Former ComEd VP charged with bribery conspiracy in scheme to sway House Speaker Michael Madigan

A former vice president for ComEd was charged Friday with bribery conspiracy alleging he helped orchestrate a scheme to pay political allies of powerful Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan to influence legislation in Springfield that would benefit the utility.

Fidel Marquez, a longtime lobbyist and former senior vice president of governmental affairs at ComEd, was charged in a one-count criminal information made public late Friday.

Marquez was the first person to be charged in the ongoing investigation of an elaborate bribery scheme aimed at influencing legislation in Springfield by making payments to Madigan associates and approved lobbyists, some of whom did little or no actual work for the company.

ComEd was charged with bribery in July and has entered into a deferred prosecution agreement with the government, agreeing to pay a record $200 million fine and cooperate with investigators in exchange for the charges being dropped in three years.

Defendants who are charged via criminal information — as opposed to grand jury indictment — likely intend to plead guilty. Neither Marquez nor his attorney could immediately be reached for comment.

Madigan, the nation’s longest-serving speaker and Illinois Democratic Party chairman, has denied any wrongdoing and has not been charged.

The four-page information against Marquez alleged that from 2011 to 2019, he conspired with others to corruptly solicit jobs, contracts and monetary payments for the benefit of Madigan — identified as Public Official A — and his associates with the intent of influencing legislation beneficial to ComEd.

Specifically, on July 30, 2018, Marquez directed a $37,500 payment to Company 1, “a substantial portion of which was intended for associates of (Madigan),” the information stated.

The Chicago Tribune reported last year that Marquez was a focus of the federal investigation, as is former ComEd CEO Anne Pramaggiore, who abruptly retired last year. Pramaggiore has not been charged. A Pramaggiore spokesman has said that she “has done nothing wrong and any inference to the contrary is misguided and false.”

Prosecutors have said ComEd’s scheme began around 2011 — when key regulatory matters were before the Illinois House that Madigan controls — and continued through last year.

Many of the illegal payments allegedly were arranged by downstate lobbyist Michael McClain, a key confidant and adviser at the center of the probe, according to court records. McClain also has not been charged.

One example cited in ComEd’s deferred prosecution agreement involved a man identified as “Consultant 1,” who allegedly was speaking to a ComEd executive identified by the Tribune as Marquez. The consultant said he believed McClain had spoken to Madigan about the payments, saying the money was “to keep (Public Official A) happy (and) I think it’s worth it, because you’d hear otherwise,” prosecutors alleged.

Records show ComEd tried to clean up its lobbying operation in the midst of the investigation last year. One of those departing was Marquez. ComEd officially announced it on Sept. 23, saying only that Marquez was “retiring after 39 years of service.”

Marquez, who has homes in Chicago and Arizona, has not responded to repeated attempts by the Tribune to reach him. When a Tribune reporter went to his condo building in the South Loop in August 2019, a manager at the security desk said he hadn’t seen Marquez in weeks. A reporter visited Marquez’s lobbying office in the financial district that same day, but was told by an employee that Marquez was “on leave.”

In all, prosecutors put a value of at least $150 million on the legislative benefits ComEd received. The federal court documents specifically noted the 2011 passage of the Energy Infrastructure and Modernization Act, which “helped improve ComEd’s financial stability” by establishing rate guidelines and a smart grid overhaul.

A spokeswoman for Madigan, meanwhile, has said the speaker “has never made a legislative decision with improper motives and has engaged in no wrongdoing here.”

ComEd has publicly apologized for its actions, but the company also has denied the scheme meant customers were unfairly charged.

Meanwhile, the investigation appears to go well beyond ComEd. In a subpoena sent to Madigan’s office on the day the ComEd charges were announced, authorities sought records related to AT&T, Walgreens and Rush University Medical Center. The subpoena also sought records related to Madigan’s political organization and law firm, as well as former state lawmakers and current or former Chicago aldermen.

The Tribune reported in July that AT&T had also been subpoenaed by federal prosecutors in relation to its Springfield lobbying. Records show that AT&T used several of the same former Madigan staffers and ex-Democratic state representatives as ComEd did for its lobbying.

jmeisner@chicagotribune.com

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