Garcia mentioned in recording during feds’ ComEd probe

The congressman, who is running for mayor of Chicago, is not accused of wrongdoing, and his spokesperson told the Sun-Times on Friday that he “is not involved in any investigation in any manner.”

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U.S. Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, shown at a City Hall news conference on Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2022.

U.S. Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia is shown at a City Hall news conference in September.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

U.S. Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia is among the names that could drop in March during the trial of four people accused of trying to bribe then-Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan — an event that could take place in the middle of the mayoral election in which Garcia is a front-runner.

The Chicago Sun-Times has learned Garcia’s name is mentioned in a recorded phone conversation between Madigan and his longtime confidant, Michael McClain, one of four people set to go on trial for the alleged scheme centering on ComEd.

Garcia is not accused of wrongdoing, and his spokesperson told the Sun-Times on Friday that he “is not involved in any investigation in any manner.”

“It is political silly season in Chicago, and his opponents are inventing a phony attack because he is the front-runner in this race,” the spokesperson said.

The conversation occurred amid an alleged scheme in which Madigan and McClain are accused of working to have former McPier CEO Juan Ochoa appointed to the board of ComEd — a campaign that allegedly started in November 2017 and lasted more than a year.

By Feb. 19, 2019, the appointment still hadn’t been finalized. And records show that Madigan told McClain he’d heard from Ochoa about a meeting.

Though the comment by Madigan to McClain is partially redacted in publicly available court filings, the Sun-Times has learned Madigan said: “OK, so you see there’s a request from Ochoa, and Ochoa being Ochoa, the message reads, ‘Ochoa and Congressman Garcia.’ So I called Chuy, and Chuy really didn’t know anything about it.”

Though the comment was made in the midst of the alleged Ochoa scheme, his meeting request actually dealt with an “unrelated matter,” federal prosecutors wrote in a court filing last week.

Still, the fact that Garcia’s name has surfaced in the high-profile case is sure to catch the attention of Garcia’s opponents in this year’s mayoral election. The trial of McClain, ex-ComEd CEO Anne Pramaggiore, former ComEd lobbyist John Hooker and onetime City Club President Jay Doherty is set to begin March 6. 

That’s roughly one week after the first round of voting for mayor, on Feb. 28. And the case is not expected to be concluded before the expected runoff election between the top two vote-getters, on April 4.

In response to questions from the Sun-Times, Garcia’s spokesperson also said the congressman has not been questioned by federal investigators or attorneys about this matter, and does not expect to be called to testify during the upcoming trials.

The reference to Garcia in the case was first reported by the Chicago Tribune.

McClain, Pramaggiore, Hooker and Doherty are accused of arranging for Madigan’s associates and allies to get jobs, contracts and money in order to influence the once-powerful speaker as legislation that would affect ComEd moved through Springfield.

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