Chicago Sun-Times
Inside the Rod Blagojevich investigation and related cases

August 2009 Archives

BLAGO on Madigans: "I was being shaken down."

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In his new book: "The Governor," Rod Blagojevich launches a new salvo against his longtime political rival Michael Madigan, saying the Illinois House Speaker and his daughter, Lisa Madigan, put the arm on him for campaign cash.
Blagojevich claims he had a 2006 meeting with Madigan and his daughter, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, where the two allegedly hit him up for $400,000 in campaign contributions. Blagojevich writes that Michael Madigan wanted 2 1/2 percent of all of Blago's cash as part of a "coordinated campaign." The two met with him along with other Democrats like Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White and retired state Senate leader Emil Jones, according to the book.
"It was designed by the Madigans as a subtle threat. While dear old dad is literally and figuratively putting the arm on me from my left side, she is subtly holding a gun to my head from the right. Their message was easily interpreted. If I didn't fork over (2 1/2) percent of my campaign fund ... then they were both going to make trouble for me," Blagojevich wrote. "It was subtle and but purposeful. And that's what they intended and that's what they did. And it made me feel like I was being shaken down."
Blagojevich attacked Lisa Madigan -- the same person he says later in the book he was to appoint to the vacant U.S. Senate seat -- for being "unethical." A year prior, Lisa Madigan had subpoenaed campaign fundraising records: "from the very office she was now sitting in."
Blagojevich said he wouldn't kick in. Michael Madigan's payback, Blago says, was blocking his healthcare initiative. Lisa Madigan's? Not endorsing Blago's reelection bid.
Steve Brown, a spokesman for Michael Madigan, called the claims "delusional."
A spokeswoman for Lisa Madigan said the attorney general hasn't read the book and doesn't plan to read it.


I'm reading through an advanced copy of Blago's book "The Governor," officially due out in bookstores a week from tomorrow. (Rich Miller, who authors "Capitol Fax," first published excerpts from the book this morning.)

Some highlights:

-- Blago says he was going to appoint Lisa Madigan to the Senate post.
"It had everything to do with me loving the people of Illinois."
How much does he loves Illinoisans? (The italicized question reappears throughout the 10th chapter). "Enough to appoint the daughter of my political nemesis if it meant I could achieve a lot of good things for the people." Blago says he talked about it with everyone from U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. "I decided to do it because the greater good would be served," Blago writes.
Blago says he wanted to draft Durbin or Rahm Emanuel to approach Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan about cutting a political deal. Lisa Madigan would get the Senate seat if Michael Madigan advanced Blago's legislative agenda.
"He's a very troubled and confused human being," said Steve Brown, spokesman to Michael Madigan. "This book is another testimony of that."

-- Rahm Emanuel: Blago says Rahm asked him after the November election to appoint a seat holder after Emanuel vacated his Congressional post. The conversation came after Emanuel agreed to act as President Obama's chief of staff. (Sun-Times reported this in December.) Blago says Emanuel believed he was in line to become House speaker and didn't want to give that up.
"Rahm understandably wanted to keep his options open if he could," Blago writes. "Rahm told me that his lawyers thought there was a way where the governor might be able to make an appointment."
It turned out Blago didn't have the legal authority to do it.
Blago said he "teased" Emanuel that if he did it, then Emanuel should "consider it a favor."
"Because if I helped him appoint a congressman who was going to keep the seat warm for him, then I was going to make a lot of people who wanted to be congressmen unhappy with me."
Including Blago's sister-in-law, Deb Mell.

-- In the fall of 2008, Marilyn Katz, longtime friend of Valerie Jarrett, who is now an adviser to President Obama, called Patti Blagojevich about having lunch. She reached out to ex-Blago chief of staff John Harris too about Jarrett's appointment to replace Obama.
Blago says of Jarrett: "I knew her and I liked her. But was this the best I could do for the people of Illinois?"

-- Blago refers to Chicago's Special Agent in Charge as "Agent Grant," and actually puts Grant on hold when Grant tells him he's got two agents outside his home ready to arrest him. Blago was calling ex-gubernatorial lawyer William Quinlan for guidance.
--Blago takes a shot at U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald and his role as a special prosecutor in the Scooter Libby case.
"The federal prosecutor had made such a big deal out of this investigation that the case became more about the prosecutor's own self-preservation than justice," Blago writes. "This same prosecutor is the one who accused me of trying to sell Barack Obama's Senate seat for personal gain."
He calls the accusation: "completely and entirely false."

Lon Monk -- plea delayed again

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Rod Blagojevich's onetime good friend, fund-raiser and chief of staff has yet to hammer out the final details of his plea deal.
Tomorrow's scheduled plea of Lon Monk has been delayed yet again.
Monk is now set to plea Oct. 7 before U.S. District Judge James Zagel.
Sources say that Monk's cooperation is not in jeopardy, despite this being the second official rescheduling of his plea.
Monk's cooperation with the government has been significant because his ties to Rod Blagojevich go back to their law school days. Monk remained close to Blagojevich, which included taking part in significant fund-raising activities, up until the ex-governor's last days in office.

