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Saturday Levine updates

Saturday, Oct 28, 2006

The Tribune obviously did not buy into the governor’s spin.

Political insider Stuart Levine pleaded guilty Friday to scheming to squeeze millions of dollars from firms seeking state business, and authorities alleged in the clearest detail yet that he had the help of Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s top campaign supporters.

The new allegations in the plea agreement of Levine, a longtime Republican fundraiser reappointed to state boards by the Democratic governor, only increased the questions about corruption swirling around the race for governor with little more than a week until the Nov. 7 election.

In the 58-page plea agreement, federal authorities spell out allegations that Blagojevich’s two top fundraisers schemed almost from the beginning of the governor’s administration to use their newfound influence for corrupt purposes.

* The AP was a bit more sympathetic.

A businessman who funneled thousands of dollars into Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s campaign pleaded guilty Friday to using his seats on two state boards in a bid to collect millions of dollars in kickbacks.

But Stuart Levine’s plea agreement with federal prosecutors contained no direct charge of wrongdoing on the part of the governor who is waging a re-election campaign while coping with a federal corruption investigation.

All the same, the 58-page plea agreement was crammed with details of corruption in state government and guaranteed to fuel campaign fireworks.

* The Daily Herald focused on Chris Kelly.

Four days after Gov. Rod Blagojevich predicted federal prosecutors would never indict his kitchen cabinet adviser Christopher Kelly, a guilty plea put Kelly in the midst of a scheme that’s already led to the indictment of the governor’s top fundraiser.

The Kelly revelations unfolded Friday as Stuart Levine, a Republican campaign donor who also contributed to Blagojevich, pleaded guilty to mail fraud and money laundering, and admitted a whole host of other criminal conduct.

* ABC7 reported “the plea agreement contained no new blockbuster allegations and none involving the governor directly.” Quotes from both sides.

* Copley took the political route.

A former appointee of Gov. Rod Blagojevich pleaded guilty Friday to mail fraud and money laundering in a kickbacks-for-clout case that also accuses one of the governor’s top fundraisers of corruption.

But the highly anticipated guilty plea of Highland Park businessman Stuart Levine came as something of an anti-climax in Illinois’ political world.

Levine’s plea in federal guilty added little to allegations contained in the indictment of Blagojevich adviser Antoin “Tony” Rezko earlier this month. And nothing in Levine’s 58-page plea document accuses the governor himself of wrongdoing, prompting Blagojevich spokeswoman Sheila Nix to call the document “extremely good news.”

* And the Sun-Times went a different direction altogether.

Robert K. Kjellander, a nationally powerful Republican with strong ties to the White House, emerged Friday as a key figure in an ongoing probe of corruption in Illinois.

Kjellander is identified as “Individual K” in a guilty plea by Stuart Levine, a political insider who describes an underworld of behind-the-scenes deal makers who wielded clout to bilk millions of dollars through two state boards.

Levine said he used his connections to steer a $150 million state pension deal to a firm represented by Kjellander, earning Kjellander a lucrative finder’s fee. In return, Kjellander allegedly agreed not to bill Levine for lobbying work.

The plea deal does not accuse Kjellander of any wrongdoing, but the mention of him indicates the feds are interested in his actions.

Have at it.

[Comments are now closed on this thread. Go here for more.]

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Arthur Andersen - Saturday, Oct 28, 06 @ 3:53 pm:

    Dear Bill,
    We missed you yesterday. I imagine that it took the campaign awhile to come up with the right spin for what appears now to be the near certain indictment of Chris “Individual B” Kelly, especially in light of Rod’s effusive praise of him and their friendship just days ago in the DH..

    I also would guess the 25% post-election pay raise is already in process for the lucky person who found the 1998 Edgar/Levine appointment letter so that you could blame the whole mess on Jim. Nice try.

    You have once again proved yourself to be a man in search of a clue. (DHS NEW Management may have taken the taco for now, though)

    Just because Rod’s hand was not yet found deep in the candy jar, your posse proclaims his total innocence.

    Baloney. He knew Kelly and Rezko were raising big money from investment firms and law firms; he hopped on Levine’s plane and attended NYC fundraisers that he knew were set up by investment firms and law firms; after he becomes Mr. Ethics, he reappoints without a blink Levine (and two Rezko helpers) to TRS, where as part of normal business, they hire ..investment firms and lawyers.

