United StatesIllinois

Lawmakers reconsider ComEd legislation after patronage scandal

Illinois House Republican Leader Jim Durkin, R-Western Springs, talks with Illinois Speaker of the House Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, on May 23, 2020, in Springfield, Ill.

(The Center Square) – Admissions by electricity provider ComEd that it improperly offered business and lucrative jobs to lobbyists and others connected to House Speaker Michael Madigan prompted members of both sides of the political aisle to demand reconsideration for tax breaks and legislative permission to raise rates granted to the utility.

In the complaint released by John Lausch Jr., U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, ComEd admitted to offering “jobs, vendor subcontracts, and monetary payments associated with those jobs and subcontracts, for the benefit” of Madigan or his associates. Prosecutors alleged those associates received $1.32 million in total. In return, prosecutors said ComEd received legislative benefits worth at least $150 million. The company agreed to pay a $200 million fine.

In light of the criminal complaint against ComEd, House Minority Leader Jim Durkin and other Republicans said legislation ushered through in the period stated is now in question.

“Based on what I read in this plea arrangement, my answer is ‘yes,’ ” he said when asked about reconsidering the Future Energy Jobs Act.

Durkin voted in favor of FEJA, as did several other Republicans. Madigan didn’t vote on the bill.

State Rep. Mark Batinick spoke out against FEJA in 2016, saying the bill amounted to a subsidy worth billions of dollars to an already profitable company.

He said on Thursday that the news of the company’s admission was a vindication.

“ComEd admitted to doing really bad things to get a $2 billion deal,” he said. “Of course this should be revisited.”

Batinick sponsored legislation in 2019 to repeal FEJA when news broke about a federal probe into ComEd’s lobbying practices, along with state Rep. Kelly Cassidy, D-Chicago.

“I think it’s critical,” she said of clawing back the subsidies given to ComEd. “It’s part of a package of things we’re going to have to do.”

Cassidy said she would like to see FEJA revisited, but from the prospect that tax credits remain intact for renewable energy sources outside of ComEd.

State Rep. Anne Williams, a Chicago Democrat and chairwoman of the House Energy Committee, said in a statement that she would not call hearings on ComEd’s lobbying practices.

“A legislative committee is not the appropriate place to investigate a criminal matter currently under the jurisdiction of the U.S. attorney’s office,” Williams said.

The Illinois Commerce Commission plans to have ComEd executives appear at its open meeting next week to answer questions about the company’s lobbying practices.

“Since the beginning of the new administration, the Commission has been committed to fostering a culture of transparency, accountability and inclusivity at the agency. This includes holding utility companies accountable for their compliance with ethics reforms required by a law enforcement agency,” the commission said in a statement. “At the open meeting on July 29, the Commission will have an opportunity to ask ComEd executives about the ethics reforms that the company says it has implemented.”

ComEd responded Thursday.

“FEJA provided billions of dollars in benefits to consumers and made Illinois a leader in clean energy policies that have been replicated in other states,” said spokesman Paul Elsberg. “In fact, consumers will receive far more in benefits than the legislation will cost as a result of lower energy costs, increased energy efficiency programs, expanded aid to low-income customers and other benefits. It’s also important to note that the legislation is essential to meeting the state’s climate goals. In addition to preserving carbon-free nuclear plants, it expands wind and solar energy in Illinois by strengthening the Renewable Energy Standard, promoting investment in new renewable resources and creating jobs while reducing pollution. That’s why the legislation was supported by over 200 environmental, labor, consumer, business and faith organizations and was passed with bipartisan support. Passage was not dependent on any one lawmaker or legislative body.”

Show More

Related Articles

Back to top button