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Jury reaches split verdict in trial of Illinois governor’s contributors

August 16, 1997

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) _ A federal jury convicted one of Gov. Jim Edgar’s biggest campaign contributors and a former state official today in a case alleging bribes resulted in a state contract that bilked taxpayers out of $7 million. A second contributor was found innocent.

Edgar was not accused of any wrongdoing but the eight-week trial cast a shadow on his administration as he considered whether to seek re-election in 1998, run for the U.S. Senate or retire from politics.

Edgar testified that campaign contributions are not linked to state contracts. He was the first incumbent governor in Illinois to testify in a criminal trial in 75 years.

The case centered on prosecutors’ claim that a computer consulting firm won a huge increase in its contract with the Department of Public Aid in 1993 after showering state officials with gifts including trips to Mexico, Germany and the Super Bowl, meals, beef-and-lobster packages and cash to spend at a riverboat casino and a striptease joint in the Ozarks.

The jury convicted the company, Management Services of Illinois Inc., former partner Michael Martin and former state welfare administrator Ronald Lowder, who later worked for consulting firm.

Current owner William Ladd was found innocent.

The defendants argued their work saved the state more than $300 million. They described cash gifts and trips as legitimate business expenses.

Prosecutors also endeavored to establish a link between MSI and top Republicans including Edgar, his closest aides and Senate leaders. Ladd and Martin have contributed more than $270,000 to the governor’s campaigns since 1990, when he first was elected.

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