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Don’t forget Illinoize

Friday, Oct 27, 2006

I’ll keep comments open this weekend, but you really should head over to Illinoize. Bridget Dooley, one of my favorites, just signed on as our newest blogger.

- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      

Fresh Levine thread

Friday, Oct 27, 2006

Here’s something to consider…

Only in Illinois could a governor and his confederates claim that a guilty plea somehow exonerates him, even though the plea completely reinforces the notion that his administration was rife with corruption.


[Comments are now closed. Go here for an even fresher thread.]

- Posted by Rich Miller   88 Comments      

Levine *** Updated x18 ***

Friday, Oct 27, 2006

*** Very Important Update: The US Attorney’s office has issued a “correction” to the Levine guilty plea. In “Update 11″ below, Individual B should read “Individual E.” So, it’s not Kelly. ***

*** Take a look at Update 11 for some of the only new information to come out of this plea. It could bring this thing closer to the governor’s inner circle. ***


No bombshells against the governor are expected in today’s plea. However, Blagojevich might show up as an unnamed official who wasn’t necessarily tied to a criminal act, sources said. […]

Sources say much of the plea will revolve around the allegations previously revealed in Rezko’s indictment. It could also discuss a controversial deal tied to the sale of a Gold Coast property and former Chicago Ald. Edward R. Vrdolyak. The Sun-Times previously reported the feds are investigating Vrdolyak’s ties to that deal, and that Levine had provided to the feds potentially incriminating information on Vrdolyak.

Essentially a rehash of the Cari plea?

* Check here for the press release. It’s not there yet, but will likely be posted on that page as soon as it’s distributed, or shortly thereafter.

* Yes, I’m still alive. It shouldn’t be much longer now.

*** UPDATE *** AP: Millionaire campaign contributor Stuart Levine pleads guilty to two counts of mail fraud and money laundering.

*** UPDATE 2 *** Doesn’t appear to be much new in here yet, according to people who have read it. No names. $1.5 million to campaign fund mentioned (as with the Rezko indictment).

*** UPDATE 3 *** The Tribune’s story is now up, but it appears to have been written before the hearing.

*** UPDATE 4 *** From a reporter friend who has read the plea: “I can’t see anything new here…” But, Levine was originally “facing life and now he’s looking at 67 months.” In other words, he appears to be cooperating in a major way.

*** UPDATE 5 *** Download the plea right here. [pdf file]

*** UPDATE 6 *** “With respect to Count One, beginning no later than in and about the spring of 2003 and continuing through at least in or about July 2004, in the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, and elsewhere, Defendant, Antoin “Tony” Rezko (“Rezko”), Joseph Cari, Steven Loren, Jacob Kiferbaum, Individual A, and others known and unknown to the Grand Jury, devised and intended to devise, and participated in, a scheme and artifice to defraud the beneficiaries of the Teachers’ Retirement System of the State of Illinois”

*** UPDATE 7 *** If Individual A is Bill Cellini and Individual B is Chris Kelly (as they allegedly were in the Rezko indictment), then this next part shows Cellini either had some significant pull within the Blagojevich administration or some good sources:

In about August 2003, Defendant was re-appointed to the Planning Board. Prior to that point, Defendant discussed his possible re-appointment with Individual A and, separately, with Individual B. Individual A said he’d get back to Defendant about
his request and later called Defendant and said that it would happen. A short time later, Defendant was at a meeting in Rezko’s office with Individual B 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.

About the time Defendant was re-appointed, Rezko and Defendant discussed Defendant’s appointment and Rezko said that he had suggested that Defendant be made the vice-chairman of the Planning Board and that Rezko expected to influence a certain number of votes on the Planning Board. In February 2004, the Planning Board elected Defendant as vice-chairman.

