May 2, 2023 - News

"ComEd Four" found guilty in federal bribery trial

Illustration of a row of gavels, with all but one of them transparent.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

A federal jury found the "ComEd Four" defendants guilty of charges that they conspired to bribe former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan for favorable legislation for ComEd.

Why it matters: The verdict, announced Tuesday, bolsters the federal government's case against Madigan, who is facing trial next year for corruption and bribery charges.

  • Madigan had been a focal point in the probe of the four defendants.

Driving the news: Former lobbyist and lawmaker Michael McClain, former ComEd CEO Anne Pramaggiore, ex-ComEd lobbyist John Hooker and former City Club president Jay Doherty were convicted of bribery conspiracy on Tuesday.

  • They're each facing up to five years in prison.
  • The decision comes after the jury deliberated for over a week, poring over hundreds of documents and hours of secret wiretap recordings, including phone calls with Madigan himself.

Catch up fast: Federal prosecutors tried to portray Madigan as a greedy politician who wanted to get jobs for his friends by abusing his relationship with ComEd.

  • They alleged that because Madigan was prohibited by law from giving his cronies public sector jobs, he found a workaround with the private utility company. And they accused ComEd executives and lobbyists of actively working to make that happen.

The other side: The defense portrayed Madigan as a shrewd, powerful politician who wouldn't waste his time on a couple of board appointments.

  • They argued the former speaker was a master politician who knew where the ethical guard rails were and wouldn't go near something as rudimentary as a bribery scheme.

The intrigue: For Illinois political junkies, the trial gave insight into how Speaker Madigan ran his political operation, which was largely shrouded in secrecy.

What they're saying: "The behavior brought to light and put on display at this trial was shockingly gluttonous and unhealthy to democracy," Illinois Senate President Don Harmon said in a statement.

  • "We've taken concrete steps to discourage bad behavior. But most importantly, I believe we have people committed to behaving better."

What's next: No sentencing hearings have been set. Madigan's corruption trial is scheduled for April 2024.


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