While it’s not known why Zalewski is under investigation, public records show he has had recent tax troubles with the Internal Revenue Service.
Federal agents recently executed a search warrant on the Southwest Side home of retired Chicago Ald. Michael Zalewski, and sources familiar with the investigation say they were seeking records regarding the alderman’s longtime political ally, Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan.
In a related move, federal investigators subpoenaed documents and other information from utility giant Commonwealth Edison regarding the company’s state government lobbying activity. ComEd officials confirmed they received the subpoena and said the utility is cooperating in the ongoing federal investigation.
Zalewski’s attorney, longtime Chicago defense lawyer Thomas Breen, confirmed to WBEZ and the Better Government Association that the former alderman’s home was searched by federal agents in May. Around the same time, authorities raided the home of Kevin Quinn, a Madigan operative whose brother is alderman of Madigan’s 13th Ward power base. The Zalewski search has not previously been disclosed.
“Despite the government’s interest in getting documents, we are confident there was nothing wrong in any of [Zalewski’s] conduct,” Breen said, describing the former alderman as “a working stiff for the people.”
Part of the probe centers on efforts to get work for Zalewski at ComEd and the interactions between Madigan, Zalewski and longtime ComEd lobbyist and Madigan confidant Michael McClain, according to three sources familiar with the federal investigation. The three sources declined to be identified because they were not authorized to speak about the investigation.
Asked whether Zalewski had been hired in any capacity by ComEd, a utility spokeswoman declined to answer. But in a statement, ComEd spokeswoman Jean Medina said the utility and its parent company, Exelon, recently were contacted by federal agents.
“Exelon and ComEd have received a grand jury subpoena from the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Northern District of Illinois requiring production of information concerning its lobbying activities in the State of Illinois,” she said in an emailed statement. “Exelon and ComEd have pledged to cooperate fully and are cooperating fully with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in expeditiously providing the requested information.”