Blago Hit it Big on State Road Contracts

Raised $80,000 from firms

Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich raised at least $80,000 from firms with state road contracts last summer and fall,  including $10,000 the day after the governor announced a $1.8 billion tollway project mentioned in criminal charges against him, records show.

An Associated Press review of Blagojevich campaign contributions from July through November shows donations from 15 firms that hold millions of dollars in current contracts from the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority, the state Department of Transportation, or both.

The Democratic governor was arrested Dec. 9 on a federal complaint that alleges he tried to trade official actions for campaign money or a high-paying job. Up for sale, according to the government, were multibillion-dollar road construction contracts, an $8 million children's hospital reimbursement and the Senate seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama.

The Illinois House impeached Blagojevich on Friday. He awaits a Senate trial on removal from office and has denied wrongdoing.

According to the federal complaint, Blagojevich told an associate on Oct. 6 that he planned to announce a $1.8 billion congestion-relief plan for toll roads in northeastern Illinois, indicating that he "could have made a larger announcement" but wanted to see if a highway contractor would come through on a request to raise $500,000 for Blagojevich before year's end.

Blagojevich announced a proposal to add express toll lanes Oct. 15. A day later, he got $10,000 in contributions from transportation and tollway contractors.

None of the contributors has been accused of wrongdoing.

Among the money coming in was $3,000 from Omega & Associates Inc. and $3,000 from Millennia Professional Services of Illinois Ltd. Omega is under contract with the Transportation Department for $250,000 this year; Millennia has $967,000 in work from the agency.

Neither company's representatives returned phone calls Monday.

Blagojevich spokesman Lucio Guerrero said road construction projects are open to competitive bidding.

"I have to assume that the contracts were awarded based on merit and not contributions," Guerrero said.

Tollway chairman John Mitola said in December that he could never recall an instance in which Blagojevich intervened for any contractor, spokeswoman Joelle McGinnis said.

Blagojevich was scurrying to ramp up fundraising in late 2008 because a stricter fundraising law took effect Jan. 1, prosecutors say. But the records reviewed by the AP show the famously prolific money-raiser pulled in only $618,000 from July 1 to Nov. 25, the latest date contained in the document.

About $60,000 of that came from a Nov. 10 fundraiser organized by the head of an engineering firm whom the wiretap later caught Blagojevich calling and thanking for his support.

The criminal complaint identifies the organizer only as the president of "Engineering Firm 1." He is Ivan J. Dvorak of Teng & Associates in Chicago, according to a person who has been informed about the investigation but spoke only on condition of anonymity because it is secret grand jury information.

Dvorak-affiliated companies contributed $10,000 that day, and another $10,000 came from Omega.

Dvorak did not return a call Monday for comment.

The complaint indicates that during a Nov. 13 call, Blagojevich and his brother, Rob, the chairman of the governor's campaign committee, Friends of Blagojevich, discussed the money collected at the event. Shortly after that call, Blagojevich called Dvorak and told him, "I want to thank you again for your support and friendship and we are going to do everything we can to get that capital bill."

Blagojevich has been trying for years to get the Legislature to approve a statewide construction plan, or capital bill, that would be worth $25 billion or more.

Teng & Associates is under contract this year for $15.9 million in tollway jobs and $12.8 million from the Transportation Department.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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