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Blagojevich and Levine *** Updated x1 ***

Monday, Oct 30, 2006

Steve Rhodes has a spot-on, in-depth take on the relationship between Stu Levine and Rod Blagojevich. It cuts right through the phony spin coming out of the governor’s campaign and is a must-read for any reporter covering this controversy.

(T)he more telling aspect of Levine’s deal in my mind was the implication of Blagojevich’s pal, Chris Kelly, in wrongdoing. Kelly and the recently-indicted Tony Rezko have been the governor’s two closest advisors. If the governor was merely betrayed by his two closest advisors, that’s still a pretty damning indictment (no pun intended) of his judgement in who he has given the keys to state government to. And, just to give the governor the benefit of the doubt for sake of argument, if he never paid attention to press reports swirling about Rezko and Kelly and never called them in and read them the riot act, he failed to do his job. If he never bothered to ask about what his father-in-law, Ald. Dick Mell once alleged - that state board and commission seats were being sold for $50,000 campaign contributions - he was derelict. (Mell recanted that allegation in the face of a libel suit, but perhaps only to clear a path for fededral investigators, much as county and state officials have done.) In addition, Joe Cari has told federal investigators that he was offered a state board or commission seat in exchange for a campaign contribution, even though Blagojevich has tried pass off Cari’s allegations as “triple hearsay” - which they are not.

Giving the governor the benefit of the doubt, in other words, doesn’t help his case because of his utter failure of vigilance after riding into office as a reformer.

Of course, I’m not so charitable as to give the governor the benefit of the doubt.

He goes on to remind people that there were big questions about Levine when Blagojevich reappointed him to the hospital board and the Teachers Retirement System board. For instance, after Levine resigned from the Gaming Board in 2001, press reports revealed that he hadn’t disclosed investments in Argosy Gaming Co., an Illinois casino owner that he had regulated. And then there’s this…

“Although Levine was known inside Illinois as a Republican rainmaker, his political contributions at the national level skewed toward Democratic officeholders. The burgeoning relationships between Levine, Cari, [former New York comptroller and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Carl] McCall, and the Blagojevich administration grew cozier in late 2003, when Levine paid more than $4,000 to fly the governor and some of his campaign operatives to fund-raising visits to Austin, Texas, and New York City, according to campaign reports and other sources. McCall hosted one fundraising event held in an exclusive New York club, and [Cari’s] HealthPoint paid for $3,500 in meals at another funder in the city the next day.”

Blagojevich knew full well who Levine was. If he didn’t question what Levine was up to, that alone makes him unfit for office

Go read the whole thing.

*** UPDATE *** The governor defends his wife’s business dealings with a state contractor.

Gov. Rod Blagojevich on Monday said anyone who suggests his wife got private real estate deals with a state contractor because he is governor is acting like a “Neanderthal” and being “sexist.”

Appearing Downstate to announce $6.8 million in state grants to build a river research station in Alton, Blagojevich was asked about a recent Tribune report that the his wife, Patricia, got more than $113,000 in real estate commissions through a woman who holds a longstanding no-bid state contract. The woman’s husband, a banker, also has business pending before state regulators.

“She has every right to pursue her business and, you know, there’s a sexist quality to that story-somehow moms who have their own businesses, who are women, can’t do things that way-that’s implicated in that story. So there’s a sexist component to that story,” Blagojevich said.

The governor then got into a black SUV and shut the door, before climbing back out to continue his point.

“Working women are very much a part of the real life experience today for families across our state. And to suggest she doesn’t have the right to have her own business and pursue her own business is Neanderthal and sexist,” the governor said before getting back in his vehicle and being driven away.

I put this here because Rhodes wrote about this topic as well.

“It’s unfair and completely ridiculous to suggest she should keep track of every client she does business with to see if they have contracts with the state,” said Blagojevich spokeswoman Abby Ottenhoff, of Patti Blagojevich’s real estate business.


