* Martin Ozinga has been slammed by Democrats over a Tribune story from 2005 that alleged he had set up a minority front company to score contracts from the City of Chicago. Ozinga is the odds-on favorite to replace Tim Baldermann on the 11th District congressional ballot against Sen. Debbie Halvorson.
Anyway, Ozinga told the Tribune this week that he is “proud” of that minority company…
“Our efforts with Metro Mix were always completely transparent, on top of the table, done in conjunction with many, many, many discussions of all the government agencies involved,” he said from his new campaign office in Mokena. “And I am—I was then, and I am to this day—proud of all the people who worked hard, put forth so much effort into trying to create a business opportunity that would have been so very beneficial, but that was probably just not meant to be.”
Ozinga said he started Metro Mix as a way to create jobs and promote economic development in minority neighborhoods.
Metro Mix initially had trouble being recognized as a minority-owned business—officials said Ozinga’s ties to the company were too close—so the group restructured with new minority ownership to meet requirements. Eventually, however, Ozinga had a disagreement with one of the new partners in the mid-1990s, and the company folded.
“I have no regrets, and I appreciate everybody that participated,” he said. “And nowhere along the line did we violate any rules, regulations or attempt to create any kind of an atmosphere that was anything less than above board and straightforward.”
Ozinga has said the same thing to Republican bigwigs, but the allegations remain. Regardless of the latest Tribune story, expect the company to be a big issue in the DCCC’s direct mail campaign this fall.
* Meanwhile, Phil Hare has named Tom O’Donnell his new chief of staff…
O’Donnell, a native of upstate New York and a graduate of SUNY-Plattsburgh, most recently served as chief of staff for Congressman Rush Holt (D-NJ). Before that, he spent 13 years working for Hare’s predecessor Congressman Lane Evans, nine of those as legislative director.