Lobbyist in ComEd case says evidence against him is lacking

·3 min read

A former lobbyist and consultant indicted in the ComEd bribery scandal challenged the federal charges facing him Thursday, saying there is insufficient evidence to allege jobs given by the utility to former House Speaker Michael Madigan’s friends represented corrupt activity.

Jay Doherty, who stepped down as leader of the City Club of Chicago during the scandal, argued charges against him should be dismissed related to the ComEd scheme to funnel money and do-nothing jobs to Madigan loyalists in exchange for the speaker’s help in Springfield.

His motion was the first in what’s expected to be many legal challenges of the evidence in the case.

Doherty, who has pleaded not guilty, was one of four defendants indicted in November in the scam that stretched from at least 2011 through 2019.

Former powerhouse lobbyist Michael McClain, a longtime Madigan confidant on contract with ComEd for years, topped the list that also included former ComEd CEO Anne Pramaggiore and former ComEd executive and lobbyist John Hooker. They also have pleaded not guilty.

The alleged scheme first came to light in July, when the U.S. attorney’s office announced ComEd was being charged with bribery under a deferred prosecution agreement in which the company agreed to pay a record $200 million fine.

The company admitted that top executives, including Pramaggiore, had conspired with McClain to make off-the-books payments to lobbyists and consultants who were close to Madigan’s political operation to attempt to influence him regarding ComEd’s legislative agenda. Madigan has not been charged in the case and has denied wrongdoing. He has said he did not agree to such an arrangement and would have stopped it if he had known about it.

In the filing Thursday, Doherty argued the charges against him were flawed because prosecutors are applying criminal statutes too broadly.

In particular, the indictment was brought against Doherty without presenting evidence to the grand jury that the ComEd jobs, internships going to families in the Madigan-controlled 13th Ward and a seat on ComEd’s board of directors were indeed bribes, according to the Doherty motion filed by Michael Gillespie and Gabrielle Sansonetti.

The motion said “no prosecution should be commenced where the alleged corrupt transaction involves a bona fide job in the usual course of business.”

A footnote in the filing also said Doherty is “distanced from any illegality because the indictment does not allege that Doherty had any conversation or engaged in any quid pro quo with any public official or even had knowledge of a quid pro quo with a public official.”

Even so, the indictment alleged that former 13th Ward Ald. Frank Olivo was paid $256,000 in consulting fees by Doherty’s company from December 2013 to April 2019. Two 13th Ward precinct captions were paid a total of $469,000 by Doherty’s firm from March 2014 to October 2016, according to the indictment.

In other court records, Doherty is accused of telling former ComEd executive Fidel Marquez, who has pleaded guilty in the case, that two of Madigan’s associates had been put on his company’s payroll as do-nothing “subcontractors.”

The new hires “keep their mouth shut,” Doherty allegedly said. He is quoted as saying the deal is to keep Madigan “happy.”