Lobbyist Kimme hits jackpot, helps reel in lucrative Illinois Lottery contract
The Illinois Lottery will now be managed by a private firm represented by super lobbyist and deal-maker Nancy Kimme and a group of former top staffers from the Rauner Administration working with Kimme, according to a press release.
Lottery officials are expected to provide details, including how much Camelot Illinois will be paid, on Friday, when they open the procurement file to the public. Camelot will replace the underperforming and controversial Northstar Lottery Group, which garnered criticism for its management style almost since it became the first private firm to manage the Lottery in 2011.
The contract for Camelot will no doubt be a lucrative one. Northstar received approximately $15 million in state money per year, according to an April 2017 article in a Chicago Tribune series investigating Northstar’s management practices and the Lottery’s performance.
For Kimme's Advantage Government Strategies, the Camelot deal is another in a series of multimillion dollar state contract wins for its clients. An August 27 Prairie State Wire story showed that since 2015, when the 55-year-old Kimme ended 25 years as a government employee and jumped into the lobbying business, 29 of her clients have received 2,878 state contracts worth nearly $17 billion, according to state budget and lobbyist registration records.
The clients run the gamut from software vendors and construction companies to local governments and social service providers. Some even compete with one another, the story said.
To secure the Lottery contract, Kimme rounded up other lobbyists connected at the highest levels of state government. Working with her firm are Aaron Winters and Sarah Clamp, both of whom worked on Rauner’s campaign. Clamp recently married Lance Trover, Rauner's former spokesman.
Ryan McCreery, who was with the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) before joining the firm, was also involved in the deal. He was recruited for the EPA job by Kimme, according to a 2015 report in by the Better Government Association.
The connections are all in the family. McCreery's dad, W. Michael McCreery is also a lobbyist and used his influence in the Legislature for the 2007 approval of legislation to extend public pension benefits to his private lobbying firm. A February 2007 News-Gazette editorial on the subject said that the legislation “even by the tawdry standards of Illinois' culture of corruption…set a new low.” It was vetoed by then-Gov. Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
The Office of the Illinois Secretary of State reports that Camelot hired the following firms to nail down the Camelot:
Fulcrum Illinois, run by Eric Elk, former Republican U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk's chief of staff and former boss of the aforementioned Trover and Winters;
Madiar Government Relations, run by Eric Madiar, former chief legal counsel to Illinois Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago);
Jim Montana, a Chicago lawyer who once served as chief legal counsel to former Illinois Gov. Jim Edgar. Montana also served on Kirk’s commission to screen and recommend federal judges for the Northern District of Illinois.
In addition, Montana's wife, Lori Montana, ran the Lottery under Edgar and is a member of Rauner's Executive Mansion Board, which is raising money to restore the Governor's Mansion. She also served on Northstar’s Board of Advisers, made up of another cast of the well-connected in Springfield.
The advisory board was another focus of the Tribune’s article
“The public was not told of, nor invited to, advisory board meetings, which were rotated between Northstar's and the members' private offices, according to records obtained by the Tribune.” the paper reported.
Lottery privatization was supposed to boost payments to schools and fund infrastructure projects around the state. But in 2016, the Lottery raised just $5 million above the $690 million payment required under law for the schools.