From abc7chicago on Janaury 6, 2007: "January 6, 2007 (WLS) -- Since the battle over ComEd's rate increase began there has been a surge of campaign contributions to some of the state's most powerful politicians. The ABC7 I-Team has obtained state records that show a spike in donations from ComEd to lawmakers who could determine this weekend's "do-or-die" vote over a rate freeze.
When this session of the Illinois legislature convenes on Sunday, the electric rate freeze will be at the top their agenda. In this Intelligence Report, ABC7 investigative reporter Chuck Goudie shares exclusive details on the vote and the ComEd campaign contributions.
Since the fight over electric rates in Illinois began to sizzle like a transformer on an August day, ComEd, its extremities and employees have been power-loading the campaign accounts of several top state politicians.
Edison's favorite recipient: the president of the Illinois senate, Emil Jones from Chicago, and there are allegations that ComEd is trying to buy political favor and a rate increase.
"The senate president is the No. 1 recipient of ComEd money over the past couple of years," said David Morrison, Illinois Campaign for Political Reform.
The senate president is South Sider Emil Jones. According to contribution records examined by the ABC7 I-Team, Senator Jones has accepted dozens and dozens of donations from ComEd, its parent corporation Exelon and from corporate executives and employees -- more than $200,000 in campaign funds, much of it since a move began to freeze electricity rates in the state.
"There always is a chicken and egg issue. Are they giving to him because he supports them or is he supporting them because he gets the money?" said Morrison.
Senate President Jones is leading the charge for Edison's 22 percent rate hike, telling constituents that they need to pay more for reliable service.
A spokeswoman for Jones said Friday he was too busy to be interviewed, but stressed that "There is no connection whatsoever" between ComEd's donations and Jones' support of a rate increase. "I want that point made clearly," she told ABC7 on behalf of Jones. "There is absolutely no connection. All the leaders have received funds."
That is true. But the past three years none of them has come close to receiving the $218,000 senate President Jones has, and in the last six months, as a debate raged over the rate freeze, Edison donations to Jones have outpaced other leaders 10 to 1.
"I don't think that public officials should be allowed to accept campaign money from utilities. We have a job to be watchdogs over the public utilities and I don't think there should be an appearance that public utilities can come forward with campaign money and cloud our vision," said Lt. Gov Pat Quinn.
Lt. Governor Quinn says he doesn't accept donations from utilities and wants a state law banning such contributions.
Senate President Jones connection to ComEd goes beyond his bank account. Utility president Frank Clark is a close personal friend who even threw Jones a fundraising party in June 2005. Clark paid for the party tent, flowers and even performing dancers. Of Jones' friendship with Clark, the senate president's spokeswoman says, "Jones has many close relationships ... as do many of the state leaders." ComEd clearly plays favorites. Since House Speaker Mike Madigan started pushing for a rate freeze, the utility has frozen him out of contributions.
Edison responded to our report Friday evening. Spokeswoman Judy Rader said:
"Just as many Illinois organizations do, ComEd and our executives have supported a number of candidates for office over the years. Our company supports elected officials at both the federal and state levels as well as suburban mayors and others who hold public offices."