- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 4, 2008

A Will County, Ill., county executive and his chief of staff dismissed an FBI probe linked to their office in local press reports as political chicanery on Friday and insisted they had not been contacted by the federal bureau.

“We do know they came down to talk to [county auditor] Steve Weber,” Matt Ryan, chief of staff to Will County Executive Larry Walsh, said of the FBI’s visit to the county office building onWednesday.

“We found out yesterday that our opponent in the general election is the person that provided our auditor, Steve Weber, with the information that he passed on to the FBI. But the FBI hasn’t contacted us. Based what we know at this point, the whole thing is politically motivated. There has been no raid here,” Mr. Ryan said.

The Herald News in Joliet, Ill., quoted Mr. Walsh’s opponent, Dan Kennison, on Friday as saying he had contacted Mr. Weber regarding $6,500 in political donations to Mr. Walsh’s campaign from individuals with family connections to a lobbying firm used by the county.

“I gave that information to Mr. Weber,” Mr. Kennison was quoted as saying. He also told the newspaper he had spoken to the FBI.

Neither Mr. Kennison nor Mr. Weber returned calls Friday from The Washington Times.

The Times erroneously reported on Friday that the FBI had raided Mr. Walsh’s office, which is in the same building with Mr. Weber’s office.

Mr. Walsh, a farmer from Elwood, served in the Illinois Senate with Barack Obama before the Democratic presidential nominee became a U.S. senator. The two were poker-playing buddies while at the statehouse in Springfield, and Mr. Walsh has helped Mr. Obama campaign in rural areas of his state.

Mr. Walsh, a Democrat, defeated a Republican incumbent in his first election and is running for re-election to county executive against Mr. Kennison, a Republican.

Mr. Kennison, according to his campaign Web site, is the director for the Service Disabled Veteran Business Association, a nonprofit Washington-based company that provides jobs for disabled people, veterans or otherwise. He is also the managing director of Patriot Resource Partners II LLC, which provides consulting services to veteran-owned companies that seek federal procurement contracts, according to his Web site.

Mr. Ryan said Friday that he and Mr. Walsh remain clueless as to what the FBI visited Mr. Weber about, and they denied any wrongdoing, reportedly over ties to Smith, Dawson and Andrews, a D.C. lobbying firm that was hired by Will County in 2006 for $10,000 a month to help them acquire federal grants.

“From what we have heard, he apparently is alleging that there is some improper relations between either Larry and Smith, Dawson and Andrews, or me or both of us,” Mr. Ryan said of the county’s lobbying firm. “There is just no truth to it.”

Mr. Ryan said there was no bad blood between the two political camps.

“I would definitely say that we would be very disappointed that this guy would take a political charge and turn it into a federal investigation. I don’t know what specifically they are alleging. At this point, we don’t even know what to respond to,” he said.

Despite Mr. Ryan’s denials, the Illinois Republican Party issued a statement that ties Mr. Obama to his former legislative colleague.

“While Senator Obama tours the nation promising to bring change to America, it is important to remind voters who don’t know him well that he has done nothing to change Illinois,” Illinois Republican Party Chairman Andy McKenna said.

“As his friends and associates come under more scrutiny by the federal government, we believe the same scrutiny should be given to Senator Obama’s lack of a record of reform in Illinois and his inability to distance himself from the corruption that has crippled this state for far too long.”

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