Feds want fact-finding stopped in suit tied to ComEd bribery — but say things could change in 60 days

A judge also Thursday tossed a separate lawsuit related to the ComEd investigation, finding that it fell short of showing the alleged bribery of Madigan directly led to passage of legislation favoring ComEd.

SHARE Feds want fact-finding stopped in suit tied to ComEd bribery — but say things could change in 60 days
Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, speaks at a news conference at the Capitol in Springfield in 2017.

FILE - In this July 26, 2017, file photo, then-Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, speaks at a news conference at the Capitol in Springfield, Ill.

Justin Fowler/AP file

Federal prosecutors sought to halt fact-finding Thursday in a civil case related to the ongoing bribery investigation involving ComEd that has implicated former House Speaker Michael Madigan, noting it goes “to the core” of a secret grand jury investigation. 

A 14-page filing from the feds also notes that, “in sixty days, the government may have fewer objections” to subpoenas filed in the case.

Meanwhile, a judge also Thursday tossed a separate lawsuit related to the ComEd investigation, finding that it fell short of showing the alleged bribery of Madigan directly led to passage of legislation favoring ComEd. 

Both lawsuits followed developments in the feds’ ongoing criminal investigation that has already led to charges against ComEd, four members of Madigan’s inner-circle and his former chief of staff. Just last month, a judge set a September 2022 trial date for Madigan confidant Michael McClain, former ComEd CEO Anne Pramaggiore, onetime ComEd lobbyist John Hooker and ex-City Club President Jay Doherty. 

The four, who are accused of a long-term bribery scheme designed to curry favor with Madigan, have pleaded not guilty. 

U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber, who presides over that case, asked Assistant U.S. Attorney Sarah Streicker last month about the possibility of a superseding indictment — which could add new allegations and defendants to the case. Streicker told him she had “no further information about whether there will be a superseding indictment” and told the judge, “the investigation is ongoing.”

Madigan has not been charged and denies wrongdoing.

On Thursday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Julia Schwartz sought to halt document requests and subpoenas in a proposed class-action lawsuit filed by Joshua Flynn, who claims he bought stock in ComEd parent Exelon only to see its value fall in the wake of public revelations about the investigation. 

Schwartz wrote that prosecutors learned in June of requests made in the case to Pramaggiore, as well as subpoenas that had been sent to various parties seeking records related to the criminal investigation. The feds were told that more than 40 subpoenas had been served, Schwartz wrote, and prosecutors have “not yet been able to reach an agreement” with attorneys in the case on an order that would restrict the distribution of the documents.

The prosecutor also wrote that the requests “threaten to reveal witnesses who have testified before the grand jury or been interviewed by law enforcement, as well as the direction of the grand jury’s investigation.”

A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s office declined to comment.

Also Thursday, U.S. District Judge Jorge Alonso tossed a proposed class-action lawsuit that had been filed in the wake of last year’s bribery charge against ComEd, as well as an intervening complaint from the Citizens Utility Board. The lawsuits generally alleged that the bribery scheme led to the passage of legislation that allowed ComEd “to collect unjust and illegal profits from Illinois electricity customers.”

Not only did the judge say the lawsuit failed to link the bribery scheme to the passage of the legislation, the judge said the lawsuit amounted to an attempt to nullify state law.

In a statement reacting to the judge’s decision, CUB Executive Director David Kolata wrote that CUB is “disappointed that the U.S. District Court has sided against Illinois consumers and dismissed our lawsuit against ComEd.”

“We remain committed to holding the utility accountable and securing fair compensation for customers harmed by the ComEd scandal,” Kolata wrote. “We are now weighing our options before the federal court, and have already intervened in class action lawsuits in the state courts.”

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