Lawyers vet their cases for conflicts of interest within their firms. Reporters try to be similarly vigilant. Plus, Patti Blagojevich only has a few clients a year. What’s ridiculous is that a real estate agent whose husband is the governor wouldn’t keep track of whether her clients had contracts with the state. Unless she didn’t want to know - or already did.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - grand old partisan - Monday, Oct 30, 06 @ 2:38 pm:

    Great stuff – only one point that Rhodes missed:

    Even if Blago was obligated to appoint a Republican to the board, why on earth did he choose Levine? That wasn’t ‘an olive branch…showing his intention to work in a bipartisan way,’ it was an olive branch to the “combine,” showing his intention to break his central campaign promise: to change business as usual and cleanse the state of the rampant corruption of the Ryan Administration.

  2. - Roomie - Monday, Oct 30, 06 @ 2:43 pm:

    How about an article on the Topinka/Levine connections?

    This all appears to be a scheme masterminded by Kjellender and Cellini. And it appears to have been going on BEFORE the governor took over.

    Big Bob and Cellini recognized Rezko as a shady individual who they could “loop” in.

    There are more Repubs involved than anyone.

    Kjellender/Hastert/Topinka are all bossom buddies. Heck, Kjellender calls more shots in her campaign than the campaign manager.

    As Ive said before, let us not forget that Levine is an Edgar appointment! Blago re-appointed him on Edgars recomendation.

    Blago shoulda just fired all the Repubs and then he wouldnt have had this problem!

  3. - Bubs - Monday, Oct 30, 06 @ 2:50 pm:

    Rich, I agree with every bit of it, and more. But Joe Sixpack either doesn’t hear it, doesn’t want to hear it, or doesn’t care. I found it interesting that you describe the column as must reading for any reporter - it should be must reading for any VOTER!

    The Governor’s campaign staff has bet on the deep penchant of Illinois voters to close their eyes to corruption, and it has been a good bet. The numbers have thusfar barely moved, despite Rezko and Levine.

  4. - VanillaMan - Monday, Oct 30, 06 @ 2:53 pm:

    Blagojevich came in as a reformer and reformed nothing. He is the problem now. If Illinois voters are dumb enough to re-elect him, then Blagojevich’s problems become our problems too. Tired of hearing about Blagojevich’s scandals? Get rid of him. Now. Before it is too late.

    We have enough happening in this state without having a governor like this. We need leadership. We need a full-time governor, not one that spends his days with his lawyers trying to stay out of jail.

    We know this guy is going down. Remove his life jacket, and cut him loose.

  5. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Monday, Oct 30, 06 @ 2:58 pm:

    The most salient point that any voter or reporter shouldn’t lose sight of is that Levine, Rezko and Kelly were shaking down an investment firm for $1.5 million in campaign contributions.

    Everything else is smoke. Follow the money. Where was it heading?

  6. - Angie - Monday, Oct 30, 06 @ 3:06 pm:

    Will someone with some sense please put Rich in CHARGE at the Sun-Times? I may actually still read the paper if he keeps doing such excellent stories like this despite the fact that the ST went gonzo and endorsed Blagojevich.

    Great piece. As always.

  7. - Angie (post script) - Monday, Oct 30, 06 @ 3:09 pm:

    I meant the topic of the thread, by the way, as I realize the piece mentioned was written by Steve Rhodes.

  8. - Rich Miller - Monday, Oct 30, 06 @ 3:10 pm:

    Angie, you assume I want it. You know what happens when you assume, I take it.

  9. - Little Egypt - Monday, Oct 30, 06 @ 3:31 pm:

    If Steve Rhoades has figured this out, we can all rest assured the Feds did long before this. Anything that comes out in the press is not new to the Feds. THEY’VE GOT THEIR BOY BLAGO. They are just tightening the coconuts of everyone else below him to make sure they get a conviction - just like they did with George. And Roomie, I’m really sick of the drumbeat of Big Bob, Stuey, and Cellini. They are NOT political hacks, Republican operatives or anything of the such. They are HOGS. They work both sides of the trough. They thought the GOP would be in power forever and had sweet deals I’m sure. But guess what? The dems got into office and over to the other side of the trough they jumped to continue feeding at the public well. They’ve done this all their lives and don’t know anything else. But the Illinois citizens will have the last laugh in this one just as they did with George. We will hear for a few years I’m sure “Governor BlaBla has not been accused….” Then will will begin hearing “Governor BlaBla’s trial date is…..” It will come to pass as surely as the sun rises and sets. There is way more smoke to this guy than George and when the fire erupts, it will be of a magnitude like we have never seen before in Illinois politics. And to all of you dems who keep reciting Blago changed this and that, well you’re all begining to look really stupid.

