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More reform and renewal - pigs at the perpetual trough edition

Saturday, Sep 30, 2006

The party never ends.

Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s administration, seeking a contractor to oversee the establishment of a major Southern Illinois recreational facility in late 2003, bypassed the downstate firm that had already done the master plan for the project.

Instead, the administration handpicked a Chicago company that had contributed almost $30,000 in charter plane flights to Blagojevich’s 2002 campaign.

Since then, the Sparta World Shooting & Recreational Facility, heralded by Blagojevich as a boon for Southern Illinois’ economy, has also been a boon for that contributor, Knight E/A Inc. The Chicago engineering firm has received more than $2.5 million so far from its no-bid contract as construction manager of the Sparta project. […]

Knight Infrastructure, meanwhile, had already become a major political supporter of Blagojevich. During the 2002 campaign, records show, Knight donated charter plane services to Blagojevich on six occasions, at a value of more than $29,726. Wolfe, the Knight company president, gave Blagojevich a personal $10,000 contribution in September 2002, and another $5,000 in June 2003 - right around the time the administration was deciding how to proceed on the Sparta project.

Yet another unintentional coinkidink, according to the Blagojevich administration. Those contributions may look carefully timed and influential, but they weren’t. Nope. That would be wrong.

Peruse more stories on the relationship between Knight and the governor here and here.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Squideshi - Saturday, Sep 30, 06 @ 1:34 pm:

    This is why we need to ban contributions from state contractors, and Rich Whitney is the only candidate proposing this type of ethics reform.

  2. - Guy Fawkes - Saturday, Sep 30, 06 @ 1:37 pm:

    Did Knight E/A Inc. or Wolfe write any checks out to Governor Blagojevich’s daughters for birthday, Christening, Kwanzaa, Ramadan, Hanukkah, Festivus?

  3. - Anonymous - Saturday, Sep 30, 06 @ 3:14 pm:

    Rod just has to be dreading every weekend these days. This is the third week in a row that he’s gotten his buttocks handed to him. And I haven’t even seen tomorrow’s Trib yet, I’m curious to see if they go for the trifecta.

  4. - Martha Mitchell - Saturday, Sep 30, 06 @ 6:55 pm:

    This man and his sychophants all have no shame. It’s like he’s daring the feds to charge him with something. He thinks he’s above the law and has defied the federal system with his prescription plan and with his hiring schemes, as well as All Kids. Another big one is on the way.

  5. - Anon - Saturday, Sep 30, 06 @ 9:55 pm:

    One important fact left out of the above report: Knight Infrastructure (now called Knight E/A) is controlled by Republicans. The firm is managed by a partnership owned by Peter Fox, a prominent Downstate developer who served in the cabinet of Jim Thompson. Kim Fox (Peter’s wife) was one of Jim Thompson’s top fundraisers.

    Another owner is Catherine Prange, the wife of Nicholas Hurtgen. Hurtgen and Republican Bob Kjellander worked together on the $10 billion bond deal – the one in which Kjellander received a $800,000 fee for which he can’t explain what he did to earn.

    Although Knight contributed to Blagojevich’s campaign fund, Republicans have received the bulk of Knight’s contributions.

    When all is said in done both Democrats and Republicans will be hurt. Another case of Democrats and Republicans working together to screw the taxpayers.

  6. - Cassandra - Sunday, Oct 1, 06 @ 10:55 am:

    And there are those who still say that Blagojevich is not selling state jobs and contracts and that blog posters need more proof before making such allegations. I understand the need of former Republican honchos to work their way back into Blago’s good graces, but really.

    Good investment return for Knight though. They paid out $45,000 in rides and cash and got a $2.5 million no-bid contract. Where in the market
    can you get those returns.

    As I’ve said before, Illinoisians have already decided that corruption is ok by electing pols like Blagojevich, Daley and Ryan. So why not sell the contracts outright and put the money in state coffers. For a $2.5 million no-bid, the state could likely make more than $45,000 on the open market. Instead of enhancing Blago’s campaign/retirement fund, the money reaped from selling state contracts directly could go to the schools, etc.

  7. - Merit - Sunday, Oct 1, 06 @ 1:16 pm:

    Just another in the long line of crooks that have run our state. He will be in jail in less that four years…

  8. - Angie - Sunday, Oct 1, 06 @ 2:40 pm:

    Good grief! As someone who worked in the healthcare industry in the past, I have to say that I’m not at all surprised about all of these rather interesting coincidences where people get cushy jobs/promotions if they support Democrats like Rod Blagojevich. I worked at a company where a top exec, during the FIRST WEEK of employee orientation for brand new hires, went around the room grilling every single new hire as to how they voted. I mean, he pointed at everyone and asked if they were Democrat or Republican. Wow. I was stunned. Then, I noted that a Democrat suddenly got promoted within a month, even before her trial period was up. She was an awesome employee, I do have to say, but why did they bump her up before the 3 month trial was even up? Suspicious in my opinion, especially since our supervisor was openly liberal, but now I see how the healthcare industry folks are really cozy with the Blagojevich administration. I mean, I’m just not surprised at all to read this stuff.

