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Sandoval roundup

Friday, Jan 31, 2020 - Posted by Rich Miller

* WGN Radio’s John Williams asked the Tribune’s Kristen McQueary about the money used to bribe now-former Sen. Martin Sandoval (D-Chicago)

Williams: How do you justify that to the, the accountant or the bursar or the CEO or the CFO? All of the people that are in a big multi million dollar company like that? How do you say ‘I need $60,000 in $20 bills, and I need another $50,000. Oh, and I need $250,000.’ I mean, where’s the accounting on that if nothing else? And so those people are just as criminal as the state lawmakers, right?

McQueary: I mean, that’s a good question. How do you acquire, how do you come up with $60,000 cash or like you’re saying. I mean, one of the bribes of $15,000. The companies will say probably that, you know, they were doing lobby activity, they were hiring these people as consultants. That’s always a popular reason to throw people on your payroll.

It turns out, SafeSpeed’s money was apparently not used to bribe Sandoval. The SafeSpeed person was using the federal government’s money. From the Sandoval plea agreement

The parties further agree, pursuant to Title 18, United States Code, Section 3583(d), that the sentence to be imposed by the Court shall include, as a condition of any term of supervised release or probation imposed in this case, a requirement that defendant repay the United States $70,000 as compensation for government funds that defendant received during the investigation of the case. Defendant will receive credit for any money collected by the government prior to sentencing, including approximately $3,150 seized by the government on or about September 24, 2019 and $18,120 seized by the government on or about October 17, 2019. [Emphasis added.]

* Meanwhile, the Tribune has a long story about former Sen. Sandoval and the recycled asphalt industry

In late 2014, then-state Sen. Martin Sandoval was angry with transportation officials.

One of his biggest campaign contributors, asphalt magnate Michael Vondra, had cornered the market on recycled roof shingles for use in road projects. But questions were mounting about whether the eco-friendly pavement material was causing roads to crack more quickly, and the Illinois Department of Transportation tightened the rules over its use.

Sandoval, the chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, sent a threatening letter to the acting head of IDOT criticizing the move. The senator accused her of breaking the law, told her he’d haul her in for a public hearing and suggested he would request an ethics investigation. […]

The letter, which the Tribune obtained through an open records request, was part of Sandoval’s long-running effort to increase the use of recycled asphalt shingles. He also pushed legislation that could potentially help Vondra’s business and pressed IDOT officials behind the scenes to meet with his political patron. […]

As Vondra’s two dozen or so shingle recycling plants began sprouting across the state, Sandoval passed a 2013 measure that, in effect, helped stock them. The law forbid dumping shingles in any landfill within 25 miles of a shingle recycling operation.

Go read the whole thing.

* The Sun-Times recycles a story from last fall about a notation on the Sandoval search warrant’s “Receipt for Property”

State Sen. Don Harmon, the new Illinois Senate president, expressed bewilderment when asked why documents from his clout-heavy law firm were among the items seized by federal agents from then-state Sen. Martin Sandoval’s office in September.

“I have no idea,” Harmon said recently.

But he offered a theory.

“It’s no secret that former Senator Sandoval and I did not get along, and he had a habit of keeping files on his political opponents,” the Oak Park Democrat said. “For all I know, that’s what it could be.” […]

In response to subsequent questions about his departure from the firm, Harmon told the Sun-Times by email: “No salary. No deferred compensation. No exit package. We are working out the details, but it will be soon. I was always an employee and never had an ownership stake in the firm.”

I’m sure Kimberly Lightford’s supporters are absolutely thrilled that the paper waited until after the Senate President’s election to run that hit. /s

* The Tribune’s McQueary was also asked if she was surprised about Sandoval’s admitted crimes

It’s a surprise to me too. I mean, even though I’ve been covering government for as long as I have, this is someone who was taking cash bribes after the raid at at Burke’s office, after everyone knows the feds are kind of sniffing around, after their questions about who might be wearing a wire. He is still doing these transactions with this person for SafeSpeed who was undercover for [the feds]. […]

I do not think that most lawmakers are taking cash bribes in restaurant parking lots. I really don’t. I think a lot of the corruption in Illinois is more in the fabric of the way we just transact business. And it looks more like what Ed Burke is accused of doing. ‘Give my law business some business, and then I’ll be nice on these different types of legislation that you’re looking for.’


* And former federal prosecutor Jeffrey Cramer was just a wee bit hyperbolic with the Tribune

“If someone had a conversation with Sandoval about anything other than the weather, you’d better get a lawyer,” Cramer said of public officials who have to be jittery about what’s next, especially those who wore wires, as state Sen. Terry Link, a Waukegan Democrat, reportedly did. “If you talked to Link about anything other than the Cubs, grab yourself a lawyer, because sooner or later two FBI agents are going to come knocking.”

