Two firms forced off Governor Rod Blagojevich's pay-to-play carousel in recent months have jumped right back on.
Their re-entry ramp? The state tollway system. Yvette Shields from the Bond Buyer is often the first on the beach when it comes to reporting on emerging waves of corruption from the Blagojevich administration. Earlier this month, she reported on a new tollway bond deal.
The deal is being equally divided into two series, each of about $500 million, with serial maturities between 2018 and 2031. JPMorgan is senior book-running manager on the mid-range maturities with Citigroup Global Markets Inc. running the books on the longer maturities. Perkins Coie LLP and Burke, Burns & Pinelli Ltd. are co-bond counsel, while Mesirow Financial Inc. and Scott Balice Strategies are the highway agency's financial advisers.
You might recognize Mesirow Financial and Scott Balice Strategies as two firms that lost either existing or pending state business in recent months because of embarrassing revelations from the press about incompetence and cronyism.
A subsidiary of Mesirow, Illinois Property Asset Management (IPAM), was fired by the state after the Illinois Auditor General revealed that the company was given favorable treatment in getting a $25 million "cost savings" contract, then produced questionable results, and to top it off billed taxpayers $31,000 for things like ice tongs, candy, parking at a Chicago Bulls game and a party to celebrate winning the contract.
Blagojevich talked tough when Mesirow's contract was pulled, amid growing media pressure.
In a written statement, Blagojevich said that "billing the taxpayers for things like car rentals and meals is inexcusable and won't be tolerated."
"Let this serve as notice to every company that does business with the state of Illinois: If you try to stick the taxpayers with these kinds of expenses, your contract will be terminated," Blagojevich said.
Mesirow is a big contributor to Blagojevich and its lobbyist is William Filan, cousin to Blago's budget director John Filan.
Scott Balice Strategies was picked a few months ago to get a state contract to help sell the state's college loans but later withdrew after publicity about its connections to top Blagojevich advisor David Wilhelm's former firm, which was poised to buy the loans.
Scott Balice is also a substantial Blago contributor.
I'm sure Blagojevich's inner circle apologized to Mesirow and Scott Balice for their temporary loss in state business.