CHICAGO (WLS) -- Monday began with the playing of several phone conversations between former Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan and defendant Mike McClain.
Prosecutors continued last week's effort to establish the two not just as good friends who often dined together, but also to establish McClain as Madigan's go-to man when it came to handling all sorts of political errands and disputes for him. That includes leading large corporations, like ComEd, to bring him on board when they needed the speaker's attention.
On day four of the so-called "ComEd Four" trial, the conversation finally began to move on from last week's examination of Madigan's power over the General Assembly, and onto ComEd itself.
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Testimony on Monday painted a picture of a utility company in "dire" straights and on the verge of bankruptcy as it emerged in 2006 from an eight-year period of frozen rates that left it unable to fully meet its commitments or to upgrade its system.
The regulatory agency tasked with setting the prices ComEd could charge was not giving the company what it said it needed. That led leading executives and their lobbyists to go to Springfield in search of legislation that would allow it to set the formula customers were to be charged, along with later amendments.
Current ComEd Executive Scott Vogt identified the four defendants' roles in that process, saying then-COO Anne Pramaggiore "pretty much ran the show."
He added that John Hooker was in charge of in-house lobbying, while McClain was the company's chief independent lobbyist because he "was very well connected with the Speaker of the House, Michael Madigan."
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Madigan's role in eventually getting the three major pieces of legislation they wanted passed was, he said, "critical," because it was he who would allow the bill to get out of committee and onto the House floor for a vote.
Jay Doherty, he said, was also a lobbyist for ComEd who he met years later during another legislation push.
All of this set the stage for the government's interrogation of State Rep. Bob Rita, who was co-sponsor of the 2011 energy bill, known as EIMA, that ComEd desperately needed to get passed.