DuPage gives nod to lobbying contracts
By Susan Frick carlman firstname.lastname@example.org August 29, 2012 3:10PM
Updated: September 1, 2012 2:22PM
Four consulting firms will share $324,000 in fees over the coming year after being hired by the DuPage County Board to lobby lawmakers on its behalf. The expense is the same amount the county spent for the purpose a year ago.
Not everyone supported the new contracts, one of which will be paid in part with $40,000 kicked in by the DuPage Airport Authority.
Dirk Enger of Winfield, who represents District 6 on the board, acknowledged that the outlay is smaller than the expense the county has incurred for lobbying services in the past. The fees came to $390,000 in 2010. Last year’s total reflected a redistribution of the amounts paid to state and federal lobbyists after DuPage officials decided to spend more on issues in Illinois. They allocated $240,000 in 2010 for work in Washington, D.C., then cut that sum in half last year.
Enger said his constituents don’t support the expenditure of tax funds on lobbying. He said he has worked for nonprofits that don’t have lobbying budgets, such as veterans’ and housing organizations, and was “pushed out in the hallway” many times by powerbrokers.
“I still have a faith that we can rely on our elected officials to represent us,” Enger said. “I cannot support a system that I feel has tarnished democracy in America.”
Awarded the 12-month agreements for representation on the state level were the Chicago firm All-Circo, at $120,000; V.A. Persico Consulting of Wheaton, $60,000; and McGuire Woods, $24,000. Federal lobbying will be done by Bill Viney of BGR Group, a consultancy based in Washington, DC, that specializes in government affairs, strategic communications and investment banking, for a fee of $120,000.
Residents who spoke at Tuesday evening’s County Board meeting shared Enger’s opposition to the contracts, but Chairman Dan Cronin expressed confidence that the expense is worthwhile.
“It is critical, critical that the county maintain a strong presence both in Springfield and down in Washington, D.C.,” said Cronin, who spent almost two decades in the state House before taking the county’s top elected job in 2010.
He noted that notices of committee meetings sometimes aren’t posted until an hour before they begin, and stressed the value of “real-time” conveyance of county interests, saying the county has good working relationships with all of the lobbyists.
“They’re colleagues of ours,” Cronin said. “We have faith, trust and confidence in all of them.”
Although Illinois State Board of Elections records show some of the lobbying firms have made modest campaign contributions to current DuPage office holders, the board members who supported the accords weren’t concerned about ethical breaches.
JR McBride, who recently became chairman of the board’s legislative committee, voted against two of the four contracts in 2010. This time, he sees the agreements as needed and voted for all of them.
“I’ve always believed I was the best one-on-one basketball player out there,” McBride said. “But it’s a five-on-five game.”