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Relentless: Emails show Madigan pals pushing for ComEd jobs, favors

The special House investigative committee is scheduled to meet again Dec. 14, the chair of that committee said after receiving more than 100 documents from the utility company.

Former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan,  seen at the University Club of Chicago in 2015, was often seen as an impediment to reform during his record tenure in Springfield. But, in the first session without him, legislators still backed away from significantly toughening governmental ethics laws.
Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan.
Rich Hein/Sun-Times file

On the eve of the Thanksgiving holiday, the special legislative panel looking into House Speaker Michael Madigan’s dealings with Commonwealth Edison released hundreds of pages of emails and other documents shedding further light on the extent of their relationship and the federal investigation into it.

The documents reveal a relentless drumbeat of requests by Madigan’s associates for jobs and favors from high-ranking ComEd officials, often accompanied by a request that Madigan be given the chance to break any good news to a prospective jobseeker.

Other legislative leaders, including former Senate President John Cullerton, also forwarded job requests and recommendations to the company, the documents show.

But none exhibited the same scope of demands and persistence as Madigan confidant Michael McClain, the former state representative and lobbyist who was indicted last week for allegedly pushing the Speaker’s interests with ComEd.

Committee Chairman Emanuel “Chris” Welch (D-Hillside), who has been under pressure from Republicans to resume hearings into the ComEd matters, scheduled a Dec. 14 meeting to discuss the new material.

Special Investigating Committee Chairman Emanuel “Chris” Welch (D-Hillside), right, has been under pressure from Republicans to resume hearings into the ComEd matters involving House Speaker Mike Madigan. Welch has scheduled a Dec. 14 meeting to discuss the new material.
Special Investigating Committee Chairman Emanuel “Chris” Welch (D-Hillside), right, has been under pressure from Republicans to resume hearings into the ComEd matters involving House Speaker Mike Madigan. Welch has scheduled a Dec. 14 meeting to discuss the new material.
Sun-Times file

In a statement accompanying the announcement, Welch echoed a Madigan defense talking point by saying the documents show “associates of ComEd assisted with job recommendations for people from both parties, both chambers, and multiple branches of government.”

Madigan, who has not been charged and said he has done nothing wrong, is fighting to keep the speaker’s position he has held for nearly four decades after last week’s indictment of McClain and three others prompted a series of Democratic lawmakers to announce they will not support him for another term.

Many of the emails released Wednesday, the same day they were turned over by lawyers for ComEd, are between McClain, former ComEd executive Fidel Marquez and Anne Pramaggiore, a former CEO of the utility company. Some were referenced in last week’s 50-page indictment of McClain, but many others are new.

Mike McClain, left; Mike Madigan, right.
Mike McClain, left; Mike Madigan, right.
Sun-Times File Photos

In one email exchange, Anne Burgos, who serves as the senior citizen liaison in Madigan’s 13th Ward, forwards the resume of Juan Ochoa to Pramaggiore at Madigan’s request. Ochoa served as the CEO of McPier, and McClain “sought” his appointment to ComEd’s board of directors, prosecutors say in the indictment.

“Speaker Madigan asked me to send this to you,” Burgos wrote in the email. “ Please confirm receipt.”

The email doesn’t reflect any explicit pressure for Pramaggiore to put Ochoa on the board, but an email from McClain to Pramaggiore on Nov. 28, 2017, reinforced the idea of Madigan’s personal interest.

“Anne, after your professionals do their due diligence and you make a decision our Friend would like to know from you. He, of course, would like to call Ochoa. FYI,” McClain wrote.

McClain often referred to Madigan only as “Our Friend” in his correspondence.

Later, on April 25, 2018, McClain received an email from “Mom,” apparently someone using a personal email account, informing him: “Just sent out Board approval to appoint Juan to ComEd board.”

Other emails involve pressure from McClain to make sure ComEd “set aside” summer internships for students from Madigan’s 13th Ward.

In a statement after the indictment, the powerful Southwest Side Democrat defended himself saying “there is nothing wrong or illegal about making job recommendations, regardless of what people inside ComEd may have hoped to achieve from hiring some of the people who were recommended.”

McClain’s emails also provide new information about a lobbying contract former state Rep. Eddie Acevedo and his sons landed with ComEd as subcontractors to the law firm of Victor Reyes, whose business dealings with the utility are at issue in the indictment.

Acevedo apparently created problems for ComEd, according to an email McClain sent to Marquez on Jan. 11, 2017.

“His two boys are nice but need a firm monitor. They are lazy,” McClain wrote. “He has to show up at the meetings on time. Himself. Not his boys representing him. . . Watch the booze.”

A grand jury previously subpoenaed state lobbying reports filed by the Acevedos and their firm, Apex Strategy LLC.

Apex was reportedly paid $5,000 a month, first in a contract with Reyes’s firm and then to Shaw Decremer, a lobbyist who once worked for Madigan.

Acevedo hung up on a reporter, saying, “I have no idea what you’re talking about, and I have no comment.” Reyes could not be reached for comment.

Some of the emails show McClain going to bat for the Reyes law firm to get more legal work out of ComEd after the company tried to cut back on the firm’s billable hours.

Also mentioned in the documents is House Republican Leader Jim Durkin. McClain says to Marquez in one email exchange “Can we move on this item or at least tell Durkin through his agent we will?”

Days later, McClain pressed Marquez, asking “You have been very kind in responding to a myriad of matters today but this one. Can you decide? I really believe it is a wise move to respond favorably to Leader Durkin’s request.”

Asked for comment about Durkin’s name appearing in the documents, a spokeswoman for Durkin accused ComEd of trying to protect Madigan but did not explain what Durkin had requested. ComEd attorney David Glockner said in September he wasn’t aware that a particular hire was done “with an effort to curry favor with . . . Leader Durkin.”

Another email makes clear that Cook County Recorder of Deeds Edward Moody is one of three unnamed Madigan associates referenced in the indictment because they received lobbying contracts for which they allegedly did little or no work.

Moody was paid $4,500 a month between March 2014 and October 2016 — $144,000 in total — during a period when it has been previously reported he held a $102,000-a-year job in the office of Chief Judge Timothy Evans.

Instead of being hired by ComEd directly, Moody was given a subcontract to lobbyist Jay Doherty, who was named in the indictment for his alleged role in concealing the arrangement. Moody is regarded as one of Madigan’s top political workers. Moody has not been charged with any wrongdoing.

The documents also include a reference to former Democratic state Senate President John Cullerton recommending a potential job candidate to Marquez for ComEd’s communications department.

Contributing: Jon Seidel