    Oh, and then there’s the little matter of the $1.5 million from Tom Rosenberg for “the certain public official” and of course, “Public Official A.” If this Public Official is not Blago, Bill, who is it? Help us out here because many people could be making a serious mistake.

    This is the tip of a rather large iceberg, Bill. I know it’s sad, but your man appears to be firmly at the controls of the Titanic. For your sake, I hope you’re not the lookout.

    PS: State employees: Wasn’t there a question on the ethics test about the impropriety of a family member doing business with someone who also does business with the State? Just wondering.

  2. - Bill - Saturday, Oct 28, 06 @ 4:08 pm:

    For weeks you have been posting about how Friday would be a death blow for Rod. Well, it wasn’t, was it. It was just some old Republican grafters attempting to play both sides of the fence to further enrich themselves like they did during the Thompson, Edgar, and Ryan administrations. Now you are posting: just wait and someday soon there will be a death blow for Rod. Well, since the governor is an honest man and has done nothing wrong the death blow that you and others are waiting for will never come.
    We will win the election,then raise the minimum wage, then work on universal health care coverage for all, continue to lead the midwest and the rest of the nation in job growth, and at the same time continue to fight for even more ethics legislation that will rock the Springfield world, all while not raising sales or income taxes and not living in the Patch.
    I’ll see you during the veto session where the progressive democratic agenda of Rod Blagojevich will be pushed from a position of real strength.
    If I were you I would stop hoping and waiting for indictments. Look where it got Eddie Eisendrath and Judy Topinka. They are both still waiting and will be waiting for a long time as private citizens.

  3. - Bill - Saturday, Oct 28, 06 @ 4:33 pm:

    Hey Joe,
    The other part of the plea inplicated your master, the Fast EV.
    You had better stop counting Topinka signs and get the shredders and magnets going!

  4. - Squideshi - Saturday, Oct 28, 06 @ 5:11 pm:

    Bill wrote, “…the governor is an honest man and has done nothing wrong…”

    Apparently Bill is choosing to ignore the opinion of Illinois Attorney General, Lisa Madigan. According to her, Blago is breaking the law.

    Of course, we all know why Blago is breaking the law–those suponeas that he refuses to release most likely contain information that would be very damaging to his campaign; and Blago will do just about anything to win an election, regardless if it’s illegal or dishonest.

    This is the same reason that Blago operatives challenged the signatures of activists, community leaders, ministers, elected officials, and even the candidate himself, on Rich Whitney’s nominating petition. Apparently, Blago thought it was okay to file thousands of frivilous objections, just to win the election; and as usual, the taxpayers got to foot the bill for the State Board of Elections to hear the challenge.

    Fortunately, the voting public is smart. Most voters are not fooled. For example, despite Blago’s claims, when asked if they believed that Blago was unaware of Rezko’s alleged corruption, 11% more said no–they did not believe that Blago was unaware; so he’s loosing in the court of public opinion.

  5. - Atticus Finch - Saturday, Oct 28, 06 @ 5:19 pm:

    11% more? More than what?

    I don’t think he’s loosing in the court of public opinion, but he certainly may be losing in the court of public opinion.

  6. - Citizen A - Saturday, Oct 28, 06 @ 5:36 pm:

    Yo Bill, you said “…even more ethics legislation that will rock the Springfield world …” FYI there’s nothing left in Springfield - your hero now has all the corruption moved to Chicago. By the way, do you think RB raised $50,000,000.00 in campaign money (much of it apparently from corrupt sources) without ever asking “Gosh guys, where did ALL of this cash come from?” and what in the world or state of Illinois did they know/think they were buying?

  7. - Roomie - Saturday, Oct 28, 06 @ 5:45 pm:

    Kjellander? Cellini?

    These are republincan operatives.

    Judy better be careful how hard she hits the governor on this. Kjellender is TIGHT with Toinka. How much money has she taken from Kjellender?

    Levine and the Repubs had this scheme going on for years and it looks like they brought Rezko into the fold.

    BTW, Jim Edgar appointed Levine to the board.

  8. - Citizen A - Saturday, Oct 28, 06 @ 6:03 pm:

    Yo Roomie (cute),”…Levine and the Repubs had this scheme going on for years and it looks like they brought Rezko into the fold. …” But it took Blago and his co-conspirators to raise it from a few hundred thou to $50,000,000.00 plus. Damn but they learned quickly - apparently only 3 or 4 days after RB’s ill fated election. My god Roomie, how much will they graft out of Ill. in corruption if re-elected? Well, Fitz will put a STOP to it, of that you may be certain! The gig is up, finally!! Reread the Trib article buddy.