*** UPDATE 8 *** Reading these things can be maddening sometimes, but this is interesting. A “local public official.”

In or about the spring of 2003, Individual A indicated to Defendant that Rezko had complained to Individual A that a certain local public official, who Defendant knew had a relationship with and raised money for a certain public official, had been pushing Rezko and Individual B for money, which Defendant understood to mean that the local public official wanted to make money from the State of Illinois because of his assistance to the certain public official. Defendant offered to have Individual C share his finder’s fee with the local public official so that Defendant could gain favor with Rezko, and Individual A later indicated that Rezko wanted Individual C to split his finder’s fee with the local public official. Defendant then told Individual C that Individual C would have to split his finder’s fee from Investment Firm 1 with a local public official.

*** UPDATE 9 *** As before:

In or about April 2004, Rezko and Defendant agreed to use their influence and Defendant’s position at TRS to prevent Investment Firm 7 from getting its $220 million allocation unless Individual J agreed either to pay an approximately $2 million fee to a consultant chosen by Rezko and Defendant, or to arrange for approximately $1.5 million in political contributions to be made to a certain public official.

*** UPDATE 10 ***

Shortly before the Planning Board meeting on April 21, 2004, Defendant had several telephone conversations with another Planning Board member about Mercy and its application for a CON. That Planning Board member said he had his “marching orders” from Rezko and that Rezko wanted to help on Mercy’s application.

*** UPDATE 11 *** Was this in the Rezko indictment? It seems new to me and could be quite significant. As reported before, Individual B is alleged to be Chris Kelly ….[After checking the Rezko indictment, it does appear to be new info]:

In or about the Spring of 2004, Rezko, Individual B, and Defendant agreed to establish or obtain a company that they or their nominees would own and control. Rezko, Individual B, and Defendant further agreed that they would use their influence and Defendant’s position at TRS to ensure that TRS would make hundreds of millions of dollars of real estate investments with their company. Defendant, Rezko and Individual B expected to share the profits from the company. Defendant intentionally concealed from and failed to disclose to the TRS Board material facts relating to his plan to establish a real estate asset management company, including his arrangements with Rezko and Individual B.

*** UPDATE 12 *** From the Daily Herald this week:

Asked if he’ll stand by Kelly in the event of an indictment, Blagojevich said he wouldn’t answer, because “I don’t believe that will ever happen.”

*** UPDATE 13*** WARNING: I don’t want to see any idle speculation in comments about who the “local official” might be. Go somewhere else if you can’t contain yourself. Let the reporters do their jobs. Be patient. And, please, don’t call me with this stuff either. I’m kinda busy at the moment. One last thing: A legislator is almost definitely not a “local official.”

*** UPDATE 14 *** Statement from the governor’s campaign office:

Statement is attributable to Sheila Nix, Blagojevich campaign spokesperson:

After nearly one year of the Topinka campaign attacking the Governor and distorting the facts, today’s plea agreement makes clear that Governor Blagojevich had absolutely no knowledge of any of the wrongdoing perpetrated by Stuart Levine, a long-time supporter and contributor to both Judy Baar Topinka and Joe Birkett.

*** UPDATE 15 *** From Tony Peraica’s campaign:

“Two weeks and two days ago, Stroger Organization major donor Antoin ‘Tony’ Rezko was indicted by the U.S. Attorney on 24 counts stemming from a corrupt scheme with Stuart Levine to extort kickbacks from firms that wanted state business. Today, Stuart Levine gave up his fight, and pled guilty to the charges lodged against him. Now that Tony Rezko’s partner in this corrupt scheme has acknowledged his own guilt, it’s going to be hard for Mr. Rezko to defend himself. […]

“For too long, the residents of Chicago and Cook County have had to rely on U.S. Attorneys to fight corruption. That’s embarrassing. The good news is that every couple of years, voters have a chance at the polls to select for themselves elected leaders who can wage the war on corruption on their behalf. Tuesday November 7 offers the voters one such choice - they can choose me, someone committed to reform, or they can choose Todd Stroger, a man who willfully overlooks the corruption in his own inner circle.”

The Teachers Retirement System response is here.

