Thomas Balanoff, a top union official and major fund-raiser to former Gov. Blagojevich, is now cooperating with prosecutors, sources familiar with the investigation say.
He's the latest to fall to the government's side.
Already there: chief fund-raiser Tony Rezko, former chief of staff John Harris and lobbyist John Wyma. Feds are still working on longtime Blago friend Christopher Kelly.
Balanoff is important because he can shed light on the U.S. Senate seat discussions and whether the governor sought to secure something of value in return for naming someone to the seat. In this case, the person was Valerie Jarrett.
Balanoff represents the Service Employees International Union, or SEIU, a powerful union which is historically one of the biggest contributors to Blago's campaign fund, donating hundreds of thousands of dollars. Balanoff is described in the criminal complaint as an "emissary" for Jarrett, who was initially interested in filling President Obama's vacant seat. Jarrett is now a White House adviser.
Balanoff had discussions with Blagojevich on Nov. 3, Nov. 6 and Nov. 12, records show.
A report released by Obama outlines his people's contacts with Blagojevich and any discussions about the Senate seat. It indicates Balanoff and Jarrett met on Nov. 7th -- a day after one of the Balanoff-Blago meeting. According to the report, Balanoff told Jarrett that Blago hoped Obama would give him the Health and Human Services appointment. Jarrett laughed it off, according to an Obama official.
But Blagojevich and Balanoff then spoke again, on Nov. 12. That's when the then-governor allegedly tells Balanoff he could expedite Jarrett's appointment in exchange for being appointed the head of a charity.
Blago tells Balanoff to run the proposition "up the flagpole," according to the criminal complaint.
It's a good bet that's what the feds want to know.
What Balanoff might have to say
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