Amid Federal Probe, City Club Leader Ends Work For ComEd
Veteran lobbyist and City Club of Chicago President Jay Doherty has stopped working for embattled, longtime client Commonwealth Edison, according to a disclosure document he filed Monday with Illinois officials.
Doherty’s move came just weeks after WBEZ first reported that federal investigators had raided the City Club office at the Wrigley Building in May.
Agents were seeking information about Doherty, ComEd and powerful state House Speaker and Democratic boss Michael Madigan. A source involved in the investigation told WBEZ that Doherty allegedly served as a “pass through” for the utility’s clandestine deals with politically connected individuals and companies, who are suspected of doing little or no work.
Doherty has lobbied for ComEd in Springfield since 2010, according to state lobbyist registration records.
After WBEZ’s reporting on the FBI raid at the City Club, Democratic Gov. JB Pritzker’s administration moved to distance itself from Doherty by imposing a blackout on speaking engagements by administration officials at the public-affairs organization.
The City Club is a prominent public-affairs forum in downtown Chicago that was founded in 1903. Its luncheons often draw a who’s who of local players in Illinois politics, business and media.
A lawyer for the City Club said Doherty’s status with the nonprofit group remained unchanged Monday.
Even though Doherty filed paperwork terminating his lobbying relationship with ComEd, the utility company still listed Doherty as one of its nearly two dozen lobbyists as of Monday afternoon. A spokeswoman for ComEd did not immediately respond to WBEZ for comment on the Doherty disclosure or its own plans regarding the City Club official.
Doherty did not reply to a message Monday.
Also Monday, records show Doherty informed state officials he was no longer going to lobby for Fer-Pal Construction. WBEZ reported last week that both Doherty and the firm co-owned by influential Chicago Ald. Gilbert Villegas — who is Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s floor leader — had been lobbying for Fer-Pal.
ComEd signed Villegas’ lobbying company, Elgin-based Stratagem Consulting Group, in January to a one-year, $5,000-a-month deal. But the utility, which has a monopoly over virtually all of northern Illinois, cut ties with Stratagem last month and executives have not explained why they did so.
ComEd has disclosed receiving two grand jury subpoenas from the office of John Lausch, the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, in recent months. One of those subpoenas sought documents regarding ComEd’s lobbying in Illinois. The other subpoena, delivered a month ago, asked the utility’s executives to turn over communications with state Sen. Martin Sandoval, D-Chicago, and other, unnamed individuals and entities.
The feds raided Sandoval’s office at the Illinois Capitol in September. The search warrant used in that raid shows FBI agents went there hoping to find information about ComEd, its corporate parent Exelon, four unidentified Exelon officials and “any issue supported by any of those businesses or individuals, including but not limited to rate increases.”
ComEd executives have said they are cooperating with the probe but the chief executive of Exelon said last week he would not pass “judgment on [whether there] is anything legal or illegal in some of our past practices with contract lobbyists or consultants.”
In addition to the criminal probe, the federal Securities and Exchange Commission also is investigating Exelon and ComEd.
Dave McKinney and Tony Arnold cover state politics for WBEZ. Dan Mihalopoulos is an investigative reporter.
Editor’s note: In the interest of full disclosure, ComEd is a WBEZ underwriter.