*** UPDATE 16 *** “Yellow Dog Democrat” made this point in comments:

Those indicted and implicated are all friends, appointees, employees, major campaign contributors, or political allies of Governor Blagojevich.

In scientific terms, that’s a correlation of roughly 100%.

*** UPDATE 17 *** Archpundit:

I’d say that pretty much puts the lights out on the Topinka campaign unless she has some magic tactic she hasn’t used yet.

*** UPDATE 18 *** The Daily Herald published this handy guide after the Rezko indictment:


> A William Cellini

> B Chris Kelly

> C Sheldon Pekin

> D Joel Aramanda

> E Robert Weinstein

> F unknown attorney from Downers Grove

> G Mike Winter

> H Myron Cherry

> I Unknown

> J Thomas Rosenberg

> Firm:

> 1 Glencoe

> 2 LLR

> 3 Stockwell

> 4 JER

> 5 Sterling

> 6 Unknown to TRS

> 7 Capri/Capital

Let’s close comments now and move it to another thread.

- Posted by Rich Miller   105 Comments      

Dan Rutherford’s new TV ad

Friday, Oct 27, 2006

There might be some controversy with this ad. We’ll see how it plays out.

- Posted by Rich Miller   76 Comments      

Levine update

Friday, Oct 27, 2006

The hearing is at one o’clock, so check back after lunch.

- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      

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Friday, Oct 27, 2006

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- Posted by Rich Miller   Enter your password to view comments      

Question of the day *** Updated x1 ***

Friday, Oct 27, 2006

I’m assuming we’re gonna get distracted later today if the Stu Levine hearing happens as planned, so let’s go for something light today while we wait.

Just a small percentage of you watch the YouTube clips that I post. The same goes for most sites that have the clips.


*** UPDATE *** Speaking of YouTube, our buddy Tim Nieukirk has another new “campaign TV ad” posted.

“Today, it’s Grant’s bathroom. Tomorrow, it’s the state of Illinois.”

- Posted by Rich Miller   40 Comments      

Those negative ads…

Friday, Oct 27, 2006

My Sun-Times column runs today.

Judy Baar Topinka’s campaign estimates that the average voter has seen Gov. Blagojevich’s TV ads at least 200 times. So, I don’t have to tell you that the vast majority of those ads have been negative.

I don’t even watch much network TV and yet I still find myself asking, “What’s she thinking?” about 10 times a day. It doesn’t even have to be about politics. A dog will walk across the street in front of my car. “What’s she thinking?” I’ll mutter as I slam on my brakes.

A waiter forgets to bring the check. “What’s she thinking?”

The Sun-Times endorses Rod Blagojevich. OK, I’ll just let that one drop.

I was mildly surprised that they let that last line through. It shows they’re willing to take a joke.

By the way, I apologize for what comes next in the column, but it was the best way to illustrate my point. You’ve been warned.

Meanwhile, Sun-Times editorial page editor Steve Huntley’s column runs next to mine today and is entitled, “. . . and here’s what we can do to get back to the issues.” Huntley had to write the Blagojevich endorsement for the Sun-Times. But he appears to try to make up for it today.

Let’s face it, voters: We must come across to the politicians as being more inclined to flip-flopping than John Kerry. We say we hate negative campaigning, loathe it, can’t stomach it. But every election we let those nasty TV ads influence us, too often decisively, in crucial elections. In other words, we were against attack ads before we listened to them and succumbed to their message.

A case in point is the gubernatorial race. As soon as he had the March primary behind him, Gov. Blagojevich, looking vulnerable to a strong challenger, had his campaign go on the airways with ads attacking his opponent, state Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka. […]

Far from the political hack and handmaiden to the Ryan corruption the ads depict, the lively and personable Topinka is a mainstream politician who has proved herself an exemplary public servant in the Legislature, where she served 14 years, and as Illinois treasurer for the last 12 years. She has been a wise steward of state finances and expanded the responsibilities of the treasurer’s office with programs to help families save for college, educate women and children on financial matters and aid qualified home buyers to get access to low-interest mortgages.

