If the top guy at a top state government agency can walk over to a job with a big state contractor/contributor without delay what is the point of Illinois' revolving door prohibition?
Today's Chicago Tribune revealed that Illinois Department of Transportation Secretary Tim Martin has taken a job with Chicago-based Consoer, Townsend & Associates, a large highway engineering that did $50 million in state business during Martin's term in office.
Martin was allowed to make the transition without the one-year statutory waiting period because he got a waiver from the Illinois Executive Ethics Commission. Why, I don't know because the report is not posted online. Martin's argument was that IDOT did work with lots of firms so if he were locked out for one year, he effectively would have to find another occupation. I'm not impressed with that argument because it can be made in lots of circumstances.
Reporter Jon Hilkevitch deserves credit for breaking the story but there are some questions it raises that deserve answers.
1. Did the ethics commission ignore the evidence that under Martin, Consoer did dramatically better than ever when it comes to gaining contracts. Hilkevitch's story says that Consoer has done $88 million in state work since 1970 and more than $50 million since Martin became IDOT Secretary in 2003. Do the math: that means Consoer got $38 million in state business in 32 years prior to Martin and at least $50 million in the four years under Martin. That's a big spike.
2. Did Martin have anything to do with Consoer's sizable campaign contributions? Consoer gave Blagojevich $15,000 from 2003-2005. Then, in 2006, a subsidiary company, Austin AECOM, gave Blago $10,000, including $2,500 a week after the November election and during the time that Martin says he was negotiating with firms for work while at IDOT.
3. What about the federal and state investigations? Published reports say that the Illinois Attorney General's office and U.S. Attorney's office are investigating IDOT for various allegations that occurred under Martin's watch. I wonder why the Tribune failed to mention this in the article.
The revolving door provision is part of the state ethics law that Blagojevich, Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn and other state Democrats brag about. When it came time to enforce it, it looks like the law has no teeth, or at least nobody with the will to use those teeth.