DuPage County Board agrees to spend $260,000 on lobbyists

DuPage County officials are defending the county's use of lobbyists after awarding $260,000 in contracts to three firms.

"We're a county of nearly a million people," county board Chairman Dan Cronin said. "What goes on in Springfield can either help us or hurt us. We must have somebody there watching every piece of legislation every day."

On Tuesday, county board members voted 15-1 to spend $260,000 to retain three lobbying firms for another year.

Two of the firms - Roger C. Marquardt & Co. and All-Circo Inc. - will continue to push the county's legislative agenda in Springfield. The third, BGR Government Affairs LLC, has represented DuPage County at the federal level since 2009.

A fourth firm the county used this year didn't get another contract. DuPage County will spend $22,000 less on lobbying than it did this year.

Still, the decision to use lobbyists wasn't unanimous.

Board member Elizabeth Chaplin cast the only vote against the contracts. She argues county board members should be the ones lobbying state and federal lawmakers.

"I believe that the best lobbyists for the people of DuPage County are our elected officials," said Chaplin, the board's only Democrat. "This is a job we should be doing."

But Sam Tornatore, chairman of the county board's legislative and government affairs committee, it would be impractical, if not impossible, for county board members to lobby state and federal lawmakers.

"These bills can take a left turn very quickly," he said. "Unless we have boots on the ground, we just aren't going to know what happened."

Tornatore said county lobbyists "have done a great deal" in recent years, including helping to prevent the loss of state revenue. The federal lobbyist kept county officials informed on issues before Congress, including the administration of Medicaid and the federal highway program.

"They have more than paid for themselves," Tornatore said.

As part of its contract with DuPage County, BGR Government Affairs will be paid $80,000 to represent the county between Sept. 1 and Aug. 31, 2019.

Meanwhile, both state lobbying firms will have contracts that begin Sept. 15 and end Sept. 14, 2019.

As part of its contract, All-Circo will be paid $90,000 for its lobbying work in Springfield.

Wheaton-based Roger C. Marquardt & Co. will be paid $90,000. John "Chip" Humes, one of the company's employees, will continue to coordinate DuPage County's lobbying efforts with the state.

Humes will assist with the development of legislative strategies and the county's annual legislative program, officials said. He also will draft bills and amendments.

Sam Tornatore
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