Rod Blagojevich, Illinois governor BUSTED. This asshat needs to be thrown in jail. Illinois must impeach him. In the mean time, Rod surely should step down from his post if not resign… With his 4% approval rating, he must realize the people are pissed at him and he is not doing a good job as governor… Step aside Rod.
I think what has come out so far has been watered down and as more is revealed to the public this thing is going to be huge and implicate a lot of Chicagos corruption. I would venture say this is part of the the Tony Rezko whistle blower bargain deal. Keep your eyes open for more cases to break related to this…
But hey, this is not the Rod that Obama knew… Barack only knew his as a guy who lived in the neighborhood… Rest assured, the Obama camp will deny any ties to him and excile him like Wright….
Gov. Rod Blagojevich and his chief of staff, John Harris, were arrested Tuesday for what U.S. Atty. Patrick Fitzgerald called a “political corruption crime spree” that included attempts to sell the U.S. Senate seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama.
Blagojevich and Harris were named in a federal criminal complaint that alleged a wide-ranging criminal conspiracy aimed at providing financial benefits to the governor, his political fund and to his wife, First Lady Patricia Blagojevich.
Blagojevich was taken into federal custody by FBI agents at his North Side home Tuesday morning—one day shy of his 52nd birthday.
The arrests dealt a tumultuous blow to Illinois government, at once raising questions about the leadership of the state and the fate of the open Senate seat—which the governor alone has the power to fill under the state law.
The allegations against Blagojevich provide a sharp contrast to a Democratic governor who campaigned for office promising reforms in the wake of disgraced, scandal-tainted Republican chief executive George Ryan. The complaint against Blagojevich comes little more than two years after Ryan was sentenced to 61/2 years in prison on federal corruption charges.
Robert Grant, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Chicago office, characterized Illinois’ place in the pantheon of political corruption.
“If it isn’t the most corrupt state in the United States, it’s certainly one hell of a competitor,” Grant said. And Fitzgerald, whose office also prosecuted Blagojevich’s predecessor, said Blagojevich’s “conduct would make Lincoln roll over in his grave.”
Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn called on Blagojevich to step aside, at least temporarily, or resign because the governor is “seriously impeded from carrying out his oath of office.”
“I think he knows what he needs to do for the people,” said Quinn, a Democrat.
Atty. Gen. Lisa Madigan, who had been viewed as a likely 2010 challenger if Blagojevich sought a third term, said the governor should immediately step down. Madigan, the daughter of longtime Blagojevich nemesis House Speaker Michael Madigan, also said she was moving forward on legal issues if the governor did not resign.
Despite facing myriad federal investigations throughout his five-year tenure, Blagojevich has maintained he committed no wrongdoing. On Monday, Blagojevich said any discussions he has had were “always lawful.”
The stunning, early morning arrest followed a series of Tribune stories revealing federal investigators had compiled secret recordings of the governor with the cooperation of a longtime confidant. In recent days, the focus of federal investigators expanded beyond a probe of allegations of wrongdoing involving state jobs, contracts and appointments in exchange for campaign dollars to the possibility that the Senate succession process had become tainted by pay-to-play politics.
Blagojevich and Harris were arrested simultaneously at their homes about 6:15 a.m., according to the FBI. They were transported to FBI headquarters in Chicago. Blagojevich appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Nan Nolan early in the afternoon and heard the charges read against him before being released on his own recognizance.
Spurring federal investigators to act was Blagojevich’s pending appointment of a Senate successor to Obama, whose resignation took effect Nov. 16. Blagojevich had said he expected to name a new senator around the end of the year.
Prosecutors said they had numerous recorded conversations of Blagojevich discussing the merits of potential candidates, including their abilities to benefit the people of Illinois as well as the financial and political benefits he and his wife could receive.
Prosecutors said their recordings revealed Blagojevich expressed feeling “stuck” as a sitting governor and he spent a large amount of time weighing whether he should appoint himself to the vacancy—possibly to avoid impeachment and help remake his image for a potential 2016 run for the presidency. A recent Tribune poll found Blagojevich with a record low 13 percent job approval rating.
Under state law, the governor has the sole unfettered discretion to name Obama’s appointment. Despite his arrest, he continues to have the naming authority and some lawmakers discussed looking for ways to wrest it from him.
Prosecutors alleged Blagojevich sought appointment as secretary of Health and Human Services or wanted an ambassadorship in the new Obama administration, or to be placed in a lucrative union-affiliated job in exchange for appointing Valerie Jarrett, a close friend and adviser to the president-elect to the Senate seat. Jarrett eventually took herself out of the running and Fitzgerald said “we make no allegation” that Obama was aware of Blagojevich’s attempt to leverage the appointment.
Fitzgerald quoted a Blagojevich conversation in which the governor said the Senate seat is “a bleeping valuable thing. You just don’t give it away. … I’ve got this thing, and it’s bleeping golden.”
Obama spoke briefly about the arrest today in Chicago. “Like the rest of the people of Illinois, I am saddened and sobered by the news that came out of the U.S. attorney’s office today,” Obama said. “But as this is an ongoing investigation involving the governor, I don’t think it would be appropriate for me to comment on the issue at this time.”
As reporters we being escorted from a brief photo opportunity following a nearly two hour meeting with Gore, reporters shouted questions about the matter at the president-elect. “I had no contact with the governor or his office and so I was not aware of what was happening. And as I said, it’s a sad day for Illinois,” Obama said.
Blagojevich also was alleged to be using a favors list, made up largely of individuals and firms that have state contracts or received taxpayer benefits, from which to conduct a $2.5 million fundraising drive before year’s end when a new tougher law on campaign donations, prompted by the governor’s voracious fundraising, would take effect.
