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AP ComEd

Anne Pramaggiore, former president and CEO of ComEd, at a news conference at the Illinois Institute of Technology on Jan. 4, 2012, announcing new job growth related to the development of smart grid technology and the opening in Chicago of a Utility Training Center by ComEd. (Chris Walker / Chicago Tribune)

Of all the players in the sprawling ComEd bribery investigation, the powerful politicians, connected lobbyists, precinct captains, consultants and door knockers, it’s the business executive with the background in theater who stands out as miscast in the still-unfolding drama.

Former ComEd CEO Anne Pramaggiore, a theater major from central Ohio who became a rising star in the male-dominated corporate world, often came off as a brainy mix of business savvy and homespun directness that put people, including public officials, at ease.

Pramaggiore seemingly rose to the challenge when she inherited a massive utility that had been floundering in the late 2000s, with aging infrastructure prone to widespread power outages and growing dissatisfaction from its 3.8 million customers.

But to pull the company up, prosecutors allege, she made a calculated decision to embrace the Springfield power structure, joining forces with then-House Speaker Michael Madigan of Chicago and his straight-from-central-casting cronies.

Now, Pramaggiore, 64, finds herself in the most unlikely of roles. She’s among the criminal defendants in one of the biggest political corruption scandals the state has ever seen: “The ComEd Four,” who go on trial this week.

Her indictment in 2020 on allegations that she participated in a widespread scheme to influence Madigan by funneling payments and other perks to his associates capped a fall from grace that left many in Chicago’s business and legal community stunned.

The disconnect between Pramaggiore’s public persona and the actions described in the indictment has only deepened as recently surfaced emails and wiretapped conversations from the investigation portrayed her as someone at ease with Illinois’ old-school, “where’s mine” pay-to-play political system.

In some of the conversations that jurors in the trial will hear, Pramaggiore even adopts the some of the vernacular of her co-defendants, sounding more like a hard-boiled character in an old gangster movie than a button-down chief executive.

“You take good care of me, and so does our friend, and I will do the best that I can to, to take care of you. You’re a good man,” Pramaggiore allegedly told co-defendant Michael McClain in one September 2018 secretly recorded call, referring to Madigan as “our friend” instead of by name.

Pramaggiore, of Barrington, is charged with bribery conspiracy along with McClain, longtime former ComEd lobbyist John Hooker, and Jay Doherty, a consultant, lobbyist and former head of the City Club of Chicago

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