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Tristano plea agreement

Wednesday, Mar 29, 2006

Here it is. (pdf file)

In order to conceal the expenditure and conversion of State resources for the benefit of political campaigns, defendant implemented a procedure by which employee salaries were paid in part by HRCC and by the use of compensatory leave. Defendant awarded compensatory leave to certain Minority Leader’s Office staff in order for those staff members to work on political campaigns while on paid absences from the State. Those employees were not authorized to use such compensatory leave for purposes other than campaign work. Defendant knew that the partial HRCC payments and the compensatory leave did not fully account for the campaign work performed by State employees.

Defendant also knew and it was reasonably foreseeable to him that State employees, supervised by defendant, submitted travel vouchers to the State in which the employees falsely claimed travel expenses accrued as official State business, when in truth and in fact, the employees’ travel was related to political campaigns. Defendant signed, and thereby approved, such travel vouchers, including a voucher that caused the State to mail payment to a State employee on or about June 8, 2000. […]

In or about 2000, in the Northern District of Illinois and elsewhere, defendant did knowingly conspire with Roger Stanley and others known and unknown to commit extortion affecting commerce, namely to obtain money from a Real Estate Partnership, with the partnership’s consent, having induced said consent under color of official right. […]

Roger Stanley, a partner of the Real Estate Partnership, agreed to provide, and did provide, a consulting job paid by the Partnership to an individual campaigning as a Republican candidate for a Illinois House seat in downstate Illinois (Candidate A). The purpose of the consulting job was to generate necessary income for Candidate A while Candidate A was campaigning for office. In connection with the campaign assistance to Candidate A, defendant TRISTANO agreed to assist the Village’s efforts to obtain the State grants, and did in fact recommend, as Chief of Staff to the Minority Leader, that discretionary grant funds be awarded to the Village. The State awarded to the Village approximately $1.3 million in grants funding the real estate development in or about 2000. […]

- Posted by Rich Miller   14 Comments      


Cegelis takes ball, goes home

Wednesday, Mar 29, 2006

Christine Cegelis is starting to look more and more like Jim Oberweis every day.

Christine Cegelis will not endorse Tammy Duckworth, the winner in Illinois’s 6th Congressional District Democratic primary, because she has reservations about Duckworth’s positions on universal healthcare and free trade, a source close to Cegelis’s campaign said.

Duckworth, a wounded veteran of the Iraq war, defeated Cegelis by 3 percentage points in last week’s hotly contested primary. Cegelis, a liberal Democrat, won 44 percent of the vote against Rep. Henry Hyde (R-Ill.) in 2004.

On Saturday, Illinois Democrats held a unity breakfast attended by Duckworth, party officials and Cegelis supporters who vowed to help Duckworth. Cegelis did not attend.

Duckworth had favored universal health insurance but changed her tune, advocating a more incremental approach, said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The source asserted that Cegelis believes Duckworth has backed away from her opposition to the Central America Free Trade Agreement that the House and Senate passed last year. Despite that perception, Duckworth won the Illinois AFL-CIO endorsement.

It’s tough to lose. A real stone drag. But we can often tell more about how a person loses than how he or she won. Cegelis is showing us a lot here.

If you run as a Democrat or as a Republican, that means you are a Democrat or a Republican and you are obliged to accept the will of the voters and then do what’s right for your party. If you’re not a party member, run as an independent.

Cegelis thought she owned the right to Henry Hyde’s seat. She found out the hard way that nobody owns anything in politics. It has to be earned. And, so far, she has earned only scorn.

- Posted by Rich Miller   76 Comments      


This just in… Tristano pleads guilty

Wednesday, Mar 29, 2006

Fox News Chicago is calling around asking for comments from people about Mike Tristano pleading guilty today and allegedly implicating Rep. Lee Daniels. Tristano is Daniels’ former chief of staff. More details later.

UPDATE: I just called the US Attorney’s office and they said they’ll fax me the agreement in about a half hour. I’ll post it then. So check back sometime before noon.