  10. - This Guy - Monday, Oct 30, 06 @ 3:37 pm:

    I agree that reporters AND voters need to be informed. Publish all possible info about all candidates and let the people decide.

    The press should have been all over all sides all along.

    As has been said before, if there’s nothing to hide, why is so much still hidden?

  11. - roadkill - Monday, Oct 30, 06 @ 3:59 pm:

    Governor Corruptovitch protests a little too much over the scrutiny of his spouse’s business dealings. Apparently he doesn’t remember the part of his state ethics tests that suggests even if something is not prohibited by law, but appears wrong, you shouldn’t do it. The ethics test goes on to point out that this should apply to family members as well as state employees.

  12. - Just me - Monday, Oct 30, 06 @ 4:10 pm:

    As a working woman myself, I’m offended by this strategy of crying sexism re: Patty’s dirty deals. Give us a break! Could this thing be any more transparent?!? Criminy.

  13. - BlogFreeSpringfield - Monday, Oct 30, 06 @ 4:16 pm:

    If the Blagojevich administration is going to stick to the ridiculous spin that those questioning his wife’s business dealings are Neanderthals, someone should throw it back at them and ask Abby if that same sort of sexist attitude is the reason that the governor is ignoring the legal opinions of Lisa Madigan.

  14. - schroedk - Monday, Oct 30, 06 @ 4:18 pm:

    As indictments continue to fall around and ever closer to Blago, this is the scenario that I am now convinced of.

    Fitzgerald has a strong case against Blago, and has had for some time (at least a year). However, he doesn’t want the indictment of a sitting Democrat governor to be viewed as anything politically partisan, especially right before Blago’s reelection bid. Therefore, Fitzgerald is providing us, the voters, with evidence left and right that Blago’s going down, given the number of indictments already unsealed of Blago’s number one, two, three…etc. cronies and “friends”. In other words, Fitzgerald is saying to the Illinois voters, “hey, look at the people Blago’s surrounded himself with, and what we already have on them. I’m not going to indict the governor right now before an election, because you, the voters, have a chance to stand up and do the right thing and vote for anyone other than Blago.”

    Sadly, this delay in indicting Blago has resulted in two things. One, Blago supporters come out of the woodwork and say, “see, Blago isn’t named in these indictments! He’s an honest man who always does the right thing”, and continue to deceive themselves and the general public. The second is that the average voter in Illinois somehow remains uninformed and ignorant of the realities surrounding Blago, and most likely are going to re-elect him. If that occurs, Fitzgerald will just shake his head, having given Illinois the chance to do the right thing, and indict a sitting governor. That would make me real proud to live in Illinois (eye roll).

    If I wake up on the morning of Nov. 8th and find that either Topinka or Whitney have been elected governor, I will be jumping for joy, and my faith in the electoral process will be renewed.

  15. - Wumpus the Free - Monday, Oct 30, 06 @ 4:21 pm:

    He is guilty, when people start throwing out racist/sexist claims, they are guilty. I am not saying racism/sexism does not exist, that is generally one of my first signs of guilt. Let’;s hide behind gender/race w/o anything else to the claims. This is the daughter of a powerful Chi alderman and wife of the governor.

  16. - Justice - Monday, Oct 30, 06 @ 4:35 pm:

    A pathological liar believes in the lies, at least at the time that he is talking. His stories tend to be very dramatic. They often portray themselves as being smarter, braver, more attractive, or more interesting than he really is. Sometimes people begin to catch onto pathological liars because of obvious flaws in their stories. A governot may deny that his key advisors are circumventing the law. He may even suggest that his wife is earning all those commissions on the up and up, because she is a working mother? Often it happens that a pathological liar will be called out by someone who really was a working mother, who really did actually fight corruption (FBI), really was honest and worked hard to make ends meet. Perhaps the pathological liar was caught by people who are intent on cleaning up State Government and canning the influence peddlers. Perhaps voters are the antidote to one particular pathological liar.

