisterHouse, a West Side recovery home for women where Fowler was living at the time, which mentioned Fowler was recovering from alcoholism.


Corneisha Fowler’s duties can take her from the hospital’s information desks to its intensive-care waiting rooms.

Mark Brown/Sun-Times

Brown knew he couldn’t take the story down, or remove Fowler’s name. But there is more to her story, he realized, and he could help by continuing to tell it. He’s hopeful that, now, her second chapter will pop up first on Google when prospective employers look her up.

“As her manager at Rush, I can tell you that Corneisha has not been a good employee. She’s been an exemplary one,” Kirgan wrote. She’s moved into her own apartment, has learned to drive and got her own car. She’s taking classes at nearby Malcolm X College, hoping to pursue a degree in psychology. And she has been sober for two years.

“The way I’ve got to this point is staying true to myself and sticking to the plan that I want,” Fowler said. “I want a better quality of life for myself.”

Read the full column from Mark Brown here.

From the press box

Guaranteed Rate Field will likely remain empty for a good while, but White Sox broadcaster Jason Benetti still expects to see fans’ reactions during games. “We want fans to send us their reactions of big plays from their couch because I just want to see people go crazy in their living room,” Benetti said.

Cubs pitcher Jose Quintana is back at camp and continuing his rehab after doctors removed stitches from his left thumb. “One thing I know about my experiences in baseball is there are a lot of twists and concerns that can come from major medical procedures,” manager David Ross said. “So it’s a big wait-and-see for me.”

Bears wide receiver Allen Robinson says there has been no movement on a contract extension.

And there’s bad news on the love front: Aaron Rodgers and Danica Patrick have broken up.

Your daily question ☕

Chicago Public Schools announced today that students will be returning to the classroom two days per week this fall, and learning remotely the other days. What do you think of this plan?

Email us (please include your first name and where you live) and we might include your answer in the next Afternoon Edition.

Yesterday, we asked you: If you could choose a celebrity to host a podcast, who would it be, and what would you want them to talk about? Here’s what some of you said…

“Tyler Perry —How to rise above poverty and negative circumstances!” — Genevieve Williams

“Trey Anastasio talking about music, gear, recording and live shows.” — Dennis Nowak

“Dave Chappelle. Talk about anything!” — Diane Voykin Halt

“Larry David… Nothing.” — Maria Reyner

“Barack Obama … The state of America.” — Dorian Lofton

“Dolly Parton to talk about literally whatever she wanted. I would listen to that woman read the dictionary.” — Jaden Amos

Thanks for reading the Chicago Afternoon Edition.Got a story you think we missed? Email us here.

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