Bloomberg Law
March 24, 2023, 12:15 AM

Ex-Madigan Staffer Details ComEd Lobbyist’s Outsized Influence

Holly Barker
Holly Barker
Legal Reporter

One of the four defendants accused of bribing former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan (D) to advance legislation favorable to Exelon and Commonwealth Edison had unparalleled access to the legislative leader, according to Thursday testimony by one of Madigan’s senior staffers.

Will Cousineau’s testimony also helped to show how payments—in the form of allegedly sham consulting contracts for Madigan associates—might benefit the speaker directly.

Documents admitted into evidence showed that Frank Olivo, among those who the government claims ComEd has paid for little or no work, used to be a paid campaigner for Madigan—before ComEd entered into a consulting agreement with him.

Cousineau, who worked as issues director for the house’s Democratic caucus from 2008 through 2016, also testified that if a committee member wasn’t expected to vote “yes” on legislation the speaker favored, he would work to find a representative who would and then substitute them for the naysayer.

He said they would also do this, however, when an individual was on Madigan’s so-called “target list,” a list comprising members of the democratic caucus whose seats were in jeopardy. The idea was to spare them from having to cast a vote that might upset swing voters essential for their reelection.

Cousineau’s testimony closed the second week of the trial, which is expected to last approximately seven weeks.

Substitute Votes

Cousineau’s testimony indicated Madigan’s staff had worked to substitute “no” votes on a house resolution that Exelon wanted in 2014 related to the continued operation of nuclear plants in Illinois.

When it was done, McClain sent an email to Cousineau saying, “I love you.”

The government later brought up an email from November 2016, relating to a subcommittee’s vote on what would eventually be known as the Future Energy Jobs Act, where Madigan’s staff arranged to substitute another representative for Rep. Michelle Mussman (D).

Although the prosecution suggested that Madigan’s staff had done this on behalf of ComEd to ensure the bill made it to the floor, Cousineau testified that there were two possible explanations for the substitution. It could have been that Mussman had a policy objection—or it could have been because she was on the target list at the time, and a “yes” vote could have upset her constituents.

On cross, defense counsel pointed out that the request for the substitution hadn’t come from ComEd or longtime lobbyist Michael McClain, but from one of Madigan’s staff members.

Rep. Bob Rita (D), who was the bill’s sponsor and ultimately testified for the prosecution earlier this week, wound up being Mussman’s substitute, and the bill eventually passed late in the evening on Dec. 1, 2016.

On the eve of the vote, Cousineau said it looked unlikely to pass, so he hustled the votes with the assistance of other stakeholders.

Linking Payments

Before calling Cousineau on Thursday, the government played a recording of a 2013 call between McClain and a politically influential lawyer and consultant, Victor Reyes, about more than $90,000 in campaign contributions Reyes had collected and was arranging to deliver to McClain’s district office in the 13th Ward.

“This goes on the magic list,” McClain said to Reyes on the call, apparently referring to his fundraising efforts.

McClain was simultaneously negotiating a contract on behalf of Reyes Kurson, Reyes’s law firm, with ComEd for legal services. On the call, Reyes asked about it immediately after telling McClain he was dropping off the checks.

McClain said that Fidel Marquez, a former ComEd executive, was “finding” Reyes some work and that he would follow-up with ComEd’s legal department. Reyes asked to be blind-copied on the email.

The government presumably played the audio because the proximity of the discussions of Reyes’s fundraising efforts and his inquiry about the contract with ComEd suggests a this-for-that transaction. The government’s core theory idea is that ComEd materially rewarded the people who made Madigan’s political success possible.

McClain is represented by Greensfelder, Hemker & Gale PC. Pramaggiore is represented by Sidley Austin LLP. Hooker is represented by Monico & Spevack. Doherty is represented by Gabrielle Rose Sansonetti.

The case is United States v. McClain, N.D. Ill., No. 1:20-cr-00812, trial 3/23/23.

To contact the reporter on this story: Holly Barker in Washington at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rob Tricchinelli at; Maya Earls at

Learn more about Bloomberg Law or Log In to keep reading:

Learn About Bloomberg Law

AI-powered legal analytics, workflow tools and premium legal & business news.

Already a subscriber?

Log in to keep reading or access research tools.