ComEd made its first appearance in federal court yesterday since accepting a deferred prosecution on bribery charges. The Chicago Tribune reports that in a brief phone hearing yesterday, prosecutors and ComEd’s defense team agreed that after a formal arraignment next week, the company would not return to court until 2023, when the 3-year deferred prosecution agreement is set to expire.
Federal prosecutors announced earlier this month that ComEd would pay a record $200 million fine and fully cooperate with an investigation into lobbying practices that influenced policy in Springfield. The bribery scheme involves alleged job offers, contracts, and payments that implicate House Speaker Michael Madigan. “Public Official A”, federal investigators say, was influenced and rewarded by financial benefits to those close to him and directly, often through former State Representative-turned-lobbyist Michael McClain of Quincy. Madigan has yet to be charged with any wrongdoing. Madigan representatives have vehemently denied any illegal behaviors.
The alleged illegal lobbying efforts also have ensnared AT&T and Walgreens with subpoenas on July 17th. Subpoenas have also been given to several former state lawmakers and current and former Chicago alderman as well as several lobbyists who all have either had positions within Madigan’s political organizations or indirectly been tied to work to Madigan through work at one of the 3 companies.
A class action lawsuit was filed in in Cook County court yesterday against ComEd allegeding that the utility company overcharged customers by $150 million through rate increases it got as a result of the bribery scheme, according to the Chicago radio station WBBM. The law firm of Romanucci & Blandin said in representing 3 Cook County residents and 1 business that ComEd unjustly enriched itself by overcharging its 4 million customers in Illinois. The law firm also said that the current deferred prosecution agreement does nothing to compensate Illinois residents who actually overpaid the rates.
Calls for Madigan’s immediate resignation from several General Assembly members have heightened on both sides of the aisle since the bribery scheme’s announcement. Both parties have also begun renewed talks into enacting term limits. Veteran Democratic Representative Heather Steans was the latest to join in the calls for Madigan’s resignation in response to the ongoing investigation by the FBI. Fellow Democratic Representative Terra Costa Howard joined Steans today. Howard issued a press release saying that Madigan’s leadership roles continue to cast a long shadow on the state: “The sworn statements in the U.S. Attorney’s agreement with Commonwealth Edison detail a years-long scheme of payoffs and bribery involving many of Speaker Madigan’s closest allies. Even if he was not directly involved in this scheme, these accusations clearly demonstrate that the Speaker’s leadership has failed. Speaker Madigan has a duty to recognize that these allegations have cast a deep shadow on the reputation of our House. He must take action now to avoid inflicting further damage on the members of the House and the Democratic Party. ”
ComEd executives outlined their ethics reform plan to a panel of state regulators today led by the relative of an alleged player in the bribery scheme. The Chicago Tribue reports that Illinois Commerce Commission Chairwoman Carrie Zalewski, whose agency oversees utility rates and safety practices, opened today’s meeting with demands for “transparency” and “accountability” despite being the daughter-in-law to implicated former 23rd Chicaog Ward Alderman Michael Zalewski. Of the agency’s five commissioners, only Sadzi Oliva questioned Zalewski’s participation in the hearing today. Several in the state have called for Carrie Zalewski’s removal from the ICC.