Despite Federal Heat, City Club Chairman Says President Will Stay: “Why Not?” | WBEZ
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Despite Federal Heat, City Club Chairman Says President Will Stay: “Why Not?”

The show went on as usual at the City Club of Chicago on Monday.

That’s even though it was the public affairs group’s first gathering since two bombshell disclosures connected to a sprawling federal corruption probe: The organization was raided by the FBI last May, and investigators – as part of a hiring and contracting probe involving Commonwealth Edison – sought information on powerful House Speaker Michael Madigan.

Never mind that Monday’s featured speaker was Illinois’ top law enforcement official, Democratic Attorney General Kwame Raoul.

And never mind that another focus of the FBI inquiry, City Club president and ComEd lobbyist Jay Doherty, showed up and sat in the front row – not far from a table of ComEd executives – and snapped pictures of Raoul with his phone.

The show went on with nary a recognition that anything might be amiss.

“Why not?” City Club Board Chairman Edward Mazur said when asked whether Doherty would remain as the civic group’s president amid the growing scandal. “There’ve been no charges.”

Doherty typically introduces the guest speakers at City Club luncheons. He didn’t take the stage at Monday’s lunch, but he did sit front-and-center for Raoul’s speech.

Raoul did not address WBEZ’s reports that the City Club was raided as part of a larger federal probe into politically-motivated hiring and contracting at ComEd, the state’s largest electric utility. No one has been charged with wrongdoing.

WBEZ was the first to report Sunday that Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan was named in a federal subpoena to the City Club as part of a sprawling FBI probe into political hiring and contracting at Commonwealth Edison.

A source familiar with the subpoena confirms the FBI delivered that request for documents to the City Club of Chicago in May, at the same time the feds executed a search warrant on the group’s Michigan Avenue office downtown.

The subpoena listed the names of between 10 and 20 individuals and requested the group’s correspondence with those people, according to the source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

And one of the names on the feds’ list was Madigan — the head of the state’s Democratic Party and the most powerful politician in Illinois.

“The City Club is the premier public affairs organization is the City of Chicago. We do whatever we can to maintain that status,” Mazur said. He added that the City Club would not release the full subpoena and said he still hadn’t even read it.

In an unsigned statement late Sunday night, the City Club confirmed receiving the subpoena and search warrant, but said it’s cooperating with the feds and does not believe it is a target of their investigation.

In an awkward moment at the close of Monday’s luncheon, Doherty refused to answer questions from several reporters who huddled around him as he tried to leave the Union League Club. Instead, he stood silently for two minutes as TV cameras and microphones recorded him waiting for an elevator.

Tony Arnold covers state politics for WBEZ. State politics reporter Dave McKinney and investigative reporter Dan Mihalopoulos contributed.

Editor's note: In the interest of full disclosure, ComEd is a WBEZ underwriter. 

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