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They gave big, they got big: Big deals for Blago's big donors
'Pay-to-play' probe looking at firms that were big Blago donors
February 9, 2009
BY TIM NOVAK and CHRIS FUSCO
As part of their "pay-to-play" probe of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, federal investigators are examining state bid proposals and other records from 18 heavyweight engineering and construction companies that made hefty political contributions and got big contracts from the state and from City Hall, records show.
In all, the companies have made more than $3.6 million in campaign contributions since the mid-1990s, a Chicago Sun-Times analysis shows.
Federal investigators are examining state bid proposals and other records from companies that made large political contributions and got big contracts from the state under then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
(John J. Kim/Sun-Times)
Mayor Daley took $64,800 from the companies before he put a self-imposed ban on accepting campaign cash from city contractors in the wake of the Hired Truck scandal. Since 2004, 11 of the companies have gotten $183 million in city deals.
This latest window into the continuing Blagojevich investigation comes from a federal subpoena that was served on the Illinois Department of Transportation on Dec. 11 and made public in the wake of a successful open-records lawsuit filed by the watchdog group the Better Government Association.
None of the businesses named in the subpoena has been accused of any wrongdoing. At least one of those companies received a separate subpoena of its own.
"I have responded to the subpoena; 22 boxes have been sent," said Diane French, executive vice president and general counsel for DLZ Illinois, an engineering/design firm.
French declined to say whether the company is working on any state-funded projects in Illinois. She also would not comment on the firm's former lobbyist, John Wyma, a longtime Blagojevich associate identified as "Individual B" in the criminal complaint prosecutors filed when they arrested Blagojevich in December on charges that included the explosive allegation that he'd try to sell an appointment to the U.S. Senate to replace President Obama there.
Another firm named in the subpoena is Globetrotters Engineering Corp., headed by Niranjan Shah, recently named chairman of the University of Illinois Board of Trustees. Globetrotters has gotten hundreds of millions of dollars in city and state business, and one of its subsidiaries helps run concessions at O'Hare Airport.
Shah said his company gets government contracts on merit, not as a result of the thousands of dollars in campaign contributions he has given to Blagojevich and others.
"I don't think we got any special treatment," Shah said. "We are very careful. We're a very good firm. We do lots of good projects. We have been in business for 35 years."
Blagojevich's former chief of staff, Lon Monk, was Globetrotters' lobbyist the last two years. Shah said the relationship ended in December, when Monk's contract expired.
In the criminal complaint against Blagojevich, Monk is the "Lobbyist 1" who is part of an alleged shakedown scheme of a potential Blagojevich campaign contributor.
Other firms named in the subpoena include:
• • Castle Construction and MBB Construction, both owned by Robert Blum, a onetime business associate of former top Blagojevich fund-raiser Christopher G. Kelly. Castle was general contractor for the $38 million Emil & Patricia A. Jones Convocation Center at Chicago State University, which was dedicated last year. The company also has done extensive work at O'Hare and at Chicago Public Schools buildings.
• • Knight E/A Inc., an engineering company that has been linked to powerful Downstate businessman Peter Fox and indicted former investment banker Nicholas Hurtgen. In 2004, the wives of Fox and Hurtgen owned stakes in the company, which has gotten Illinois Tollway work and was picked by the Blagojevich administration to be construction manager for the $40 million World Shooting & Recreational Complex in Sparta. Fox said he and his wife have "no active involvement" in Knight and have sold most of their stock since 2004. Knight's lobbyist is Paul Rosenfeld, a Blagojevich associate identified as "Lobbyist 2'' in the criminal complaint against the governor.
• • Teng & Associates Inc., which is identified in the criminal complaint as "Engineering Firm 1." Teng "received in excess of $10 million from the State of Illinois during each of fiscal years 2004 through 2008," according to the complaint, and Blagojevich allegedly was contemplating seeking more campaign cash from the firm in exchange for tollway business. Rosenfeld also worked as a lobbyist for Teng.
• • McDonough Associates, which has gotten $39 million in tollway contracts since 2002. Brian J. McPartlin, a former Illinois State Toll Highway Authority executive director, announced in October he was leaving the agency to work for McDonough. But then McPartlin decided not to take the job after Blagojevich's Dec. 9 arrest.
McDonough, Teng, Knight and MBB are named in a similar subpoena delivered to the tollway authority on Jan. 27.