ComEd hearings begin in bribery investigation

Top executives of Exelon/ComEd claimed Wednesday that the giant utility’s long-running bribery scheme did little damage to consumers.

They got some pushback as they testified before the Illinois Commerce Commission, but they’re guaranteed to get a lot more on Thursday.

Exelon/ComEd admitted to US Attorney John Lausch that the electric utility paid big bribes for nearly a decade in the State Capitol, with much of the money going to allies of House Speaker Mike Madigan, who has not been charged.

Although the company also admitted the General Assembly gave it two giant rate increases in return, executives now argue there were other good things in that legislation that made them a net win for consumers.

“If the legislation was so favorable for consumers, why did the ComEd CEO have to hatch a scheme to bribe the Speaker of the House?” Patrick Giordano asked.

Giordano’s a former assistant state’s attorney who’s often fought ComEd rate increases for 40 years. His question is sure to come up Thursday, when Alderman George Cardenas chairs a City Council hearing with the same Exelon/ComEd executives.

“If you ask a resident ratepayer who’s been looking at these sky-high bills from ComEd, they will tell you no, they feel cheated absolutely by this scandal,” Cardenas said.

During the time Exelon/ComEd admits paying bribes, it won a guaranteed 50-percent increase in profits and effectively stripped state regulators of their previous ability to compel rate reductions. The scandal has some in Springfield considering an overhaul of the entire system of utility regulation.

The City Council hearing is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. Thursday. Cardenas promises it will be “lively.”