NLPC research is referenced in a new book titled Pay to Play: How Rod Blagojevich Turned Political Corruption Into a National Sideshow. Its by Elizabeth Brackett, a longtime correspondent for The NewsHour With Jim Lehrer and a winner of the Peabody Award for political coverage.
In February, NLPC released a study showing that interests owned or affiliated with Illinois race track owner John Johnston contributed more than $343,000 to Blagojevich’s campaign committee during 2002-2007. This total was $183,000 more than alleged in previous news accounts. Johnson owns Balmoral Park and Maywood Park, two Chicago-area harness racing tracks.
As described on page 39 of the December 2008 FBI affidavit outlining the criminal case against Blagojevich, Johnson supported legislation directing a percentage of casino revenue to horse racing tracks. The casinos would pay out almost $90 million and file a RICO suit to recover the money.
NLPC’s analysis also revealed a suspicious pattern to the contributions. Different Johnston-owned or affiliated interests made donations on the same day on at least six different occasions during the 2002-2007 time period. On at least two occasions, contributions totaling $100,000 or more were received by the Friends of Blagojevich campaign on the same day or within days of each other.
The Illinois House Impeachment Committee released transcripts of conversations between Governor Blagojevich and his brother Rob about an expected $100,000 contribution from John Johnston allegedly in exchange for the Governor signing the bill. According to the transcripts, Blagojevich’s brother quoted Johnston as agreeing to make the $100,000 contribution and saying “I gotta just decide what, what uh, accounts to get it out of.”