Officials allow Illinois lawmakers to investigate House speaker bribery scandal

Federal prosecutors gave Illinois lawmakers the green light to perform an independent investigation into long-time House Speaker Michael Madigan, committee members said, but Democrats and Republicans disagree on what it means for the investigation.

The Illinois House of Representatives will continue its proceedings after U.S. Attorney John Lausch Jr. told the House Special Investigation Committee that it would be allowed to move forward as long as it doesn’t jeopardize his ongoing probe into ComEd and the company’s patronage and bribery scheme aimed at currying favor with Madigan.

The speaker has not been charged with a crime and has denied wrongdoing. Madigan was implicated in ComEd’s deferred prosecution agreement.

The committee’s chairman, state Rep. Chris Welch, D-Hillside, said Tuesday that the committee plans to continue but its actions will be limited.

“The U.S. Attorney made it clear we could seek testimony from whoever we choose; however, they requested we refrain from seeking any materials or testimony related to the [deferred prosecution agreement] that is still confidential or anything in the possession of the federal government. In other words, we can call witnesses, but we can’t really ask them any questions,” he said in a statement.

Welch said he was disappointed that information from his and state Rep. Tom Demmer’s, R-Dixon, conversation with Lausch was made public prematurely.

“We wouldn’t be engaged in this he/say she/say conversation if Demmer had not jumped the gun to put out his false narrative,” Welch said. “But once again my Republican colleagues have disrespected the process for political gain.”

Demmer did not respond to a call about Welch’s comments, but told WBEZ that Lausch’s comments to him and Welch cleared a path for Madigan to be called to testify before the committee.

House Republicans made it clear they’d like to interrogate Madigan ally and former ComEd lobbyist Michael McLain, former City Club of Chicago CEO Jay Doherty and others connected to the probe.

The investigative committee is a political function that’s more akin to a fact-finding mission. Should they vote to move forward, the matter is turned over to another committee of lawmakers who will deliberate what Welch’s group found and mete out punishment.

The only other time the procedure has been used in Illinois history was in a 2012 probe about bribery allegations against Rep. Derrick Smith, D-Chicago.

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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

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