Caught Off Base: Illinois Lobbyists' Bribery Convictions Stop Political Softball Game Put on by Lobbyists

A federal court convicted four people of bribing ex-Illinois House speaker

Disgraced ex-Illinois House speaker Michael Madigan (D.) and a batter at Illinois pols' softball game / Getty Images and @DonHarmonIL Twitter
May 3, 2023

Illinois state lawmakers' annual softball game unexpectedly stopped Tuesday when news broke that a federal court in Chicago had convicted four people in a lobbying scheme to bribe former Illinois House speaker Michael Madigan (D.).

During warm-ups, a spokesman alerted Illinois Senate president Don Harmon (D.) that the Chicago court had convicted four defendants associated with ComEd, the state's largest utility company. Former ComEd CEO Anne Pramaggiore, lobbyist John Hooker, consultant Jay Doherty, and lobbyist Michael McClain arranged to pay more than $1 million to Madigan in exchange for Madigan's support for special perks for ComEd, the court found.

Lobbyists helped put on the softball game where Harmon heard the news, doing everything from "getting the food truck that served barbecue and fries to footing the bill for drinks," Politico reported.

Madigan, once an enormously powerful figure in Illinois politics and a close ally of Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D.), had a rapid fall from grace after news broke of the bribery scandal. He resigned from the House in 2021 after fellow Democrats withdrew support for his speakership. While Madigan himself was not charged in the latest case, he is facing a separate trial for bribery and other crimes.

While Harmon criticized the scheme as "shockingly gluttonous and unhealthy to democracy," Illinois's legislature under his leadership is seeing "no new bills" to "tighten ethics rules," Politico reported. The legislature will also probably not see any ethics legislation before it ends its session.

Madigan's corruption trial is set to begin in April 2024.