Blagojevich Conviction Only Partly Reveals Culture of Corruption

Blagojevich photoLast August, things looked sunny for former Illinois Democratic Governor Rod Blagojevich. He and his lawyers had just obtained a hung jury on 23 of 24 corruption charges. But Justice Department prosecutors, confident they had their man, continued to pursue the case – and this time with different results. Last Monday, June 27, a Chicago federal jury, after nine days of deliberation, found the man known as “Blago” guilty on 17 of 20 charges, nearly a dozen of them related to his attempts during the fall of 2008 to fill the pending Senate vacancy left by President-Elect Barack Obama in return for campaign cash. Blagojevich’s play-for-pay schemes got him arrested that December and removed from office a month later. While the case highlights corruption in Chicago, its real significance may lie in shedding more light on the political networks making possible Obama’s rise. 

Even before Inauguration Day, Rod Blagojevich …

Rep. Gutierrez Accepted Free Home Upgrades from Tony Rezko

Gutierrez photoRep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) admitted to the FBI that he accepted free upgrades on a town home he purchased from convicted Chicago influence-peddler Tony Rezko, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. The congressman has previously been the subject of a federal investigation for engaging in real estate deals with a developer named Calvin Boender.

During a 2008 interview with the FBI, Gutierrez reportedly said that he asked Rezko for upgrades on the town house before purchasing it. The congressman claimed that the price of the home had risen by $35,000 since he had first considered buying it, and Rezko agreed to give him an additional bathroom and a higher quality carpet to make up for the increase in cost.

Gutierrez’s claims to the FBI contradicted previous statements that he made to the Sun-Times  in 2006.

“I walked in with my wife — as any other consumer could have — and …

Jesse Jackson Jr. Denies Role in $6M Scheme to Bankroll Blagojevich

Jesse Jackson, Jr. photoRep. Jesse Jackson Jr., D-Ill., like his famous father, has become a Democratic Party kingmaker, both in Chicago and on Capitol Hill. He's also, according to the September 21 Chicago Sun-Times, the mastermind behind a scheme to raise $6 million in campaign contributions for then-Illinois Democratic Governor Rod Blagojevich in return for a U.S. Senate appointment. The allegation, made by a Chicago-area businessman-fundraiser, Raghuveer Nayak, contradicts Jackson's assertions that he hadn't tried to buy Barack Obama's pending vacant Senate seat in the weeks prior to Election Day 2008. The actual version of events may well determine whether federal prosecutors can secure multiple guilty verdicts against Blagojevich, convicted in August on only one of 24 corruption charges (lying to federal agents), with the other 23 resulting in a hung jury.  

National Legal and Policy Center has extensively detailed how Blagojevich was at the center of a patronage machine whose participants …

Testimony Highlights Blagojevich Financial, Ethical Problems

Blagojevichs photoTo win a conviction in a criminal case requires establishing opportunity, means and motive. Recent testimony in the ongoing corruption trial of former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich reveals more than a few clues as to the motive part. Blagojevich and his wife, Patti, as it turns out, had about $200,000 in outstanding consumer debt at the time of his December 2008 arrest. Anxiety, if not desperation, over how to pay the money back was likely a major explanation for the ex-governor’s eagerness to peddle President-Elect Barack Obama’s soon-to-be-vacated Senate seat to the highest bidder. Worse, Mrs. Blagojevich’s real estate firm during 2002-04 apparently received roughly $150,000 or more in suspect “consulting” and other fees from a company co-owned by Obama’s original paymaster, now-jailed (and awaiting sentencing) real estate developer/political kingmaker Tony Rezko. The revelations reinforce the popular image of the couple as willing to do anything for money.

