Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Companies doing business with village line the campaign funds of the elected officials

Everyone thinks the problem with Gov. Rod Blagojevich was simply that he was greedy and took money for himself and his campaign war chest. But they miss the bigger picture. This practice is common place. And while Blagojevich is alleged to have made pay-to-play a mandatory hallmark of doing business with him, the contributions from big contractors also have ended up in the campaign election war-chests of others, from House Speaker Michael J. Madigan and Lisa Madigan, all the way to the lily ponds and their big bullfrogs in the outlying suburbs.

This week, the Chicago Sun-Times reported that the Justice Department has subpoenaed the records of 18 big engineering and construction companies, many of whom gave hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions to Blagojevich. One company literally let the governor borrow their Lear Jet, and Blagojevich dutifully reported it on his campaign disclosures.

But deep down beyond the Blagojevich headlines, some of those construction companies targeted in the sweeping examination of donations to contract awards, also gave money to some of our local officials.

A review of campaign filings last summer, for the first six months of 2008, showed that almost one-third of the donations made to Mayor McLaughlin during the reporting period (June 1, 2007-Dec. 31, 2007) came from contributors who do or have done business with the Village of Orland Park, or that are existing village businesses.

In the same analysis of the campaign disclosures, I noted in this blog about how one of those village contractors, the 800 Pound Gorilla in the Contract Room McDonough & Associates donated money to Orland Park Mayor Dan McLaughlin. And not just a few bucks for event tickets.

On April 2, 2007, McDonough requested approval from the Orland Park Village Board for $10,000 in additional fees for construction work they were doing at 159th and Ravinia, you know, the intersection for Costco that took forever.

On April 16, 2007, the village approved the $10,000 additional payment.

On October 19, 2007, McDonough made a $1,000 contribution to McLaughlin's campaign fund, which he will use for his re-election bid this April 7.

At 10 percent, that's a slightly more that McDonough is paying than the 9.75 percent sales tax we taxpayers have to pay on purchases we make in this village.

A review of McDonough's campaign contributions over the years show that McLaughlin received nearly $12,000 in contributions from the firm. But it's easier to get that information than it is to find out how much money McDonough has received from McLaughlin's obedient board of trustees. That doesn’t include donations made by individuals associated with McDonough.

McDonough also made $1,750 in donations to the Orland Township Democratic Organization that McLaughlin chairs as Democratic Committeeman.

And, McDonough made another $800 in donations to McLaughlin’s running mates, Trustee Kathy Fenton and the 19th Ward’s Ambassador to Orland Park, Trustee Brad O’Halloran.


But McDonough’s contributions to secure good relations with a village that it does business with don’t stop at Orland Park. The company also donated money to Patrick Maher, the head of the Orland Park Fire District and the son of Orland Park Village Clerk David Maher, who’s a decent guy. (The Maher’s are closely tied to the Hynes’ family, as in “Dan Hynes,” the Illinois Comptroller.)

That might explain Patrick Maher’s rumored ambitions to run for the office of Cook County Commissioner in the 17th District, which includes Orland Park and is now held by Orland Park Republican Commiteeman Elizabeth Doody Gorman. Gorman, I should note, has frequently challenged the work McDonough has done for Cook County.

We know what those contributors got from the state and the city of Chicago. But how much did McDonough Associates, Inc. get from Orland Park?

That's a question that Gerald Maher, who is challenging McLaughlin in the April 7 Orland elections for mayor (no relation to David or Patrick Maher), issued a press release earlier today asking those very questions.

Asked Gerald Maher, "Why is the Mayor and his team continuing to rush forward with projects such as the Main Street Triangle and the widening of the 143rd and Lagrange Intersection? These projects are not only unnecessary and untimely, but will also place an extreme hardship on the local businesses. These businesses struggle along under the Mayor’s Eminent Domain which will lead to their extinction. Now Mayor McLaughlin wants to disrupt traffic flow to make way for his legacy project. This is the wrong time and the wrong solution. Right hand turn lanes should have been added as suggested in 2001 by this writer. Why has the Mayor and his team run a budget deficit for 2 out of the last 3 years, being forced to extend the current budget to 15 months to cover another $4.8 million deficit? Why do they continue to borrow and spend money for these projects?"

Everyone is focused on Blagojevich. But I think not enough attention is paid to the little frog on the Orland Park lily pad in the muddy little pond.

-- Ray Hanania

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