Blagojevich calls her “George Ryan’s treasurer” because Topinka served four years when the disgraced Ryan was governor. She was an independently elected constitutional officer and bears no responsibility for the corruption that will land Ryan in prison next year. Scandal hasn’t tainted her office.

- Posted by Rich Miller   30 Comments      

Morning shorts

Friday, Oct 27, 2006

* Our buddy Tim Nieukirk is profiled by the Daily Herald’s Animal Farm today.

It’s not often a Washington politician sets his sights on Springfield. Usually it’s the other way around.

But when it’s the downstate Washington just outside Peoria and you’re 25, working second shift and living with your parents, a campaign for change carries a more literal and personal interpretation.

Meet Tim Nieukirk, official write-in candidate for governor backed by a series of ads on that are laugh-out-loud funny.

* Treasurer candidates accuse, defend, deny

* Sun-Times: Adding fuel to an already heated immigration debate, congressional nominee Peter Roskam appeared Thursday with one of the most polarizing figures on the issue.

* Republican big guns firing up for Roskam

* Tribune: In a surprise move, city Treasurer Judy Rice announced her resignation on Thursday, and Mayor Richard Daley tapped the private sector, naming Stephanie Neely to replace her.

* Sun-Times quoting Congressman Jackson on Neely’s choice: “Where has democracy gone? The mayor has now appointed the city clerk, the city treasurer and 29 of the 50 aldermen. Depending on the outcome of the county election in two weeks, he might soon also appoint new aldermen in the 7th, 8th and 18th wards. … Why not wait until the election and let the people decide through an open democratic process?”

* Emanuel: Chicago’s other future star

* Candidates shy away from school funding - Blagojevich, Topinka low-key on reform

- Posted by Rich Miller   14 Comments      

Another coinkydink?

Friday, Oct 27, 2006

I’ve noted before that the governor seems to have a lot of fundraising ties to the Indian-American community. What I didn’t know was that his family was also profiting from it. The Tribune has the story.

Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s wife earned more than $113,000 in real estate commissions this year through a woman who holds a longstanding, no-bid state contract and whose banker husband has business pending before state regulators.

The four real estate deals involving the Chicago couple Anita and Amrish Mahajan, the last of which closed Sept. 28, account for the only commissions Patricia Blagojevich has earned this year.

The governor’s office scoffed at questions about whether it is a conflict of interest for the governor’s spouse to make money from a couple whose businesses depend on decisions made by the Blagojevich administration.

“It’s unfair and completely ridiculous to suggest she should be expected to keep track of every client she does business with to see if they have contracts with the state,” said Abby Ottenhoff, the governor’s chief spokeswoman. She said the questions were rooted in outdated attitudes toward working women.

“Every client?” If those are the only commissions she’s earned this year she doesn’t have many clients.

Amrish Mahajan–who has donated $10,000 to Blagojevich’s political campaigns–is president of a Harvey bank with requests pending before state banking regulators to acquire two out-of-state banks. His bank has lent millions of dollars to indicted Blagojevich fundraiser Antoin “Tony” Rezko.

Mrs. Blagojevich has also done a lot of deals with Rezko in the past.

Go read the whole thing, but I love this part of the story.

“I didn’t hire her,” Mahajan said in a brief interview from the balcony of her Chicago townhouse. “I didn’t even know who she was until closing. That’s when I heard she was the governor’s wife. I try not to get involved in politics.”

Mahajan then referred the Tribune to her attorney, James Regas.

“Why shouldn’t she hire Patricia Blagojevich?” Regas said. “They’ve been friends for a long time. He [the governor] is very close to the Indian community here.”

I imagine Mrs. Mahajan’s denial is what spurred the story on. So far, this isn’t much to go on. But that denial hints that more may be there.

