Indiana lawmaker goes to work for firm linked to Toll Road lease

Lawmaker to work for firm linked to Toll Road lease

INDIANAPOLIS | A state lawmaker who last month helped legislation to lease the Indiana Toll Road pass by the barest of margins is going to work for an Indianapolis law firm connected to the $3.8 billion deal.

State Rep. Luke Messer, R-Shelbyville, the former executive director of the Indiana Republican Party, was not seeking re-election and will leave the General Assembly when his term ends this fall. On Monday, he joins the lobbying arm of Ice Miller, one of the state’s largest legal firms.

“Actually, I did not know they represented anyone in connection with the Toll Road,” said Messer, one of 51 House Republicans who voted to authorize the lease.

“I voted on it based on the merits and based on the fact I think it’s the best thing for the state,” said Messer, adding that his job search didn’t start until after Legislature adjourned March 14. “I can say with complete faith the two things were completely unrelated.”

This week the state signed a lease with Cintra-Macquarie, a Spanish-Australian consortium that offered $3.8 billion upfront for the right to run the 157-mile road and collect tolls until 2081.

The state expects to pay roughly $25 million in legal and consulting fees related to the highly complex deal. Ice Miller attorneys are charging the state hourly rates ranging from roughly $100 to more than $300, State Public Finance Director Ryan Kitchell said.

The biggest slice of the consulting work went to the Chicago office of Goldman Sachs, which will receive $19.5 million. Kitchell said he did not yet know the size of Ice Miller’s bill, but said the firm is giving the state a 15 percent discount.

Ice Miller also has a $900,000, one-year contract to help the governor’s office build a new Indianapolis Colts stadium and expand the Indiana Convention Center.

Messer said he will stay away from state policy issues until his House term is over.

No state law prevents former legislators from immediately lobbying past colleagues. House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, has said he wants the House to focus on ethics reforms in 2007, but he has not offered specifics.