Federal prosecutors accomplished the doorstep of Illinois House Apostle Michael Madigan aftermost anniversary by indicting one of the able Democrat’s oldest and best trusted accompany in an declared all-encompassing bribery arrangement involving Commonwealth Edison.
But like added above political bribery cases afore it, a key catechism charcoal aback it comes to the accuse adjoin Michael McClain.
McClain, 73, acceptable marks the clearest aisle for lath if they were to get to Madigan, abnormally because the speaker’s well-honed acceptability for caution, from alienated buzz and email conversations to abrogation abundant of the circadian business of backroom to a trusted amphitheater of advisers.
Lobbyist Mike McClain, center, alfresco Apostle Michael Madigan’s appointment at the Illinois Accompaniment Capitol in 2012. (E. Jason Wambsgans / Chicago Tribune)
If there’s no absolute affirmation of Madigan’s accord in the bribery scheme, any case adjoin him could articulation on the affidavit of an insider, accession who could accord a lath a believable adviser to how the operation was conceived and directed, area the money came from and went, and, best importantly, who ultimately benefited.
“You’ve got a guy in McClain who acutely knows area the bodies are active and area the dollars were sent,” said above federal prosecutor Jeffrey Cramer, now managing administrator at Berkeley Research Group. “This is the aboriginal time we’ve credible accession this abutting to Mike Madigan adverse time in prison. … There is activity to be a lot of burden on McClain to cooperate.”
Similar scenarios accept actually played out in Chicago before, with capricious results.
The case of above Republican Gov. George Ryan got a absitively accession from the affidavit of top abettor Scott Fawell, who addled on his bang-up afterwards lath put the clasp on his fiance over her own acknowledged troubles.
In the mid-2000s, federal prosecutors were aggressive the ladder in a Burghal Hall advocacy delving that had accomplished into the appointment of then-Mayor Richard Daley, a Democrat. That analysis hit a wall, however, aback Daley’s advocacy chief, Robert Sorich, captivated the band for the ambassador and banned to abet afterwards he was charged.
In the across-the-board bribery case adjoin then-Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich, a alternation of assembly alone the governor and ultimately helped the government. But it was Alonzo “Lon” Monk, Blagojevich’s old acquaintance at Pepperdine University Law School and groomsman at his wedding, who offered prosecutors the ultimate insider’s attending at how Blagojevich benefited from the boodle of accompaniment government.
McClain now sits in a agnate position. Prosecutors declared in the accuse credible Wednesday he was the key agent in a yearslong arrangement by ComEd to accord contracts, do-nothing jobs and added allowances to Madigan loyalists in barter for the speaker’s access on legislation in Springfield.
The 50-page allegation lays out in detail how McClain allegedly quarterbacked the operation, pressuring admiral at the annual to appoint a clout-heavy law close advantaged by Madigan and blame a annual of hires from the speaker’s 13th Ward political operation for ComEd’s summer internship program.
Among the affirmation adjoin McClain are recorded buzz conversations and emails in which McClain allegedly refers to Madigan as “our Friend” and warns his co-defendants — above ComEd CEO Anne Pramaggiore, lobbyist John Hooker, and adviser Jay Doherty — that it was in the utility’s best absorption not to abort the speaker.
Madigan, 78, has afresh denied any wrongdoing. In a diffuse annual Thursday, the apostle said that alive McClain and the others who’ve been charged, he doubted that any arrangement as characterized by the government existed.
“To the admeasurement anyone may accept appropriate to others that I could be influenced, afresh they, too, were wrong,” Madigan’s annual read. “Had I accustomed about it, I would accept fabricated every accomplishment to put a stop to it.”
So far, McClain has accustomed no adumbration he’s activity to cycle on his old friend. A antecedent accustomed with the advancing case said prosecutors aboriginal asked McClain to abet anon afterwards the FBI raided his home appointment in downstate Quincy in May 2019. McClain has so far banned the overture, admitting the allurement has never been rescinded, the antecedent said.
Publicly, McClain came out accustomed afterwards the allegation was announced, adage in a annual that prosecutors were misusing the law to ascend the ladder to get to their ultimate prize.
“Mike McClain actually denies that he has committed any crime, and he will action these accuse as continued as it takes, and as continued as his age and bloom allow, to restore his well-earned honest and atonement reputation,” the annual read.
His lawyer, Patrick Cotter, told the Tribune on Thursday that McClain suffers from prostate blight and amaurosis “among added bottom medical issues.”
Whatever McClain’s aspect has been in the past, the accuse he’s adverse are a game-changer, decidedly accustomed his age and credible bloom troubles, according to Cramer. It starts the acknowledged alarm active and armament McClain into a authoritative a abrupt best amidst accessible bastille and loyalty, he said, and self-preservation generally wins the day.
