A Republican political operative testified Wednesday that former Gov. George Ryan's top aide secretly steered a contract worth hundreds of thousands of dollars to a favored crony without any bids.

Richard Juliano said at the federal racketeering trial of longtime Ryan aide Scott Fawell and the Citizens for Ryan committee that Fawell steered the contract to direct mail consultant Roger Stanley at about the time Stanley promised a $25,000 contribution to Ryan's campaign fund.

Stanley "really wants this direct-mail contract. He's been bugging me about it," Juliano quoted Fawell as saying at a meeting before Ryan's 1994 re-election as Illinois secretary of state.

Juliano testified that at a meeting a few days later, Ryan's then counsel, Roger Bickel, warned that there was "bad news about the state purchasing act" and that the contract, to publicize the state's organ donor program, would be subject to competitive bidding.

Juliano said Fawell brushed that advice aside and a few days later told Juliano: "I'm going to give this contract to the Hog, but it can't have his name on it or Unistat's name on it."

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The Hog was the nickname Republicans used for Stanley, a one-time GOP lawmaker who prosecutors say also provided Fawell with free trips to Costa Rica and consulting fees. Unistat was the name of his company, which did mailings for Republicans across Illinois.

Fawell, 44, and the campaign committee are charged with a pattern of racketeering that includes extortion, bribery and obstruction of justice. Prosecutors say Fawell and the committee used state employees and state money for the political organization that propelled Ryan to the governor's office.

Ryan has not been accused of any criminal wrongdoing.

Fawell is the highest ranking official charged thus far in the federal government's four-year corruption investigation. The probe began as an inquiry into bribes paid for driver's licenses and was expanded to include a wide array of corruption during the period when Ryan was secretary of state, 1991 to 1999.

On Tuesday, Juliano testified that Ryan's "political machine" routinely ignored laws barring campaigning on state time, and that Ryan never seemed to mind.

Ryan was on hand for three campaign strategy sessions at which it was clear the participants were drawing state salary checks, he said.

"Did Mr. Ryan make any statement admonishing anyone not to do it?" asked Assistant U.S. Attorney Patrick Collins.

"No," Juliano testified.

Juliano, who was second only to Fawell in the Ryan organization, has pleaded guilty to mail fraud.

In all, 57 former state employees and others have been charged and 50 convicted in the scandal, which sent Ryan's poll ratings into a nosedive and prompted the 68-year-old former pharmacist to retire as governor after one term. His last day in office was Monday.