Statement: Policy makers must undo harms of corrupt ComEd schemes

Media Contacts
Abe Scarr

State Director, Illinois PIRG; Energy and Utilities Program Director, PIRG

Illinois PIRG

CHICAGO — Commonwealth Edison was charged Friday in federal court with corruptly offering jobs, contracts and money in exchange for favorable public policy from a public official, identified in a legal filing as the Speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives. The company, through a deferred prosecution agreement, has agreed to pay a $200 million fine, and to cooperate with the U.S. Attorney’s Office. House Speaker Michael Madigan has not been charged with a crime.

In response, Illinois PIRG Director Abe Scarr made the following statement:

“Today’s filing confirms what we have long suspected and feared: that ComEd and its parent company Exelon’s remarkable public policy success since 2011 was made possible through a corrupt and illegal political influence operation.

“It is important to remember that ComEd was in crisis in the decade leading up the passage of the Energy Infrastructure Modernization Act (EIMA) in 2011. Its distribution system suffered from chronic reliability problems stemming from decades of mismanagement. ComEd was in a financially and politically precarious position, threatening bankruptcy. Former Exelon CEO John Roe said Speaker Madigan was, through this time, a “foe.” ComEd’s political and financial fortunes then changed dramatically, starting with the passage of EIMA in 2011.

“EIMA, followed by a trailer bill in 2013, radically changed utility regulation in Illinois, guaranteeing utility profits through so-called “formula” rate making, and reducing the Illinois Commerce Commission to a rubber stamp for company profits. Through EIMA and follow up legislation, ComEd’s annual authorized profits have grown by 47 percent between 2011 to 2019, when they reached over $739 million.

“While the actions of federal prosecutors may deliver a legal remedy for ComEd’s criminal actions, it will not address the public policy harms this corruption wrought. The Illinois General Assembly must act to right the wrongs of the past decade, including revoking formula rates, reducing utilities’ ability to influence public policy through political contributions, lobbying and rate-payer funded charitable giving, and addressing the damaging conflicts of interest inherent to Exelon’s ownership of ComEd.