IL official denies reports on Edelman deal

CHICAGO: An Illinois official denied a published report that implied Edelman was awarded the state's tourism PR business because of money it gave to back the governor's political efforts.

CHICAGO: An Illinois official denied a published report that implied Edelman was awarded the state's tourism PR business because of money it gave to back the governor's political efforts.

The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Development recently picked Edelman over Ketchum and Ruder Finn for a three-year task to handle tourism PR.

Fees are expected to be $6.2 million over the three-year period, although those might be cut substantially depending on what steps the governor proposes to deal with a state budget deficit.

Laura Hunter, the department's director of communications, said of the decision to pick Edelman, "What I can assure you is this is absolutely, entirely based on their qualifications. They did a fantastic job and convinced us they should keep that contract."

Edelman had been handling the tourism account, but state agencies are required to rebid such projects every three years.

The Chicago Sun-Times ran a story February 15 detailing Edelman's $32,600 in contributions to Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D), saying Edelman was not the low bidder for the contract. The story didn't quote anyone who said that the donations brought about the contract award.

"We're extremely proud of our record with the state of Illinois; we just have a tremendous passion for that business," said Cathleen Johnson, GM of Edelman's consumer practice in Chicago and the practice leader for tourism for the agency. "We have an excellent tourism machine in the Chicago office."

The Sun-Times reported that Illinois has paid Edelman $12.2 million since 2000 for tourism PR work. Johnson said the agency might not know final spending levels for the new contract until the state legislature passes a new budget.

The agency is now operating under an extension of its old contract. The new assignment is set to begin July 1.

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