Prairie State Wire

Prairie State Wire

Monday, January 27, 2020

Illinois political aide turned lobbyist swings for the fences, and connects


By LGIS News Service | Aug 28, 2017

Nancy Kimme has built a massive client list in less than three years as a paid lobbyist. | Illinois Secretary of State

After 25 years, Nancy Kimme finally left her state government office in February 2015. 

But she didn’t go far.

Kimme, 55, a one-time executive assistant who rose to be the trusted, top confidante of Illinois’ top Republican elected official, registered immediately as a lobbyist. 

Midwest Title Loans is one of 74 clients represented by lobbyist Nancy Kimme. She's been a leading Illinois lobbyist under Governor Bruce Rauner. | Midwest Title Loans

She would no longer collect a state government paycheck — she made $149,331 annually in her last job. But that didn’t mean state government wouldn’t still pay.

At her new job, Kimme proved a quick study — perhaps the quickest in Illinois history.

A Prairie State Wire analysis of her work over the past two years shows that, among her new lobbyist peers, Kimme has been unrivaled — both in her profligacy and success rate.

Since 2015, 29 of Kimme’s clients have received 2,878 state contracts worth nearly $17 billion, in part to her efforts, according to state budget and lobbyist registration records.

They run the gamut: from software vendors and construction companies to local governments and social service providers.

Some have competing interests. 

Kimme represents hospitals and Medicaid-backed health insurance providers, wrestling over scarce health care dollars.

She lobbies for businesses seeking regulatory relief and labor unions seeking more regulations. 

She represents casinos pushing for more gambling, and social service providers that help Illinoisans cope with gambling addictions.

One commonality: most of Kimme’s clients have hired her to get a piece of the state budget. 

And they’ve gotten it.

"The go-to lobbyist"

When insiders meet outsiders, they tread carefully.

Even Republican lobbyists greeted the January 2015 arrival in Springfield of Gov. Bruce Rauner, an independently wealthy outsider, with apprehension. 

Kimme, who offered Republican bona fides and also had deep relationships with Rauner’s top staff, was there to offer assurance.

“She represented herself as the go-to lobbyist in this new administration,” a source who collaborated with Kimme on securing a state contract for a client said. “Nancy made it clear to us that she was talking with (Rauner’s) staff daily.”

But Kimme had never been shy about her personal connections to Rauner’s staff members — she would attend the wedding of former Rauner Chief of Staff Richard Goldberg — or her unofficial role as a member of Rauner’s “kitchen cabinet.”

For a governor and staff members new in town, Kimme, who served as chief of staff for Judy Baar Topinka during stints as State Treasurer and State Comptroller, had held herself out as an experienced, steady hand. 

Kimme joined Rauner’s transition team, led by Rauner Chief of Staff Mike Zolnierowicz.

Kimme mentored Zolnierowicz and Goldberg — state government neophytes with scant management experience — on the requirements of his new job and the ways of Springfield.

She didn’t open a state capitol office for her new lobbying practice. But she didn’t need one.

Zolnierowicz and Goldberg allowed Kimme to work out of their Springfield offices when she was in town, sources told Prairie State Wire.

“She would hang out with their secretary, Christy Sullivan,” the source said.

Staff members leaving the administration looked her way.

One of Kimme’s three lobbying firms, Advantage Government Strategies, was formed in partnership with Sarah Clamp, Rauner’s former political director. Rauner Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy Aaron Winters joined Advantage in June 2016.

Zolnierowicz would leave state government officially in the summer of 2016 to lobby, joining the Illinois Road Builders’ “Safe Roads Amendment” campaign, under the leadership of leading Chicago Democrat Campaign Strategist Eric Adelstein.

According to Illinois State Board of Elections filings, Zolnierowicz and his wife, Rauner fundraiser Barrett Kedzior Zolnierowicz, were paid $120,000 for their work. Both continued moonlighting for Rauner’s campaign.

Mike Zolnierowicz officially left Rauner earlier this summer. He now leads political operations at Xpress Professional Services, Inc., a political consulting and polling firm headed up by Greg Baise. Baise also serves as the president of the Illinois Manufacturers Association.

$16.88 billion in state contracts

Kimme told Prairie State Wire that Topinka always said “if you’re going to make a change, make a big change, and that is kind of what I ended up doing.”

“It’s been a roller coaster, obviously,” she said.

