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Wiretapped Madigan, McClain phone call about unethical arrangement documented in unsealed affidavit

Published: May. 23, 2022 at 3:01 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD (WGEM) - New court documents show former Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan was caught on tape talking about secret payments with his close friend and lobbyist Mike McClain in 2018. The call surrounded arrangements for one of Madigan’s top ward leaders in Chicago who was fired for sexual harassment of a young female coworker.

Madigan has always denied any wrongdoing in the scheme to help Kevin Quinn after Alaina Hampton sued his political organizations in 2018 for the alleged sexual harassment.

But this unsealed affidavit shows Madigan spoke with McClain on Aug. 29, 2018, about ways to have several lobbyists make monthly payments to Quinn. The document shows McClain had four or five people willing to contribute payments for the next six months. McClain had asked Madigan if he wanted to mention it to someone or stay out of the situation.

“I mean, whatever you want,” Madigan said. “Yeah, I think I ought to stay out of it.”

FBI special agent Ed McNamara wrote that Madigan told McClain he wanted to be able to appear as if he had no knowledge of the arrangement for payments to Quinn.

“Okay, alright,” McClain said. “I’ll take care of it.”

Transcript from a wiretapped conversation between former Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan...
Transcript from a wiretapped conversation between former Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan and former lobbyist Mike McClain on August 29, 2018.(FBI affidavit)

This was just one of the many calls tapped into by the FBI before they had a judge’s approval to search McClain’s Quincy home for more evidence in 2019. The document shows the FBI’s Chicago field office had been conducting a wide-ranging public corruption investigation involving Madigan and McClain for several years.

Federal prosecutors charged both men with racketeering and bribery earlier this year. This affidavit explains the prior evidence showed Madigan, McClain, and certain officials at ComEd and Exelon were aware of the illegal nature of their payments for legislative actions. Investigators believe that is why the group used third parties to “misrepresent and conceal” the source and purpose of the payments.

The March 2 indictment states Madigan conspired to solicit and demand jobs, contracts, and other bribes from Commonwealth Edison in return for his guarantee to pass favorable bills for the large utility company. Madigan is charged with racketeering conspiracy and counts of using interstate facilities to help with bribery, wire fraud, and attempted extortion. McClain, a Quincy native and close confidant of Madigan, is also charged with racketeering conspiracy and counts of using facilities to facilitate bribery and wire fraud.

Throughout the time the FBI wire-tapped McClain’s personal cell phone, federal investigators gathered evidence that McClain asked ComEd and Exelon to appoint Juan Ochoa to the board of directors and caused ComEd to make payments to several of Madigan’s associates through these third party lobbying groups.

The affidavit notes a phone call on May 2, 2018, where McClain and Madigan talked about Ochoa’s possible appointment at length. Madigan had asked McClain how much ComEd paid board members. The Quincy native noted it would be $78,000. Madigan was then heard laughing before saying he may take the appointment.

“I mean, he’s making more money now than he’d ever make in his life and his hand still shakes when he writes a check,” McClain said while laughing. “In his mind, he’s still poor.

“Yeah. Mike, I would suggest that we continue to support [Juan],” Madigan said.

“Okay,” McClain said.

“But keep me advised as to how much pushback there is,” Madigan added.

Fast forward to February 19, 2019, when Madigan called McClain to check in on Ochoa’s appointment process. The former Speaker asked if there was still some delay for Ochoa, although McClain explained he was already approved.

“They’ve informed everybody else who’s getting off the Board, who’s getting on the Board, and so now they’re telling, what’s her name? Anne Pramaggiore [former ComEd CEO] told me that she knew about it first,” McClain said.

McClain then asked Madigan if he should make a confidential call to Ochoa about the appointment. Madigan explained that would be fine and provided a phone number to McClain.

“Yeah, I’ll call him. That way you’ve kept your word that you haven’t called him.

“Uh-huh,” Madigan said.

“I’ll just tell him it’s in confidence. Everything’s a go,” McClain said.

“Yeah, okay,” Madigan said. “Very good.”

Ochoa would later become a board member in April of 2019.

McClain and Pramaggiore are set to appear before a jury trial for the bribery scheme on September 12 along with former ComEd lobbyist John Hooker and former City Club president Jay Doherty. The four Madigan allies were accused of corruption and wrongdoing in ComEd’s 2020 deferred prosecution agreement.

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