FOR­MER HIGH-RANK­ING COMED OF­FI­CIAL CHARGED IN SCHEME TO BEN­E­FIT SPEAKER

Exec charged with dol­ing out cash, con­tracts to curry fa­vor with Madi­gan

Chicago Sun-Times - - TOP NEWS - BY SUN-TIMES STAFF

A for­mer high-rank­ing ComEd of­fi­cial was charged with dol­ing out money, jobs and con­tracts to ben­e­fit and curry in­flu­ence with em­bat­tled Illi­nois House Speaker Michael Madi­gan, ac­cord­ing to a court doc­u­ment filed late Fri­day.

Fidel Mar­quez, who was ComEd’s se­nior vice pres­i­dent of gov­ern­men­tal and ex­ter­nal affairs from March 2012 to Septem­ber 2019, was charged in a crim­i­nal in­for­ma­tion, which in­di­cates he in­tends to plead guilty.

Mar­quez also al­legedly fun­neled $37,500 to a com­pany not named in the crim­i­nal in­for­ma­tion for the ben­e­fit of as­so­ci­ates of Madi­gan.

Mar­quez could not im­me­di­ately be reached for com­ment. A phone num­ber listed for him in Chicago was dis­con­nected.

The crim­i­nal in­for­ma­tion comes af­ter Madi­gan was im­pli­cated — but not charged — when fed­eral pros­e­cu­tors charged ComEd in a bribery scheme in July. The feds said the com­pany sent $1.3 mil­lion in to­tal to Madi­gan’s as­so­ci­ates, who wound up do­ing lit­tle or no work for the pay­ments. That came at a time when ComEd hoped to land Madi­gan’s sup­port for leg­is­la­tion in Spring­field worth more than $150 mil­lion to the util­ity.

Madi­gan has said pub­licly and re­peat­edly that he has done noth­ing wrong. ComEd has struck a de­ferred pros­e­cu­tion agree­ment with pros­e­cu­tors, which means that the bribery charge will be dropped if the util­ity abides by its agree­ment with the feds, in­clud­ing pay­ing a $200 mil­lion fine.

Fri­day night, ComEd spokes­woman Shannon Brey­maier is­sued this state­ment: “We are not in a po­si­tion to com­ment on spe­cific mat­ters re­lated to this for­mer ComEd ex­ec­u­tive or beyond what is in the state­ment of facts in ComEd’s de­ferred pros­e­cu­tion agree­ment.”

A spokes­woman for Madi­gan, asked to com­ment Fri­day night, sent an email with an ear­lier state­ment main­tain­ing Madi­gan’s in­no­cence in the on­go­ing case:

“The speaker has never helped some­one find a job with the ex­pec­ta­tion that the per­son would not be asked to per­form work by their em­ployer, nor did he ever ex­pect to pro­vide any­thing to a prospec­tive em­ployer if it should choose to hire a per­son he rec­om­mended. He has never made a leg­isla­tive de­ci­sion with im­proper mo­tives and has en­gaged in no wrong­do­ing here. Any claim to the con­trary is un­founded.”

The court doc­u­ment out­lin­ing the bribery de­tails against ComEd largely paints a pic­ture of a lob­by­ist, Mike McClain, pres­sur­ing ComEd of­fi­cials to give jobs, con­tracts and money to Madi­gan as­so­ci­ates.

It al­leges Madi­gan and McClain sought from ComEd jobs, con­tracts and money for var­i­ous Madi­gan as­so­ci­ates be­tween 2011 and 2019, and that McClain acted on Madi­gan’s be­half.

The court doc­u­ments in the case do not iden­tify Madi­gan, or even McClain, by name. Rather, they re­fer to a “Pub­lic Of­fi­cial A” who serves as the speaker of the Illi­nois House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives. The Sun­Times has sep­a­rately iden­ti­fied McClain as the per­son iden­ti­fied in the doc­u­ments as “In­di­vid­ual A.”

Madi­gan’s quiet but iron-fisted con­trol over his cham­ber has earned him the nick­name “The Vel­vet Ham­mer,” and lob­by­ists and fel­low leg­is­la­tors fre­quently toss around the maxim, “Never bet against the speaker.” The 78-yearold harkens back to the days of the late Mayor Richard J. Da­ley, whom Madi­gan con­sid­ers his men­tor.

The crim­i­nal charge against ComEd fol­lows more than a year of in­trigue re­gard­ing the feds’ pub­lic cor­rup­tion in­ves­ti­ga­tions and whether their work would ever touch Madi­gan. The new al­le­ga­tions against him be­came pub­lic as part of a deal ComEd struck with the U.S. at­tor­ney’s of­fice com­monly known as a de­ferred-pros­e­cu­tion agree­ment. If ComEd abides by the terms of the three-year ar­range­ment, the bribery charge filed Fri­day is ex­pected to be dis­missed.

The agree­ment said ComEd will co­op­er­ate in the pros­e­cu­tors’ in­ves­ti­ga­tions. Un­like in other such agree­ments, though, ComEd is not ex­pected to plead guilty and for­mally ad­mit to the crim­i­nal con­duct. A judge still has to ap­prove the deal.

Madi­gan also is head of the Illi­nois Demo­cratic Party. A spokes­woman for the party de­clined to com­ment on the lat­est de­vel­op­ments Fri­day.

SUN-TIMES FILES

House Speaker Michael Madi­gan is once again im­pli­cated in a scheme to ben­e­fit ComEd, ac­cord­ing to a crim­i­nal in­for­ma­tion filed Fri­day.

Fidel Mar­quez

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