Legendary Madigan precinct captain expected to give ‘ComEd Four’ jury street-level view of speaker’s vaunted political operation

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In four weeks of testimony, jurors in the “ComEd Four” bribery trial have heard from a top staffer to ex-House Speaker Michael Madigan, current and former legislators from Madigan’s Democratic caucus, and a ComEd executive at the center of an alleged plot to bribe the once-mighty speaker and help advance the utility’s agenda in Springfield.

The jury has also listened to the words of Madigan and his associates from their own mouths, through dozens of wiretapped calls and secretly recorded meetings in which they spoke about an alleged scheme to funnel hundreds of thousands of dollars from ComEd to Madigan’s cronies for little or no work.


But as the prosecution’s case comes to a close this week, jurors are expected to hear the earthiest view yet of Madigan’s vaunted political organization — from a guy who never would have been pegged by anybody as a government witness.

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Edward M. Moody.


The emergence of Moody, one of Madigan’s longest-serving and most trusted precinct captains, as a government cooperator sent shockwaves throughout Democratic circles, from Madigan’s base of power on Chicago’s Southwest Side to the insiders hanging out in the Illinois Capitol’s rotunda.

As someone deeply embedded in Madigan’s organization, Moody could potentially spill secrets long suspected but rarely revealed outside of the 13th Ward, where Madigan first served as committeeman in 1969 under the tutelage of Democratic Mayor Richard J. Daley.

To be sure, Moody’s highly anticipated testimony promises an unprecedented street-level view of a political machine that dominated the state for decades and fueled Madigan’s 36-year nationwide record run as speaker of the Illinois House.

For years, Moody and his twin brother, Fred, promulgated an almost mythical reputation as a specials-operations team that Madigan often referred to as his “best,” legendary for their door-knocking skills and a gift of persuasion that kept votes coming in for the speaker and his acolytes year after year.

They were the go-to twins dispatched all over the state when Madigan needed to turn around the voters in a critical legislative district in the heat of the campaign. And they did it time after time since the mid-1990s.

Former Madigan staffer Will Cousineau, who testified for the prosecution last month, told the jury that when it came to the Moody brothers’ involvement in state’s tightest House campaigns, door-to-door work was “basically all they did.”

“They were some of the best,” Cousineau testified. “We would typically assign them to some of our hardest races.”

Ed Moody, 58, who has not been charged with wrongdoing, parlayed his role into increasingly high-profile positions, first as an appointed Cook County commissioner and later as the county’s recorder of deeds, an assignment orchestrated by Madigan shortly before the wide-ranging investigation came to light in 2019.


Unlike another star witness in the case, former ComEd executive Fidel Marquez, any deal Moody may have cut with the feds has not been publicly exposed.

Fred Moody, who retired after working for years at the Cook County Circuit Court clerk’s office, also is not accused of wrongdoing and is not expected to testify in the trial.

His brother, meanwhile, is expected to take the stand Monday or Tuesday as one of the government’s final witnesses in a case that’s seen some three dozen people testify as well as scores of emails and other internal documents and nearly a hundred wiretapped calls.

Charged in the ComEd Four case are Michael McClain, a retired lobbyist and Madigan’s closest confidant; former ComEd CEO Anne Pramaggiore; ex-ComEd executive and lobbyist John Hooker; and former ComEd contract lobbyist Jay Doherty, the ex-president of the City Club civic group.

The indictment alleges the four defendants steered $1.3 million in payments from ComEd to Madigan-approved subcontractors — including Moody — who did little or no work in a bid to win the speaker’s influence over the utility’s legislative agenda in Springfield.

The indictment also alleged the defendants schemed to hire a clout-heavy law firm run by political operative Victor Reyes and stack the utility’s summer internship program with candidates sent from the 13th Ward.


The four on trial have all pleaded not guilty. Their lawyers have contended the government is trying to turn legal lobbying and job recommendations into a crime.

Madigan and McClain face a separate racketeering indictment that is set for trial next year.

Prosecutors have said that Moody will testify he began receiving $45,000 per year from McClain beginning in May 2012, at first for doing nothing more than calling a list of legislators “to determine if they had any issues relevant to ComEd.”

Jurors got a look at Moody’s alleged work product earlier in the trial, which he submitted to ComEd in the early stages of the payments.

His one-page report from August 2013 listed nine state legislators he reached out to over the course of the month. For each one, he wrote that he’d simply given them McClain’s number and “encouraged” them to call “if they had any questions.”

Moody will testify that the work “was a ‘joke,’ because there was no substance to it,” prosecutors said in a pretrial filing.


Moody’s payments were later bumped up to $4,500 a month and were distributed through Doherty, but when Moody was appointed Cook County commissioner in 2016, he had to be moved from Doherty’s account because of the potentially bad optics, according to trial testimony.

One wiretapped call played for the jury captured McClain letting Doherty know in October 2016 that Madigan had OK’d the move.

“I talked to the speaker,” McClain said on the voicemail he left for Doherty. “Speaker talked to Ed Moody, and, um, so speaker suggested Ed and you get together and talk ‘cause, ya know, he’s got some disclosure things he’s gonna have to do at the county board level.”

As a workaround, Moody’s payments started coming from two “intermediaries” allied with Madigan who did contract work for ComEd, according to prosecutors.

