For years, John Wyma has been one of Gov. Rod Blagojevich's closest allies. He served as Blagojevich's chief of staff in Congress and was a key advisor in his 2002 campaign for governor. When his former boss took over the statehouse, Wyma remained a central fundraiser and counselor, but also had Blagojevich's ear as a lobbyist. But now this longtime advisor and old friend has become one of the most significant cooperators in the government's efforts to put Blagojevich behind bars.
Wyma, 41, was close to much of the alleged wrongdoing during the feds' five-year probe, and he remains a subject of the government's investigation into the Illinois Health Planning Facilities Board, according to the criminal complaint for Blagojevich. But Wyma's turn from confidant to informant ultimately inched prosecutors to the governor's most recent -- and most brazen -- alleged attempts to trade political favors for campaign cash, the complaint states.
A fixture of the Blagojevich's inner circle, Wyma as a lobbyist routinely traveled with the governor, flying with him during official state trips more than a dozen times during his first term, according to the Chicago Sun Times.
A friend of the governor for more than a decade, on the day before his arrest Blagojevich told reporters he and Wyma talked football the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.
"You can't get much closer than they are to each other," said Rich Miller who runs the Illinois political insider blog Capitol Fox. "[Wyma's] a lobbyist but he's almost never in Springfield lobbying legislators. He virtually only lobbies the governor at his home in Chicago."
Wyma could not be reached for comment, despite multiple calls and visits to his office and addresses listed in his name. His attorney, former federal prosecutor Zachary Fardon, who helped put former Illinois Governor George Ryan in jail, said in an email statement today that "There are news stories indicating that my client, John Wyma, is "Individual A" in the criminal complaint against Governor Rod Blagojevich. Mr. Wyma has made efforts to provide federal investigators with truthful information regarding the matters under investigation and will continue to do so. Out of respect for the ongoing process, we are making no further statements related to these matters at this time."
Those efforts began just months ago, in October, when, according to the criminal complaint released in the wake of the governor 's arrest Tuesday, Wyma -- believed to be the person identified in documents only as Individual A -- began talking with the FBI. The timing hardly seems a coincidence: it dovetails with the weeks, according to published accounts, that Wyma was named in a subpoena sent to former client Provena Health. The hospital company had donated money to the governor 's campaign shortly after receiving a favorable ruling.
Whatever his role in the hospital donations, Wyma's cooperation soon proved fruitful to prosecutors. According to the criminal complaint, Wyma is one of the key sources to the source of the tip that Blagojevich is using the final months of the year to raise funds through payoffs before the new state ethics law goes into effect in January. That law would sharply limit any individual or entity with state contracts worth more than $50,000 from donating to the governor's campaign coffers.