clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

ComEd accepts GOP ‘invitation to provide testimony’ at Madigan hearing — but Democrats mum on how to handle RSVP

Whether Democrats will agree to the Republicans’ plans to take testimony is unclear. Also unclear is what testimony current company officials could give, as none of them have been implicated directly in any of the alleged wrongdoing.

State House Republican Leader Jim Durkin, R-Western Springs, left, talks with House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, in May.
State House Republican Leader Jim Durkin, R-Western Springs, left, talks with House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, during an extended session of the Illinois House of Representatives at the Bank of Springfield Center in May.
Justin L. Fowler/The State Journal-Register via AP-file

Commonwealth Edison has agreed to participate in next week’s meeting of a special Illinois House committee investigating Speaker Michael Madigan’s alleged role in a bribery scheme involving the utility.

House Republican Leader Jim Durkin informed the committee by letter Thursday that he intends to question ComEd representatives about the company’s deferred prosecution agreement with the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Under the agreement with prosecutors, ComEd agreed to pay a $200 million fine and admit that some company officials were involved in a scheme to pay $1.3 million to Madigan associates for doing little or no work in an effort to secure his support in the Legislature.

Fidel Marquez is shown in 2011, when he was senior vice president of ComEd customer operations.
Fidel Marquez is shown in 2011, when he was senior vice president of ComEd customer operations.
Sun-Times file

Although Madigan has not been charged with any crime, House Republicans have used information contained in the agreement as the basis to bring a disciplinary case against the veteran speaker.

To date, only one individual has been charged, Fidel Marquez, ComEd’s senior vice president of governmental and external affairs from March 2012 to September 2019. Marquez is believed to be cooperating in the federal investigation.

ComEd released a statement confirming the company’s planned participation at the Tuesday hearing in Springfield.

“ComEd has pledged to respect the legislative process that has been initiated and accepted the invitation to provide testimony at the hearing next week,” the statement read.

Whether Democrats will agree to the Republicans’ plans to take testimony is unclear. Rep. Emmanuel “Chris” Welch (D-Hillside), chairman of the committee, could not be reached for comment.

State Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch, D-Hillside, speaks during a news conference in Springfield last year.
State Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch, D-Hillside, speaks during a news conference in Springfield last year.
Rebecca Anzel/Capitol News Illinois file photo

Also unclear is what testimony current company officials could give, as none of them have been implicated directly in any of the alleged wrongdoing.

But they would have knowledge about the company’s admissions in the deferred prosecution agreement, as well as about ComEd’s own internal investigation into the same matters that led to the federal investigation.

U.S. Attorney John Lausch sent a letter to the committee last week seeking to clarify his office’s position about what steps legislators can take amid the “sensitivity of our ongoing federal investigation.”

In his letter, Lausch recognized the committee’s authority to conduct its own investigation and its need to include topics related to the federal probe. He also acknowledged the committee could take testimony and pursue documents, but objected to the committee asking witnesses about grand jury proceedings or what they have told federal investigators.

House Republican Leader Jim Durkin, left, in 2018; House Speaker Mike Madigan, right, in 2015.
House Republican Leader Jim Durkin, left, in 2018; House Speaker Mike Madigan, right, in 2015.
Rich Hein/Sun-Times file

Welch and Rep. Tom Demmer (R-Dixon), the ranking Republican on the investigative panel, have been engaged in a running dispute about what Lausch’s limitations mean.

Republicans have accused Democrats of trying to delay the investigation until after the Nov. 3 election. Democrats have portrayed the House investigation as an effort to embarrass Madigan and divert attention from President Donald Trump.

Durkin, who also could not be reached for comment, also told the committee he plans to make an opening statement during the Tuesday meeting.

Republicans have retained Ron Safer, a former federal prosecutor, to help them present their case.

The House investigation does not accuse Madigan of a crime, but seeks to determine whether he “engaged in conduct which is unbecoming to a legislator or which constitutes a breach of public trust.”