JULY 08, 2008
A Tennessee state senator already serving a five-year prison sentence for bribery is being tried this week on separate corruption charges involving “consulting fees” he got from firms that he helped get lucrative state contracts as a legislator.
Disgraced Senator John Ford was paid nearly $2 million in consulting fees from two medical providers that he advocated for while serving on Tennessee’s powerful General Welfare Committee. Thanks to Ford’s influence, the companies got multi million-dollar contracts to provide services for the state’s expanded medical program for the poor.
Ford secretly received $8,500 a month from one of the health care firms while he repeatedly approached state officials and even the governor to advocate on the behalf of the company. The veteran Democrat lawmaker even introduced legislation on behalf of the provider (OmniCare) although it never passed.
During his federal trial in Nashville this week, a lobbyist for one of the health providers seeking a state contract testified that Ford told him that if he wanted his help as a legislator he would have to pay for it. The lobbyist said Ford told him he would need 15% of any payments received from the state. Ford’s consulting firm partner also testified that their firm received $40,000 a month from one of the companies within weeks of winning an $18 million state contract.
Ford’s attorney insists that the jailed legislator was legally entitled to the money for his hard work as a consultant, even though he was an elected official at the time. The large sums of cash in no way influenced the senator’s decisions, according to his attorney, who assures that “It ain’t about bribery.” The facts certainly seem to indicate otherwise.
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