State Rep. Charles Jefferson – an Exelon Company

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Boy, it's hard for our comically-bad state legislators to get good help these days.

The Rockford Register Star is reporting today that a 420-word guest column from state Rep. Charles Jefferson urging state regulators to reverse an electric rate cut was in fact written by – drum roll please – ComEd.

I don't think this kind of thing really surprises anyone in Illinois, Land of Corruption. I mean, I've won many a journalism award exposing just how much of the McHenry County Department of Health's "study" of McCullom Lake brain cancer cases came courtesy of the chemical company accused in 33 lawsuits of causing them (stories here and here).

But it's how Jefferson, D-ComEd, got found out that stood out and gave me a chuckle. Did it involve filing a Freedom of Information Act request or sifting through musty old records? Nope.

The email in which the column was sent accidentally contained text from previous replies showing that it originated with ComEd.

“Attached for Rep. Jefferson’s review is draft content for an opinion/editorial piece to submit to the Rockford Register Star today,” the Sept. 27 email from a senior ComEd spokesperson to Jefferson's legislative aide. "Providing that Rep. Jefferson agrees with the content, please submit directly to the Register Star at your earliest possible convenience.”

Oopsie.

The column urges the Illinois Commerce Commission to reverse its decision to cut energy delivery rates by about $168 million, which ComEd/Jefferson says will impede the company's smart-grid modernization plan.

Campaign finance disclosures filed with the Illinois State Board of Elections reveal that Jefferson since 2009 has received more than $24,000 from ComEd, parent company Exelon, and downstate energy provider Ameren, the Register Star reported.

I'm beginning to think former Minnesota governor and full-time conspiracy theorist Jesse Ventura may have been on to something when he suggested that politicians should wear NASCAR jumpsuits with the ads stitched on them so we can see with a glance who owns them.

In the case of our health department, its connections with chemical manufacturer Rohm and Haas took a little bit more work than an ill-conceived email. While department officials clearly labeled pollution maps as having come from the company, it took FOIA requests and the court deposition of the former county epidemiologist to reveal that health officials held a secret meeting with company executives, who got to review the department's all-clear before it was shown to the County Board and the public.

The news outraged many McCullom Lake residents and the village president. County leaders (and the the county Good Ol' Boys Network that shields the faithful), not so much.

Senior Writer Kevin Craver can be reached at kcraver@shawmedia.com.

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