UPDATE 2: The Sun-Times story is up.

Michael Tristano, who was the top aide to former Illinois House Minority Leader Lee Daniels, pleaded guilty this morning to diverting at least $128,000 in state resources for political purposes.

Tristano, 58, is certain to get jail time under a plea deal with the government and the feds cut that deal on the basis that he cooperate with them in other investigations. He’ll get a break on jail though if he cooperates - up to 20 months instead of up to 37 months, prosecutors said. […]

Daniels has never been charged but Tristano’s plea agreement indicates: “In both his capacities as Chief of Staff and Executive Director, defendant reported to and took direction from Lee Daniels.”

Tristano used state employees from Daniels’ staff to do political work on targeted campaigns, according to the plea agreement.

UPDATE 3: The plea agreement is posted here.

- Posted by Rich Miller   19 Comments      


Protected: SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - Conference of Women Legislators to sponsor “Dancing with the Stars”… PLUS: Golar, Tollway, McKeon (use all uppercase in password) - UPDATED

Wednesday, Mar 29, 2006

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- Posted by Rich Miller   Enter your password to view comments      


Late morning shorts

Wednesday, Mar 29, 2006

· Charlie Johnston: Whole New Ballgame in 17th

· Peoples Energy customers to get $100 credit after May 1. Bad debt erased.

· IlliniPundit looks at the Meeks candidacy. More here, here, here, here, here and here.

· The Champaign County Clerk talks about voter privacy.

· Teri O’Brien: “Governor, aren’t you admitting that lowering taxes stimulates job creation? If so, why are democrats incessantly demanding tax increases?”

· Anti-Contraception group blasts guv.

· “Burke’s transparent power play”

· Tackling the pension debt.

Add your own updates below.

- Posted by Rich Miller   2 Comments      


Sympathetic juror ousted

Wednesday, Mar 29, 2006

It looks like the holdout juror was kicked off.

The family of an ousted juror is rallying to her defense, saying she is a good mother who wanted to stay on the jury.

As CBS 2’s Joanie Lum reports, Evelyn Ezell’s son says his mom feels the odds are stacked against former Gov. George Ryan.

Dismissed juror Evelyn Ezell was not available at her South Side home, but off-camera, her 23-year-old son did talk about his mother’s experience.

Marvin Brown says his mother “feels sorry for George Ryan. Now that she’s gone, no one’s on his side.”

The two jurors were dismissed for concealing their criminal history during jury selection.

Both said they had never been charged with a crime.

Emphasis added.

- Posted by Rich Miller   7 Comments      


Lane Evans open thread

Wednesday, Mar 29, 2006

We have tons of comments on yesterday’s retirement announcement by Congressman Lane Evans. Time for a fresh thread. Your thoughts and predictions, please.

Here is his official announcement:

This is a tough day for me. I am announcing that I will not run for reelection and will retire at the end of my current term in the U.S. House of Representatives.

When I announced in 1998 that I had Parkinson’s Disease, my doctor said that this condition would not interfere with my work and that I would be able to perform at a high level for a number of years. That window of opportunity is now closing.

I fully expected that I would continue my work for the foreseeable future following this current break from the office. But I have come to recognize that the time needed to address my health makes it difficult to wage a campaign and carry out my work as representative. I will return soon and to the best of my ability complete the important work of this term in my roles as representative and Ranking Member of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

This decision is especially tough because this job means so much to me. I believe strongly in serving people and working to make a positive difference in their lives. Every day has been rewarding and I’m proud of what I’ve been able to accomplish and the fights I’ve made.

I thank my family and everyone who has worked with me — great friends, terrific colleagues, a dedicated staff, fellow vets. And I appreciate the support of people I never met before who would ask how I was doing and tell me to keep up the good fight. I’ll be doing that in the weeks and months ahead and look forward to thanking every one of you personally for all you have meant to me.

To my constituents and veterans across this country, it is an honor and privilege to represent you.

