Remember this......... At the time of the 1997 firings, the chairwoman of the Texas Lottery Commission was Dallas lawyer Harriet Miers,
Illinois and GTECH
Thursday, January 19,2006
Keno proposal draws lobbyists with connections to the governor
By Rich Miller
It shouldn’t come as any surprise that John Wyma is lobbying for GTECH. The Illinois Lottery contractor will most likely operate the state’s proposed keno network. Gov. Rod Blagojevich wants to put electronic keno gambling games in 2,000 taverns and restaurants to help fund a construction plan for schools. Wyma was the governor’s chief of staff when Blagojevich was a congressman, and he was the political director for the governor’s 2002 campaign. He is just the sort of guy whom companies like GTECH hire when they want to get something done in the state. Actually, it’s not just the state: The same thing goes for Chicago and most other municipalities in Illinois. And it’s not just Illinois: How many companies hired disgraced Washington, D.C., superlobbyist Jack Abramoff because they believed that he could grease the skids with the national Republican establishment?
The identity of another important figure in the case against Mr. Blagojevich, known only as “Individual A” in the complaint, also became apparent on Wednesday. Law enforcement officials said he was John Wyma, a lobbyist, fund-raiser and close adviser to Mr. Blagojevich, who went to the federal authorities in October with a tale of corruption that helped lead to the use of wiretaps on Mr. Blagojevich and eventually the governor’s arrest on Tuesday on charges of conspiracy and soliciting bribes.
Mr. Wyma’s assertions did not center on the vacant Senate seat but on different accusations of corruption included in the case against Mr. Blagojevich. The lobbyist said Mr. Blagojevich was improperly squeezing recipients of state aid for large contributions in an attempt to amass a $2.5 million campaign fund before Jan. 1, when a new state law takes effect barring contributions from state contractors.
GTECH Scandal reached from NJ to Texas to the White House
By Bruce Golding • The Journal News • January 30, 2007
The farthest-reaching scandal involving GTECH Holdings Corp. sent a former top executive to prison and helped scuttle a nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court.
J. David Smith was GTECH's national sales director when he took almost $170,000 in kickbacks from lobbyists in New Jersey.
In 1996, he was convicted of fraud and other charges that sent him to prison for five years.
Smith's conviction led the Texas Lottery Commission to investigate GTECH's operations in that state, after Smith's pre-sentence report implicated him in another kickback scheme with the company's Texas lobbyists.
Those lobbyists included former Lt. Gov. Ben Barnes, who made headlines during the 2004 presidential campaign with his claim that he helped President Bush get into the National Guard and avoid combat during the Vietnam War.
No charges were filed over the Texas allegations, and the New Jersey judge made Smith's prosecutors apologize to Barnes and GTECH for the disclosure.
But the Texas probe led to the 1997 firing of Texas Lottery Director Nora Linares after officials learned that a friend, whom she later married, had secretly worked as a $6,000-a-month GTECH consultant.
Linares, a former state Democratic Party official, sued GTECH and the commission, claiming she had been fired for political reasons. In an out-of-court settlement, GTECH paid her $435,000, plus $290,000 for her lawyers. The company admitted no wrongdoing.
Linares' successor, Lawrence Littwin, lasted less than five months before he also was fired. Littwin, who had formerly worked for a GTECH competitor, also sued, claiming he was fired after looking into possibly illegal political contributions by GTECH.
Littwin won a $300,000 settlement from GTECH, which included a confidentiality order as part of the deal.
At the time of the 1997 firings, the chairwoman of the Texas Lottery Commission was Dallas lawyer Harriet Miers, who would later become White House counsel to Bush. Her resignation after six years in that job was announced this month.
In 2005, Bush nominated Miers to the Supreme Court to replace Chief Justice William Rehnquist after he died.
But Miers backed out of the nomination after widespread criticism of her qualifications, as well as published reports that predicted she would face grilling at her confirmation hearing over the controversies at the Texas Lottery.
I really enjoyed the following article. I have always found myself liking Blagojevich and like him even more now. ...cal
Blagojevich -Governor Sunshine
Then an opportunity to acquire the visibility that still eluded Blagojevich emerged in the despised person of Slobodan Milosevic, the fiercely nationalistic Serbian president of Yugoslavia. NATO had launched air strikes against Yugoslav troops under Milosevic's command. Meanwhile, Milosevic was holding three American POWs. The Reverend Jesse Jackson wanted to go to Belgrade to meet with Milosevic and plead for the freedom of the Americans. As the only Serb in Congress, Blagojevich knew he could get that meeting, and his fluency in Serbian would help in negotiating. He approached Jackson through his son Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. Arrangements were made to go-despite the opposition of the Clinton Administration, which stressed that the safety of Jackson and Blagojevich could not be guaranteed and that NATO would not stop bombing just because they were there.
Before dawn on their first night at the Hyatt Belgrade, a precision bomb "took out a huge building," recalls John Wyma, who accompanied his boss. The men were staying at opposite sides of the hotel, and at 3 a.m. Blagojevich awakened Wyma with a phone call. "Are you seeing this, man? Are you seeing this?" Wyma went to Blagojevich's room, where he found the congressman in his running shorts watching the destruction out his window as if it were a special effects extravaganza.
Abby Ottenhoff, a spokeswoman for Blagojevich, said campaign contributions play no role in contract decisions. She said the present administration has often been unfriendly toward managed-care providers such as WellCare. “The idea that they have any advantage defies common sense,” she said. Chicago Tribune, Feb. 2006 after WellCare, a health care firm received $75 million in state business after donating $100,000 to the governor.
Blagojevich campaign spokesman Doug Scofield added that WellCare’s contributions will “have no impact” on the administration’s decisions. More Wellcare coverage.
“We did not know that John Wyma was a lobbyist for Gtech, never had a discussion with him regarding keno and simply did not know,” said Blagojevich spokeswoman Rebecca Rausch. After it was revealed that Wyma signed on with Gtech about the time the governor was floating Keno proposal in January of this year.
WellCare Helath plans
Tampa-based WellCare Health Plans Inc. has agreed to pay $137.5 million to the U.S. Department of Justice and other federal agencies to settle civil lawsuits accusing the company of overcharging for its Medicaid and Medicare programs.
But the deal, intended to resolve a nearly three-year federal investigation, faces a big hurdle out of the gate. Tampa attorney Barry Cohen late Friday said he will challenge the settlement for vastly understating the size of WellCare's fraud, which he estimated was between $400 million and $600 million. The government is allowed to seek triple the actual damages in fraud cases, so WellCare's total penalties could surpass $1 billion.
Cohen disclosed that he represents a whistle-blower who filed a case against WellCare under seal in June 2006, well before FBI agents raided WellCare's Tampa headquarters in October 2007.