Archive for the ‘graft’ Category

Blagojevich: Terrifying; Didn’t Just Fiddle While Rome Burned

December 13, 2008

Taking a page out of the playbook of the Roman emperor Nero, Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich has done so many bad things in such a short period of time that some of his worst actions are likely to be swept under the rug. Nero, as even the dimmest schoolchild will recall, is famous for fiddling while Rome burned to the ground — a flamboyantly insensitive gesture that has obscured the fact that he also kicked his pregnant wife to death, murdered his predecessor, masqueraded as a wild beast at gladiatorial events so that he could mutilate helpless captives bound to stakes and diverted himself on evening promenades by disguising himself as a street urchin, stabbing tipsy pedestrians to death and then chucking their bodies into the sewer. 

By Joe Queenan
Washington Post
Sunday, December 14, 2008; Page B01

It just so happens that Nero set fire to Rome not once, but several times, and did so as part of an impromptu urban-renewal project that served no purpose other than to line his own pockets. But because of the sheer impudence of setting the capital of the civilized world ablaze and then amusing himself on a musical instrument, Nero’s other crimes are less well remembered, if they are remembered at all.

Plaster bust of Nero, Pushkin Museum, Moscow.
The only “bust” of Blagojevich was made by police….

It would be a great tragedy if Blagojevich’s crass attempts — as described in juicy detail last week by prosecutors — to auction off President-elect Barack Obama’s Senate seat and shake down the Tribune Co. diverted the public’s attention from his other misdeeds. Politicians are always demanding some kind of payback for favors, and Blagojevich wouldn’t be the first pol to try to get journalists fired because he didn’t like the things they wrote about him. In Illinois, in New Jersey, in Louisiana, this kind of brazen scuzziness is par for the course. Society can deal with it.

What’s far more worrisome is Blagojevich’s bizarre confrontation with the Bank of America. The day before he was arrested on charges of massive corruption, Blagojevich visited a group of striking workers at a North Chicago firm called Republic Windows & Doors. After being laid off the week before, the employees had begun a sit-in, demanding benefits they were still owed by their employer, which said it could not meet their demands because the Bank of America had cut off its financing. At this point, Blagojevich informed bank officials that unless they restored the shuttered window-and-door company’s line of credit, the state of Illinois would suspend all further business with Bank of America. A few days later, the bank caved in and ponied up a $1.35 million loan.

The idea that the governor of a state as prosperous and important and sophisticated and upscale as Illinois would make this kind of threat is terrifying. Even more terrifying is that Bank of America saw no alternative but to give in. Yet even more terrifying is that nobody outside Chicago seems to have gotten terribly worked up about the situation, riveted as they are on the governor’s more theatrical transgressions. But peddling a Senate seat or using scare tactics to shake down a newspaper are nowhere near so serious a menace to society as letting the government arbitrarily intervene in financial transactions between banks and creditors. A crooked governor we can all handle. But a governor who capriciously decides which commercial enterprises a bank must finance and which it can ignore is a scary proposition indeed.

Read the rest:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/artic
le/2008/12/12/AR2008121203299.html

Advertisements

Illinois Governor Arrested

December 9, 2008

“I don’t care whether you tape me privately or publicly. I can tell you that whatever I say is always lawful,” Blagojevich said Monday after an unrelated press conference….

*****

Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich was arrested Tuesday on charges of conspiring to get financial benefits through his authority to appoint a U.S. senator to fill the vacancy left by Barack Obama‘s election as president. has been taken into federal custody at his home, the Chicago Tribune reported on Tuesday citing unnamed sources.

According to a federal criminal complaint, Blagojevich also was charged with illegally threatening to withhold state assistance to Tribune Co., the owner of the Chicago Tribune, in the sale of Wrigley Field. In return for state assistance, Blagojevich allegedly wanted members of the paper’s editorial board who had been critical of him fired.

A 76-page FBI affidavit said the 51-year-old Democratic governor was intercepted on court-authorized wiretaps over the last month conspiring to sell or trade the vacant Senate seat for personal benefits for himself and his wife, Patti.

The affidavit said Blagojevich discussed getting a substantial salary for himself at a nonprofit foundation or an organization affiliated with labor unions.

It said Blagojevich also talked about getting his wife placed on corporate boards where she might get $150,000 a year in director’s fees.

He also allegedly discussed getting campaign funds for himself or possibly a post in the president’s cabinet or an ambassadorship once he left the governor’s office.

“I want to make money,” the affidavit quotes him as saying in one conversation.

U.S. Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald said in a statement that “the breadth of corruption laid out in these charges is staggering.”

“They allege that Blagojevich put a for sale sign on the naming of a United States senator,” Fitzgerald said.”

Among those being considered for the post include U.S. Reps. Danny Davis and Jesse Jackson Jr.

Blagojevich also was charged with using his authority as governor in an attempt to squeeze out campaign contributions.

His chief of staff, John Harris, also was arrested.