Semper Fi,

Lane Evans

- Posted by Rich Miller   41 Comments      


Question of the day

Wednesday, Mar 29, 2006

This question was adapted from a reader suggestion.

Come up with new slogans for the Blagojevich, Topinka and Meeks 2006 fall campaigns.

- Posted by Rich Miller   16 Comments      


Meeks looking for GOP support

Wednesday, Mar 29, 2006

The saga continues.

State Sen. James Meeks asked a former Republican gubernatorial candidate to back his possible bid for governor Tuesday, while Mayor Daley defended Gov. Blagojevich’s record on behalf of African Americans after an ultimatum from several black aldermen.

Flirting with a third-party run for governor, the South Side pastor approached conservative state Sen. Bill Brady (R-Bloomington) about supporting his potential campaign, but he got a thumbs-down from the third-place finisher in last week’s GOP primary.

“I’ve already committed my support to Judy in writing, and I’m a man of my words,” Brady said, referring to Republican gubernatorial nominee Judy Baar Topinka. […]

Undaunted, Meeks hinted that his political courtship of conservative Republicans may not stop with Brady and could extend to the GOP primary’s runner-up, Aurora dairy owner and investor Jim Oberweis.

“I’d be glad to have a conversation with Mr. Oberweis. I’d be glad to have a conversation with everybody who believes in the right to life and the sanctity of marriage,” Meeks said.

I’ve talked to Meeks and he seems pretty darned serious about this run. I had a piece on this in this morning’s Capitol Fax, now let’s hear your thoughts.

- Posted by Rich Miller   23 Comments      


Over the line

Wednesday, Mar 29, 2006

The Rockford Chamber of Commerce got a glimpse of the state’s partisan divide this week.

The rhetorical fireworks erupted when Rep. Dave Winters, R-Shirland, showed up at a meeting the class had with Illinois Transportation Secretary Tim Martin to discuss Rockford-area projects. When Martin completed a pitch for the governor’s capital plan, he invited Winters to add his own comments.

Winters, who said the group invited him to the meeting, obliged and proceeded to counter — point by point — the Democratic governor’s agenda. Whereas Martin said legislators should embrace the governor’s plan, Winters said the governor failed to seek input from Republicans.

Martin and Winters soon were shouting over each other. Martin insisted Blagojevich went out of his way to support road projects in Republican districts. Winters implied the governor can’t be trusted; he noted lawmakers made Blagojevich detail his commitments in unprecedented memos.

Mark Kolaz, a top aide to the governor who accompanied Martin, tried to break it up.

“We came here out of courtesy to your group,” Kolaz said. “We did not come here to have the governor bashed by the representative.”

I don’t care who he is, an appointed department director should not be shouting at a state legislator in front of his own constituents. Not cricket. Martin has been sharply criticized for his arrogant attitude (mostly by African-American legislators), and that may have been on display this week.

- Posted by Rich Miller   18 Comments      


Guv reminded about Farrakhan aide

Wednesday, Mar 29, 2006

The governor appears to have a memory problem.

Gov. Rod Blagojevich says he didn’t know a top Nation of Islam official before he appointed her to serve on an anti-discrimination commission, but in a letter disputing his comments, the official says she met him twice before she was named to the commission.

In a March 2 letter to Blagojevich, commission member Claudette Marie Muhammad said she was “very, very, very disappointed” that the governor told reporters he was only recently aware she was on his Commission on Discrimination and Hate Crimes. Blagojevich made the remarks earlier while refusing to dismiss Muhammad in the wake of a controversial speech by Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan. Five Jewish leaders quit the panel in response.

“Mr. Governor, your comment stating that you were unaware of my religious affiliation and the fact that I was a top aide to Minister Farrakhan is not true,” wrote Muhammad, who did not return telephone calls about the letter recently obtained by the Tribune. “You and I spoke. We took pictures … I have written to you numerous times, all the letters of which were on our Nation of Islam stationery and, when I signed my name, I always indicated `Chief of Protocol to the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan’ as my title.” […]

An aide to the Democratic governor said he meets and appoints so many people that he can’t possibly be expected to remember them all.