Kimme’s had more ups than downs. 

Her long client list, amassed in a matter of months after hanging out her lobbying shingle, reaches every corner of economic activity in Illinois.

It also covers every political persuasion.

The Family Health Network, an insurance provider opposing Medicaid cuts, has secured $12 billion in contracts with the state of Illinois over the past three fiscal years. 

Kimme serves as the group’s “exclusive lobbyist,” contracting with former House Speaker Michael Madigan staffers Tom Cullen and Michael Noonan, former Mayor Richard M. Daley aide Victor Reyes, Metro-East lobbying powerhouse and former Democrat State House Majority Leader Jim McPike and his partner, Republican Village of Rosemont Trustee Jack Dorgan.

Also battling for state Medicaid dollars, Kimme lobbies for hospital groups Advocate Health Care ($38 million), Northwestern Memorial Healthcare ($2.9 million) and Sinai Health System ($389,000) as well as the Illinois Health and Hospital Association and Illinois Public Health Association, which represent all of the state’s private and public hospitals, respectively.

Social Service providers Catholic Charities of Chicago ($249 million), Aunt Martha’s Health and Wellness ($54.5 million) and the Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault ($64 million) have all hired Kimme, as has fellow lobbyist Al Ronan, a former top fundraiser for Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

Ronan represents the Casino Queen Riverboat casino and the Illinois Strip Club Owners Association. Kimme herself lobbies directly for the Illinois Casino Gaming Association and the Illinois Harness Horsemen’s Association, which promotes gambling on horse racing. 

Midwest Title Loans is a Kimme client. The Georgia-based lender helps Illinois residents borrow small amounts against their automobile equity; it is concerned with interest rate limits.

Medical marijuana makers vying to receive licenses in early 2015, just as Rauner took office, hired Kimme. 

Chicago-based Kimme clients Cresco Labs and Illinois Grown Medicine, part-owned by former Blagojevich confidant and lobbyist Paul Rosenfeld, won a state license. 

Kimme client Custom Strains, backed by Chicago trucking entrepreneur and strip club owner Perry Mandera, is still hoping to build a marijuana dispensary in the city’s hip Fulton Market neighborhood.

Kimme contracts with Rosenfeld’s Government Navigation Group, Inc., which lobbies for trial lawyer Jay Edelson and the Citizens Utility Board (CUB), a government-funded “consumer group” that clashes with state utilities over rates and environmental policy.

She also lobbies for the nemeses of CUB, state utilities Exelon and Ameren ($20.9 million) as well as AT & T ($54.4 million in contracts).

Vendor Assistance Program LLC (VAP), backed by former Madigan staffer Brian Hynes and Patti Solis Doyle, who managed Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign, hired Kimme to help it get approved to loan money to state vendors struggling due to the state’s slow payment cycle.

A 2016 Sun-Times report said the state had paid VAP more than $22 million in late fees.

A former top Illinois GOP official, Kimme represents more than a few Democrat-leaning constituencies.

They include the Park Ridge-based Teamsters Joint Council 25 labor union, which vehemently opposes Rauner’s push to allow Illinois municipalities to pass “Right to Work” ordinances, dramatically lowering their public construction costs.

Its leader, John Coli, was recently indicted for conspiring to extort $100,000 from a business.

The far left advocacy non-profit Tides Center, backed by George Soros, has also retained Kimme for its advocacy work in Illinois. Called “the radical left’s best kept secret,” the group is known for its campaigns against hunting and financial support to “voter mobilization” organizations like ACORN.

$160,000 in campaign spending

Topinka died in December 2014, one month after winning election to a second term as state comptroller.

One month later, in January 2015, Kimme wrote a series of checks from Topinka's campaign account that triggered a lawsuit by Topinka’s son. He alleged she wasn’t authorized to spend the money.

The payments totaled $159,908, including $25,000 to herself, $15,000 to various hotels and restaurants in Chicago and Springfield, and $41,500 to then current or soon-to-be Rauner administration officials.

Rauner took office that same month.

Kimme paid $10,000 to Rauner Communications Director Brad Hahn, $7,500 to Rauner’s State Tourism Director Cory Jobe, $10,000 to Rauner’s Deputy Chief of Staff Philip Rodriguez, $5,000 to Rauner State Fair Assistant Janet Dobrinsky, $4,500 to Illinois Historic Preservation Agency Chair Jane Hay, $3,000 to BKZ Consulting, run by Kedzior Zolnierowicz, and $500 to Rauner Research Director Ed Murphy.

