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In bribery case, prosecutors shift focus to former utility leader



(The Center Square) – Prosecutors continued Tuesday to illustrate the importance of former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan to the state’s largest utility in the trial of four former ComEd officials facing bribery charges.

In January 2011 as ComEd officials discussed calls with credit-rating agencies in New York, those agencies – which determined how well the company was positioned to meet its financial obligations – wanted to know Madigan’s view of legislation the utility wanted to pass.

The agencies indicated they would view the passage of the legislation as good for ComEd’s credit rating. But they wanted to what Madigan thought.

Tom O’Neill, who worked in several roles for ComEd and its parent company, Exelon, told jurors it was “widely known” – even to the Big Three credit rating agencies in New York – that Madigan’s support was essential to get things done in the Illinois Legislature.

Prosecutors spent several hours with O’Neill on the stand going through the passage of energy legislation in Illinois as they worked to establish a foundation for their case against former ComEd CEO Anne Pramaggiore, former ComEd lobbyist John Hooker, former ComEd consultant Jay Doherty and former lobbyist and state lawmaker Michael McClain. All four have pleaded “not guilty” to conspiracy, bribery, and willfully falsifying ComEd books and records. ComEd is the state’s largest electric utility.

Prosecutors claim the four corruptly gave jobs, contracts and payments to Madigan’s associates in order to get legislation favorable to ComEd passed.

O’Neill’s testimony late Tuesday shifted focus to Pramaggiore, the longtime Exelon and ComEd leader who resigned in 2019 during a federal probe of the state-regulated utility’s lobbying practices.

O’Neill said Pramaggiore was set on keeping Madigan happy.

“She said things like ‘what’s important to the speaker is important to ComEd,'” he told jurors.

O’Neill said Pramaggiore also made it clear that the company would extend a contract with Chicago-based law firm Reyes Kurson even after legal work for the firm dried up.

O’Neill said co-defendant McClain was “relentless” in his efforts to get the contract extended.

ComEd agreed to pay $200 million in July 2020 to resolve a criminal investigation into the years-long bribery scheme. As part of a deferred prosecution agreement, ComEd admitted it arranged jobs, vendor subcontracts and payments in a bid to influence Madigan.

Madigan served in the Illinois House from 1971 to 2021. He served as speaker of the Illinois House from 1983 to 1995 and again from 1997 to 2021. He wielded additional power as chairman of the Democratic Party of Illinois.

Madigan, who resigned after losing the House speakership in January 2021, has been charged with 23 counts of racketeering, bribery and official misconduct in a separate case that could go to trial in April 2024. He has pleaded “not guilty.”

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