DePaul trustee retires from Exelon amid federal probe


Courtesy of Exelon

DePaul Trustee Anne Pramagiorre

A member of DePaul’s Board of Trustees who abruptly resigned from her position as CEO of Exelon Utilities on Tuesday amidst a federal investigation into the company’s lobbying practices is still a member of the board, according to a university spokesperson.

Anne Pramaggiore, who was elected to the Board of Trustees in 2010, left Exelon less than a week after the company announced that it had been subpoenaed in the federal investigation of state Sen. Martin Sandoval, among other Illinois politicians, Crain’s Chicago Business reported. Sandoval’s daughter, Angie, works for ComEd and was hired during Pramaggiore’s time as CEO.

DePaul University spokesperson Carol Hughs said the university has no comment on Pramaggiore’s sudden exit from Exelon and did not respond to The DePaulia’s inquiry about the university’s protocol for adding and removing members of the board of trustees.       

Exelon did not give a reason for Pramaggiore’s retirement.

“You see the smoke and you assume that somewhere there is fire,” John McCarron, a former DePaul adjunct and expert on Chicago politics, said. “There is certainly no way to connect the two empirically or legally, but you know, I’ve been covering and watching Chicago politics and various corruption episodes for 30 or 40 years and it certainly looks like [Pramaggiore’s exit and the federal investigation] are connected.” 

Utility companies tend to have much closer relationships with state and local governments than most private firms. ComEd enjoys its status as a state-granted monopoly, requiring all electrical services across northwestern Illinois to deliver their service through ComEd equipment. This arrangement is prone to corruption at various levels.   

“To run a utility in Chicago means you’re going to be working very closely with government and there are all sorts of possible favors that can be granted back and forth, written and unwritten,” McCarron said. 

DePaul, like most other Chicago establishments, employs ComEd to provide electricity for all of its facilities to the tune of $308,650 dollars each year, according to the university’s 2016 990 tax form. The 990 form says the transaction between DePaul and ComEd was conducted at an “arm’s length” from Pramaggiore and she had no direct involvement.

“Historically ComEd has always been the company that for sure is going to buy a table at your annual benefit — that’s just the way they operate,” McCarron said. “Whether it’s for cultivating public opinion or a genuine sense of civic and social responsibility, they are major donors and major participants on boards, cultural and educational, around the city.” 

The investigation, which seems to have precipitated Pramaggiore’s retirement, ultimately started last year when long-time Ald. Ed Burke’s offices were raided by FBI agents seeking evidence that Burke had abused his government position to funnel work to his private law firm. Since then, more federal investigations have befallen high-profile political figures in Illinois, including Sandoval, Ald. Marty Quinn’s brother and political operative Kevin Quinn, 34th Ward Ald. Carrie Austin, retired Ald. Michael Zalewski and others.    

Sandoval’s Springfield office was raided in September by federal agents looking for evidence of federal crimes, such as bribery, theft from a federally funded program and mail and wire fraud, according to the Chicago Tribune.

A search warrant showed that investigators were looking for any communications between the lawmakers and Exelon.

The federal investigation’s focus on Exelon is a case of pay-to-play politics, in which the company may have hired politically connected lobbyists to gain favor with lawmakers for a chance at favorable legislation at the state capitol, according to the Chicago Tribune. Authorities are looking at payments from Exelon’s consultants to some individuals to “seemingly circumvent lobbying disclosure rules.” In addition, some of those lobbyists may have been paid for having done little actual work.

Agents investigating the hires are also looking into Jay Doherty, a longtime ComEd lobbyist and president of the City Club of Chicago, a prominent public affairs speaking forum that Illinois’ top politicians regularly stop at, according to WBEZ. Authorities raided the City Club’s offices in the Wrigley Building on Michigan Avenue for documents about ComEd earlier this year.

ComEd lobbyists John Hooker and Fidel Marquez are also under federal scrutiny, sources told the Tribune.

Hooker used to be the head of ComEd’s lobbying division and reported to the state on Friday that he had ended his relationship with a firm whose key lobbyist is Michael Kasper, the longtime lawyer for Madigan’s Illinois Democratic Party and a former legal counsel for the speaker’s office.

One of the lawmakers who received contributions from Exelon, a source told the Tribune, was Kevin Quinn, an ousted political operative of House Speaker Mike Madigan. The source said Quinn had received thousands of dollars in checks from the utility giant.

One of the subpoenas Exelon received asked for records of communications with state Sen. Martin Sandoval.

Sandoval’s daughter, Angie Sandoval, ran for the Cook County Board and received more than $52,000 in political donations in late 2017 and 2018 from people who have been named in the federal investigation into public corruption.

More than a dozen individuals and companies that donated to Sandoval’s campaign were named in federal search warrants from September for Sen. Sandoval’s Capitol office.

Angie Sandoval was promoted to senior account representative at ComEd while Pramaggiore was still CEO of Exelon earlier this year.