Hahn and Rodriguez have since left their Rauner administration posts.

Murphy left his state government job, but remains on the Illinois House Republican Organization payroll, according to an Illinois GOP source.

To defend her in the lawsuit, Kimme hired Michael Kasper, longtime chief counsel to Madigan, chairman of the Illinois Democratic Party. 

Ironically, Kimme has paid Kasper $7,405 so far in legal fees from the campaign account of Topinka, who raised much of her war chest as Illinois State GOP Chairman.

"This is what Bruce (Rauner) promised to end," said Chris Robling, a Chicago public affairs consultant and longtime reform Republican activist. "Instead, he empowered it. It betrays every tenet of reform. It plays Illinois taxpayers for fools to benefit favored insiders."

From Executive Assistant to Chief of Staff

Kimme, who lives in Chicago’s South Loop, grew up in the Metro East area near St. Louis and graduated from Collinsville High School in 1979, where she was a member of the school debate team.

She served as a Republican precinct committeeman in Madison County and worked as an aide to state Rep. Ron Stephens (R-Highland), eventually running his unsuccessful campaign for re-election in 1990. 

After the loss, then-Governor Jim Edgar named Stephens head of the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) in 1991. He appointed Kimme as a regional coordinator.

She would work at IEMA until the summer of 1997, when then-State Treasurer Topinka hired Kimme as her executive assistant.

Kimme was promoted to be Topinka’s senior policy advisor in 1999 and was named her chief of staff in 2000.

She became so influential in the office that a state fund manager-- Smith Barney Citi Asset Management-- would hold a $1,400 birthday party for her that year. It drew the ire of then State Sen. Barack Obama (D-Chicago), who cited it in calling for a ban on gifts from state lobbyists.

Kimme served as spokesman for Topinka when she ran for Governor in 2006, losing to Rod Blagojevich. 


$17 billion in state contracts

Companies represented by lobbyist Nancy Kimme have secured 2,878 contracts from the state totaling nearly $17 billion over the past three fiscal years.


Number of State Contracts, 2015-17

Total Contract Dollar Amount, 2015-17
Advocate Health






Aunt Martha's health and Wellness



Conduent Inc.



County of DuPage






Illinois Hospital Association



Illinois Public Health Association






Memorial Health



Northwestern Memorial Healthcare



Omega & Associates



Regional Transpiration Authority






SAS Institute



Sinai Health System



Teamsters Join Council 25



Terra Engineering



The Hope Institute



Xerox Business Services. LLC & Affiliates



AT&T Illinois & Affiliates



Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago



Examination Resources LLC



Exelon Corp.



EXP US Services



Family Health Network



Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault



Rend Lake Conservancy District



Wexford Health Solutions






Sources: Illinois Secretary of State; Illinois State Comptroller

Three years, 74 clients

Through three lobbying firms, Nancy Kimme has lobbied for 74 different companies, business associations, labor unions and other lobbying firms over the past three fiscal years. Who are they?

360 Energy Group2015-2016NJ Kimme & Co.
Advantage Government Strategies (Lobbyist)*2017Family Health Network
Advocate Health Care2015-2017NJ Kimme & Co.
All-Circo, Inc. (Lobbyist)2015-2017NJ Kimme & Co.
Ameren2015-2017NJ Kimme & Co.
American Academy of Physician Assistants2017Advantage Government Strategies
American Beverage Association2017Advantage Government Strategies
American Heart Association2016-2017NJ Kimme & Co.
Associated Beer Distributors of Illinois2016-2017Advantage Government Strategies
AT & T Illinois2016-2017Advantage Government Strategies
Aunt Martha's Health & Wellness, Inc. 2016-2017NJ Kimme & Co.
Barton Management, Inc. (Nursing Home)2015-2017NJ Kimme & Co.
Bloomington-Normal Economic Development Council