BLAGO JUDGE: Sealed materials show there's an ongoing probe

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The federal judge overseeing the case of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich refused to make public wiretaps in the case, saying it was clear to him that "there is an ongoing investigation."
U.S. District Judge James Zagel, in a recent opinion, ruled against a bid by CNN to release secret transcripts and secret recordings in the Blagojevich case. While he didn't indicate the nature of the ongoing probe, he said a review of matters under seal made it clear that releasing the information could damage the government's investigation.
"I have examined the sealed materials that are the subject of this motion and
am satisfied with the government's contention that there is an ongoing investigation," Zagel wrote in a recently publicized opinion.
"I am further satisfied that disclosure of these materials at this time may frustrate the investigation and thereby jeopardize the integrity of the search for truth. I emphasize that the issue is whether the disclosure of these materials is warranted now; I am not deciding that this is a sealing in perpetuity, or even for an extended period of time."
The U.S. Attorney's office would not comment on Zagel's remarks.

Sun-Times takes top honors for Blago/Burris coverage

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Chicago Sun-Times reporters were recognized this weekend in a national reporting contest for coverage that raised questions about the appointment of Roland Burris to the U.S. Senate.

What's amusing: The Capitol Beat Association said there was so much quality coverage of the Blagojevich investigation and subsequent impeachment, it gave out special mentions to the Chicago Tribune, Associated Press and the Sun-Times -- all for coverage of the former governor.

So essentially, Blago is a category unto himself.

'The Maven' to round out Blago legal squad

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Ackerman
photo by Natasha Korecki
Above, Allan Ackerman (sans shades) with veteran defense attorney Michael Ettinger in background

Wearing a metallic cowboy hat, reflective sunglasses and already spinning tales of old Chicago, the newest member of Blago's defense team has arrived.
Allan Ackerman, a onetime mob attorney whose specialty of late has been crafting appellate arguments, said today he will formally join the ranks of the former governor's legal team.
Ackerman referred to himself today as a "maven," an expert who will organize the evidence, including more than 3 million documents in the case and have it ready for the June trial.
Among Ackerman's former clients: reputed mob hit man Harry Aleman.
Ackerman rounds out an already colorful cast involved in the Blago case, from the lectern-pounding Sam Adam Jr. to veteran defense lawyer Michael Ettinger (who represents the ex-gov's brother, Robert) to Shelly Sorosky, who often tosses off a comical comment from behind his dark-rimmed glasses.
Including today: "It's a free country," Sorosky said of his client's recent appearance at a neighborhood block party where Blago shook his leg and sang Elvis. "The man does whatever he wants."
Ackerman, like the rest of the lawyers representing Rod Blagojevich, will be paid $110 an hour -- a rate controlled by U.S. District Judge James Zagel and deducted out of the ousted governor's campaign fund.

Ackerman2
photo by Natasha Korecki

"Rod Blagojevich needed his own Web site. It was time."

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He's not the governor anymore, but that didn't stop Rod Blagojevich from naming a new Web site that's all about him: GovernorRod.com.
Blago, ousted from his gubernatorial post in January, is a "Champion for Ordinary People," according to the Web site.
Blago's publicist says It was launched today as a way for supporters and fans to track his many media appearances. With just a click, it allows you to book Rod as a guest speaker. It will also act as a platform to publicize Blago's book, due out Sept. 8.
"Rod Blagojevich needed his own Web site," his publicist, Glenn Selig said. "It was time."


From Blago's PR team:

(PRNewsChannel) / Chicago, Ill. / For those who can't get enough of Rod Blagojevich, the former governor of Illinois, the new Web site GovernorRod.com gives them their fill 24/7.

Blagojevich, and news about him, has continued to dominate local and national coverage even after his controversial ousting from office earlier this year.

Blagojevich made headlines as recently as this weekend after making a surprise appearance at a Chicago block party where he performed an Elvis song on stage to a roaring crowd.

"Rod Blagojevich needed his own Web site. It was time," says Glenn Selig, the governor's spokesman and founder of The Publicity Agency. "GovernorRod.com offers his fans and supporters a way to connect."

GovernorRod.com offers a multi-dimentional peek into Blagojevich's life--including his highly anticipated forthcoming book, "The Governor," due out Sept. 8.

It also connects the public to his radio show on WLS-AM in Chicago. The program airs Sundays from 12pm-2pm CST on WLS.

For more on Rod Blagojevich, please visit his Web site at: http://www.governorrod.com.

Blago on stage with Fabio. Sings Elvis. Watch it.

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At a street party on a muggy Chicago night, Illinois' former Gov. Rod Blagojevich jumps on stage with a look-a-like of the once-upon-a-time male hunk Fabio, announcing that they're both out of work.

Blago takes over the mic, swivels his hips, and pays homage to his idol, Elvis, singing "Treat me Nice." At one point he unbuttons his shirt and flips up his collar.
All of this happens before a jumpy audience that both cheers and heckles him.
One person screams: "It's a f-ing valuable thing!" a reference to secret FBI wiretaps where Blagojevich, as governor, is allegedly captured talking about selling President Obama's former Senate seat.

BY NATASHA KORECKI Staff Reporter

Multimillionaire Chicago trader Blair Hull wanted to be a U.S. senator so badly that he spent more than $24 million of his personal fortune in 2004, but he ended up losing to Barack Obama in the Democratic primary.

And when Obama was elected president last year and gave up his Senate seat, Hull went after it again.

But this time, he worked behind the scenes, quietly angling to get appointed by then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich, the Chicago Sun-Times has learned.

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