Ed Moody loves elections so much, he dreams about them.
For decades, Ed and his twin brother, Fred, were among Democratic Party boss Michael Madigan’s most loyal and effective operatives in many of the most important election battles across Illinois.
Often working together as they knocked on the doors of voters, the Moody brothers served as vital cogs in a political machine that dominated campaigns, helping cement Madigan’s long reign as Illinois House speaker and state Democratic Party chairman.
Then, in the past few years, Ed Moody took public office himself, first as a Cook County commissioner and then in his current role as the county’s recorder of deeds.
But like so many in Chicago and Illinois politics, Moody now finds his dreams interrupted by an increasingly common nightmare: a growing federal corruption investigation.
Moody’s name has surfaced among the group of Madigan insiders who benefited from a bribery scheme that the state’s largest utility has admitted to perpetrating in Springfield, WBEZ has learned. Commonwealth Edison has acknowledged hiring Madigan allies who did little or no work in a long-running effort to influence the speaker and win his support for legislation that boosted the power company’s bottom line.
Internal emails released by ComEd on Nov. 25 show Moody had a secret contract with ComEd that was arranged by two lobbyists who were indicted last month.
And sources with knowledge of the federal probe told WBEZ that Moody was one of two unidentified Madigan precinct captains mentioned in last month’s indictment of four former ComEd executives and lobbyists. The sources requested anonymity in order to discuss the ongoing criminal investigation.
Moody has not been charged, and his lawyer, Alan R. Brunell of Orland Park, declined to comment.
Days before his deal with ComEd became publicly known, though, Moody struck a positive note at a Cook County Board meeting, where Democratic Board President Toni Preckwinkle and many commissioners extensively praised him for his service over the past two years as a caretaker recorder of deeds. That office is being folded into the county clerk’s office next week, and Moody said he was retiring after a 30-year career in county government.
Still, he promised to stay active in politics.
“I’m not going anywhere,” Moody said, according to a recording of the County Board meeting on Nov. 19.
Without mentioning Madigan, Moody added: “My brother and I intend to stay very active in politics. That’s my passion. I love elections. I love them. I dream about them.”
Madigan was father figure to Moodys
The Moody brothers are two of the top precinct captains from Madigan’s 13th Ward Democrats, said Alaina Hampton, a former aide in the speaker’s political organization. Madigan has dispatched armies of workers to support Democratic candidates for legislative seats, to preserve and expand his majority in the House.
“When Ed and Fred Moody are sent to a campaign, it means the race they are working on is one of the most important races to Madigan,” said Hampton, who left the Madigan organization after she was sexually harassed by another 13th Ward operative.
The Moody brothers are so effective, she said, because they make sure to “observe the surroundings” of a home, such as bumper stickers on cars, before ringing the doorbell and trying to pitch their candidate to the voters who live there.
“They know how to tailor their message to a voter,” Hampton said. “They use indicators from a person’s property to figure out what may be important to that voter.”
For example, she said, “They might see an NRA sticker on the door, so they know that guns are important to this person, so they use it as a way to manipulate the conversation with a voter.”
Ed Moody, 56, and his brother began their political careers in Madigan’s Southwest Side powerbase. The Moodys have known Madigan since they were teenagers hanging out at West Lawn Park.
In a 2016 interview with the Chicago Sun-Times, they said Madigan, now 78, became a father figure to them. Their mother died when they were 14 and their father was an alcoholic.
Moody said he and his brother joined the 13th Ward Democrats and quickly discovered they had “a real knack” for door-to-door campaigning for Madigan and the candidates he and the Democratic Party leaders endorsed. While others in politics deride that hard work as “pounding the pavement” or “knocking on doors,” Moody said he deeply enjoyed meeting all sorts of people in communities across the state in the course of his work for Madigan’s organization.
“We really had the ability to meet people where they were,” he told the Sun-Times. “I consider it a real privilege when somebody is willing to spend time with us and shares their concerns.”
Ed Moody, who now lives in Chicago Ridge, joined the Cook County Board four years ago, when Democratic leaders chose him to complete the term of a commissioner who died. He did not seek election when the term expired, instead accepting an appointment to serve as recorder of deeds for the county for the past two years.
At the last County Board meeting, commissioners approved a resolution praising him. Preckwinkle said Moody had been “incredibly helpful and supportive” as a commissioner and did a good job as recorder.
