(The Center Square) – A new trove of emails released to a House Committee investigating Speaker Michael Madigan's conduct shows that the speaker's longtime friend and confidant Michael McClain badgered ComEd officials for jobs and contracts for others.
In the emails, McClain said he requested the favors at Madigan's behest. Madigan has denied any wrongdoing and has not been charged with a crime. Madigan has said he recommended people for jobs but never expected anything in return.
"After a lengthy investigation, the U.S. Attorney’s Office has charged, but of course has not proven, that certain ComEd employees, consultants, and lobbyists allegedly conspired with one another in the hope of somehow influencing me in my official capacity," Madigan said in a statement. "Let me be clear: if that attempt ever happened, it was never made known to me. If it had been known to me, it would have been profoundly unwelcome."
Federal prosecutors have charged five people connected to either Madigan or ComEd since the utility signed a deferred prosecution agreement on bribery-related charges. Prosecutors charged McClain, 73, of Quincy, with bribery conspiracy and bribery. The allegations center around a nearly-decade long patronage scheme to curry favor with the longtime House speaker in exchange for favorable legislation. ComEd was ordered to pay a $200 million fine.
In documents acquired by a special legislative investigation, McClain repeatedly leans on ComEd officials to hire political allies, bring on interns from Madigan’s 13th Ward and sign contracts with allied legal firms.
In a 2016 email, McClain pushed Fidel Marquez, former senior vice president of governmental and external affairs for ComEd, to hire a Catholic school employee. McClain invokes someone who is widely believed to be Madigan as a “Friend” when he needs to remind Marquez of whom is asking for the woman's hiring.
“Fidel, this is getting really close to where she will not get out of her contract with the Catholic school. Can we do this item now?” McClain wrote. “This has been going on for months. it is our Friend's request. I have had to pivot to Choose Chicago because cannot get movement in ComEd. Our Friend knows.”
Once Marquez tells the apparent hiring ComEd employee that “the Speaker” is asking for the woman to be hired, he replied in an email, “[o]nce you talk to the speaker, I'll jump in.”
McClain sometimes used more subtlety in his apparent references to Madigan. He referenced his “Friend” in a 2017 email to then-ComEd executive Anne Pramaggiore in a request to have a former legislator and “Kankakee community leader” placed in a committee role.
“Would you appoint her?” McClain asked. “If your answer is ‘yes’ then would you give me a couple day ‘heads up’ so a Friend of ours could call her in advance.”
Republicans on the investigative committee highlighted the references.
“What sticks out is the number of times quote ‘our friend’ is mentioned having asked for something, responded somehow,” said state Rep. Tom Demmer, R-Dixon. “So that the speaker’s letter saying he couldn't answer questions about conversations he wasn’t a part of, these documents show he was part of quite a few conversations.”
Madigan said he had doubts about the prosecution's case in the most recent indictments.
"If there was an attempt to influence me in my official capacity, it failed, although knowing most of the people who were charged, I doubt there was any scheme as characterized by the government," he wrote in the statements.
The next investigative committee meeting is scheduled for Dec. 14.
ComEd agreed to pay a $200 million fine after admitting to the years-long patronage scheme that included hiring Madigan allies, entering into contracts with favored companies, and other perks for members of Madigan’s camp.