WBEZ: Feds Sought Info On House Speaker Michael Madigan In City Club Raid

Dave McKinneyDan Mihalopoulos
October 20, 2019

Illinois Speaker of the House Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, speaks to lawmakers while on the House floor during session at the Illinois State Capitol Thursday, June 30, 2016, in Springfield, Ill.

Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan was named in a federal subpoena to a prominent Chicago public affairs organization last spring as part of a sprawling FBI probe into political hiring and contracting at Commonwealth Edison, WBEZ has learned.

A source familiar with the subpoena confirms the FBI delivered that request for documents to the City Club of Chicago in May, at the same time the feds executed a search warrant on the group’s Michigan Avenue office downtown.

The subpoena listed the names of between 10 and 20 individuals and requested the group’s correspondence with those people, according to the source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

And one of the names on the feds’ list was Madigan — the head of the state’s Democratic Party and the most powerful politician in Illinois.

The revelation marks yet another sign the federal probe is directed at least in part toward Madigan, who is the longest-serving House speaker in American history. He became a state lawmaker in 1971 and has ruled the Illinois House for all but two years since 1983.

WBEZ was the first to report on Friday that federal agents carted out boxes of documents and computer equipment from City Club offices in the Wrigley Building during an FBI raid earlier this year. The president of the civic group, which is a must-stop speaking venue for Illinois’ political movers and shakers, is Jay Doherty, a top lobbyist for ComEd.

That May raid was part of an investigation into whether the state’s largest electric utility hired multiple politically connected employees and consultants in exchange for favorable government actions, including rate increases, according to a source involved in the investigation.

That source said authorities believe many of those clout hires got paid but did little or no work, and some had ties to Madigan.

Neither Madigan, Doherty nor the City Club have been charged with any wrongdoing. Madigan’s spokesman did not respond to WBEZ’s questions about the subpoena on Sunday. Neither did a spokeswoman for the Democratic Party of Illinois.

In a statement released late Sunday night, the City Club of Chicago confirmed it was served with both a warrant and a grand jury subpoena in mid-May.

“The City Club of Chicago has fully cooperated with the government’s request for information and documents,” the statement reads. “City Club is not the subject of an investigation; rather, it is one of many entities and individuals who have been served to provide information. The City Club of Chicago has not had any further requests since its last production in July.”

Feds’ sought Madigan info from several sources

The previously undisclosed revelation that the speaker’s name appeared on the City Club subpoena offers another piece of evidence that federal agents were looking into Madigan on several fronts during law enforcement actions in May.

Those all came together in mid-May, WBEZ has learned, when the feds executed several search warrants on the same day.

The subpoena delivered to the City Club coincided with agents searching the Southwest Side home of retired Chicago Ald. Michael Zalewski. WBEZ and the Better Government Association first reported that agents were seeking records there regarding Madigan, the former alderman’s longtime political ally.

WBEZ and the BGA reported that part of the probe centers on efforts to get work for Zalewski at ComEd. The feds also sought information on interactions between Madigan, Zalewski and longtime ComEd lobbyist and Madigan confidant Michael McClain, according to three sources familiar with the federal investigation.

McClain was also served with a search warrant that day, as agents raided the home of Kevin Quinn, a Madigan operative whose brother is alderman of the speaker’s 13th Ward power base.

Madigan has been a City Club of Chicago speaker on one occasion during Doherty’s watch. Demand for the speaker’s December 2015 speech was so great that the group had to move the venue from its regular quarters at a downtown restaurant to larger accommodations at the University Club of Chicago.

Since the beginning of 2019, Madigan has been racking up significant legal bills. State campaign records show at least $872,000 in expenditures for legal fees by the Friends of Michael Madigan and 13th Ward Democratic Organization campaign committees, which Madigan chairs.

It’s unclear what specifically that legal work was for. Those Madigan political operations were also the subject of separate civil lawsuits relating to allegations of bullying and harassment, and claims that the speaker’s allies put up two sham candidates in a state house race.

Doherty, the president of the City Club, received more than $530,000 over the past eight years to lobby for ComEd at City Hall, records show. It’s unknown how much he’s made lobbying state government officials for ComEd, however, as state law doesn’t make lobbyists disclose their earnings.

During Doherty’s tenure, former ComEd and Exelon executive Anne Pramaggiore spoke at the City Club on five separate occasions, and the utilities have been significant financial supporters of Doherty’s organization. Pramaggiore abruptly announced her retirement as chief executive of ComEd parent Exelon Utilities Corp. last week.

Also last week, WBEZ first reported that the lobbying firm of Michael Kasper, a top legal aide and advisor to Madigan, informed the state that it had ended its relationship with John Hooker, a lobbyist with decades-long ties to ComEd.

WBEZ also found another indirect link between Madigan and ComEd that involves one of the speaker’s relatives.

State records show Doherty has another client called Catalyst Consulting Group, Inc., a Chicago-based information technology firm. That firm lists only two lobbyists in its 2019 lobbyist registration: Doherty and Jordan Matyas, who is a former Regional Transportation Authority lobbyist and Madigan’s son-in-law.

State records show the firm is seeking “state support for IT projects and services” with the governor’s office, the Department of Innovation and Technology and Department of Revenue.

Doherty and Matyas don not report having any other mutual clients. Matyas could not be reached Friday.Last month the FBI raided the statehouse office of state Sen. Martin Sandoval, D-Chicago, and sought records in his possession relating to four unidentified Exelon officials. In its own filing with federal regulators, Exelon has disclosed that its lobbying activities are under federal investigation, as are its communications with Sandoval, a member of the Senate Energy and Public Utilities Committee.

Sandoval’s daughter, Angie Sandoval, is employed by ComEd in its government affairs office.

Dave McKinney covers state politics for WBEZ. Dan Mihalopoulos is an investigative reporter. State politics reporter Tony Arnold contributed.

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Phone: (312) 489-8580      Fax: (312) 489-8580

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Paid for and maintained by the Cook County Republican Party, Sean M. Morrison, Chairman.

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All Rights Reserved.