Blago’s Own Private Stimulus
The planned federal economic stimulus package will include billions of dollars for transportation and infrastructure programs, much of which will ultimately be doled out by state and local governments. The ongoing saga of disgraced Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich may be an object lesson on the potential pitfalls of that strategy.
A review Blagojevich‘s campaign contributions show that he received at $80,000 in contributions from firms with connections to state road building companies last summer and fall, including a $10,000 cash infusion the day the governor announced a series of toll road projects worth a total of $1.8 billion.
This series of toll-related projects was later mentioned in the federal criminal complaint filed against the governor in December. The complaint alleges that Blagojevich told an associate on Oct 6 that he was deliberately underplaying the announcement to see if a particular contractor would make good on a promise to raise $500,000 for Blago before the end of the year.
Tollroad News hints that Blagojevich, while not officially in charge of these toll projects, had an unusually close relationship with the corporation that manages Illinois’ toll roads. Other states with major public toll systems, like Pennsylvania and New Jersey, have stronger firewalls between the governor and the corporation to minimize untoward political pressure.
Blagojevich is an extreme example, but corruption at the state and local levels should not be discounted when the merits of the stimulus package are debated.