    By the way, the first website you see when searching those ties to Blago is, a blog on the whole healthcare/hospital scandal issue. Great blog! Say what you will about past ties to Eddie V., but one of Editor Novak’s more recent clients was Poshard, and if you Google a piece called “You may be paying for corruption,” you’ll see a nice word about Poshard being honest and ethical (in the little news writeup that appears on Northwestern University’s Kellogg Management news page). The reporter of the piece is Alice Hohl, by the way.

    Novak definitely appears to be onto something big with the whole healthcare industry. Too many interesting coincidences with Blagojevich, wouldn’t you say? And when team Poshard was desperately trying to blow open the Ryan scandal back in 1998, no one listened at first. And weren’t they RIGHT in the end?

    Keep up with the healthcare angle as far as Blago is concerned. Lots of interesting (cough) coincidences going on in that industry. Way too many to doubt that it is all pure coincidence, in my opinion.

    Hope the reporters are all being good skeptics, too. This Gov’s whole career just smacks of “pay to play” innuendo.

  9. - desperate - Sunday, Oct 1, 06 @ 2:56 pm:

    another example of the dastardly deeds this administration is full of. Business as ususla, eh? O you are so full of crap Rodney. Go Judy or Rich- Go!

  10. - And to add... - Sunday, Oct 1, 06 @ 3:26 pm:

    Notice the clever ploy that Rod has come up with for explaining the appearance of ethics issues within his administration? He argues that hey, we’re seeeing all this because I’m here, and I’m helping to weed out the corruption, so don’t blame me when you see all of the roaches scurrying around.

    What a lame excuse. Get one big can of RAID and clean house a little faster there. It would happen if someone would only start doing it right.

  11. - roadkill - Monday, Oct 2, 06 @ 5:31 am:

    Can you say “Pay to Play.” Even if it’s a coincidence as the administration says, this is an example of how they take a heavy handed approach, which almost always leads to higher costs for capital projects.

    At IDOT we’ve had simple building expansions that should have cost no more than $150,000 ending up costing twice that much once the Capital Development Board and a Chicago based architect (which fouled up the plans twice) got done with them. There are probably dozens of similar examples from other agencies across the state.

  12. - Arthur Andersen - Monday, Oct 2, 06 @ 7:47 am:

    9:55 anon, if you followed the links Rich rovided that “important fact” was mentioned in several of the articles, including the CORRECT fact that Mrs. Hurtgen sold her interest in the firm after her husband started having legal problems.

    A more important fact from where I sit is that the firm and Fox were named in the subpoena of TRS last year, meaning they have been on Fed radar for quite some time.

    Do you suppose this has anything to do with yet another coinkidink-Fox owns a piece of an airplane leasing company?

    Hmmm..deja Stu all over again, and there’s Blago, wheels up and clueless.

  13. - Gregor - Monday, Oct 2, 06 @ 7:49 am:

    I alays wondered why Blago, who has always been a staunch anti-gun person politically, first opposed, then suddenly embraced Sparta’s shooting complex. Now we know: it’s all about the benjamins.

  14. - DOWNSTATE - Monday, Oct 2, 06 @ 9:47 am:

    The even bigger story is who has allowed this kind of expense.The cost was going to be 20 million then 30 million and now they want more which some estimates are saying 50 million.Why doesn’t other legislators take a hard look at cuts in their parks so that Knights fat piggies can be fed.

  15. - steve schnorf - Monday, Oct 2, 06 @ 10:59 am:

    Unless something dramatic has changed in the past couple of years, Knight is a good company and has been a good vendor to the state for many years.

  16. - Illinois Tollway Guy - Monday, Oct 2, 06 @ 11:36 am:

    The Feds & FBI should check out how much money Knight E/A Inc. of Chicago reaped from the Illinois Tollway. They were involved in Tollway oases (Tony Rezko) fiasco from the start!
    No more business as usual, What BS!

  17. - Dawg - Monday, Oct 2, 06 @ 3:03 pm:

    And what gets me the most, is the Dems will put this lying snake back in office! At least the Repubs got rid of thier slug 4 years ago!
    I just makes me ill!!!!

  18. - PalosParkBob - Monday, Oct 2, 06 @ 3:23 pm:

    Correction, Dawg, our “lying snakes” are still around. They’re on the Statewide ticket and running the Party in Illinois!

  19. - Huh? - Monday, Oct 2, 06 @ 3:35 pm:

    HDR is the firm that got beat out by Knight. HDR hasn’t got much work from the state lately because they don’t engage in the pay to play. Over the weekend, I went to the state board of elections and did a search of the contributions in the governor’s race. Not once did I see an individual donation that stated their employer was HDR. HDR is a really good firm. It’s too bad they aren’t getting more work.

  20. - Just Wonderin' - Monday, Oct 2, 06 @ 4:48 pm:

    I noticed that this news was buried in the mid-section of the SJ-R in Monday’s edition. Calamity Jane took the front page…

  21. - HogsInWiscosnin - Monday, Oct 9, 06 @ 10:49 am:

    The amazing thing is that this corruption has bled north to Wiscosnin. Knight E/A was the number one earner of State Contracts last year. Hurtgen and his Brother-in-Law held a fundraiser for the Govenror and Knight execs gave Thou$and$. Also, usual supect and business partner to Prange/Hurtgen named Ed Aprahamian also gave thousands.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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