Courtroom testimony about …

Blagojevich Trial Puts Obama Closer to Senate Seat Deal

Obama/BlagojevichFrom a public relations standpoint, getting forced out of the Illinois governor’s mansion a year and a half ago was a smart career move for Rod Blagojevich. He’s been all over the TV since, doing stints on such shows as “Celebrity Apprentice” and “The Late Show with David Letterman.” But publicity may not be enough to keep him or several of his former allies out of prison. His long-awaited trial on fraud and conspiracy charges related to his attempt to sell Barack Obama’s pending Senate vacancy to the highest bidder began on June 8, the result of a five-year Justice Department probe into corruption in Chicago politics. Prosecutors wrapped up their case just before 5 P.M. Tuesday.  Evidence introduced thus far confirms widespread suspicions that former Gov. Blagojevich and his benefactors were part of a larger Chicago-Obama White House conduit. 

Since his December 9, 2008 arrest Blagojevich has proclaimed his innocence. …

‘Firestorm’ Promised to Save Politically-Connected Chicago Bank

ShoreBank logoAccording to a story over the weekend from the Chicago Tribune, the $135 million that the Obama Administration reportedly coerced from TARP recipients like Goldman Sachs and Citigroup may not be enough to save ShoreBank, the politically connected “community” lender whose big bank bailout was supposed to make it eligible for its own TARP funds. From the Tribune:

The bailout of Chicago-based ShoreBank has hit a serious snag as the Federal Reserve and Treasury drag their feet on whether to provide funding to the ailing South Side lender, sources close to the situation say….

The Treasury is deferring to the Federal Reserve. One source said some at the Fed want ShoreBank to raise more private dollars before it gets government money.

The source said the private investors are unlikely to kick in any more money. Many of the big banks received federal bailout money and have since

Sweet House Deal for Rep. Gutierrez’s Daughter

Gutierrez photoRep. Luis V. Gutierrez’s (D-IL) multitude of legal and ethical problems were compounded on Monday, when it was reported by the Chicago Sun-Times that his daughter may have gotten a sweetheart deal on her home in Chicago.

Gutierrez was the mentor of former Chicago ward-26 alderman Billy Ocasio, who initiated specialized affordable-housing programs in his district. Gutierrez’s daughter, Omaira Figueroa, benefited from the program, buying an affordable condo for a discounted $155,000 in June, 2008, and selling it for $239,900 just over a year later.

While city of Chicago rules prevent affordable-housing owners from re-selling their homes for a major profit, the housing initiative put into place by Ocasio wasn’t subject to these regulations. Figueroa, who originally purchased the condo with a $140,000 loan from her congressman father, was able to the sell the condo at a 55 percent profit.

At the time that she purchased the affordable-housing condo, Figueroa …

Obama Invited Blagojevich Appointment of Roland Burris By Backing Off Call for Special Election

Peter Flaherty, President of the National Legal and Policy Center (NLPC), today reacted to Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s appointment of Roland Burris to Barack Obama’s Senate seat by saying:

It’s getting more difficult for Barack Obama to extricate himself from the political mess in Illinois. Obama and other leading Democrats should have stuck to their calls for a special election to fill his Senate seat, instead of reverting to a brokered process. It only invited this kind of shenanigans from Blagojevich.

It is hard to see how Blagojevich’s appointment of Roland Burris has less credibility or moral standing than one brokered by other Illinois politicians. They all come out of the same corrupt culture that includes both parties.

Much of the initial media coverage of Blagojevich missed the point. I don’t believe was he was out of control or some sort of lone wolf. I believe his intercepted conversations are typical …

Illinois Governor, Aide Arrested in Probe of Senate Appointment

Rod Blagojevich has led a charmed life since being elected governor of Illinois in 2002 – “charmed” as in large numbers of people wondering why he hadn’t been arrested.  His good fortune recently ended.  And his removal from office might not be the end of the questions swirling around the incoming Obama presidency.  The governor, now 52, along with his chief of staff, John Harris, 46, were arrested in the early morning hours of Tuesday, December 9 by FBI agents on charges of conspiring to sell or trade the U.S. Senate seat recently vacated by President-Elect Barack Obama to the highest bidder.  A 76-page FBI affidavit released by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Illinois reveals Blagojevich apparently caught on court-authorized wiretaps and listening devices making self-incriminating statements.  Organized labor, as it turns out, played more than a peripheral role in this scandal.


Any time a …