Ex-state Sen. Pam Althoff backed bill that her lobbying firm would benefit from


Last spring, then-state Sen. Pam Althoff voted for a bill backed by Enterprise and other rental car companies to impose regulations and taxes on car-sharing services that are gaining popularity, especially with young adults.

Althoff, a McHenry County Republican, was one of the sponsors of the measure, which passed the General Assembly at the end of May but was vetoed Aug. 28 by Gov. Bruce Rauner, who said it would “squelch” progress and innovation.

Althoff left the Illinois Legislature a month later, resigning after more than 15 years, and soon registered as a Springfield lobbyist. Among her first clients? Enterprise.

The car-sharing bill is expected to resurface this coming week, when legislators could vote to override Rauner’s veto, turning the measure into law.

Althoff, who turns 65 this month and ran unopposed in Tuesday’s election for a seat on the McHenry County Board, confirms that she is working to get the bill enacted.

She says she sees no problem with legislators who move to lobbyist roles working their former colleagues on behalf of industries or special interests, saying, “I don’t think that’s, quite frankly, unusual.”

Nor does it violate state ethics rules, officials say.

Althoff says she wasn’t talking with Enterprise for a lobbying job when she was still a legislator.

“I did not decide until after I left the General Assembly to register as a lobbyist,” she says.

The paperwork Althoff filed with the Illinois secretary of state’s office shows she registered as a lobbyist Oct. 5 and says her client is Thomas W. Ryder, a Springfield lobbyist who represents the Enterprise Leasing Company of Chicago, LLC. Althoff lists that firm — which is affiliated with Enterprise Rent-A-Car — as a “sub client.”

Other Enterprise lobbyists include the Roosevelt Group, which includes: Victor Reyes, a longtime aide to former Mayor Richard M. Daley; John R. Daley, whose father is Cook County Commissioner John P. Daley; and Michael Noonan, an ally of Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, who also heads the Illinois Democratic Party.

While a legislator, Althoff’s campaign fund got $6,100 in contributions from Enterprise’s political action committee, including $1,000 recorded Oct. 27, 2017, about three months before the car-sharing bill was introduced.

Also in late 2017, Enterprise gave $10,000 to the Illinois Democratic Party, with another $10,000 arriving in the Madigan-controlled campaign fund within the last couple of weeks, records show.

The bill Rauner vetoed targets “peer-to-peer car sharing,” which allows regular people to, through companies such as Turo and Getaround, rent their personal vehicles to others to make some extra money.

A twist on the Uber and Lyft business model, the practice is growing in popularity, which has the rental car industry worried about losing customers.

The bill would impose more restrictions on those doing the car-sharing, as well as taxes.

Althoff says the measure is about “consumer protection” and would create “parity” with traditional rental car companies.

It could be voted on again this coming week during the General Assembly’s veto session and could well pass this time, one Republican legislator says, given the anger among legislators toward Rauner, a Republican who lost by a wide margin Tuesday to Democrat J.B. Pritzker and has alienated some in his own party.

Althoff recently started drawing retirement benefits totaling about $75,000 a year from the General Assembly’s pension plan, with the payouts augmented by her time working as a public school teacher and a municipal official in the city of McHenry, records show.

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November 9, 2018 at 06:23PM

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