One of the intermediaries was Shaw Decremer, a Democratic House staffer for Madigan who became a lobbyist but was ousted from the speaker’s political operations after a lawmaker complained that he was abusive while working on campaigns.

The other was John Bradley, a former veteran House Democrat from Marion who served on Madigan’s leadership team but lost his 2016 bid for reelection and became a lobbyist.


Prosecutors said Moody will testify that he went to Madigan at one point and told him he was worried that his contract claimed he was doing work for the utility, when in fact he’d done nothing. Madigan allegedly told him he was a “valuable political operative” and to keep working on his campaigns.

“Madigan responded that (Moody) did not have to worry, because what (Moody) was doing right then — meaning campaign work — was what was important to Madigan,” prosecutors said in their pretrial filing.

Moody stopped being paid through the intermediaries when he was appointed to be Cook County’s recorder of deeds in late 2018, according to prosecutors. The investigation went overt five months later with a series of raids in the Chicago area and downstate.

Earlier in the trial, jurors heard a May 16, 2018, call between McClain and Marquez, then a senior governmental affairs executive at ComEd, talking about Moody’s work for Madigan and his possible ascension to a new elective position.

“Now, he’s no longer a commissioner, but he’s going to be recorder of deeds?” Marquez asked on the call.

McClain burst out laughing, saying, “I don’t think — it’s possible!”


“OK, all right, someone thought that might be the case,” Marquez said.

McClain, still laughing, responded, “Oh, it’s funny business up here.”

Listen to the audio:

While the jury has heard a lot about the payments to Moody, they’ve seen only bits and pieces of Moody himself.

His driver’s license photo has been shown many times in court as witnesses testified about the arrangement with Doherty’s subcontractors. But, unlike the four defendants, who were caught on numerous wiretapped calls, Moody’s voice has been heard only once during the trial, when prosecutors played a 2016 voice message retrieved from Doherty’s cellphone after it was seized by the FBI.

Prosecutors said Moody was calling to talk about his contract moving to Decremer’s firm.


“Hey, Jay, this is, uh, Ed Moody calling. The speaker wanted me to reach out to you, if you wouldn’t mind returning my call,” Moody said.

Listen to the audio:

Jurors have also been shown several times the bare-bones resume Moody submitted to ComEd when he was first being brought on as a subcontractor.

In addition to misspelling the Palos Hills community college he’d attended in the late 1980s, Moody’s resume reads like something out of central casting for a politically connected precinct worker.

His work history includes “technician engineer” for the Cook County Highway Department, “jury coordinator” for the chief judge in the county’s Bridgeview courthouse, and owner of Joy Janitorial Services Company in Chicago Ridge, where he was responsible for such things as “hiring and firing of staff.”

Among the “interests” cited by Moody at the bottom of the document were census outreach and Sunday school teacher.


Nowhere on the resume, though, does Moody list his real value: politics.

Ed and Fred Moody became legendary because of their political results. They strove to make their precincts the best at getting people to the polls and at bringing in the most votes for Madigan-backed candidates.

In fact, people who participated in Madigan-run campaigns said the Moodys trained sitting incumbents and legislative candidates in the fine arts of politicking.

Not only were they instrumental in generating votes for House Democrats, but they are said to have played roles in races as important as the first state Senate race in which Lisa Madigan, the speaker’s daughter, beat an incumbent lawmaker before going on to win four terms as attorney general.

They even helped out in an aldermanic race for Daniel Solis, the 25th Ward leader who later wore a wire that helped authorities bring corruption charges against Madigan and veteran 14th Ward Ald. Edward Burke, according to one insider.

When Madigan briefly lost the House in 1994, the Moody brothers dug in with candidates in top swing districts to help the speaker win back the majority in 1996 and hold it for the next quarter century. Madigan was finally dethroned by his own House Democratic caucus in January 2021 as the ComEd investigation eroded his political standing.


What made the Moodys extraordinary was their ability to read voters when they opened the doors to hear the campaign pitches for candidates, various Democrats recalled for this story.

“They loved walking door to door more than any person I’ve ever seen,” said one Democratic insider who campaigned with the Moodys. “Most candidates don’t like to walk door to door. Most volunteers don’t like to walk door to door. The Moodys loved it.”

They could see a White Sox flag in a window, a statue of the Virgin Mary or an National Rifle Association bumper sticker on a car and know how to tailor their message in those precious few seconds when they introduced themselves from the front porch of a voter.

The twins were known to be quick to read the mood of a voter, picking up on facial expressions, anger or other cues that helped them mold voter viewpoints into a positive feeling about Madigan’s candidates.

Whether what they said at the door matched the message of the candidate didn’t necessarily matter — as long as they left enough of a favorable impression to win a vote.

By the time they left a residence, they might find themselves shaking hands or hugging people before they started all over at the house next door.


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Perhaps most importantly, the Moodys could take what they learned about voters’ feelings to Madigan, so that he could know more about concerns of the average Illinoisan than any telephone survey could give — a critical point in tailoring messages for the candidates up and down the Democratic ticket.

In his testimony, Cousineau said the decision on where to dispatch the Moody twins was one of his more important strategic decisions.

“We would have a judgment of which campaigns were the closest and where the Moodys might be able to help the campaign in the most effective way, and so I would be responsible for assigning them out to those campaigns,” he said.

But, Cousineau was asked, did you ever see Ed Moody working as a lobbyist for ComEd in all those years?

“Not that I can recall,” he said.




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