  9. - Real Clear - Saturday, Oct 28, 06 @ 6:14 pm:

    Joe Birkett still hasn’t divested the money he got from Stu Levine. And the guy was indicted a long time ago. He simply switched his plea yesterday.

    And Topinka should be asked for proof that she divested her Levine cash. She said she has, but this is the same woman that said she “bids everything” and now we know she’s granted hundreds of no-bid contracts.

    By the way, the plea agreement makes it clear that this behavior started long before Blago became Governor. On balance, it’s worse news for Topinka. This race is over.

  10. - Disgusted - Saturday, Oct 28, 06 @ 6:21 pm:

    I have 3 quotes for all you Blagojevich supporters:

    1. “I will not balance the budget on the backs of
    the working people of Illinois.”

    2. “I will not balance the budget on the backs of
    state workers.”

    3. “There will be no more business-as-usual.”

    Honest? Ethical? Hardly.

  11. - Citizen A - Saturday, Oct 28, 06 @ 6:23 pm:

    Bill, Roomie, Real Clear - Whenever whatever started, it flourished and thrived under Blagojevich ! Frankly I don’t like corruption, PERIOD ! AND right now it is YOUR governor who is responsible!! Apparently Fitzgerald thinks the same way. Blago is going down just like Ryan and just like Ryan he is taking his crooked cronies with him. A clean sweep, so to speak. Time to polish up your resumes if you aren’t going to prison with your governor, that is.

  12. - Citizen A - Saturday, Oct 28, 06 @ 6:38 pm:

    Let’ see. Retzko’s indictment was 65 pages. Then comes “…In the 58-page plea agreement, federal authorities spell out allegations that Blagojevich’s two top fundraisers schemed almost from the beginning of the governor’s administration to use their newfound influence for corrupt purposes.” …yes, another 58 pages in plea agreement. That’s 123 pages so far and 12 or more federal investigations on going. When Fitzgerald is through we are going to be buying a book close to 1000 pages at Barnes and Noble. This tome however will be laid at Blagojevich’s feet. 8 to 10 ? Nawwww MORE like 10 to 20 is my educated estimate. Wake up guys, your ship has more leaks than hull. The gov. is sinking fast - doesn’t matter about the election, win or lose he’s going to prison. Didn’t you learn anything from the last gov. trial, conviction, and sentencing? You really can’t be that blind or stupid !

  13. - Tessa - Saturday, Oct 28, 06 @ 6:42 pm:

    Amen, disgusted.

    “No more business as usual.” (Subliminal message - I’m gonna raise the bar 500%. - GRod)

  14. - Little Egypt - Saturday, Oct 28, 06 @ 6:50 pm:

    Roomie, Kjellander and Cellini are no more republican operatives than you are. They are fence straddlers. They are looking out for THEIR OWN almighty dollar. Anywhere they can get it. And if they have to cross party lines to do so, they have proven they will. What does it say about Blago for letting the enemy in the camp? He should have stayed true to his own Democratic party. The heck with putting Levine back on a board to balance out politics.
    Immaturity is Blago’s problem and it will bring him down.

  15. - Citizen A - Saturday, Oct 28, 06 @ 6:54 pm:

    I am confidant that the REAL ethics training is being provided right now - not by the governor - but rather by the Federal Prosecutors led by Patrick Fitzgerald and Pat Collins. Pay attention, you are about to learn ! When this course is completed, a lot of corrupt politicians, co-conspirators, and yes even state employees are going to prison and/or being fined into poverty. There is a reason Lady Justice wears a blindfold.

  16. - B Hicks - Saturday, Oct 28, 06 @ 7:27 pm:

    Hey Bill, Kankakee was cold and windy today, but the residents sure were warm to the Rod literature. I like that place.

    Hey Rich, I know that I’ve crossed the line a few times, but I love your blog. I hope you let me keep posting.

    If you ban me; I’ll really miss the banter with Art. I really do like him…in a cosmic sort of way.

