--Since 2000, IMAGE's chief executive officer, David Eckhart, has personally contributed about $243,000 to a variety of state and local pols and related committees in Pennsylvania.
Many of the pols are in a position to award business to Eckhart's firm. --Since 1999, Eckhart and other company-linked donors have donated at least $15,000 to Rendell and $20,000 to a political-action committee linked to Rendell's campaign manager, David L. Cohen, who did legal work on the 1999 bond deal for AIG.
--Eckhart also has given at least $13,500 to state Sen.
and another IMAGE executive have given Mayor Street at least $37,000 since late 1998.
People familiar with IMAGE's
work in other cities say the firm has a reputation for political largesse.
"They hand out campaign money by the tens of thousands of dollars, and they fly under the radar screen," said one investment banker in Atlanta, where the firm also has done work. Eckhart
declined to be interviewed.
e-mailed a statement to the Daily News
that recalled the fact that AIG
, not the pension board, paid the controversial $1 million fee: "IMAGE
did not have a working relationship with anyone at the Pension Board," the statement read."IMAGE
did not have a contract with the City or the Pension Board, did not provide any investment advice to the City or the Pension Board and did not get paid by the City or the Pension Board."
The statement also said IMAGE
had helped municipalities "save their taxpayers millions of dollars."
The turnpike commission certainly seemed happy with its work.In June 2001, a top turnpike finance official, Blair Fishburn, raved in an e-mail to Eckhart
work and about cost savings it had achieved for the commission, acknowledging that "you do make pretty good money along the way."
had a relationship with the turnpike that preceded me and superseded me." IMAGE and Eckhart also have close ties to power lawyer Ronald A. White, a major fund-raiser for Street and central figure in the corruption probe.
is a sponsor of the Youth Leadership Foundation
, a charity founded and run by White, and Eckhart
has been one of the two largest donors to political action committees run by White, giving a total of $38,000.