Your NPR news source

ComEd Regional Headquarters located at California and Roscoe on the Northside of Chicago on November 5, 2019.

Manuel Martinez

Newsletter: What The ComEd Bribery Scheme Cost Illinois

Hey there! It’s Friday, and I swear it wasn’t me. Here’s what you need to know today. (PS: You can have this delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.)

1. Tallying up the cost of ComEd’s bribery scheme

“Commonwealth Edison executives have admitted the huge power company bribed its way to lucrative legislative wins in Springfield — and millions of customers in Illinois can see the steep price they’re paying for it on every electric bill,” reports WBEZ’s Dan Mihalopoulos and Dave McKinney.

During the eight-year bribery scheme, the amount of state-approved revenue that Chicago-based ComEd collected for delivering power to its many customers across northern Illinois increased more than 30%, according to a WBEZ analysis. At the same time, ComEd’s net annual operating income swelled more than 50%.

“It affected our electrical bills, yours and mine,” said Juliet Sorensen, a former federal prosecutor who investigated corruption cases. “It’s really a prime example of the fallacy that public corruption is a victimless crime.” [WBEZ]

2. More than 400 bars are now shut down in Chicago

That’s because some coronavirus restrictions have returned as the city sees a rise in cases, particularly among people between the ages of 18 and 20, according to city officials. Under the new rules that went into effect today, bars that do not serve food can’t welcome back indoor customers.

Some bar owners and employees say they’re frustrated because they followed the city’s reopening rules, and now they must return to collecting unemployment benefits right as a federal boost to those payments is set to expire.

“All the workers and small business owners have just been pawns in this horrible system,” a bartender told WBEZ’s Vivian McCall. “It’s just a horrible experiment that failed for the government.” [WBEZ]

Chicago’s new coronavirus restrictions also affect gyms, which have to cap classes at 10 people. Here’s a look at what precautions gyms are taking. [Chicago Tribune]

The restrictions come as the state sees a rise in the daily number of COVID-19 cases and four counties — Adams, LaSalle, Peoria and Randolph — are at a “warning level,” state officials said today.

Another 1,532 cases and 19 deaths were reported today. The seven-day average for daily cases was nearly 1,300 as of yesterday, according to The New York Times. On July 17, the daily average was 1,091. [WBEZ]

3. Senate Republicans near agreement on $1 trillion relief package

Republicans say they could introduce their proposal as soon as Monday, setting the stage for negotiations with Democrats as enhanced jobless benefits are set to expire on July 31, reports The New York Times.

And the proposal comes as Senate Republicans are doing something they rarely do: Distancing themselves from President Donald Trump.

Senate Republicans shot down a number of demands from Trump, who unsuccessfully pushed for a payroll tax cut. They also rejected the administration’s wishes to slash the budget for COVID-19 testing and defund schools that do not reopen with in-person classes. [New York Times]

Meanwhile, concerns are growing of a “tsunami” of evictions if Congress and the White House do not reach an agreement on jobless benefits. [NPR]

And here’s a look at how one proposal before Congress could help small music venues in Chicago and across the country. [WBEZ]

4. Columbus statues removed overnight in Chicago

Two statues of Christopher Columbus in Chicago were removed in the dark of night on the orders of Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who had previously opposed taking down the statues on the grounds that would amount to erasing history. In a statement, Lightfoot said the statues were being “temporarily removed … until further notice.”

The statues, one in Grant Park and the other in Arrigo Park, had been vandalized and drawn protests in recent months. Clashes between police and protesters took place last week near the Grant Park statue, leading to complaints of police brutality. [AP]

The Christopher Columbus statues are not the only ones that have sparked controversy in Chicago. From a Confederate memorial in Oak Woods Cemetery to a gift from “Fascist Italy,” Curious City looked at other monuments and statues that have attracted heated debates. [WBEZ]

5. Have questions about the federal agents coming to Chicago?

The Chicago Tribune has this easy to read article that explains “Operation Legend,” the Justice Department program that deploys federal agents to cities suffering spikes in crime.

Chicago will see more than 100 federal investigators from the FBI, DEA and ATF “in the coming weeks.” The Department of Homeland Security will also provide about 100 agents who are already stationed in the city. [Chicago Tribune]

While Operation Legend is intended to help local authorities reduce violence, the program is viewed by some local officials and activists as a political stunt. [Washington Post]

Here’s a look at how U.S. Attorney John Lausch played a key role in assuring Mayor Lori Lightfoot and other officials that the surge of federal agents will not result in a similar situation to Portland, Ore., where protesters say they’ve been detained by masked agents in unmarked vehicles. [Crain’s Chicago Business]

Here’s what else is happening

  • A recent mass shooting in Chicago has put funeral homes on edge. [WBEZ]
  • The body of civil rights icon and longtime congressman John Lewis will lie in state next week in the U.S. Capitol with an outdoor public viewing. [NPR]
  • Beijing began retaliating against the U.S. after the closure of China’s consulate in Houston. [NPR]
  • Michelle Obama’s new podcast debuts on Wednesday with a special guest. [AP]

Oh, and one more thing …

Some good news for Cubs fans: The team’s television channel has reached an agreement with Comcast.

The cable provider will carry the Marquee Sports Network on channel 84 and channel 202 for high definition, in case you’re like me and really want to see the details of the face masks worn by the players in the dugout. [Chicago Tribune]

Tell me something good ...

What fun summer things are you doing while also being mindful of the ongoing pandemic?

Sarah L. writes:

“What is my fun summer thing? It’s watching Below Deck every time I can wrestle the remote away from my fiancé — who has a more discerning taste in television. I watch and I consider whether I should change careers and become a yachtie. Honestly, it’s some of the best reality TV one can get in a summer without Love Island.”

And husband and wife Mike and Jeanine write that their “daily routine during this summer and COVID-19 isolation from family, friends and crowds generally includes: 1. One game of cribbage after lunch. 2. Three games of croquet after supper. 3. Two games of mahjong before we go to bed.

“Although we’ve been married 61 years, when it comes to games, I’ll just say that the competition is ‘serious.’ ”

Thanks for all the responses this week! I’m sorry I couldn’t get to everyone, but it was nice hearing from y’all!

Thanks for reading and have a nice night! I’ll see you on Monday.

The Latest