The state is suspending the legislative pension of former Commonwealth Edison lobbyist Michael McClain, but the move may not be permanent.
A spokesman for the state General Assembly Retirement System tells WBEZ that it has moved to withhold McClain’s pension following a federal jury’s verdicts against him in the ComEd bribery trial.
McClain, a top confidant of former House Speaker Michael Madigan, was found guilty on nine counts as part of a scheme by ComEd to bribe Madigan to help advance the power company’s legislative agenda in Springfield.
Since drawing the taxpayer-funded retirement benefit in 2002, McClain has received more than $313,000 in pension payments, state records show.
That is approaching nearly 9 times the roughly $35,000 McClain contributed to his state-funded perk, which arose from his time as an Illinois House member between 1973 and 1983.
The state system that suspended McClain’s pension says it intends to consult Attorney General Kwame Raoul on whether grounds exist to permanently revoke the benefit.
State law holds that legislative pensions can be revoked if a legislator has engaged in misconduct arising out of or in connection with his or her service in the General Assembly.
That could be a factor against the permanent revoking of McClain’s benefits — the wrongdoing that federal prosecutors focused upon spanned between 2011 and 2019, long after McClain’s time as a Democratic lawmaker from Quincy.
Raoul’s office has issued opinions in support of reinstating the legislative pensions of former state Sen. Terry Link, D-Vernon Hills, and former state Rep. Edward Acevedo, D-Chicago, who pled guilty to federal tax evasion and was being paid his state pension while in prison. Raoul wrote the crimes they were accused of were unrelated to their time in office.
Link also pleaded guilty to tax evasion but has not been sentenced because he is a cooperating government witness.
Acevedo’s name surfaced in the recently concluded ComEd bribery trial. While not charged, Acevedo was among several allies of Madigan who received no-work contracts from ComEd with help from the ex-speaker.
WBEZ reported last February on nearly $2 million in state retirement checks that have been paid to a mix of federally charged, convicted and self-admitted felons who once served under the Capitol dome in Springfield. In some cases, loved ones were the beneficiaries.
No efforts to tighten felony-forfeiture laws with regard to legislative pensions have advanced in the Illinois statehouse this year, an area former Chicago Inspector General Joe Ferguson said should be considered as part of any post-ComEd trial ethics-reform package.
Raoul is not expected to issue an opinion until after McClain is sentenced, and no date for that has been set. McClain also is due to stand trial under separate racketeering and bribery charges with Madigan next April.
The attorney general’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment about McClain’s pension.
McClain’s defense lawyer, Patrick Cotter, declined comment.
Dave McKinney covers Illinois politics and government for WBEZ and was the longtime Chicago Sun-Times Springfield bureau chief.