Read the whole thing. The photographs don’t appear to be posted online anywhere, but I’m sure they’lll surface soon. The photo and a video story from CBS2 can be found here.

- Posted by Rich Miller   17 Comments      


Another day, another investigation

Wednesday, Mar 29, 2006

It never ends.

Illinois Auditor General William Holland said Tuesday he will forward to state and federal investigators a scathing audit accusing state transportation officials of mismanagement and questionable spending for public relations and minority recruitment on the Dan Ryan Expressway reconstruction project.

Holland’s audit of the Illinois Department of Transportation, first detailed by the Tribune, questioned nearly $500,000 in expenses and billings by politically connected advertising firms dealing with community outreach, as well as an additional $200,000 for minority support and employment in the early stages of the project.

The audit also questioned the effectiveness of recruiting minority and female workers for the project. In the last half of 2005, the state paid $348,000 to Target Group for equal-employment opportunity support, but the firm recruited only five workers, auditors said. Holland also questioned $150,000 in payments to the firm, saying it lacked backup documentation. […]

Instead of a normal procedure in which a selection panel ranks potential contractors, auditors said they discovered an e-mail indicating that Robin Black, formerly IDOT’s chief of staff, played a major role in how E.Morris Communications and Universal MazJac Enterprises Inc. were scored.

“After my discussions with Robin, this is what I came up with for points. Does this look OK?” John Werthwein, an operations analysis manager in IDOT’s bureau of budget and fiscal management, wrote to three selection panel members in an e-mail obtained by auditors. Black was a member of the selection panel, but Werthwein was not.

The full report can be found on this page.

The Sun-Times has more.

While awaiting an appointment at the Capitol, IDOT Secretary Tim Martin declined to answer any questions about Holland’s audit without a spokesman present, saying there was no one there to protect his “interests.” […]

Holland questioned a $3,494 IDOT payment to Ashley for Morrow’s health insurance premiums. There were numerous instances when the state was overbilled for Morrow’s services, including last March when he submitted time sheets reflecting 66 hours of Ashley work. IDOT was billed for 152 hours at a cost of $4,539.

Ashley submitted a $26 voucher to the state to cover a half-hour conversation Morrow had with a firm concerning tax appeals and low-interest loan programs — issues that did not appear to have anything to do with work notifying the public about the Dan Ryan and Kingery projects.

Ashley sought a $105 reimbursement for an employee who spent two hours of her time attending a “Women in Transportation Dinner” honoring former IDOT chief of staff Robin Black, who resigned last year.

The company also submitted more than $25,000 in questionable billings for the purchase of promotional items and involvement in the Billiken parade and $220 in billings for 1,080 custom tattoos that Holland said were shipped to the office of Ald. Dorothy Tillman (3rd).

- Posted by Rich Miller   14 Comments      


Morning shorts

Wednesday, Mar 29, 2006

· Sen. Hendon apologizes to Sen. Axley.

· Lane Evans retirement story.

· Protesters march outside Topinka campaign headquarters

· HIV test bill goes to guv

· Lawmakers target careless smoking.

· Debate over tax cap may stall extension vote

· Marin: Clout seems to suit Victor Reyes just fine

· Richards: Meeks’ run for gov would fire up campaign

· Hunter: Time for Blago to step up on abortion threat

· Bill would take drivers’ licenses from teens that skip school

· Group wants to block LDC reopening

· Geese in Illinois are sitting ducks. No more quotas.

· “A lot of homeowners in Chicago are going to get an unpleasant surprise from Cook County Assessor James Houlihan in a few weeks.”

· “Legislation that would grant Fairmount Park a tax break worth almost $1.4 million a year has passed both houses of the Illinois legislature and awaits the signature of Gov. Rod Blagojevich.”

· Rockford Park District pushes for stalled grant money

· Convention bureau puts gag on staff

· Ryan jury told to start over

- Posted by Rich Miller   5 Comments      


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