- Posted by Rich Miller   23 Comments      

All eyes on Levine *** Updated x1 ***

Friday, Oct 27, 2006

I’m told that WGN TV reported last night that more indictments will be handed down today. For now, here’s a look ahead at the Levine stuff. This was posted last night at the Tribune’s site:

Political insider Stuart Levine is expected to plead guilty in federal court Friday to kickback schemes stemming from his activities on two state regulatory boards.

The guilty plea by Levine, reappointed by Gov. Rod Blagojevich to the two state posts, could reverberate on the campaign trail a little more than a week before the election.

Levine is accused of scheming to extort kickbacks from investment firms seeking to do business with the state while he was on the Illinois Teachers’ Retirement System board. He also plotted to share in a $1 million kickback in his duties with the Illinois Health Facilities Planning Board, prosecutors charge. Levine is expected to plead guilty to both schemes, his lawyer has said.

Sources said Levine’s plea agreement would closely track the 65-page indictment against himself and Antoin “Tony” Rezko, a Blagojevich confidant and fundraiser.

I assume the Sun-Times will have more today. I’ll update as appropriate.

*** UPDATE *** People, try not to get your expectations up too high, OK? I’m tired of deleting speculation about who could be indicted.

It is Stu Levine’s guilty plea, after all. There could be some Republicans in big trouble, too. Just sit back and wait. We’ll know this afternoon.

[Comments now closed. Go here instead.]

- Posted by Rich Miller   19 Comments      

Another brick in the wall

Friday, Oct 27, 2006

We’re starting to approach Nixonian territory here. The attorney general demands that the governor stop breaking the law and grant requests for copies of federal subpoenas, the governor flatly refuses.

Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s administration is violating state public-information law by refusing to release subpoenas it received in a federal corruption probe, the state attorney general said Thursday.

Blagojevich’s office said it would continue to withhold the subpoenas.

Wait, there’s more

“Without legal support, the office of the governor and the agencies under his control cannot withhold federal grand jury subpoenas in their possession and must release these documents pursuant to a FOIA request,” Assistant Atty. Gen. Terry Mutchler wrote in a letter to Blagojevich’s legal counsel, William Quinlan.

Blagojevich spokeswoman Abby Ottenhoff said the governor’s office does not intend to change its policy. “We appreciate the attorney general office’s advisory input,” she said. […]

The attorney general’s office disagreed with the administration’s rationale for keeping subpoenas secret.

“There’s no magical meaning to a subpoena under the Freedom of Information Act,” said Mutchler, who is public access counselor for the attorney general. “The FOIA applies the same to a subpoena as it does to a request for any other public record in the state of Illinois.”

Actually, if you read the letter from Madigan, she doesn’t just disagree with the governor’s “rationale,” she claims much of his rationale has no basis in reality and the rest of it is not backed up with any facts.

You can read the letter by clicking here. [pdf file]

Meanwhile, let’s all welcome Sauk Valley Newspapers to the club.

No respect.


That sums up the Illinois Department of Correction’s arrogant attitude toward the hardworking people who are forced to pay taxes to keep our state’s prison system running.

That unfortunate conclusion has become obvious the past few months as our reporters have tried to pry enough information out of the Illinois DOC to piece together the terrible happenings at the Dixon Correctional Center May 12. That’s the day an inmate with multiple rape convictions - who had free run of at least part of the prison - allegedly raped a female prison worker at knifepoint.

We steadfastly believe it is a reasonable expectation that the DOC be willing to explain why the inmate, John Spires, was allowed to roam freely with limited supervision. The citizens of Illinois, and especially those who work at the Dixon prison, deserve to understand the DOC’s decision-making process when granting a prisoner such privileges. The DOC, however, disagrees.

We also believe it is reasonable that the DOC release information detailing the staffing levels at the prison when the incident occurred. Again, the DOC doesn’t think so.

In late August we made a formal request under the Illinois Freedom of Information Act to DOC Director Roger Walker Jr. asking for records that would shed light on these important questions. Walker and the DOC thumbed their nose at the public’s legal and moral right to this information by flatly denying the request a few weeks later.

Hooray for open government!

- Posted by Rich Miller   19 Comments      

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