Corruption in the Blagojevich administration has been the focus of a federal investigation involving an alleged $7 million scheme aimed at squeezing kickbacks out of companies seeking business from the state. Federal prosecutors have acknowledged they’re also investigating “serious allegations of endemic hiring fraud” under Blagojevich.

Political fundraiser Antoin “Tony” Rezko who raised money for the campaigns of both Blagojevich and Obama is awaiting sentencing after being convicted of fraud and other charges. Blagojevich’s chief fundraiser, Christopher G. Kelly, is due to stand trial early next year on charges of obstructing the Internal Revenue Service.

According to Tuesday’s complaint, Blagojevich schemed with Rezko, millionaire-fundraiser turned federal witness Stuart Levine and others to get financial benefits for himself and his campaign committee.

Federal prosecutors said Blagojevich and the chairman of his campaign committee have been speeding up corrupt fundraising activities in the last month to get as much money as possible before the end of the year when a new law would curtail his ability to raise contributions from companies with state contracts worth more than $50,000.

According to the affidavit, agents learned Blagojevich was seeking $2.5 million in campaign contributions by the end of the year, with a large part allegedly to come from companies and individuals who have gotten state contracts or appointments.

Blagojevich took the chief executive’s office in 2003 as a reformer promising to clean up former Gov. George Ryan’s mess.

Ryan, a Republican, is serving a 6-year prison sentence after being convicted on racketeering and fraud charges. A decade-long investigation began with the sale of driver’s licenses for bribes and led to the conviction of dozens of people who worked for Ryan when he was secretary of state and governor.

Rod Blagojevich AP

FBI spokesman Frank Bochte said federal agents arrested the governor and Harris simultaneously at their homes at 6:15 a.m. and took them to the Chicago FBI headquarters.

Bochte said he did not know if either man was handcuffed or if the governor’s family was their North Side home at the time of his arrest. He did say Blagojevich and Harris both were given time to get dressed before being taken to the headquarters.

He also did not have any details about Blagojevich’s arrest, only that he was cooperative with federal agents.

“It was a very calm setting,” he said.

The governor was to appear later Tuesday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Nan Nolan to answer the charges. The time was not immediately set.

******************

Associated Press Writer Don Babwin contributed to this report.

Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich

The newspaper said on its website that the U.S. attorney’s office in Chicago would not confirm the information.

Blagojevich was the subject of a federal corruption probe.

****

In this April 18, 2007 file photo, Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich ... 
In this April 18, 2007 file photo, Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich speaks at the 45th Annual Illinois Governor’s Prayer Breakfast in Springfield, Ill. Authorities in Chicago have arrested Ill. Gov. Rod Blagojevich on federal charges. U.S. Attorney’s office spokesman Randall Samborn says both Blagojevich and his chief of staff John Harris were arrested Tuesday, Dec. 9, 2008.(AP Photo/Seth Perlman, File)

John Harris, the Chief of Staff to the governor,  was also taken into custory.  The corruption charges include mail fraud and wire fraud.  The evidences was collected apparently due to a court ordered wire tap.  Fox news reported that the extent of curruption is “staggering.” 

From WLS TV

A source told ABC7’s Chuck Goudie that Gov. Blagojevich was taken into federal custody at his home on Sunnyside around 7 a.m. His chief of staff, John Harris, was also arrested.

“There was no advance notice given to either individual,” said Ross Rice, FBI.

The affidavit was unsealed around 8:30 a.m. That affidavit accused Gov. Blagojevich of, among other things, trying to obtain campaign contributions up front in consideration of an appointment to the Senate seat left open by Pres.- Elect Barack Obama.

****

From the Associated Press
.
Corruption in the Blagojevich administration has been the focus of a federal Operation Board Games involving an alleged $7 million scheme aimed at squeezing kickbacks out of companies seeking business from the state. Federal prosecutors have acknowledged they’re also investigating “serious allegations of endemic hiring fraud” under Blagojevich.

The Chicago Tribune reported Tuesday morning that the federal investigation had spread to Blagojevich’s efforts to fill the U.S. Senate vacancy left by the election of Barack Obama as president.

Political fundraiser Antoin “Tony” Rezko who raised money for the campaigns of both Blagojevich and Obama is awaiting sentencing after being convicted of fraud and other charges. Blagojevich’s chief fundraiser, Christopher G. Kelly, is due to stand trial early next year on charges of obstructing the Internal Revenue Service.

Blagojevich, a Democrat, took the chief executive’s office in 2003 as a reformer promising to clean up former Gov. George Ryan’s mess.

Ryan, a Republican, is serving a six-year prison sentence after being convicted on racketeering and fraud charges. The decade-long investigation began with the sale of driver’s licenses for bribes and led to the conviction of dozens of people who worked for Ryan when he was secretary of state and governor.

 

Above: Tony Rezko.  Photo: Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

Obama gets high rating for handling of transition

 ***


***

Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich of Illinois.
Amanda Rivkin/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images