Report says ComEd benefitted from law at heart of bribery scandal while customers paid more

Chicago News
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CHICAGO — A new report examining the law at the center of the ComEd bribery scandal released Tuesday contends the utility giant improved its bottom line while it under-delivered on promises.

The report by Illinois Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) challenges ComEd’s assertion that customers were not harmed in the process, saying delivery rates went up 37% with little benefit to customers.

The law at the center of a federal bribery scandal that reaches Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan is the 2011 Energy Infrastructure Modernization Act.

Illinois PIRG concludes that the smart grid legislation marked the “beginning of ComEd’s illegal scheme to increase its power and influence.”

“Their profits come from our bills and they’ve done very well thanks to this law,” said Abe Scarr, Illinois PIRG State Director.

Nine years ago, the legislation was enacted despite then-Governor Pat Quinn’s veto and opposition from then-Attorney General Lisa Madigan.

“We don’t think that raising rates to help the company get more profits is the best way to get better service,” Quinn said at the time.

To get what it wanted, the report says ComEd launched a campaign to build political power and win over Speaker Madigan.

“We now know that one reason this campaign was successful was because it involved an illegal and corrupt bribery scheme to influence the speaker and his associates,” the public interest group writes in the report.

“These stories we’re telling about the negative impact of this law and the story everyone’s become familiar with about this corruption scandal this summer are intertwined,” Scarr said.

An email from a document dump last week dated exactly 10 years ago describes a meeting a high-ranking ComEd official had with Madigan.  

“The speaker ‘told him’ to put the formula rate proposal in bill format,” the email said.

Madigan’s close confidant Michael McClain, a former ComEd and Exelon executive, a retired lobbyist and others face federal indictment for the alleged bribery scam. 

Speaker Madigan has not been charged with a crime and denies wrongdoing.

“People need to know that we shouldn’t just rely on this federal investigation to right the wrongs of the last decade. Illinois legislators need to act and change public policy so that we stop overpaying for our utility bills and get better value,” Scarr said.

ComEd continues to say that the 2011 law resulted in substantial benefits for customers who were not harmed.

Next, Illinois PIRG said it would like a full audit of ComEd, and to hopefully get some money back for customers.

ComEd’s moves to upgrade are making customers pay more, according to a consumer watchdog group.

The Illinois Public Interest Research Group released a report on the Energy Infrastructure Modernization Act (EIMA), which is one of the laws at the center of the ComEd scandal.

The report says the legislation allowed ComEd to raise profits while falsely pitching its “smart grid” as good news for consumers.

A ComEd spokeswoman disputed the findings.

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