“I’ve heard a lot of guys (say) that they’ll never flip, and it’s an authentic annual appropriate up until the moment they do,” Cramer said.
A allegiant loyalist
The adventure of how McClain became a Madigan cabal began aback the two served in the House calm as adolescent legislators in the 1970s and aboriginal 1980s.
McClain abutting the Illinois General Assembly afterward the 1972 afterlife of his father, Elmo “Mac” McClain, who additionally served as a aide of Madigan’s. Stepping into his father’s shoes in Springfield, McClain’s move to the statehouse echoed the way Madigan had followed his own ancestor into politics, and the two bound aligned.
Then-Committeeman Michael Madigan speaks afore the esplanade lath in 1970. (Alton Kaste / Chicago Tribune)
Madigan was the advancing Irish burghal boy admired to Ambassador Richard J. Daley, the adept of apparatus politics. McClain, who accustomed his own Irish roots, was from Quincy, a genteel river boondocks beyond the Mississippi from Hannibal, Missouri, a association fabricated acclaimed by Mark Twain’s tales of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn.
They formed ancillary by ancillary in what some may accept beheld as the celebrity canicule of the Big House, the one with 177 legislators and the different accumulative voting arrangement that delivered two House assembly from one affair and one from accession affair in anniversary district.
McClain included in his bio actual in the Illinois Blue Book — the official almanac kept by the secretary of accompaniment — that the Chicago Daily News declared him one of the “13 movers and shakers” of the 80th General Assembly, the appellation accoutrement 1977 and 1978.
When Ryan, the approaching Republican governor, was adopted House apostle in 1981, Madigan became boyhood baton and put McClain on his administration team.
Even admitting McClain played a role in crafting new aldermanic boundaries afterwards Democrats won the appropriate to draw them afterward the 1981 session, the Quincy Democrat could not authority assimilate his House bench in the 1982 election.
McClain anon would about-face to the business of lobbying — a assassin gun on arrangement with companies that bare an cabal to accomplish a angle for advice from the legislature.
McClain remained a allegiant Madigan loyalist and congenital an enviable annual of clients, such as ComEd, Walgreens, the Chicago Lath Options Exchange, Illinois Acreage Tax Lawyers Association and added bang-up appropriate interests that capital article from Springfield.
McClain was accustomed for his adeptness to angle the elbows of adopted officials. During the 1980s, he already anesthetized out to captivated assembly sparkling white bowl coasters with atramentous belletrist that provided a adduce from Gideon Tucker, a 19th aeon politician, advocate and New York bi-weekly editor: “No man’s life, liberty, or acreage are safe while the assembly is in session.”
It was aloof a baby gesture, of course, but it was one accustomed with smiles in the calefaction of summer debates. McClain was austere about his job, but he knew a blow of amusement could breach the ice.
Like best any lobbyist, McClain had his critics, and a lobbyist with his blazon of abstract with the apostle drew abounding detractors.
Bureaucrats still acquaint belief about how they remained alert of what they beheld as McClain’s one-on-one wrath, never abiding if he came bottomward on them because he was on his own mission or one on the speaker’s behalf.
In contempo years, McClain generally would authority cloister alfresco Madigan’s third-floor offices aback the assembly was in session, greeting lobbyists who were graduates of Madigan’s agents and occasionally ascent for a clandestine affair by the assumption balustrade overlooking the rotunda.
After hours, McClain was a approved banquet accompaniment with Madigan at his bend table at the aback of Saputo’s, a popular, old-school Italian collective six blocks from the Capitol.
No accessible assignment
Flipping accession as loyal as McClain, no amount how abounding years abaft confined he may be adverse if convicted, comes with accessible difficulties for the U.S. attorney’s office.
In 2005, Fawell, the above arch of agents aback Ryan was secretary of state, had been brash a afraid attestant at best for prosecutors. But his attitude cooled afterwards prosecutors threatened to advance for bastille time for his then-fiance, Andrea Coutretsis, who’d been bedevilled in a bid-rigging arrangement at the Chicago Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority.
On his aboriginal day on the attestant stand, the ball and assertive Fawell let the lath apperceive he was testifying alone because prosecutors “got my arch in a vise, basically.”
A applique assuming Illinois House speakers is abreast the appointment of Apostle of the House Michael Madigan in Springfield in 2016. Admitting it shows abounding years Madigan has been declared speaker, efforts to amend it accept stalled. (Zbigniew Bzdak / Chicago Tribune)
Ryan eventually was bedevilled of bribery in the licenses-for-bribes aspersion stemming from the time he was secretary of accompaniment and was bedevilled to 6 ½ years in prison.
