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Former ComEd VP charged with bribery in patronage scheme tied to Speaker Madigan

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Tuesday, September 8, 2020  |  Article  |  By Greg Bishop | The Center Square

Ethics, Campaign Reform, Transparency (12a) , Pay to Play, Corruption Madigan, Michael--State House, 22

(The Center Square) – A former vice president at ComEd was charged in a federal bribery conspiracy in what prosecutors say was a nearly 10-year scheme to curry favor with Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan.

The criminal complaint filed in the Northern District of Illinois against Fidel Marquez alleges that, for nearly a decade, he conspired “with others known and unknown” to solicit and demand things of value like jobs, contracts and money, for the benefit of “Public Official A.”

Marquez was the vice president of governmental and external affairs for ComEd from 2012 to September 2019.

The charges don’t name “Public Official A” but identify the individual as the Speaker of the House of Representatives. That’s been state Rep. Madigan, D-Chicago, for all but two years since 1983.

“Public Official A was able to exercise control over what measures were called for a vote in the House of Representatives,” Friday’s charging documents say. “Public Official A also exercises substantial influence and control over fellow lawmakers concerning legislation, including legislation affecting ComEd.”

In July, ComEd entered a deferred prosecution agreement with federal prosecutors that implicated Madigan as “Public Official A.” The utility is expected to pay $200 million in fines in the agreement.

The charge against Marquez alleges: “It was part of the conspiracy that, for the purpose of influencing and rewarding Public Official A in connection with his official duties as Speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives, and to assist ComEd with respect to legislation affecting ComEd and its business, ComEd arranged for various associations of Public Official A, including Public Official A’s political allies and individuals who performed political work for Public Official A, to obtain jobs, contracts and monetary payments associated with those jobs and contract from ComEd and its affiliate, even in instances where such associates performed little or no work that they were purportedly hired to perform for ComEd.”

Madigan, who has not been charged with a crime, recently denied wrongdoing.

“As I have stated previously, I have never made a legislative decision with improper motives,” the House speaker said in an unrelated statement earlier in the week. “The notion that the passage of two consequential pieces of energy legislation was tied to the hiring or retention of a few individuals is seriously mistaken.”

Madigan also earlier this week said it’s not against the law to make job recommendations.

“The law does not prohibit members of the General Assembly from making job recommendations,” Madigan said.

Last month, Madigan said he has made job recommendations for “good people seeking jobs.”

“That is commonplace in all industries,” Madigan said. “Sometimes the applicant is hired, and sometimes the applicant is not hired. The decision is the employer’s and I do not act differently either way. And I have not, and would not, make a job recommendation believing that the applicant wouldn’t be asked to perform work by their employer.”

Madigan and Marquez, as well as other officials from ComEd, face a civil RICO lawsuit stemming from the scandal. Aside from seeking a $450 million judgment, plaintiffs in the lawsuit also seek to issue an injunction against Madigan from being the chairman of the Democratic Party of Illinois and from being involved in future energy legislation.

“It’s just dangerous for the citizens of Illinois, dangerous for the consumers of ComEd to have him in that position, especially with pending legislation that could have this huge effect on energy supply and electricity supply in our state,” Attorney Stuart Chanen said last month.

Madigan is likely to also soon face tough questions from members within the legislative chamber he controls. A Special Investigative Committee that Republicans demanded last week to investigate the issue will have its first meeting in Springfield Thursday.

“Speaker Madigan is just like any other member of the House, he’s entitled to due process and a fair hearing,” committee chairman state Rep. Chris Welch, D-Hillside, said.

Another member of that bipartisan investigative committee says there are a lot of questions Madigan must answer.

“What does he consider to be a legislative decision versus a political decision, what was actually happening to these jobs, the hiring, these lobbying contracts, so that we can get to the bottom of it,” state Rep. Deanne Mazzochi, R-Elmhurst, said.

That committee could produce possible charges used by a subsequent disciplinary committee that has yet to be formed, which could produce a resolution for the whole House to consider. That resolution could be expulsion or censure, or there would be no action taken.

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