A lobbying firm with close ties to a key subcontractor hired to promote the nation’s health care law in Illinois is hosting a fundraiser for one of Gov. Pat Quinn’s top political donors, raising questions about “pay to play” politics amid the state’s highly competitive governor’s race.
The Roosevelt Group is hosting a breakfast fundraiser Tuesday for the Democratic Governors Association “honoring Pat Quinn,” according to an invitation sent out last week that lists suggested sponsorship levels of between $20,000 and $2,500. The Democratic Governors Association formed a political action committee last fall to support Quinn’s re-election and has contributed $260,000 to it so far this year. In 2010, the group gave about $1.8 million to Quinn — making it the Chicago Democrat’s second-biggest donor, according to the National Institute on Money in State Politics.
Roosevelt Group was co-founded by its two partners, Mike Noonan and Victor Reyes. A third person, Maze Jackson, is a lobbyist for the company. The three own Compass Public Affairs, a political strategy consulting firm that has a $250,000 state subcontract for the “Get Covered Illinois” marketing campaign. The contract, which paid Compass at a rate of $282 per hour, may be renewed when it ends in August.
Illinois’ “pay to play” law bars contractors from making certain contributions to prevent politicians from steering lucrative government work to businesses that make donations to their campaigns. Kent Redfield, a campaign finance expert, said the “degrees of separation” between DGA, Quinn’s campaign, Roosevelt and Compass may keep the event from violating the letter of the law. But he said the fundraiser raises ethical issues.
“Clearly you’ve got people who are benefiting from state government contracts trying to facilitate contributions to re-elect the governor,” said Redfield, professor emeritus of political science at University of Illinois at Springfield.
* The state has several contractor associations which are used to get around the direct contribution laws. A contractor gives money to the association (Asphalt Pavers, for instance) which then writes checks to the candidates. And the money from this fundraiser isn’t even directly going to the candidate, although the money will definitely wind up helping him.
Maze Jackson was very involved with Quinn’s 2010 campaign, handling field work in the city. He supports the governor. He wound up with a contract. He’s holding a fundraiser. Also, despite what the AP says above, he’s no longer registered as a lobbyist for the Roosevelt Group. He terminated his lobbying status in February.
I whacked Jackson hard earlier this spring, but this AP piece is much more about how the system is built, its universally acknowledged baked-in expectations, than an individual thing.
Since the AP broke the story about how Jackson’s PR company won a $250,000 subcontract, it’s only natural that they’d follow up. Sunlight is a good thing. Just keep this in mind if the Road Builders do a funder for Rauner.