In the wake of winning major legislation in Springfield, top Commonwealth Edison and other energy executives threw a fundraiser for then-House Speaker Michael Madigan that included glowing remarks from ComEd CEO Anne Pramaggiore, a utility vice president testified Thursday.
Keisha Parker, now vice president of external affairs for ComEd, told jurors in the “ComEd Four” bribery trial that she helped raise funds for the September 2014 event and wrote a draft speech for Pramaggiore that called Madigan “an asset to Illinois and all of us in this room.”
The goal for the fundraiser was to raise $125,000 for the Democratic Party of Illinois, one of Madigan’s key campaign war chests. Among the biggest donors: Roosevelt Group, headed by longtime Democratic operative Victor Reyes, whose law firm was hired by ComEd in what prosecutors alleged was a scheme to win Madigan’s influence.
The “internal hosts” of the event — which took place less than a year after ComEd’s “smart grid” legislation became law — included Pramaggiore, then-Exelon CEO Chris Crane, and Crane’s No. 2 at Exelton, Bill Von Hoene, Parker said.
Parker testified she was at the event, but does not recall whether Pramaggiore used the exact words that were in the draft. But her words were definitely “positive” toward Madigan, she said.
Along with Pramaggiore, the defendants in the sweeping bribery case are Michael McClain, a former ComEd contract lobbyist and one of Madigan’s top confidants; John Hooker, a longtime ComEd lobbyist; and Jay Doherty, a ComEd lobbyist and previous chief of the City Club of Chicago.
The indictment alleged ComEd poured $1.3 million into payments funneled to ghost “subcontractors” who were actually Madigan’s cronies, put a Madigan-backed candidate on the ComEd board, and gave coveted internships to families in his 13th Ward, all part of an elaborate scheme to keep the speaker happy and help the utility’s legislative agenda in Springfield.
[ ‘ComEd Four’ bribery trial: What you need to know ]
The defendants’ attorneys contend that the so-called scheme was nothing more than legal lobbying, part of the state’s high-stakes, often-messy politics where myriad interest groups and stakeholders compete for access to lawmakers.
Madigan and McClain, meanwhile, are facing separate racketeering charges alleging an array of corrupt schemes, including the bribery plot by ComEd.
In her testimony, Parker told the jury that she was tasked in 2014 with adding Edward Moody, a top Madigan precinct captain, to Doherty’s consulting contract with ComEd. Moody, she said, was a “subcontractor,” and since ComEd didn’t have enough funds in its consulting budget to cover it, they had to take money from Pramaggiore’s budget.
Moody was hired at a rate of $4,500 a month. According to prosecutors, Moody did next to nothing for ComEd over they next several years, but the money kept rolling in.
During Parker’s direct testimony, jurors were shown a copy of Moody’s resume submitted to ComEd. Among his work history: The Cook County Highway Department, “jury manager for the Office of Chief Judge in Cook County’s Bridgeview courthouse, and owner of Joy Janitorial Services.
Under “Interests” Moody listed: “Sunday school teacher.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Diane MacArthur also took Parker through a series of emails related to fundraisers that were being organized by McClain as well as general thoughts from Parker and her colleagues about the political situation in Springfield.
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In one email string from July 2015 about an upcoming fundraiser for DPI, Parker wrote: “It’s technically super early. And that’s also why I recommend going through McClain first. He’s the puppet master that puts this all together and typically gives her the heads up.”
That August, Parker wrote to a colleague: “McClain … Speaker- they are the same. Ha. Later, she emailed another colleague, saying, “Whew! I’m tired just listening to all the work McClain is putting in to jerk us around.”
And in the wake of Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner’s election in November 2014, some of Parker’s colleagues wondered wondered whether there had been a power shift in Springfield. “I just asked Em if Madigan is still in the driver’s seat? I mean what about Rauner???” a colleague asked in one email shown to the jury.
Parker responded: “You know Daddy is in charge. (Rauner) who??!!”
Parker testified that by “Daddy,” she meant Madigan.
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