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Witness: Rezko shared cash with Blagojevich

Wednesday, Apr 30, 2008

* Take some caution with this one

Tony Rezko asked an official in Gov. Blagojevich’s administration to pay him $25,000 so Rezko could use the money to keep construction contractors from putting a lien on the governor’s home, federal prosecutors said in court today.

Prosecutors got a judge’s OK for Ali Ata — former executive director of the Illinois Finance Authority — to be allowed to tell jurors in Rezko’s corruption trial about the cash payments.

Rezko told Ata “this is going to be embarrassing to him [Blagojevich]” if the contractors put a lien on Blagojevich’s Ravenswood Manor home, Assistant U.S. Attorney Carrie Hamilton told U.S. District Judge Amy J. St. Eve.

* The reasons you should be careful about assuming too much are several-fold, including this one

“Ata claims that he gave or lent cash to Rezko on four or five occasions . . . and estimates the total cash disbursements amounted to $125,000,” Rezko’s lawyers wrote. “Ata alternatively stated he did not know what the cash was for, then proceeds to say he supplied $25,000 in cash to pay certain contractors who were threatening to put a lien on another individual’s [Blagojevich’s] home.

“Ata recounted these alleged cash transactions in a suspiciously dramatic way, including meetings on ‘narrow streets’ in Chicago with ‘black plastic bags’ of cash.”

First, this is Tony Rezko allegedly telling Ata why he wanted the money. We don’t know if Rezko told the truth to Ata or if Ata concocted the story to help hi stay out of prison. And even if Rezko did tell the truth, there’s no guarantee that Blagojevich knew about it.

* But the judge will allow the testimony…

[Judge St. Eve] said such testimony was relevant because it showed the relations between Ata, Rezko and Kelly.

She did bar the prosecutors, however, from bringing in such atmospheric embellishments as “black plastic bags” and “narrow streets.”

* And, of course, there’s more

Prosecutors said Ata will say Rezko extracted four bribes from him, including the one to avert the lien. Another involved a $50,000 payment that Rezko allegedly said was destined for Blagojevich fundraiser Chris Kelly.

Ata said the money was passed in cloak-and-dagger fashion as he and Rezko drove to Kelly’s house in the southwest suburbs. “The cash is in the car when they go down there,” Hamilton said. “And when they leave Mr. Kelly’s house, the money isn’t there any more.”

Kelly, who faces criminal charges in an unrelated case, denied the allegations through his lawyer. “If Mr. Ata is saying he gave large amounts of cash to Mr. Kelly for political purposes or to get some state position, that is simply incorrect,” said Michael Monico, Kelly’s attorney.

Notice there was no denial that Kelly might have received cash for other purposes.

* And the governor’s statement

“We can’t comment on alleged conversations that the governor was not a party to,” spokeswoman Abby Ottenhoff said today. “As we said last year, the Blagojeviches personally paid for the work to renovate their 14-by-20 family room out of their checking account.”

Man, this is crazy stuff.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - - Wednesday, Apr 30, 08 @ 9:27 am:


  2. - Little Egypt - Wednesday, Apr 30, 08 @ 9:29 am:

    In the middle of raising millions of cash for his first campaign, why would Blago need money to pay for his home remodeling? There seems to be a huge hole in this story that I wish someone would fill and give me a good reason to slam Blago because I really don’t like taking up for him. I am surprised though when he did win the office of governor, that Blago didn’t find some way to get the State to pay for the new official office of the governor.

  3. - S. Illinois - Wednesday, Apr 30, 08 @ 9:38 am:

    Also….how do you put $86K worth of work into a remodel of a 14×20 room? The more answers we get on this story the more questions are raised. This whole thing stinks from all sides.

  4. - wordslinger - Wednesday, Apr 30, 08 @ 9:42 am:

    If Ata is to believed, he was quite the cash cow. When he testifies, I hope someone asks him all the ways he intended to benefit from his investment.

