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ComEd could repay taxpayers $38 million over Michael Madigan scandal

Commonwealth Edison power customers are reportedly receiving more than $38 million in refunds related to the federal bribery scandal that led to the indictment of former Illinois President Michael Madigan as part of a proposal being considered by state regulators.

While it would be about $17 million more than the rebate ComEd offered in December, a utility watchdog estimated that a typical residential customer would save ‘less than $5’ in the form of a credit. on invoices.

The proposed new order was filed this week by an Illinois Commerce Commission administrative law judge, who could review the proposal in early September.

The proposal is designed to resolve two ICC investigations – one initiated by regulators and the other required by a new energy law approved last year. A key part of both investigations was to examine whether ComEd had wrongly charged taxpayers for costs related to the scandal.

Abe Scarr, who heads the Illinois PIRG, a public interest research group, said the small credit on customer bills pales in comparison to the billions in profits that the company will derive from the laws that it has demanded during the criminal enterprise which has lasted for years.

“It’s still at the same very low level which is totally out of proportion to the significant profits they…have made from their storylines,” Scarr said.

Each customer’s reimbursement amount would be based on their individual electricity consumption. Refunds will also be issued for business customers.

ComEd in July 2020 admitted in federal court that he sought to curry favor with Madigan by placing his political cronies in jobs that required little to no work, hiring numerous college interns from the political stronghold of the 13th Precinct of the speaker and installing the candidate he wanted on the company. Board of Directors.

ComEd has agreed with U.S. Attorney John Lausch to pay a $200 million fine and cooperate with the federal investigation in exchange for a deal that prosecutors will drop a corruption charge against the utility.

Madigan, a Chicago Democrat, and Michael McClain, a confidant of Madigan, a former ComEd contract lobbyist and ex-lawmaker, were indicted in March on a 22-count indictment alleging racketeering charges, extortion and corruption.

McClain will also face trial in September on bribery charges in a separate bribery case with a former senior ComEd official and two of the public service’s other contract lobbyists. Madigan, McClain and the other defendants have pleaded not guilty.

Under the latest proposal, ComEd voluntarily agrees to cover the costs of any employee hired by the company who was referred by Madigan and McClain, even those who held legitimate jobs and actually performed work, ComEd said.

“If approved by the ICC, the refund will resolve whether client funds were used in connection with the conduct detailed in the July 2020 Deferred Prosecution Agreement,” ComEd said in a statement. .

Although ComEd’s lobbying efforts in Springfield were at the center of the scandal, the company said actual lobbying costs were not included in reimbursements because those costs are not calculated in customer rates.

In December, ComEd offered to pay $21.1 million to match costs related primarily to compensation and benefits received by former ComEd executives whose misconduct was described in the settlement reached with Lausch. For example, the $1.8 million paid in 2011 to former ComEd CEO Anne Pramaggiore was among several of her annual paychecks calculated under “non-lobbying costs” included in the reimbursement proposal.

Reimbursements offered in the December package included some non-lobbying costs for other agents, including McClain, who remained active at the firm after retiring from lobbying in 2016.

The higher reimbursement currently being considered would include the costs of anyone Madigan or McClain referred to ComEd “regardless of whether they did a good job that served our clients well,” ComEd’s statement said.

The company said it had new policies in place to prevent similar misconduct from occurring.

ComEd declined to provide the names of employees “who have not been accused of wrongdoing, who have done their job well and are doing work that brings value to our customers,” the company said.

The overall reimbursement of approximately $38 million is divided into two parts.

Approximately $31 million relates to ComEd’s distribution rates and would appear as a credit of approximately $4.77 on average to residential customers in April 2023. When the remainder of the refund would be received depends on a review by federal regulators.

Carrie Zalewski, the president of the ICC, has withdrawn from the case. Her stepfather is the Elder Ald. Mike Zalewski, 23rd, who held a subcontract with the lobbying firm of Jay Doherty, who pleaded not guilty to bribery charges in the federal case. The former councilman’s home was raided by federal agents in 2019. He has not been charged. He is the father of Representative Mike Zalewski, a Democrat from Riverside seeking re-election and married to Carrie Zalewski.

rlong@chicagotribune.com

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Post expires at 12:41am on Monday June 27th, 2022