Friday, December 21, 2007

Fitzgerald Files Papers in Court: Documents suggest Rod Blagojevich knew of fund schemes

The Daily Herald reports:
Court documents filed by U.S. attorneys today suggest that Gov. Rod Blagojevich told fundraisers he could pay them back with state business and had at least tacit knowledge about an elaborate scheme to trade campaign cash for lucrative state pension business.

Blagojevich's office has not returned calls seeking comment and the governor has not been charged with any wrongdoing.

However, statements made public by U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald's office today reveal mounting evidence that the governor was at least aware of fraud under his watch. Fitzgerald has been investigating the governor's administration for years.

In the 78-page proffer, which details the federal government's case against Blagojevich fund-raiser Tony Rezko, an accused co-schemer in a plot to bilk state pension money said the governor told him "he had a lot of ways of helping his friends."

The accused co-schemer is Democratic operative Joseph Cari, finance chair for Al Gore's presidential run in 2000. Cari said the governor, called Public Official A in the proffer, informed him that "he could award contracts, legal work, and investment banking to help with fund-raising."

Cari says Blagojevich made it clear Rezko and another individual were his frontmen on fundraising and that they would follow up with him on what was discussed.

Also in the proffer, Stuart Levine -- a defendant in the case -- says he shared a plane ride with Blagojevich and thanked him for his appointment to a state panel. Levine allegedly planned to use the post to swing contracts to campaign donors.

According to the proffer, the governor responded by saying only Rezko or another individual should speak with him about the board.

The governor also then said, "but you stick with us and you will do very well for yourself," according to the proffer.

The allegations in the proffer apparently signal that some of the accused are talking with authorities and indicating the governor played a role in the scheme, even though he attempted to distance himself from conversations about it.

The damning statements come the day another Blagojevich fundraiser, Chris Kelly, pleaded not guilty on charges he hid millions of dollars in gambling income and debt from the IRS. The bets were allegedly made with illegal bookies around the same time Kelly was acting as the governor's frontman on casino issues in the state.

Kelly has denied the accusations.

For more background on Blagojevich and his life long friend Dan Stefanski you'll want to read this:
A former union leader who was hired for a six-figure-salary state job by his boyhood friend, Gov. Blagojevich, has ties to reputed organized crime figures and once was a bookie, informants have told Teamsters Union anti-corruption investigators.

Daniel E. Stefanski ran Teamsters Local 726, representing hundreds of city truck drivers, from the mid-1990s until landing a top job with the Illinois Department of Transportation in April 2003, several months after Blagojevich took office.
In Illinois,they really have rather different sets of standards for public office than other states in the union.