Madigan quipped that his associates ‘have made out like bandits’ from ComEd deals, feds say

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Former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan.

AP file

In summer 2018, months before it became apparent they were the targets of a federal investigation, then-Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan was reminded by a longtime confidant about a contract they’d help someone land that tied the person to ComEd.

Madigan then interrupted his confidant, Michael McClain. The men allegedly were near the end of an almost decadelong scheme, in which they persuaded ComEd to give Madigan’s associates jobs, contracts and money in order to curry favor with the speaker.

“Some of these guys have made out like bandits, Mike,” Madigan quipped, according to a newly released transcript of the conversation that was caught on a federal wiretap.

“Oh my God, for very little work too,” McClain said, coughing amid his response. “Very little work.”

Now, federal prosecutors say that conversation is evidence that Madigan and McClain understood that people employed by ComEd at Madigan’s request were doing little or no work for the utility.

“Indeed,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Amarjeet Bhachu wrote, “many of the Madigan subcontractors made out like thieves, just as Madigan observed.”

That episode was contained in a 126-page legal document filed late Tuesday by prosecutors in anticipation of the fast-approaching March 6 trial of McClain and three others who are accused of trying to bribe Madigan to benefit ComEd.

The document, known as a Santiago proffer, offers a broad outline of the trial expected to last as long as two months before U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber. It identifies potential witnesses, their likely testimony and other pieces of evidence the feds will use to try to convict McClain, former ComEd CEO Anne Pramaggiore, ex-ComEd lobbyist John Hooker and onetime City Club President Jay Doherty.

Clockwise, from top left: Former ComEd lobbyist John Hooker, longtime Madigan confidant Michael McClain, ex-City Club President Jay Doherty and onetime ComEd CEO Anne Pramaggiore.

Sun-Times File

Madigan is not expected to face trial on his own racketeering indictment until April 1, 2024. Still, the proffer continues to make clear he will be the central character in the trial set to begin in March. And though many details about the Madigan investigation have trickled out over the years, the document suggests there is still plenty of intrigue.

Various current and former members of the General Assembly are expected to take the stand to discuss Madigan’s formidable power in Springfield. Dick Simpson, a University of Illinois political science professor emeritus, is expected to discuss the Chicago political machine.

Also expected to testify is Fidel Marquez, the former ComEd executive who cooperated with investigators and pleaded guilty in 2020 to a bribery conspiracy.

Madigan resigned from the legislature in 2021. Defense attorneys for Madigan and McClain declined to comment on the document. Attorneys for Pramaggiore, Hooker and Doherty could not immediately be reached.

Few details are offered about the episode in which Madigan allegedly said people “made out like bandits.” The wiretapped conversation occurred Aug. 4, 2018. Madigan and McClain had been discussing a labor agreement with Madigan that involved ComEd, and McClain allegedly noted that someone would be driving the agreement around to the parties involved so it could be executed.

Madigan allegedly asked if that person was involved with ComEd, and McClain allegedly said, “Yeah, remember we got him that contract, um, maybe five years ago now, whenever it was? For a buck fifty a year.”

Feds: ComEd lobbyist called Madigan his ‘real’ client

Prosecutors said jurors will hear that McClain was sometimes referred to as a “double agent” at ComEd, where he served as a lobbyist, because of his close ties to Madigan. The feds also intend to offer a letter McClain sent to Madigan upon McClain’s formal retirement as a lobbyist in 2016. In it, McClain allegedly wrote that he “wanted to let my ‘real’ client know” that he was retiring. 

“At the end of the day I am at the bridge with my musket standing with and for the Madigan family,” McClain allegedly wrote.

Other records will show that subcontractors hired at Madigan’s request received “well in excess of $1.2 million” between 2011 and 2019 while doing little or no work for the utility, according to the feds. 

Jurors will likely be told that Pramaggiore “viewed all aspects of ComEd’s business through a political lens” and would say things like, “what’s important to the speaker is important to us.”

A recorded phone call from April 2019 will allegedly indicate that Pramaggiore explored hiring former Madigan chief of staff Timothy Mapes, who lost his job amid a string of harassment allegations.

During the phone call, between Hooker and Marquez, Hooker allegedly said that Pramaggiore wanted to “pay him but hide his contract in someone else’s.”

The feds say Pramaggiore abandoned that plan after she discovered the federal investigation.

Mapes now faces his own separate perjury indictment, and he is set for trial in August.

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January 11, 2023 at 03:41PM

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