Longtime precinct captain says he was paid by ComEd to do political work for Madigan
CHICAGO - One of former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan’s former top precinct captains testified Tuesday that he believed hundreds of thousands of dollars funneled to him from ComEd were meant to keep him knocking on doors for the powerful Southwest Side Democrat.
Edward Moody, who also once served as a Cook County commissioner and recorder of deeds, collected more than $354,000 between 2012 and 2018, according to testimony in the ongoing trial of four former political power players. The money was allegedly paid by ComEd and delivered to Moody through the utility’s contracts with various firms.
But when Moody went to work for the first of them, controlled by longtime Madigan friend and confidant Michael McClain, Moody said Madigan told him, "Understand this, that I control that contract" and "if you stop doing your political work, you’ll lose that contract."
Moody took the witness stand Tuesday as one of the last of three dozen witnesses called in four weeks, as federal prosecutors try to prove McClain and three others conspired to bribe Madigan to benefit ComEd.
Also on trial are former ComEd CEO Anne Pramaggiore, ex-ComEd lobbyist John Hooker and onetime City Club President Jay Doherty. The group is accused of arranging for jobs, contracts and money for Madigan allies in an illegal bid to sway the speaker as legislation crucial to ComEd moved through Springfield.
Prosecutors are likely to rest Wednesday morning. Defense attorneys are expected to ask U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber to toss some or all of the charges in the case, arguing that the feds failed to prove their clients’ guilt.
Such motions are routine, and they are rarely granted.
Then the trial will move into a new phase, in which defense attorneys will begin calling witnesses to undermine the evidence offered by the feds. Some of the four defendants may even take the witness stand.
The feds all but wrapped up their case with Moody, who told jurors how he met Madigan more than 30 years ago while out taking long walks with his twin brother Fred. The brothers began campaigning door-to-door and experienced "unheard of" success in transforming a struggling precinct into the second best in the ward.
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In 1996, Moody said they also helped Democrats reclaim control of the Illinois House of Representatives after the Republican wave of 1994. In doing so, they helped Madigan reclaim the speaker’s gavel.
"I don’t recall him gushing all over us," Moody said of Madigan, "But he knew … It’s what he expected from us."
Moody said his success in turning out votes helped him land government jobs. But he also said he continued working thousands of hours on campaigns that were important to Madigan out of "fear" of losing such a job.
"Always fear," Moody said.
Eventually, Moody said Madigan arranged for him to make $45,000 a year through McClain’s law firm. The payments began in 2012, and Moody said Madigan told him it was "how he rewarded his good soldiers."
Moody testified that he made calls to some lawmakers for McClain, which took him about an hour every month. And in a report from May 2013, Moody documented hundreds of hours he apparently spent early that year canvassing various southwest suburbs, gathering consumers’ impressions of ComEd.
Still, Moody said "you couldn’t compare" the minimal time he spent working for McClain to the campaign work that continued to take up the bulk of his time.
Moody received $93,000 from McClain’s firm between 2012 and 2014, according to evidence in the case. Then in 2014, he was added as a subcontractor to a contract between ComEd and Doherty’s consulting firm.
Moody said Doherty told him he was "famous" and that "he knew that the speaker liked me."
"He said I was on call," Moody said of Doherty. "He said that, if he needed anything, he would reach out to me. He told me to keep knocking on doors."
Moody was paid $144,000 by Doherty’s firm between March 2014 and October 2016, evidence has shown. He made another $72,000 through Shaw Decremer Consulting LLC between November 2016 and February 2018, and $45,000 through the John E. Bradley Law Firm between March 2018 and December 2018, evidence shows.
Moody repeatedly denied doing much, if any, work for ComEd. He said the payments were made so he’d continue "doing my politics." And he told jurors that he and his wife prepared invoices ahead of time that they later mailed and emailed to the firms sending him money.
"Nothing ever changed … just different dates," Moody said.
The feds’ case may turn on questions about whether each of the four defendants knowingly joined the alleged conspiracy, whether they acted with a corrupt intent tied to Madigan’s official actions or duties, and whether they did so in connection to legislation. The instructions ultimately given to the jurors — and how well they follow them — could be key.
Undercover recordings made early in 2019 by then-ComEd executive Fidel Marquez also appear crucial to the case. In those and other recordings, the defendants can be heard discussing the arrangement through which ComEd paid certain Madigan allies like Moody.
Hooker and McClain could be heard discussing on Feb. 11, 2019 how they had conceived the arrangement, with Hooker saying "it’s clean for all of us."
"We had to hire these guys because Mike Madigan came to us … It’s that simple," McClain said.
In a meeting two days later, Marquez spoke with Doherty and asked him what work the subcontractors did for him. Doherty answered, "Not much," and went on to tell Marquez that "my bottom line advice would be, ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ with those guys."
In a Feb. 18, 2019 phone call, Marquez told Pramaggiore that he’d learned from Doherty that "all these guys do is pretty much collect a check." She advised him to "make a switch" but also told him to wait until the end of the legislative session.
"We do not want to get caught up in a, you know, disruptive battle where, you know, somebody gets their nose out of joint and we’re trying to move somebody off, and then we get forced to give ‘em a five-year contract because we’re in the middle of needing to get something done in Springfield," Pramaggiore said.
Finally, in a Feb. 27, 2019 meeting between Marquez, McClain and Hooker, Marquez asked how "our friend" — meaning Madigan — might react to the end of the arrangement.
Hooker responded by saying, "You’re not gonna do it? You’re not going to do something for me, I don’t have to do anything for you."