Home Local ‘Don’t put anything in writing’: Jurors see undercover videos of Michael Madigan associates in ‘ComEd Four’ trial

‘Don’t put anything in writing’: Jurors see undercover videos of Michael Madigan associates in ‘ComEd Four’ trial

by staff

Shortly after being confronted by FBI agents in 2019 and deciding to cooperate in an ongoing bribery probe, then-ComEd Senior Vice President Fidel Marquez secretly videotaped a lunch meeting in Springfield with one of Speaker Michael Madigan’s most trusted confidants.

The FBI had instructed Marquez to ask Madigan’s associate, Michael McClain, about what he should tell incoming ComEd CEO Joseph Dominguez about their scheme to funnel payments to a roster of Madigan-approved allies through a consulting company owned by Jay Doherty, a longtime ComEd lobbyist.


Marquez’s hidden recorder was rolling as McClain munched on food at Saputo’s, a popular restaurant in Springfield frequented by the political crowd — including Madigan himself.

“The contract with Doherty is under CEO’s budget,” Marquez says on the video recording, as McClain pauses to wipe his hands and sip on a soda. “I never had to touch it. Now somebody needs to talk to Joe about it. I don’t know how he’s going to react…I don’t know what they do. I don’t know if I can tell Joe what they do.”


McClain explained that the payments were going to former aldermen and precinct captains.

“It’s a favor,” he said. And if the IRS ever asked questions about their work, “Doherty’s got to prove it,” not them.

McClain agreed, however, that he didn’t know how Dominguez, a former federal prosecutor, would react.

“But I will say to you, don’t put anything in writing,” McClain said on the video.

The recording is among a series of pivotal conversations being played for the jury Tuesday in the “ComEd Four” trial, where four Madigan associates, including McClain, are accused of conspiring to bribe the then-powerful speaker in order to win his influence over ComEd legislation in Springfield.

On trial are McClain, former ComEd CEO Anne Pramaggiore, former ComEd contract lobbyist Jay Doherty, and John Hooker, who preceded Marquez in the job before retiring in 2012 and becoming a contract lobbyist for ComEd.

Madigan and McClain, meanwhile, are facing separate racketeering charges alleging an array of corrupt schemes, including the bribery plot by ComEd.

The defense has argued that what prosecutors say was bribery was actually nothing more than honest, legal political lobbying, and that there was no evidence Madigan did anything to directly help ComEd in exchange for benefits that flowed to his cronies.


Marquez, who is in his second day on the witness stand, is the government’s star witness. He began his testimony Monday by telling the jury about being confronted by the FBI in January 2019. After they played some of the wiretapped recordings he was captured on, he decided to cooperate and make secret recordings of his colleagues.

He ultimately pleaded guilty to one count of bribery conspiracy and faces up to five years in prison, but if he testifies truthfully prosecutors will recommend no jail time, he said.

At the outset of his testimony Tuesday, Marquez was asked why he agreed to cooperate.

“After hearing those wiretap recordings, um I uh uh, with all these hires and requests, it was something, I understood why were were doing it. I didn’t like it….But I was concerned.”

“Were you scared?” Assistant U.S. Attorney Amarjeet Bhachu asked.

“Yes,” Marquez testified.


Prosecutors Tuesday also played a secretly recorded videos Marquez made of him and Hooker at lunch at the Union League Club in late January 2019. It appeared as thought the camera was hidden in Marquez’s shirt, the top of Hooker’s head and eye glasses were often the only thing visible. At times, the camera pointed toward the ceiling.

“(Doherty’s) got three subs with him right now. you know they come and go. I gotta think how to sit down with Joe and explain that,” Marquez says on the recording with Hooker. “I totally expect him to push back.”

Appearing relaxed and speaking in a direct, firm voice, Marquez has so far taken the jury to the heart of the allegations in the “ComEd Four” case, explaining the push to get in Madigan’s good graces, the legislative wins that followed, as well as his understanding that the hiring orders were coming directly from the speaker himself.

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The roster of “subcontractors” was curated by McClain, and read like a who’s who of Madigan’s vaunted political operation, including two legendary precinct captains, a former assistant majority leader in the House and two former Chicago alderman at the center of Madigan’s Southwest Side base of power, according to Marquez.

Over the course of eight years, ComEd paid them hundreds of thousands of dollars, even though they had no particular expertise and ultimately did virtually no work for the utility. Some seemed to be downright incompetent, Marquez said.

“I know that they were brought on as a favor to Michael Madigan,” Marquez testified Tuesday. “For Madigan to see ComEd positively. So that he could perhaps be helpful for our legislative agenda in Springfield.”


During Marquez’s testimony, prosecutors also played several of the key wiretapped recordings in the case, including a May 2018 call between McClain and Anne Pramaggiore, ComEd’s then-CEO.

“Have you thought any more about Mike Zalewski?” McClain asked on the call, referring to putting the retiring 23rd Ward alderman on the ComEd payroll.

“Yeah I told Fidel to hire him, to get it done,” Pramaggiore responded.

Marquez also told the jury about several intriguing behind-the-scenes political maneuvers, including the alleged plot to put former McPier boss Juan Ochoa on ComEd’s board and how the speaker allegedly gave the company the go ahead to kill a piece of legislation that had been pushed by his own daughter, then-Attorney General Lisa Madigan.

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