Even Blagojevich’s recently announced $1.8 billion plan for new interchanges and “green lanes” on the Illinois Tollway was subject to corruption, prosecutors alleged. The criminal complaint alleges Blagojevich expected an unnamed highway concrete contractor to raise a half-million dollars for his campaign fund in exchange for state money for the tollway project. “If they don’t perform, [expletive] ’em,” Blagojevich said, according to the complaint.
Blagojevich and Harris also allegedly conspired to demand the firing of Chicago Tribune editorial board members responsible for editorials critical of Blagojevich in exchange for state help with the sale of Wrigley Field, the Chicago Cubs baseball stadium owned byTribune Co.
Fitzgerald thanked the Chicago Tribune, which had been reporting on the investigation, for honoring a rare request about eight weeks ago not to report on certain aspects of the investigation that he said could have been jeopardized.
Tribune Editor Gerould Kern said today that the newspaper delayed publishing some stories at the request of the U.S. attorney’s office during the course of reporting on the accelerating investigation of Blagojevich.
“On occasion, prosecutors asked us to delay publication of stories, asserting that disclosure would jeopardize the criminal investigation,” Kern said. “In isolated instances, we granted the requests, but other requests were refused.”
Tribune reporters Ray Long, John Chase, Monique Garcia, David Heinzmann, Hal Dardick and Susan Kuczka contributed to this report.
Speaking of good old Tony, his Obama 10′ land deal is back in play as well… Funny how that got pushed off until after the general election last month…
A former Illinois bank official, now claiming whistleblower status, says bank officials replaced a loan reappraisal that he prepared for a Chicago property that was purchased by the wife of now-convicted felon Tony Rezko, part of which was later sold to next-door neighbor Barack Obama.
In a complaint filed Thursday in the Circuit Court of Cook County, Kenneth J. Connorsaid that his reappraisal of Rita Rezko‘s property was replaced with a higher one and that he was fired when he questioned the document.
Mr. Connor, a real estate and commercial credit analyst at the Mutual Bank Corp. in Chicago, also noted in the complaint that the bank received a grand jury subpoena in October 2006 requiring it to produce information concerning Mrs. Rezko’s purchase, including the bank’s files on the property.
The complaint also said that the grand jury wanted information on Mrs. Rezko’s checking account and loan file and that the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC) had audited the Rezko file – although Mr. Connor’s lower reappraisal had been replaced with a higher amount.
“Connor’s internal whistle-blowing activity at Mutual Bank implicates Mutual Bank and the potentially guilty officers thereof to prosecution under federal and Illinois statutes,” said the complaint, filed by attorney Glenn R. Gaffney.
The complaint said Mutual Bank officials could be guilty of making false statements, willfully overvaluing property, bank fraud, witness retaliation, willful violation of a lawful subpoena, FDIC violations, and state banking regulations.
Mr. Gaffney, contacted at his office, declined to elaborate but confirmed that the complaint had been filed.
“It says what it says,” said Mr. Gaffney of Glendale Heights, Ill.
According to the complaint, Mr. Connor reviewed the appraisal of the Rezko property by another firm, Adams Appraisal, which had set the value at $625,000. Mr. Connor’s complaint said that he told his bosses in a report that the property had been overvalued by at least $125,000 and that a “reasonable and fair evaluation” should have been no greater than $500,000.
Later, the complaint states, Mr. Connor observed that his lower appraisal was not in the Rezko file and that he notified his supervisors that it had been replaced. He said, according to the complaint, the new file had been reviewed by the FBI and “if the FBI were to ask me about such matters, I would tell them the truth. I never rescinded my original findings.”
Critics of Mr. Obama’s dealings with Rezko charge that the senator may have gotten a deal on his property purchase, noting that Mrs. Rezko paid the full asking price for her property on an adjacent lot. Both of which were sold by a single seller. Mr. Obama bought his house for $1.65 million – $300,000 below the asking price.
When the property was sold, Mr. Obama knew Rezko was under investigation on fraud charges.
The complaint said the Rezko loan was approved by Mutual Bank President and CEO Amrish Mahajan and others so that Mrs. Rezko could buy a 9,090-square-foot vacant parcel of real estate. It said that in January 2006, Mrs. Rezko and Mr. Obama, along with his wife Michelle, signed an agreement to sell a 10-foot strip of the property to the Obamas. At that point, according to the complaint, Mr. Connor’s firm asked him to conduct the reappraisal.
The complaint said Mr. Connor is seeking $4.2 million for compensatory damages, plus unspecified punitive damages.
Rezko was a key supporter and donor throughout Mr. Obama’s political career, with the Illinois Democrat estimating that Rezko raised $250,000 for his various political campaigns, though not for his presidential bid. The two were friends who talked frequently about politics and occasionally dined out together with their wives.
Rezko was convicted this summer on federal charges of using his clout with state government to squeeze kickbacks out of firms wanting to do business with the state. The charges did not involve Mr. Obama. Rezko is now cooperating with federal prosecutors in a continuing probe of corruption in Illinois government.
Mr. Obama consulted Rezko, a real estate developer, before buying his home in 2005.
As a state senator, Mr. Obama wrote letters endorsing government support of a Rezko housing project for senior citizens. Obama aides say he was simply supporting a project that would help residents of his district, not doing a favor for a friend.
Jennifer Haberkorn contributed to this article.
Filed under: Crimes, Politics | Tagged: Barack Obama, Chicago, Illinois, John Harris, Patricia Blagojevich, Rod Blagojevich, Tony Rezko | 1 Comment »