  5. - Rich Miller - Wednesday, Apr 30, 08 @ 9:42 am:

    anon,com, please don’t use all caps in comments. It makes you look like a freak. I’m not saying you are a freak, I’m just sayin’. Thanks. :)

  6. - Rooster - Wednesday, Apr 30, 08 @ 9:51 am:

    If you lay down with dogs you get up with fleas!

  7. - - Wednesday, Apr 30, 08 @ 9:53 am:

    Sorry Rich my bad

  8. - Rob_N - Wednesday, Apr 30, 08 @ 9:59 am:

    Either Blago is the unluckiest son of a gun ever… (Is there a stormcloud over his head?)

    Or, he’s a complete airhead with no concept of what’s going on around him… (How do you not know how the contractors remodeling your own home are being paid?)

    Or, he’s on his way to Club Fed… (It is possible he’s innocent in all this and can claim ‘plausible deniability’.)

    (Or some combination thereof.)

  9. - Moderate Repub - Wednesday, Apr 30, 08 @ 10:04 am:

    If it went down the way Ata says (which it is a definate possiblility that it didn’t), and he allowed himself to be grifted as easily as this, he pretty much deserves what he got for being an idiot. THis wasnt some big elaborate “usual suspects” or “oceans 11″ scam, Rezco droped an unbaited hook in front of Ata and the fish bit. Thats why it is so hard to believe it at all.

  10. - Moderate Repub - Wednesday, Apr 30, 08 @ 10:08 am:

    - Rob_N - Wednesday, Apr 30, 08 @ 9:59 am:

    Either Blago is the unluckiest son of a gun ever… (Is there a stormcloud over his head?)

    Or, he’s a complete airhead with no concept of what’s going on around him… (How do you not know how the contractors remodeling your own home are being paid?)

    Huh? I don’t think Blago had any idea about this because if its true at all, Rezco made up a story to Ata to suck money from him. WHy would Blago know anything about that? WHat does it have to do with him? Did we not read the same story?

  11. - Blagojevich's Shell Game - Wednesday, Apr 30, 08 @ 10:13 am:

    For being the control freak that he is, it’s hard to believe Blagojevich wasn’t a party to theses many conversations especially knowing how full of himself he truly is.

  12. - Chicago Cynic - Wednesday, Apr 30, 08 @ 10:14 am:

    Rich, you’re right about the CAPS, but anon’s point is a very good one. This story doesn’t seem credible. I look forward to the details.

  13. - Six Degrees of Separation - Wednesday, Apr 30, 08 @ 10:58 am:

    The Gov should have applied for an episode of “Trading Spaces” and got the work done for free.

  14. - FedUp2 - Wednesday, Apr 30, 08 @ 11:04 am:

    Find out when the building permit was issued and how long it took for the job & who the contractor was and when the job was complete. Then follow the money to see when he was paid and how he was paid, by cash, check or Resko.

    The contractor could be put under oath to see if Ata’s story is creditable or if he was just in a shell game for Resko to get more money.

    Follow the money as Fitz has done!!!

  15. - Anonymous - Wednesday, Apr 30, 08 @ 11:14 am:

    At least one version of the AP story that I have found online states (wrongly, of course) that the lien was on the “Illinois governor’s mansion”. I hope this has since been corrected.
    Of course, the irony is that with the financial hole our state is in, perhaps a lien will eventually have to be placed on the “official” governor’s mansion as well :)

  16. - anon - Wednesday, Apr 30, 08 @ 11:27 am:

    Is this the same home renovation that got Mr. B in trouble with unions when he was a candidate the first time, for not using union labor?

  17. - Anonymous - Wednesday, Apr 30, 08 @ 11:29 am:

    And speaking of misleading stories, what is an outdated NYT story headlined “Campus Shooting Site To Be Torn Down” doing on IceRocket?

  18. - Cassandra - Wednesday, Apr 30, 08 @ 12:41 pm:

    I think what we need to be focusing on here is our
    Blago’s (he IS ours, we elected him….twice!) exceptionally poor choice of close cronies and his, shall we say, uncritical approach to classic Democratic pay to play politics, which he has sought to greatly expand during his terms of office.