  17. - Inquiring Mind - Monday, Oct 30, 06 @ 4:43 pm:

    The Gov needs to read his own conflict of interest stuff. The appearance of a conflict of interest, if that is all this is, is as bad as a real one. The right thing to do would have been to put out a press release and say that his wife turned down this contract which would have made them a ton of money, and set an example for all the little people in state government who would be fired for doing the same thing and get some good publicity.

  18. - Garp - Monday, Oct 30, 06 @ 5:04 pm:


    Did you mean to call Blago governot or was that a missed key stroke.

    If intentional I think it is witty-If by mistake I think it is prophetic

  19. - Little Egypt - Monday, Oct 30, 06 @ 5:05 pm:

    Oh my, Elvis got a little upset did he? Me thinks he doth protest too much. I think the voters who get a chance to see this on TV (that is if the press covered it) will see through his comments. I have a mental image of the Governor’s campaign chairman sitting in the very back of that black SUV quickly coming up with talking points and didn’t feel that Elvis had made his point well enough. So the chairman reprogrammed Governor Robot and sent him back out with the latest barrage at the press. Oh gosh, this is getting better and better. I think Governor Robot’s hard drive is going to crash before the election. It’s having to be reprogrammed way too often.

  20. - Justice - Monday, Oct 30, 06 @ 5:09 pm:

    Garp…governot it is…..but then again….me hands may have slipped a wee bit while I was waiting my turn, after him, to talk to the devil….about him.

  21. - Loop Lady - Monday, Oct 30, 06 @ 5:19 pm:

    For Blago to hide behind sexist outrage when his wife is partnering with an indicted crony on oh so convenient real estate deals amounts to two things: phony feminism, and a circuitous contribution to his coffers…

  22. - Garp - Monday, Oct 30, 06 @ 5:26 pm:

    A few weeks ago, the Governor spoke about his relationship with Kelly which led several commentators to speculate whether it was a good idea for Blago to be so gregarious in his compliments since there was a chance Kelly might be in trouble as well as Rezco.

    I’m beginning to think that this might be an attempt to patronize Kelly and get him to keep his mouth shut. It is possible that only one man received marching orders first hand. Only the governor knows what his top guys know, but it looks like Kelly is on the feds short list.

  23. - Cassandra - Monday, Oct 30, 06 @ 5:33 pm:

    The man has NO brains. All he can do is recite talking points. “Neanderthal.” “Sexist” And could somebody tell him that working moms are not the new new thing. He makes it sounds like mothers just got out of the house.

  24. - howard the duck - Monday, Oct 30, 06 @ 5:46 pm:

    mr. rhodes is not afraid.

  25. - Tessa - Monday, Oct 30, 06 @ 6:04 pm:

    Seems to me that the Governor either forgot to take this current years Ethics Test, which everyone employed by the state is mandated to take or he had someone take it for him. He failed miserably with what happened. Even though it was his wife who had the business dealing and got the real estate commission, she shouldn’t have been doing business with someone who was connected to the state. Even the wife of the Governor knows this. Ethics. There are pamphlets everywhere for employees to read, to make sure they don’t violate ethics. Yet, the Gov and his wife, the Gov and his close staff flaunt it everywhere that they don’t have to do what they expect everyone else to do.

    This is laughable. He doth protest too much. Maybe he needs a refresher class. Wait, maybe he just needs some…..class.

  26. - Citizen A - Monday, Oct 30, 06 @ 6:09 pm:

    “…Wait, maybe he just needs some…..class…” I think they provide those at Club Fed - he should waste no time in signing up or enrolling. Maybe, no, surely Fitz and Pat will help if not expedite this for him . . . and his co-conspirators.

  27. - state worker #1 - Monday, Oct 30, 06 @ 6:21 pm:

    I agree with Tessa 100%. I don’t think Blagojevich even read the ethics test let alone pass it. How could he?

    Maybe someone should have repeated the question to him, I don’t think he understood what they where asking. This has nothing to do with working women, it has to do with how improper it looks. Did your wife ‘strong-arm’ the company in order for them to continue doing business with the State of Illinois? If she only has a couple of clients, why can’t she remember who she does business with? As Governor, you should be EXTRA careful what business dealings you and your family conduct.

