Is Coke contract better for Illinois?

How many times can we mention Blagojevich in the editorial? Apparently, a lot. Too many if you ask us, but that’s not going to stop anytime soon. We thought that after Blagojevich’s ouster, we’d be looking up into a cloudless sky. Clearly that hasn’t been the case.

Although we cut him off from the government, his stench still lingers. Or should we say his taste?

In July 2007, the Blagojevich administration, or rather the Illinois Department of Revenue, awarded Pepsi an exclusive contract that established Pepsi as the sole provider of soft drinks for all state facilities, including the University. Maybe you remember this: “No Coke, Pepsi.” Blagojevich reasoned that the deal would bring in new state revenue — something the Blagojevich administration was always looking for. According to the Illinois Department of Revenue, the contract would bring in $64 million in 10 years.

It took longer than a year for the contract to be implemented from when it was first signed, and all along Coca-Cola officials felt the bidding process was flawed. Instinct tells us that it must have been. Hint: Blagojevich was our governor when it was signed. Of course, a lot of people have believed the Coke company is evil because of their business practices, particularly overseas. Perhaps Pepsi got a thumbs up for that reason.

Awarding Pepsi an exclusive contract stirred up enough controversy for House lawmakers to ask Auditor General William Holland to review the process. State auditors said they had many unanswered questions about how the Blagojevich administration awarded Pepsi the contract and whether the government got a good deal. In other words, state auditors haven’t yet been able to tell if signing a contract with Pepsi has been more financially beneficial than if they had signed one with Coke instead.

According to a Chicago Tribune newsblog, revenue officials consistently failed to follow state evaluation guidelines while reviewing the proposed contracts submitted by PepsiAmericas Inc. and Coca-Cola Enterprises Bottling Cos.

First of all, Blagojevich ran the bidding procedure through the Department of Revenue instead of through the purchasing agency that usually oversees bidding procedures and contracts.

Secondly, the Chicago Tribune also wrote that agency officials opened up Coke’s price proposals even after Coke hadn’t scored high enough on the department’s evaluation of whether Coke was qualified for the contract. Those prices were supposed to be kept secret, but after opening them, Revenue officials were able to compare them to what Pepsi offered.

All in all, this was just another shady practice courtesy of the Blagojevich administration, particularly Blagojevich himself because he signed off on the contract. If the audit finds that a deal with Coke would have been more financially beneficial for the state, we won’t be too surprised.

If Blagojevich really wanted publicity — good or otherwise — he didn’t need to go on his media blitz. All he needed to do was wait. Because it’s all coming out now, and his name isn’t going to be forgotten anytime soon.