It shouldn't come as a surprise that John Wyma is lobbying for GTECH.
The Illinois Lottery's contractor will most likely operate the state's proposed keno network. Governor Rod Blagojevich wants to put electronic keno gambling games in 2,000 taverns and restaurants to help fund a construction plan for schools.
Wyma was the governor's chief of staff when Blagojevich was a congressman and he was the political director for the governor's 2002 campaign. He is just the sort of guy that companies like GTECH hire when they want to get something done in the state.
Actually, it's not just the state. The same thing goes for Chicago and most other municipalities in Illinois.
And it's not just Illinois. How many companies hired disgraced Washington, DC super-lobbyist Jack Abramoff because they believed his extensive connections to the highest reaches of the national Republican establishment would grease the skids?
Before GTECH hired Wyma, they used Wilhelm & Conlon, which was once headed by Gov. Blagojevich's campaign media strategist David Wilhelm. Before Wilhelm & Conlon, and before Blagojevich was even elected, GTECH used Republican mega-insider Bob Kjellander as its Springfield mouthpiece.
According to the Sun-Times, IGOR - The Watchdog Group is GTECH's lone subcontractor in Illinois, meaning it could very well make a bunch of cash if and/or when keno is implemented. IGOR, which has been a large contributor to the governor's campaign fund, is represented in Springfield by none other than John Wyma. But it has also been represented by a well-known Republican lobbyist, Tony Leone, according to the secretary of state's office.
According to the Sun-Times, another firm may compete against GTECH for the keno contract. That company, Scientific Games, is represented by Blagojevich campaign fundraiser and Springfield lobbyist Milan Petrovic. Scientific Games has also been represented by Leone in the past, according to the lobbying list.
Just to give those of you an idea of how things work, according to the state's lobbyist list Petrovic's firm has done work with PAR Solutions, which has lobbied for Scofield Communications, which is a company owned by the governor's campaign spokesman, Doug Scofield. PAR is run by Paul Rosenfeld, who has been a Blagojevich friend forever.
It's all one thing in Illinois.
Many corporations routinely seek out the most politically connected lobbyists they can afford, believing it gives them an advantage in the game. Does this mean that the system is completely wired? Not necessarily.
If you look at any major contract bidding process or legislative battle, you'll see connected lobbyists working for every company on every side of the matter at hand. It's both an insurance policy (in case things really can be wired) and a standard business decision (as with most things, if the other side has something, then companies think they'd better have one as well).
The problem for Governor Blagojevich is that he pledged to end "business as usual" in Springfield and he obviously hasn't. In fact, he probably can't. Unless he bans lobbying by everyone connected to him, there's no way he can prevent these sorts of stories.
And he won't ban lobbying by his friends and supporters because lobbying is the ultimate form of patronage for the highly connected. Midlevel employees of legislative leaders and the governor often move on to bigger and better things, usually with the blessing and even help of their former employers. But their top people almost always end up making fabulous amounts of money in the lobbying game, which frees them up in the off-season to help out on campaigns.
And those super-lobbyists are usually good hires. Beyond the "good will" that they may engender with the powers that be, they know how things are done and they know the people who can get them done.
Lots of people tried to warn Blagojevich that he was setting the ethics bar way too high when he first came into office, and now routine matters like who is lobbying for what have become front page stories. Those pay to play articles then feed on each other and reinforce the message that he is no different than anyone else, despite his protestations to the contrary.
Wyma claims that he never lobbied for keno on behalf of GTECH. Blagojevich's office claims that it never talked to Wyma about keno and didn't even know Wyma was working for GTECH. All of that may be true, but how many people will believe it?
Rich Miller also publishes Capitol Fax, a daily political newsletter. He can be reached at thecapitolfaxblog.com.