  17. - Citizen A - Saturday, Oct 28, 06 @ 7:44 pm:

    Oh my goodness! I must apologize. Focusing on the instant topic I inadvertently left out the Chicago and Cook County governments and employees and other involved folks. Please addend this to my previous posts. There are many investigations/probes on going there as well. Do you all have any idea the size of the staffing at the Federal Prosecutor’s operation? Thankyou !

  18. - Squideshi - Saturday, Oct 28, 06 @ 8:07 pm:

    Atticus Finch, 11% more than those who believed the governor. Just take a look at the crosstabs that Rich has already provided. According to the survey, more people think Blago is being dishonest than the number of people who actually believe him.

  19. - wndycty - Saturday, Oct 28, 06 @ 8:25 pm:

    “Roomie, Kjellander and Cellini are no more republican operatives than you are.”

    Isn’t Kjellander the treasurer or secretary of the RNC?

  20. - Citizen A - Saturday, Oct 28, 06 @ 8:31 pm:

    “…dishonest…” hmmm. And I just thought he was another common run of the mill crooked politician! Boy, betcha I need to get my thoughts outta the gutter, huh? Oh well, my guess is when more indictments and convictions start stacking up the number will move closer to 100%. But then he won’t be only dishonest, he will be a proven criminal. All in due time.

  21. - Budget Watcher - Saturday, Oct 28, 06 @ 8:35 pm:

    From the Levine plea (alleged names added in parentheses):

    ‘Defendant (Levine) was at a meeting in Rezko’s office with Individual B (Chris Kelly) and Individual B said that the board seat Defendant wanted had been taken care of. Defendant understood from these conversations that he would be re-appointed to the Planning Board.’

    If you take the plea agreement as credible, Levine’s reappointment was seemingly a Blagojevich inner-circle decision that implicates Chris Kelly, Cellini, and Rezko. Comparatively, it sounds like Edgar’s recommendation was a non-factor.

    The conspiratory circle continues to move closer and closer to our Governor. If there were odds on the next indictment, Kelly and Cellini would be two of the favorites.

  22. - Citizen A - Saturday, Oct 28, 06 @ 9:00 pm:

    We have at last tally Ryan, Blagojevich, Fawell, Rezko, Kelly, Warner, Tusk, Kjellander, Levine, Cellini, no Topinka, no L. Madagin. Looks like neither of our sides have a lot of room to brag . . . or throw too many stones !!! But it does look like the ladies have yet to score. Hell! Wonder if they are just plain honest politicians. Boring !! Rich’s blog will famish but maybe the citizens will prosper for a change.

  23. - Regnad Kcin - Saturday, Oct 28, 06 @ 9:27 pm:

    Golly gee Bill, does all that occur when GRod rides his white steed up the steps of the Capitol and gets the drunken sailors to fall into lockstep with his agenda of truth, justice and the GRod way? Is that where I can give him my $1,500 to continue the fight?

    And yes AA, there was indeed a portion of the great ethics test that discussed the impropriety of a family member doing business with someone who also does business with the State. I believe much of the test admonished those taking it to avoid even the appearance of impropriety but as we have seen previously, it’s do as I say, not as I do when it comes to those on the second floor.

  24. - Citizen A - Saturday, Oct 28, 06 @ 9:34 pm:

    …”I believe much of the test admonished those taking it to avoid even the appearance of impropriety” … lest they dip into the corrupts’ pot of gold. Stingy suckers, aren’t they !

  25. - Smitty Irving - Saturday, Oct 28, 06 @ 11:36 pm:

    Little Egypt -
    Cellini is not a fence straddler - he is GOP through and through. If you knew anything about Sangamon County, you would know that he is part of the GOP apparatus here, and was the first IDOT Secretary - appointed by Gov. Oglivie, a REPUBLICAN. Does he kiss up to Dems when necessary? Yes. But he is GOP.

  26. - Gregor - Sunday, Oct 29, 06 @ 12:32 am:

    This Governor is damaged goods, with a low favorability rating and more than half the people believe he is dirty of his entire entourage are. I believe that it’s only a matter of time before the feds prove that to be 100 percent the case. WIth that albatross around his neck, how can he govern?

    Does he really think he’s going to come back into office with another powerful mandate of the People, allowing him to have his way with the legislature like it’s his own toy train set? You only get that honeymoon once, Blago, you had it and you squandered it four years ago.

