If ever there was a poster boy for Rod Blagojevich's utter hypocrisy, it's John Wyma. Not even George Ryan had a bag man walking at his side like Wyma with Rod.
Lynn Sweet of the Sun-Times chronicled Rod brazenly walking around in Washington a few weeks ago with his super-lobbyist pal at his side. Wyma represents 46 companies that want to influence state government in some way and then turns around and raises hundreds of thousands of dollars from them for Rod. He's like a walking ATM that is constantly filled with client money that Rod uses for withdrawals whenever his campaign treasury gets below $10 million.
Even in Washington, in the wake of the Abramoff scandal, politicians are shedding their ties to lobbyists who raise money for them. Rahm Emanuel of all people distanced himself from a lobbyist fundraiser. Rod, meanwhile, blithely goes about his business, oblivious to even the appearance of impropriety after promising with dirty money in 2002 that he was going to clean up state government.
You won't see or hear much from Wyma if he can help it. His lobbying firm, John Wyma and Associates, doesn't have a website and there are few if any pictures of him publicly available.
You can read about him though. He appears in stories where Blagojevich's spokespeople insist there's no connection between his work for clients and their luck at getting state business.
The company at the time was represented by lobbyist John Wyma, a close friend of Gov. Rod Blagojevich. Blagojevich's spokespeople said the lobbyist's relationship with the governor had nothing to do with the contract award. But Wyma's clients have an uncanny track record of winning state contracts. Decatur Herald & Review editorial, 2006
Rebecca Rausch, a Blagojevich spokeswoman, stressed that campaign contributions have nothing to do with IGOR's deal with the tollway.
"I-Pass usage dramatically increased in recent years," she said. "After the tollway partnered with Jewel-Osco . . . I-Pass usage increased from 38 percent in 2002 to 74 percent in 2005. After tollway IGOR contract went from $150,000 to $7 million without competitive bids.
"I don't think John is different from any other lobbyist in Illinois," (Deputy Governor Brad) Tusk said, pointing out that firms hire lobbyists because they have the skills to advise them on how the process works. Chicago Sun-Times after revealing that Wyma represented a company that saw its contract dramatically increase without competitive bids.
Wyma did not immediately return a phone call to his office on Friday. DCEO spokesman Andrew Ross said Wyma had nothing to do with getting the schools the money. Two music schools that use a close associate of Gov. Blagojevich as their lobbyist got $1.5 million in state grants last year, a dramatic increase from previous years, state records show. (AP, Feb. 2006)
Abby Ottenhoff, a spokeswoman for Blagojevich, said campaign contributions play no role in contract decisions. She said the present administration has often been unfriendly toward managed-care providers such as WellCare. "The idea that they have any advantage defies common sense," she said. Chicago Tribune, Feb. 2006 after WellCare, a health care firm received $75 million in state business after donating $100,000 to the governor.
Blagojevich campaign spokesman Doug Scofield added that WellCare's contributions will "have no impact" on the administration's decisions. More Wellcare coverage.
"We did not know that John Wyma was a lobbyist for Gtech, never had a discussion with him regarding keno and simply did not know," said Blagojevich spokeswoman Rebecca Rausch. After it was revealed that Wyma signed on with Gtech about the time the governor was floating Keno proposal in January of this year.
Becky Carroll, a spokeswoman for the governor's budget office, said it's "ridiculous and absurd" and "beyond premature" to assume GTECH would get the keno deal. More Keno coverage.
Becky Carroll, a spokeswoman for the governor's budget office, said Lehman has "decades of history" of doing business with the state, both for Republican and Democratic administrations.
"Because of their experience and expertise we have continued to work with them as we have with many other firms, all of whom have their own lobbyists," she said. "We choose firms based on their experience and expertise, not who they know or don't know."
"Every firm is connected to someone," she added. "If you are going to scrutinize one firm, then go through dozens and dozens of firms that do this kind of business." After Joe Birkett pointed out Lehman Brothers had received more than $1.3 billion in state bond work at the tollway without competitive bidding and Wyma received at least $400,000 in compensation.