  28. - Little Egypt - Monday, Oct 30, 06 @ 6:34 pm:

    Garp and Justice. If you want to get Bill’s goat, call the leader of our state either Elvis or GoverNOT Hairdo. A friend tells me if you don’t want people to get your goat, don’t let them know where it is tied. NEWS FLASH: Blago’s goat is tied to the bumper of his black SUV.

    TO GABBY OTTENHOFF: It should not be difficult for the First Lady to keep track of her clients. Her income was down considerably this year, thus one could assume a lower client base. Your excuses for your boss are laughable. But it looks like you are always the first one in front of the bus. At least he’s not thrown you UNDER the bus - - - YET.

  29. - DeepFriedOnAStick - Monday, Oct 30, 06 @ 6:37 pm:

    What are you some kind of a Neanderthal to question the governor’s integrity?

  30. - NoGiftsPlease - Monday, Oct 30, 06 @ 6:37 pm:

    It would be sexist to claim that a woman couldn’t be just as crooked or greedy as a man! She was raised in politics and married into it as well. Marriage being a partnership of equals…

  31. - OrangeCrush - Monday, Oct 30, 06 @ 6:51 pm:

    Uhh… Rod, remember when you said Lisa Madigan was carrying water for her dad bc she stopped the Thompson Center mortgage? Couldn’t that be seen as sexist? Guess these reporters forgot about that too….

  32. - Tessa - Monday, Oct 30, 06 @ 7:37 pm:

    DeepFriedOnAStick -
    I’m one darned sexy female Neanderthal, but I’d prefer to drag my man around by his hair. Guess that might just make me a bit sexist myself.


    Anyway you look at it, any time in the span of mankind, you’ve got to question his integrity.

  33. - secondtimer - Monday, Oct 30, 06 @ 7:38 pm:

    “Since a politician never believes what he says, he is quite surprised to be taken at his word.”

    Charles De Gaulle

  34. - Shelbyville - Monday, Oct 30, 06 @ 8:14 pm:

    I think the governor is narcissistic:

    The innate stereotypic acts associated with the trait include flaunting body posturing, expansive arm gestures, bowing, colorful self-adornment, and a natural attraction to the limelight of personal recognition. Individuals of the pure N type are competitive but non-aggressive in their strivings for recognition. The trait corresponds to a striving for glory in one’s environment, hence is the second main component of human ambition. In a pejorative connotation the unbridled trait of narcissism may reveal itself in the context of conceit, exhibitionism, vanity and messianism. An associated innate facial expression is the radiant gingival smile (broadly exposing gums and teeth).

  35. - Citizen A - Monday, Oct 30, 06 @ 8:23 pm:

    Well, perhaps. However I lean more to the Feds definition of a Corrupt Politician - endemic hiring fraud - pay to play on steroids, etc. Yep that about covers RB. Just a matter of time and due process.

  36. - steve schnorf - Monday, Oct 30, 06 @ 9:13 pm:

    I have to admit to feeling conflict over this one.

    I believe spouses business lives shouldn’t be dictated by the work of the other half. And, I believe that this “appearance of impropriety” thing is very dangerous, since appearance is in the eye of the beholder (e.g., I don’t wnat some right wing wacko deciding what books my kids can read because she is offended by them).

    Having said all that, the Governor set the bar himself.

  37. - Geico Caveman - Monday, Oct 30, 06 @ 9:22 pm:

    Excuse me Governor Rod R. Blagojevich, but you just denigrated Neanderthals. Let me be the first to tell you that you Sir are not as evolved as a Neanderthal. Neanderthals could use tools. You are just a big tool.

    We demand a retraction and a public apology!

  38. - Casey Jones - Monday, Oct 30, 06 @ 9:37 pm:

    Today’s conversation on the bridge of the S.S. Blagojevich…

    “Uh, oh. Questions dead ahead! Sound the sexist Neanderthal alarm!! Ottenhoff - take evasive action - commence zig-zagging - prepare to make smoke!! Set a course for Fantasy Island!!”

    “Aye aye, Captain Rod.”

    There are - or at least should be - a couple of problems here, no matter how they spin it.

