‘How else can we help you?’ Jurors hear and see Madigan’s vast support system inside ComEd

Michael J. A close confidant of Madigan sat down with a new ComEd CEO in March 2019 to explain how the then-powerful Illinois House speaker had long viewed the massive utility as an “old-fashioned patronage system.”

When technology ended Madigan’s ability to get people into meter reader jobs, ComEd asked, “How else can we help you?” Michael McClain briefed then-ComEd CEO Joseph Dominguez.

Four years later, jurors in the trial of McClain and three former political power players not only saw video of that and other conversations once secretly recorded by a ComEd executive — they also saw evidence of that broader patronage system.

Former ComEd Vice President Fidel Marquez testified for hours Tuesday about how he and other ComEd executives made repeated requests to find jobs for people pushed by Madigan for employment, even when evaluations found their qualifications lacking.

A Comet executive wrote in an email that offering a job to a candidate is a “huge stretch.” Marquez said he waived ComEd’s GPA requirements for internship positions because the candidates came from Madigan’s power base in Chicago’s 13th Ward.

That testimony came after jurors watched videotapes in which Madigan associates Frank Olivo, Raymond Nice, Edward Moody and Michael R. Discussed with Zalewski. Over $1 million despite doing little or no work at ComEd.

Also on trial in the case are McClain, former ComEd executive Anne Bramaggiore, former ComEd lobbyist John Hooker and one-time City Club president Jay Doherty. All four were charged with organizing an illegal effort for Madigan’s associates to get jobs, contracts and money for them while the important legislation for ComEd was changed by Springfield.

Prosecutors moved to the heart of their case Tuesday with testimony from Marquez, who was approached by the FBI. In January 2019, he agreed to cooperate in its intensive investigation of Madigan and others. He was secretly recorded asking his colleagues how to explain Doherty’s contract with the consulting firm to Dominguez, ComEd’s new CEO.

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Madigan’s associates were paid through that deal, which Dominguez ultimately approved. Pramaggiore, who served as CEO of ComEd, was recently promoted to CEO of Exelon Utilities.

Madigan faces trial in April 2024 after being charged with fraud in a separate indictment.

Marquez’s marathon testimony is expected to continue Wednesday, when defense attorneys will have a chance to cross-examine the federal government’s star witness. Prosecutors have identified the motive of the four defendants as the “primary issue of contention in this case.” And Marquez helped the feds present the defendants’ own words to the jury.

Many of these words have already been made public. But prosecutors publicly aired video and audio recordings of Marquez for the first time on Tuesday.

The records led the jury to a dimly lit table in Saputo’s restaurant, a garlic-infused Springfield institution and well-known haunt for lawmakers. McClain issued a warning to Marquez on February 7, 2019: “Don’t put anything in writing.” McClain later added to the crowd: “I think what can be done.” McClain said.

A week later, jurors watched as Doherty, sitting in a suit and blue tie, summarized the work Madigan’s associates were doing through his contract. Marquez asked him “Are they doing something? What are they doing?”

“Well, not much, to answer the question,” Doherty replied.

Later, explaining why the payments should continue, Doherty said, “To be able to answer with Madigan in Springfield. To keep Madigan happy, I think it’s worth it, because you would ask otherwise.

Spoke with Marquez Bramaggiore on February 18, 2019. During the call, Pramakyore suggested delaying any change in the arrangement. She told Marquez that “we don’t want to get into a war of attrition where, you know, someone is sticking their nose out.”

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Bramaggiore’s attorney, Scott Lazar, predicted during opening statements that the recording of the call would exonerate Bramaggiore, who could be heard saying “Oh my God” in the background as Marquez recounted the history of the deal.

But Marquez denied to Assistant U.S. Attorney Amarjit Bachu that Pramajior expressed shock or surprise during the call. Then he didn’t call for an investigation, Marquez said. But he said he took the reference to a person who could “pick their nose out” to mean Madigan.

Former ComEd CEO Anne Bramaggiore (right) heads to the Dirksen US courthouse on Tuesday for a ComEd bribery trial.

During another meeting with McClain and Hooker, Marquez asked how “our friend” — Madigan — might act on his end of the deal.

Hooker’s response: “You won’t do it? You’re not going to do anything for me, and I don’t have to do anything for you.”

Marquez later joined McClain in meeting Dominguez on March 5, 2019.

Bachu spent the morning walking Marquez through the logs. The attorney then spent most of the afternoon unpacking how the Madigan-backed organization had cheated ComEd’s summer training program — highlighting resumes that included “Madigan-Quinn Service Office” in the employment history.

In one case, an applicant spent a month as an intern in the 13th Ward — and was referred to ComEd as a paid intern.

There were also requests for jobs outside of the internship program, including one that McClain noted was the creator of the corporate chain, Mark Browning, ComEd’s VP of IT. Browning wrote in an email to Marquez that the candidate was “extremely weak in verbal communication and lacked good presence.” “Some of his comments are politically inappropriate and could use some polishing,” he wrote.

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“It would be a great stretch to extend him a position if we had an opening,” Browning wrote.

After Marquez forwarded Browning’s email to McClain, McClain wrote, “I’d hate to be in the position of holding a string of ‘no’s’ to our friend…” McClain later asked Marquez: “Is there anything this guy can’t do? A contract and get him health benefits?”

“My 5 p.m., planning a meeting,” McClain wrote of the upcoming meeting with Madigan.

In a February 2015 email, McClain wrote to Marquez in the subject line: “Our friend’s ward? Summer interns? 10 jobs or 12 or what is the ceiling. Great, Mike.

One of the 2018 recommendations had a 1.1 GPA. – This was well below the 2.8 grade point average required for the internship program. In an email chain sent about the GPA issue, McLain wrote to Marquez, “Boy we’re playing harder than we’ve played in the past,” prompting proposals for the program to be pushed back by some institutions.

When another coach was rejected from the program in 2018 for a poor GPA, McClain wrote to Marquez in a “high-profile” email, “It’s a trend I don’t like. ‘Do you have a different name?’ Needless to say, we have never had such a push.

In a 2015 email, the company’s chief financial officer asked Marquez about one of the internship recommendations: “Are you under pressure to hire or be considered fairly?”

Marquez wrote back, “There’s pressure to hire. I hope he interviews well.

On the stand, Bachu asked Marquez how many senior-level ComEd executives are needed to hire interns.

“Three,” replied Marquez.

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