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

Obama's report doesn't mention call to Balanoff

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Documents made public Thursday in the case of Rod Blagojevich revealed for the first time that one day before the presidential election, Barack Obama gave a union official the green light to talk to Blagojevich about Valerie Jarrett as a possible senate seat pick.
Two sources with knowledge of the investigation confirmed to the Sun-Times that Obama called SEIU leader Tom Balanoff Nov. 3, 2008. Obama told Balanoff he preferred to have Jarrett in the White House but would not stand in her way, sources said.
Obama's December, 2008 internal report detailing his own and his staff's contacts with the Blagojevich camp, does not mention the phone call.
Here's the contents of Obama's report regarding Jarrett and Balanoff:

Valerie Jarrett

Ms. Jarrett had no contact or communication with Governor Blagojevich , with his Chief of
Staff, John Harris or with any other people from the Governor's office about a successor to
replace the President-Elect in the United States Senate or how the decision should be made. Nor did she understand at any time prior to his arrest that the Governor was looking to receive some form of payment or personal benefit for the appointment. Her only contact with the Governor was at the Governor's Conference in Philadelphia on December 2, 2008, over three weeks after she had decided not to pursue the Senate seat and had accepted the President-Elect's offer to work in the White House. She had a brief conversation with him on that occasion. He wished her well.

On November 7, 2008 -- at a time when she was still a potential candidate for the Senate seat -- Ms. Jarrett spoke with Mr. Tom Balanoff, the head of the Illinois chapter of the Service
Employees International Union (SEIU). Mr. Balanoff is not a member of the Governor's staff
and did not purport to speak for the Governor on that occasion. But because the subject of the Governor's interest in a cabinet appointment came up in that conversation, I am including a description of that meeting.

Mr. Balanoff told Ms. Jarrett that he had spoken to the Governor about the possibility of
selecting Valerie Jarrett to replace the President-Elect. He told her that Lisa Madigan's name
also came up.

Ms. Jarrett recalls that Mr. Balanoff also told her that the Governor had raised with him the
question of whether the Governor might be considered as a possible candidate to head up the
Department of Health and Human Services in the new administration. Mr. Balanoff told Ms.
Jarrett that he told the Governor that it would never happen. Jarrett concurred.

Mr. Balanoff did not suggest that the Governor, in talking about HHS, was linking a position for himself in the Obama cabinet to the selection of the President-Elect's successor in the Senate, and Ms. Jarrett did not understand the conversation to suggest that the Governor wanted the cabinet seat as a quid pro quo for selecting any specific candidate to be the President-Elect's
replacement. At no time did Balanoff say anything to her about offering Blagojevich a union

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This page contains a single entry by Natasha Korecki published on April 23, 2010 3:01 AM.

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