    “Working women are very much a part of the real life experience today for families across our state.” Fine point, Governor. Thank you for making it, even though nobody was disputing that fact. “And to suggest she doesn’t have the right to have her own business and pursue her own business is Neanderthal and sexist.” Uh, Mr. Blagojevich, I’m not sure I heard anybody suggest that, either. Patti sells me a house, nobody cares. She gets more than $113,000 in real estate commissions through a woman who holds a longstanding no-bid state contract and whose banker husband has business pending before state regulators and it becomes properly relevant. The Governor needs to remember that his own ethics program admonishes state employees that they and their immediate families must “avoid anything that has even the appearance of impropriety.” Seems to me that even if Mrs. B did nothing consciously wrong ROD has certainly violated the state’s ethics canon yet again, as this transaction is the definition of “the appearance of impropriety.”

    Then we are transported from the absurd to the bizzare. Spinmeister Ottenhoff states (presumeably with a straight face) that “It’s unfair and completely ridiculous to suggest she should keep track of every client she does business with to see if they have contracts with the state.” Some might argue that; I would not agree with them. But what is completely non-debatable is that the Governor - to meet ethics standards - MUST track these things; it may not be her obligation to do so but it certainly is his. And I don’t believe it would have been too onerous for her, either; didn’t the Tribune story also point out that this lady was the only client Patti handled this YEAR and that these were the only commissions she earned? We’re talking keeping track of a client list of ONE, and I don’t see that as much of a burden for Mrs. B.

    I’m also sure that the client sought Patti out and used her services in complete ignorance of the fact that she’s the Governor’s wife; Blagojevich is SUCH a common name after all…

  39. - Little Egypt - Monday, Oct 30, 06 @ 10:38 pm:

    I have told all of my friends about this blog. If all of you posting here would do the same thing, there is no doubt that after voters educate themselves to what they read here, they would run to the polls on November 7 and vote for ANYONE BUT ROD.

  40. - Where's the Leadership??? - Monday, Oct 30, 06 @ 10:46 pm:

    Steve, This year the majority of the Ethics test was based on family members getting lavished gifts from vendors or people wanting to do business in State Government. Any state worker that doesn’t follow can be fired for this……except the governor.

  41. - Angie - Monday, Oct 30, 06 @ 11:30 pm:

    Rich wrote, “Angie, you assume I want it. You know what happens when you assume, I take it.”


    Keep up the great reporting, Rich. At least someone is on the side of critical thinking.

  42. - Angie - Monday, Oct 30, 06 @ 11:41 pm:

    BlogfreeSpringfield wrote, “someone should throw it back at them and ask Abby if that same sort of sexist attitude is the reason that the governor is ignoring the legal opinions of Lisa Madigan.”

    Rod is really ticking Madigan off. She is trying to negotiate a level of charity care that non-profit hospitals must provide to be eligible for their tax breaks, but Rod, having taken a quarter million from the Illinois Hospital Association, is apparently jumping into the issue, but he’s totally NOT working with Madigan. Wow. What a way to tick off members of your own party, Rod.

    Needless to say, as much as I detest this guy, Madigan is getting my vote. Have worked in healthcare finance in the past, and I’m tellin’ ya, there is no “care” in healthcare finance if you saw some of the stuff that goes on. My own department manager got absolutely screwed out of his commish money one month, and he was the only one who understood Blue Cross contracts sufficiently well within our company.

    Go Lisa. Go get ‘em.

  43. - Fan of the Game - Tuesday, Oct 31, 06 @ 10:48 am:

    “…moms who have their own businesses, who are women, can’t do things that way-that’s implicated in that story.”

    I am glad the governor can at least distinguish that moms are usually women. ;)

  44. - Gregor - Tuesday, Oct 31, 06 @ 12:25 pm:

    The governor can’t remember back two years to his daughter’s birthday party where someone who asked him for a job gave him a $1500 check. Now his wife has only four hose sales in an entire year’s worth of her real estate job, and couldn’t handle the enormous burden of asking 4 clients: “Hey, do you have any pending buiness going on with the state?”

    Can we have the Department of Professional Regulation suspend her Realtor license? And maybe Rod’s license to lie?

  45. - Buck Flagojevich - Tuesday, Oct 31, 06 @ 2:58 pm:

    If Rod’s license to lie is revoked he becomes a mute.

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