    Come ON! Rod is damaged goods, like Ryan was hounded out of running again by his scandals, Rod will be hounded over these investigations on a 24/7 basis. Ryan was handing out big Illinis First checks like candy to buy the voter’s love, and he got booed everywhere he went. Every press availability he gives, somebody’s going to be asking Rod and his wife about the corruption.

    Emil Jones and Mike Madigan have been silent as the tomb since before the Rezko story broke. Does Rod really think he is going to have ANY support in the legislature for any of his cockamamie agendas? Heck no. Those guys are planning a blanket party for Rod on his first day of Veto Session. He played them for chumps and is now a threat to their own political lives.

    Should the voters remain glazed-over zombies and re-elect Rod, he will be looking at the same situation Nixon was after Watergate. Only the culture and the people had more naive faith and optimism about their institutions back then, so it took longer to chase Nixon out of office in disgrace.

    Rod Nixon faces a more jaded generation that no longer gives politicians the benefit of the doubt. If he gets re-elected, look for the recall campaign to begin the same week. It’s gonna make Gray Davis’s deal look like a picnic. One way or another, this cancer will be purged from the body politic.

  27. - Peachy - Sunday, Oct 29, 06 @ 12:37 am:

    Why didn’t Topinka and Edgar speak up about their shady friends Cellini, Levine and Kjellander? How dare they allow their dirt into Blago’s house! Some people seem to want to assume the worst about what Blago knew, but wasn’t it Republicans who had the duty to blow the whistle about their Republican friends?

    If Edgar had sounded the alarm about his appointee Stu Levine, instead of writing a glowing letter about him, Blago wouldn’t be bothered with this GOP corruption now.

  28. - Anon - Sunday, Oct 29, 06 @ 7:44 am:

    Birkett also took money from John Glennon, another character in this sordid scheme. Wonder if he’ll divest that money, too.

  29. - Huh? - Sunday, Oct 29, 06 @ 11:30 am:

    drip drip drip

    As the ship of state slowly sinks, the rats will be getting off in a hurry.

    I can’t wait until Rezko changes his plea and squeals on Public Official A.

  30. - Captain America - Sunday, Oct 29, 06 @ 1:10 pm:

    I believe the governor faces some serious legal issues after his reelection.

    However, the Levine guilty plea suggests that corrupt Republican insiders,who probably have been ripping off Illinois taxpayers for many years, added some new Democratic partners after Blago was elected. This situation lends credibilty to John kass’s bipartisan combine theory.

    Still nothing that directly implicates the Governor, despite the rabid predictions of Blago-haters during the past year.

    There is no reason for any well-informed Democrat to cast a vote for Topinka based upon the legal developments to date. I do understand why some Democrats and independents might choose to vote for Whitney. But not me!

    I am confident that Fitzgerald will eventually sort things out one way or another - probably but not certainly - to the detriment of the governor. “Pay- to play” politica has been a standard operating procedure in Illinois for decades.

    Everyone is innocent until proven guilty. Topinka has given no one any positive reasons to vote for her, other than the fact she’s not Blago. Tie goes to the incumbent.

    The gubernatorial election is over.

  31. - So Blue Democrat - Sunday, Oct 29, 06 @ 2:31 pm:

    Captain America,

    I am one of your “well-informed Democrats”. After the investigations and indictments are over, the Democratic Party will suffer a long time due to this current administration. True progressives will go elsewhere.

  32. - Disgusted - Sunday, Oct 29, 06 @ 3:23 pm:

    Bill Cellini may lean right but he is an equal opportunity receiver. He has made a fortune from the State of Illinois, leasing building, running cleaning operatons for buildings, paving roads, etc. He spreads his money in any direction that will result in a big return for him. Word is that he would have left Springfield but his wife wants to be around for Lincoln’s 200th birthday and all its celebrations. Bet he wishes he has gone before these events. Since he has millions of state employees pension money invested in his investment firm, I bet the feds are looking there as well and state employees had better start praying now that the fund is still solvent.

  33. - Roy Slade - Sunday, Oct 29, 06 @ 9:35 pm:

    I am pretty certain that if you look at the campaign finance reports- Cellini has given MUCH more to the Roddog than he has to JBT. After digesting that fact, what does that say to you?

  34. - Rich Miller - Monday, Oct 30, 06 @ 2:58 am:

    Let’s move the discussion over here. Thanks!

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

* Reader comments closed until Tuesday
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