2015NJ Kimme & Co.
Cable TV & Communications Assn. of Illinois 2015-2016NJ Kimme & Co.
Camelot Global Services (Lottery)2017Advantage Government Strategies
Catholic Charities of Chicago2016Advantage Government Strategies
Chambers, Conlon & Hartwell (Lobbyist)2015-2017NJ Kimme & Co.
Conduent, Inc. (Business Processes)2017NJ Kimme & Co.
Conlon & Dunn Public Strategies (Lobbyist)2016-2017NJ Kimme & Co.
Consulting 4 Biz, Inc. (Lobbyist)2017NJ Kimme & Co.
County of DuPage2016-2017NJ Kimme & Co.
Cresco Labs, LLC (Medical Marijuana)2015-2017NJ Kimme & Co.
Cullen & Associates (Lobbyist)2017Family Health Network
Cullinan Joliet, LLC (Real Estate Developer)2016-2017Advantage Government Strategies
Cullinan Properties (Real Estate Developer)2016Advantage Government Strategies
Custom Strains LLC (Medical Marijuana)2015-2016NJ Kimme & Co.
Dorgan-McPike & Assoc. (Lobbyist) 2017Family Health Network
EMS Midwest (Lobbyist)2015NJ Kimme & Co.
Examination Resources, LLC (insurance consulting)2016-2017Advantage Government Strategies
Exelon2016-2017Advantage Government Strategies
EXP US Services2016-2017Advantage Government Strategies
Family Health Network, Inc. (Medicaid)*2016-2017Advantage Government Strategies
Christopher A. Ganshow (Lobbyist)2017Advantage Government Strategies
Google2016-2017NJ Kimme & Co.
Government Navigation Group (Lobbyist)2015-2017NJ Kimme & Co.
Illinois Casino Gaming Assn.2015-2017NJ Kimme & Co.
Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault2016-2017Advantage Government Strategies
Illinois Grown Medicine2015NJ Kimme & Co.
Illinois Harness Horsemen's Association2016-2017Advantage Government Strategies
Illinois Health & Hospital Association2015-2017NJ Kimme & Co.
Illinois Public Health Institute2016-2017NJ Kimme & Co.
Illinois Public Transportation Association2015-2017NJ Kimme & Co.
JAR Consulting (Lobbyist)2015-2017NJ Kimme & Co.
Andrew Kane2017Family Health Network
Kemper Corp. (Insurance)2016-2017Advantage Government Strategies
M.J. Kellner Co. (Food Service)2015-2017NJ Kimme & Co.
McGladrey LLP (Business Consulting)2015-2016NJ Kimme & Co.
Memorial Health System2015-2017NJ Kimme & Co.
Midwest Title Loans2015-2017NJ Kimme & Co.
Mobile Care Management (Health Care)2015NJ Kimme & Co.
Northwestern Memorial Healthcare2015-2017NJ Kimme & Co.
Omega & Associates (Civil Engineering)2016-2017NJ Kimme & Co.
One Chance Illinois (School Choice)2015-2017NJ Kimme & Co.
Orthodontic Experts LTD2016-2017Advantage Government Strategies
Regional Transportation Authority (RTA)2015-2016NJ Kimme & Co.
Rend Lake Conservancy District2017Advantage Government Strategies
Alfred G. Ronan, Ltd. (Lobbyist)2015-2017NJ Kimme & Co.
Roosevelt Group (Lobbyist)2017Family Health Network
Rory Group LLC (Lobbyist)2017NJ Kimme & Co.
RSM US LLP (Business Consulting)2016-2017NJ Kimme & Co.
SAS Institute, Inc.2015-2017NJ Kimme & Co.
Bruce Simon Consulting (Lobbyist)2017Family Health Network
Sinai Health System2015-2017NJ Kimme & Co.
Springfield Consulting Group LLC (Lobbyist)2015NJ Kimme & Co.
Teamsters Joint Council #252015-2017NJ Kimme & Co.
Terra Engineering LTD.2017NJ Kimme & Co.
The Hope Institute2015-2017NJ Kimme & Co.
Thomson Weir LLC (Lobbyist)2015-2017NJ Kimme & Co.
TIAA (asset management)2015-2017NJ Kimme & Co.
Tides Center2016-2017Advantage Government Strategies
Transunion LLC (Credit reporting)2016-2017NJ Kimme & Co.
Vendor Assistance Program LLC (state vendor finance)2016-2017NJ Kimme & Co.
Wexford Health Sources (state prison health care)2016-2017Advantage Government Strategies
Xerox Business Services 2015-2017NJ Kimme & Co.

Source: Illinois Secretary of State

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Organizations in this Story

Illinois Emergency Management AgencyIllinois Secretary of StateIllinois State Board of ElectionsIllinois Governor Bruce Rauner

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