government means not simply changing the way business has been done
in Springfield for many years, but also the amount of business the
state has awarded to firms in Washington, D.C.,” he said.
In recent weeks,
Blagojevich has canceled a pair of six-figure deals with Washington,
D.C., public affairs firms and legal offices. Another contract
expired at the end of 2002 and the Blagojevich administration
declined to seek a renewal of it.
On Thursday, the
governor asked the
State Board of Education to terminate a two-year contract that
would have required the state to pay more than $330,000 annually.
contracts are another example of the state's taxpayers shouldering a
burden which they can ill afford at this time,” he said.
In addition, the
services called for under the contracts are of limited value,
Blagojevich emphasized, because much of the lobbyists' work merely
duplicates efforts already being carried out by the state's strong
“Relying on these
firms ignores one of the great assets that we have -- a talented
congressional delegation, including the speaker of the house and
hardworking members from both sides of the aisle,” he added.
Among the two
contracts that Blagojevich cancelled earlier this month was a deal
worth a half-million dollars to the Washington, D.C., firm of Patton
Boggs and the Washington, D.C., office of Mayer Brown. The contract
called for lobbying on behalf of the
Illinois Department of Transportation.
He also terminated a
contract between the
Illinois Department of Public Aid and the Washington, D.C.,
office of the law firm Holland & Knight. The contract, which began
in February 2001 before being renewed twice, was originally due to
expire at the end of June. During just one six-month period, the
firm was allowed to bill the state $150,000.
direction, officials from IDOT and Public Aid notified the firms on
Feb. 10 that the contracts were being cancelled.
Patton Boggs also
netted $567,500 from Illinois taxpayers last year thanks to a
contract with several state agencies, led by the Department of Human
Services. The contract expired at the end of 2002, and the
Blagojevich administration did not seek its renewal.
Blagojevich sent a letter to Ron Gidwitz, chairman of the Illinois
State Board of Education, urging the cancellation of an existing
contract with the Washington, D.C.-based lobbying firm of Barbour,
Griffith & Rogers.
Under the terms of
the contract, the state would pay the lobbying firm as much as
$330,000 per year. The existing contract -- awarded by the state's
Board of Education, the
Board of Higher Education and the
Community College Board -- was approved last month by board
members. The state had already paid the firm more than $850,000
under a previous deal.
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The contract is
“entirely unwarranted at this time and is inconsistent with the goal
that I have set to reduce spending throughout state government,”
Blagojevich said in the letter to Gidwitz.
“Therefore, I am
urging you and the members of your board, at the earliest possible
moment, to take steps to terminate the existing contract with
Barbour, Griffith & Rogers. I consider this a priority and hope that
you will move quickly to take this important action,” he adds.
Blagojevich requested action from the board members to void the
contract with Barbour Griffith since it was awarded by the state
boards, rather than by a department or agency directly under the
control of the governor's office.
In addition to fiscal
concerns, Blagojevich said that such lobbying contracts are
unnecessary given the quality of the state's congressional
delegation, led by Rep. J. Dennis Hastert, the House speaker.
“I have great
confidence in the abilities and commitment of talented members of
the Illinois delegation, led by Speaker Hastert, to deliver the
results that the contract assigns BGR to seek,” he said.
“I am certain that
their accomplishments in this area and their ability to work
successfully across party lines will continue in the future, even if
the role of a Washington-based firm is substantially reformed and
reduced,” he added.
Blagojevich, a former
member of the U.S. House, pledged to work in partnership with the
Illinois House delegation and with Sen. Dick Durbin as well as
senators from across the country, including key Republicans.
“I intend to maintain
and enhance the solid bipartisan working relationship between
members of the delegation and the governor's office to work toward
accomplishments at the federal level that would be in the best
interests of Illinois,” he said.
The termination of
the contracts is in keeping with the steps toward consolidation and
streamlining of services that have been central themes of the
Blagojevich administration to date.
Since taking office
five weeks ago, Blagojevich has taken several steps to determine
whether state expenditures -- even those that are the result of
long-established spending practices -- are essential given the
state's nearly $5 billion deficit.
In recent weeks, for
example, he has frozen payments for projects initiated as members'
initiatives; imposed a hiring freeze on agency directors; called for
measures to reduce administrative costs at state universities and
impose controls on spending by trustees at those institutions;
prohibited heads of departments and agencies from acquiring new
state vehicles; and initiated a review of whether the high-paid
positions held by term-appointees are essential to the operation of
He said the termination of
Washington-based contracts is “a logical extension of this effort.”
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