Four firms that received $1.6 million in legal and consulting work connected to the private leasing of the Indiana Toll Road have made $90,585 in campaign contributions to Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels during the last three years. And one top attorney encouraged engineering firms to bankroll an ad blitz in support of the lease while he was under contract with the state. The Daniels administration says such political considerations play no role in the awarding of contracts and the state simply selected the most qualified firms.
And which Indianapolis law firm is making off well? Why of course, it's Ice Miller--the same firm involved in the shady restaurant/bar deal at the Julia Carson Government Center. The Times reports:
The remaining legal and consulting work was shared by seven firms, with the biggest chunk -- $1.3 million -- awarded to Ice Miller, the state's third largest law firm. The Indianapolis-based company employs several high-profile political players on both sides of the aisle, including state Rep. Luke Messer, a former executive director of the Indiana Republican Party, He joined the firm's lobbying team in April, one month after helping the Toll Road lease clear the House without a vote to spare. Ice Miller also is the former employer of Harry Gonso, who now serves as Daniels' chief of staff.
Near the top of the Ice Miller roster is John Hammond III, a veteran Republican powerbroker the state hired at $331 hourly to work on the Toll Road transaction. Hammond has contributed $20,699 to Daniels' campaign, and in January he gave a pep talk to engineering firms concerned about the legislative fate of Major Moves.
Such firms, along with construction trades that also stand to benefit from the road plan, helped steer more than $300,000 this year to Aiming Higher, a nonprofit advocacy group that used the contributions to fund a multimedia ad campaign in the weeks before the General Assembly OK'd the Toll Road lease . . .
Ice Miller has made $7,386 in corporate contributions to Daniels' campaign since 2003 and, beyond Hammond, six other Ice Miller staffers who worked on the Toll Road contract have given a total of $11,008.
As they say in politics, if you want to play, you've got to pay. Nowhere is that more true than right here in Indiana.