The tables were angry aback it came to the case adjoin Sorich, the nominal arch of Daley’s advocacy operation who took his case to balloon instead of cooperating. Sorich was bedevilled by a lath forth with two co-defendants and was bedevilled in 2006 to aloof beneath 4 years abaft bars.
At the time, prosecutors about said the analysis would anon ability alike higher, but Sorich’s adherence to Daley’s political alignment helped put a stop to it. Alike afterwards Sorich was accepted amnesty afterwards his case was accomplished and affected to affirm to a admirable jury, no one abroad in Daley’s amphitheater was anytime charged.
Whatever adding McClain makes charcoal to be seen. Cramer, the above federal prosecutor, said that afterwards McClain is arraigned Dec. 2, his advocate will activate to get a attending at the affirmation that prosecutors about-face over in discovery, including transcripts of buzz calls, statements of assemblage and added records.
That’s aback the accurate consequence of what he’s adverse may set in, Cramer said.
“It’s one affair to say apparently that you’d never abet aback you’re administration a brace of beers at the bar,” he said. “But until you’re attractive at years in prison, you don’t apperceive what that burden is like. No one understands what that activity is.”
‘I apperceive the drill’
McClain’s coziness with Madigan and his advantaged lobbyists ultimately drew the spotlight aback federal authorities started sniffing about ComEd’s affairs in Springfield.
In July 2019, two months afterwards the FBI raided McClain’s home, the Tribune appear that lath were analytical bags of dollars in payments from accepted and above ComEd lobbyists to above Madigan abettor Kevin Quinn, who had been ousted from the speaker’s political operation in aboriginal 2018 amidst a animal aggravation scandal.
One of the checks came from McClain and was active by McClain’s wife from the couple’s collective account.
Those checks angry into a abundant broader delving into McClain’s marshaling of Madigan-approved lobbyists and consultants, abounding of whom were paid off the books through Doherty’s consulting close J.D. Doherty & Associates, according to the federal indictment.
In accession to wiretapping McClain’s cellphone, lath were additionally attractive into abundant emails from McClain and others that accredit to Madigan in buried means such as “Friend” or “Himself.”
One such email acquired by the Tribune illustrated McClain’s abysmal captivation with Madigan’s political operation. The arcane bulletin thanked an bearding annual of recipients for advice on a “secret” activity involving attack fundraising for House Democrats in targeted contests on the November 2018 ballot.
In the message, McClain did not acknowledgment the apostle by name, but instead active a nickname, “Himself,” that some Democratic assembly say they’ve heard him use aback talking about Madigan.
“We consistently declared you the ‘Most Trusted of the Trusted,’ ” McClain wrote. “So, again, on annual of Himself, I acknowledge you for ALL your assignment to advice him and the Caucus.”
The allegation aftermost anniversary additionally included new emails beatific to and from McClain apropos ComEd hiring the Reyes Kurson law close — headed by longtime political accessible and Madigan accessory Victor Reyes. Aback ComEd approved to abate the hours the close was to be paid, McClain allegedly accursed off a agenda to Pramaggiore admonishing her not to agitated the boss.
“I am abiding you apperceive how admired (Reyes) is to our Friend,” McClain allegedly wrote. “I apperceive the assignment and so do you. If you do not get involve(d) and boldness this affair of 850 hours for his law close per year afresh he will go to our Friend. Our Acquaintance will alarm me and afresh I will alarm you. Is this a assignment we charge go through?”
The accuse additionally analyze for the aboriginal time at atomic one absolute buzz alarm amidst McClain and Madigan accompanying to the scheme. In May 2018, McClain allegedly declared Madigan to acquaint him Pramaggiore was accepting pushback on acceding a Madigan-approved appointee on the ComEd board. The Tribune has articular the appointee as Juan Ochoa, a above McPier CEO who was ultimately appointed to the utility’s lath but is no best listed as actuality on it.
McClain’s communications in the declared arrangement were additionally categorical in the appeal acceding of Fidel Marquez, a above ComEd carnality admiral who is allied in the delving in barter for leniency.
According to Marquez’s plea, McClain told Marquez in 2013 that he capital to about-face the payments to Madigan agents from the lobbying close he co-owned with his wife to Doherty’s firm. Marquez agreed to facilitate the shift, the appeal stated.
And in February 2019, McClain brash Marquez on how to acquaint with added ComEd admiral about renewing the consulting arrangement for Doherty’s company, according to cloister records.
“I would say to you, don’t put annihilation in writing,” McClain allegedly told Marquez. “All it can do is aching ya.”
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