And Commissioner Deborah Sims, a Democrat from Posen, told him she expected to see him again soon, saying, “Your mind is constantly on elections.”
Moody said his brother also was retiring from his job at the office of the Cook County Circuit Court Clerk.
A $4,500-a-month side gig with ComEd
Before becoming a commissioner, Moody had a six-figure public job, as a court coordinator in the office of the county’s chief judge, Timothy Evans, and he was highway commissioner in south suburban Worth Township, records show.
But the newly released ComEd emails and federal court records detail how Moody padded his taxpayer-funded salaries significantly – thanks to a consulting deal with the state-regulated electric utility. The deal illustrates how ComEd used its lobbyists as pass-throughs to funnel money to Madigan allies.
In 2013, “Ed Moody” was the subject line of an email to ComEd’s chief executive at the time, Anne Pramaggiore, from Michael McClain, a company lobbyist and close Madigan friend. In the message, McClain tells Pramaggiore that Moody had been working for him but that he wanted to suggest “moving Ed off my contract and onto” the contract of Jay Doherty, another ComEd lobbyist.
The following day, Pramaggiore forwarded the message from McClain to her top in-house lobbyist, Fidel Marquez, Jr.
Marquez – who has pleaded guilty in the scandal and is cooperating with authorities – got in contact with McClain to discuss Moody, the emails show.
A few months later, in February 2014, a power-company official whose name was blacked out in the publicly released emails sent a message to Doherty. In the email, the official indicated Moody was to be paid $4,500 a month.
The feds now charge Doherty with acting as a pass-through for ghost-consulting deals, funneling money he was paid by ComEd to Madigan allies. Pramaggiore and McClain also were indicted last month for allegedly orchestrating the scheme. All of them have denied wrongdoing.
But in the indictment, prosecutors said two precinct captains for the 13th Ward Democrats had secret consulting deals through Doherty. One of them, identified by the sources as Moody, was paid a total of $144,000.
Monthly $4,500 payments to that precinct captain began in March 2014, a month after ComEd sent the contract with Moody to Doherty, records show.
And the last payment to the 13th Ward precinct captain came on Oct. 31, 2016 – three weeks after Moody became a county commissioner.
Three other Madigan allies with ComEd deals
As a county employee, Moody filed annual statements of economic interest, which require public workers to disclose sources of outside income. Moody made no mention of any work with ComEd or Doherty in the statements he filed with the county clerk.
A spokeswoman for the county clerk said Tuesday the matter was being reviewed by the office’s legal team.
In a deal with ComEd announced in July, federal prosecutors and the electric company’s lawyers said the utility paid a total of about $1.3 million to the politically connected consultants to curry favor with Madigan.
Besides Moody, others who enjoyed consulting deals with ComEd included Madigan precinct captain Ray Nice, former 13th Ward Ald. Frank Olivo and retired 23rd Ward Ald. Michael Zalewski, whose son is a Democratic state representative, according to court records and the sources familiar with the investigation.
None of those three have been charged. Zalewski’s lawyer declined to comment, and the attorneys representing Nice and Olivo did not return calls.
The feds also have not charged Madigan, who vehemently denies wrongdoing and is fighting to win enough votes from House members to extend his record run as speaker.
A spokesman for U.S. Attorney John Lausch, the top federal prosecutor in northern Illinois, declined to comment on Moody’s role in the scandal.
Illinois House Republican Leader Jim Durkin of Western Springs said this week he believed Moody trained campaign workers for Madigan’s organization, playing an important role in the speaker’s ability to rule Springfield for years.
Durkin also said the contract for Moody was typical of what seemed to be Madigan’s approach toward ComEd: “Take care of my guys and we’ll take care of you.”
In court filings, federal prosecutors have pointedly noted that the bribery scheme involving the Madigan-connected consultants came as ComEd won support for legislation that significantly benefited the company’s bottom line. The measures ultimately raised the electricity-delivery rates paid by 4 million homes and businesses, and ComEd’s revenues collected from northern Illinois rose sharply, according to state records.
Editor’s note: In the interest of full disclosure, ComEd is a WBEZ underwriter.
Dan Mihalopoulos is an investigative reporter on WBEZ’s Government & Politics Team. State politics reporter Dave McKinney contributed to this story.