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

Balanoff testimony: 'Tom, this is Barack. Give me a call.'

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Just minutes into his testimony, union leader Tom Balanoff talks about a surprise phone call from the would-be president of the United States.

Then-Senator Barack Obama was calling the union leader the night before the 2008 presidential election.

Balanoff said he ignored the call.

"It said 'unknown' on it, and I didn't know who it was," Balanoff testified.

Balanoff, who also testified about the call during the last trial, said Obama left a brief message: "Tom, this is Barack. Give me a call."

After tracking down one of Obama's aides, Balanoff said he would take the call if Obama got a hold of him again; and he did, while Balanoff was pumping gas later that day in downtown Chicago.

After discussing the coming day's election briefly -- Balanoff, an SEIU union leader, said he promised Obama that they planned to help "bring it home" in Indiana -- Obama brought up the Senate seat, Balanoff testified.

"Tom, with regard to the U.S. Senate seat, I have two criteria: one, that they be good for the citizens of Illinois, and two, that they can be reelected," Balanoff said Obama told him.

Valerie Jarrett met both of those criteria, Obama said, though he didn't plan on endorsing any particular candidate and would prefer for Jarrett to serve in the White House under him.

"But she would like to be the Senator and she met both those criteria," Balanoff said Obama told him.

Balanoff said the next night at Obama's election rally, he happened to bump into Gov. Rod Blagojevich and told him he wanted to talk more about the Jarrett matter. The two had already met and discussed the possibility.
"Great," Blagojevich told him. "Gimme a call."

By putting Balanoff on the stand right after former chief of staff John Harris, prosecutors are continuing to hone in on the Senate seat allegations in the case. Balanoff worked as an emissary from Obama's camp to Blagojevich, discussing Jarrett's appointment. Blagojevich is heard on tape hoping to win everything from a cabinet appointment to an ambassadorship in exchange for appointing Jarrett.

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This page contains a single entry by Lark Turner published on May 9, 2011 3:05 PM.

Blagojevich retrial: Witness John Harris steps down, Tom Balanoff begins testimony was the previous entry in this blog.

Blagojevich testimony: Governor wanted to swap Valerie Jarrett for cabinet seat. is the next entry in this blog.

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