Federal authorities have asked a longtime confidant of House Speaker Michael Madigan to cooperate with a wide-ranging investigation that reaches from Chicago to Springfield, a source familiar with the probe told the Tribune on Thursday.
It’s the latest development involving powerful former lobbyist Mike McClain. The Tribune previously has reported that authorities have recorded McClain’s phone calls and raided his home in downstate Quincy.
WBEZ 91.5-FM interviewed McClain outside a River North steakhouse Thursday afternoon and asked if federal authorities have requested his cooperation with their investigation. “They’ve asked,” McClain said.
Asked if he is cooperating, McClain replied, “I’ll just say they asked.”
McClain’s first public comments came after the Tribune first reported last month that federal authorities have asked questions about Madigan and his political operation as part of their ongoing investigation, according to four people who have been interviewed.
The sources, all of whom requested anonymity, said FBI agents and prosecutors asked about connections between Commonwealth Edison lobbyists and Madigan, lobbyists giving contracts to people tied to the speaker, and city, state and suburban government jobs held by his associates.
They also said authorities had numerous questions about the speaker’s relationship and dealings with McClain, a former ComEd lobbyist.
The federal request for McClain to cooperate and the Madigan-focused questions are the latest indications that federal authorities are looking at the speaker’s operation.
A Madigan spokeswoman had no comment Thursday. In late October, reporters asked Madigan during the fall legislative session whether he is a target of a federal investigation. “I’m not a target of anything,” Madigan replied.
Federal prosecutors have not made any public statements about the nature of their investigation and declined to comment Thursday.
McClain also has been under fire this week for a July 2012 email in which he advocated for state worker Forrest Ashby in a disciplinary matter. In the email to then-Gov. Pat Quinn’s aides, McClain said Ashby “kept his mouth shut” about “Jones’ ghost workers, the rape in Champaign and other items. He is loyal to the administration.” The email, first reported by WBEZ, did not include any other details.
Ashby later worked as a campaign consultant for Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker. On Thursday, Pritzker denounced McClain’s email as “horrific” and reiterated that his office had referred the matter to the Office of Executive Inspector General to determine whether the matter should be referred to law enforcement.
The Tribune first reported last summer that the FBI had raided McClain’s Quincy home in May. Last month, the Tribune first reported that authorities secretly recorded McClain’s phone conversations. It’s unclear if the famously cautious Madigan is on any of the recordings or how long authorities were listening in on McClain’s calls.
You have free articles remaining.
In addition, Madigan’s name was one of many that popped up on a subpoena and search warrant executed by the FBI in May at the City Club of Chicago, sources have told the Tribune.
McClain also was deeply involved with Madigan’s political operation, including campaign fundraising for House Democrats ahead of the November 2018 elections. In an email to a group of key fundraisers he called the “Most Trusted of the Trusted,” McClain referred to the speaker as “Himself.”
One person interviewed by authorities said that besides McClain, officials asked about Madigan’s dealings with Anne Pramaggiore, the Exelon Utilities CEO who quit abruptly in October and is a focus of the investigation. That person also said officials wanted to know if Madigan ever asked about the stance of lawmakers on ComEd legislation, but the person could not remember Madigan ever raising that issue.
The Tribune has reported that federal authorities are zeroing in on payments made through ComEd’s vast network of consultants to some individuals who seemed to have done little actual work. The payments were aimed at currying favor with certain lawmakers while circumventing lobbying disclosure rules, a source has said.
Authorities suspect payments to former Madigan political operative Kevin Quinn, which the Tribune first disclosed in July, are an example of this, a source has said.
The Tribune revealed in November that McClain sent emails describing how he arranged for current and former ComEd lobbyists to give Quinn contracts after he had been ousted amid sexual harassment allegations. Bank records the Tribune acquired showed that McClain and the other lobbyists paid Quinn at least $31,000. The payments came after he was forced out over his relentless string of inappropriate text messages to a campaign worker.
Both McClain’s emails and the money to Quinn are part of the investigation into ComEd’s lobbying activities, sources have said.
A Madigan spokeswoman has said that “if a group of people were attempting to help Kevin Quinn, the speaker was not a part of it.” Quinn is the brother of 13th Ward Ald. Marty Quinn, a top Madigan political lieutenant.
In mid-May, authorities searched the Southwest Side home of Kevin Quinn as well as former 23rd Ward Ald. Mike Zalewski, who represented a neighboring ward to Madigan’s 13th Ward stronghold. The FBI was seeking records of interactions among Madigan, McClain and Zalewski related to attempts to get ComEd lobbying work for Zalewski after he retired in 2018, a law enforcement source has said.
ComEd and parent company Exelon have acknowledged getting two federal grand jury subpoenas in recent months seeking records pertaining to its lobbying efforts.
One of the subpoenas received by the company in September asked specifically about the company’s “communications” with then-state Sen. Martin Sandoval, a Chicago Democrat whose legislative territory overlaps with the speaker’s House district.
Sandoval’s Capitol office was raided Sept. 24. Among the lengthy list of items that authorities searched for were those related to ComEd and Exelon, including four unnamed utility officials and specific information about “rate increases,” according to a copy of the warrant provided in an open records request.
The Sandoval raid was quickly followed by federal law enforcement actions in McCook, Lyons and Summit -- southwest suburbs where Madigan has influence and allies.