    Could Rezko and/or Ata be making this up? Absolutely. They are the ultimate greedy, no-class political cronies. But wouldn’t we like to have a governor who had some judgment when it comes to
    picking business allies. I’m sure there were any number of wealthy, respectable liberal businesspersons who would have jumped to be in the guv’s kitchen cabinet. But our Blago just doesn’t get it. He feels more comfortable with the Rezko/Kelly types.

  19. - Bessie - Wednesday, Apr 30, 08 @ 12:43 pm:,CST-NWS-rezko07.article

    I bet there are a lot of cash donations unaccounted for, check out the bottem half of this article. “$100,000 in cash stolen and 3 guns, or were they” when you read the attached link look at the date of the email April 26, and the money stolen April 27th. When are they going to charge Blagojevich with “wrongdoning”.

  20. - True Observer - Wednesday, Apr 30, 08 @ 12:55 pm:

    “The Illinois Finance Authority (IFA) is a self-financed, state authority principally engaged in issuing taxable and tax-exempt bonds, making loans, and investing capital for businesses, non-profit corporations, agriculture and local government units statewide.

    IFA approves about $3 billion in project financing each year. Since its formation in 2004, IFA has approved 780 projects and funded nearly $11 billion in capital projects to support growth initiatives thoughout Illinois — initiatives that create and keep jobs, stimulate the economy and improve quality of life.”

    Ata wasn’t in it for a paycheck.

    He wanted to be in handing out $3,000,000,000.00 per year of State of Illinois backed money.

    780 projects.

    Think of all the people that could be hit up for State of Illinois backed money.

    Rezko was a piker compared to what Ata wanted to get his hands on.

    With the Teacher’s Pension Fund, at least some of the teachers are keeping an eye on its investments.

    Who was auditing the IFA?

    Money from the IFA could generate a lot more “grift” than whatever Ata was being grifted for.

  21. - the Patriot - Wednesday, Apr 30, 08 @ 1:15 pm:

    I don’t think what we know now matters. If Rezko is convicted he will sing like a bird. No way he does the full bit.

    Second, does it matter whether he (Guv) knew or not? If you recieve proceeds from a criminal enterprise you don’t get to keep them even if you didn’t know they were obtained illegally. If Rezko steals Rich’s car and gives it to the Governor, the Guv doesn’t get to keep it just because he didn’t know it was stollen.

    I am sure Lisa Madigan is investigating this issue since it is an issue of a state crime involving a contractors under state authority and real estate in the State of IL.

    Since she is vigorously trying to stamp out corruption I expect she will place a lien on the Manor until this can be sorted out.

  22. - SuperDave - Wednesday, Apr 30, 08 @ 2:10 pm:

    I’m waiting for the spin sisters to say that the Governor was too busy governing to be aware of impending liens on his home office. I just hope and pray that the construction work in the living room didn’t disrupt any of the multitude of conference calls the Governor conducts from his home.

    “Hold on a second, Tony… (hey guys, can you keep it down for a second?)

    “Sorry about that Tony. Remind me later to get some soundproofing done — maybe you can help arrange that?”

  23. - GofGelnview - Wednesday, Apr 30, 08 @ 2:29 pm:

    The question is who re-did his driveway. Did Blago hire Knight E/A (a peter fax hurtgen company), of Oasis fame, to do the work?

  24. - Rob_N - Wednesday, Apr 30, 08 @ 2:52 pm:


    The money was supposedly for Blagojevich’s own house.

    Perhaps the money never actually went to what Ata claims Rezko says it was for, but if it did… then why wouldn’t Blago know that a lot of his remodeling costs were suddenly paid off?

    Even still, given what’s coming from Ata, Rezko, etc. my original post still stands on its own.

    What is it you are not understanding?

  25. - soccermom - Wednesday, Apr 30, 08 @ 11:11 pm:

    This makes no sense whatsoever. In my experience, it is standard operation procedure for contractors to place a temporary lien on a house until they’re paid. And anyway, wasn’t Rezko the contractor for this job? If he was concerned about a lien being place on the Governor’s house, why didn’t he just not file one? And wouldn’t Ata have realized this was goofy?

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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