A master of understatement, that one.

Also, as alluded to in comments, Link is a White Sox fan.

* Related…

* Editorial: Pull plug on red-light cameras

* Jim Dey: Cat-turned-federal rat out of the bag and on the prowl


  1. - Ron Burgundy - Friday, Jan 31, 20 @ 12:34 pm:

    On the asphalt thing, if a lawmaker gets that hot about an issue that no one else seems that passionate about, doesn’t someone have to ask why they are acting that way?

  2. - Steve - Friday, Jan 31, 20 @ 12:38 pm:

    The Tribune story on asphalt might make more than a few taxpayers angry that taxes to support the roads are funding corruption.

  3. - BigLou - Friday, Jan 31, 20 @ 12:47 pm:

    Steve, that was snark, right? I’m pretty sure everyone in Illinois knows their taxes are going to corruption at some level. Unless they just moved here, I guess, but I think the state’s reputation is known outside its borders.

  4. - Ok - Friday, Jan 31, 20 @ 12:55 pm:

    The timeline of Harmon leaving his law firm the day after he was asked by the Sun-Times about the conflict and the ongoing federal investigation makes that move look a little bit different now.

  5. - Donnie Elgin - Friday, Jan 31, 20 @ 12:55 pm:

    Despicable that in the name of being “eco-friendly” via a recycling program, Sandoval tuned it into a “greed” program. The only thing green were he dollars flowing to his campaign.

  6. - Oswego Willy - Friday, Jan 31, 20 @ 1:01 pm:

    Did @StatehouseChick not read the plea agreement, even though she’d haveta guess that would be a topic?

    That’s… fun.

  7. - Rich Miller - Friday, Jan 31, 20 @ 1:01 pm:

    ===The timeline of Harmon leaving his law firm the day after===


  8. - Cubs in '16 - Friday, Jan 31, 20 @ 1:04 pm:

    “…who was taking cash bribes after the raid at Burke’s office, after everyone knows the feds are kind of sniffing around, after their questions about who might be wearing a wire.”

    Greed and arrogance have a way of blinding people to certain realities. No one thinks it will happen to them.

  9. - Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner - Friday, Jan 31, 20 @ 1:13 pm:

    I did not understand the point of the S-T’s Harmon story. It seemed lacking in …. news.

  10. - Ok - Friday, Jan 31, 20 @ 1:14 pm:

    I think the more unbelievable statement is that the only reason the feds seized documents from his law firm (which did legal work for the towns that were subject of this investigation related to bonds and capital projects that are part of the reason for the investigation), is because Sandoval was just keeping an “oppo file” on him.

    The clearer answer from Harmon is/should be that he didn’t work on those projects.

  11. - BigDoggie - Friday, Jan 31, 20 @ 1:15 pm:

    Seriously though, what happens to SafeSpeed after all of this has been uncovered. Please don’t tell me they’re still profiting from all red light camera tickets that are being issued in Illinois! If they are, what possible reason could there be to let them remain legal?!?

  12. - Fake News - Friday, Jan 31, 20 @ 1:16 pm:

    RE: Harmon
    Doesn’t the sun times always recycle stories ?

    And- did anyone else notice the sour grapes aimed at Amanda via that reporter for being scooped on the Harmon story?

  13. - Irish - Friday, Jan 31, 20 @ 1:23 pm:

    @Roland….I thought the same. Must be a slow news day at the S-T.

  14. - Precinct Captain - Friday, Jan 31, 20 @ 1:27 pm:

    Maybe Kristen should do a little reporting (reading) before yapping as a supposed expert?

  15. - Practical Politics - Friday, Jan 31, 20 @ 1:28 pm:

    “Forget about it, Jake. It’s Cicero.”

  16. - Pick a Name - Friday, Jan 31, 20 @ 1:42 pm:

    Somewhere in Italy, Rauner is smiling and smirking.

  17. - For the record - Friday, Jan 31, 20 @ 1:43 pm:

    There was talk from senate dem caucus members that Harmon was telling them he was going to leave his firm early in the Senate Prez race, well before the Sun-Times‘ post election inquiries.

  18. - Rich Miller - Friday, Jan 31, 20 @ 1:45 pm:

    ===Somewhere in Italy, Rauner is smiling and smirking===

    Rauner loved Marty and thought he could use Marty to drive a wedge with MJM. His staff knew better and kept him away from the guy.

  19. - Oswego Willy - Friday, Jan 31, 20 @ 1:46 pm:

    === Somewhere in Italy, Rauner is smiling and smirking.===

    … after blowing $130 million, wasting 4 years, ruining his own reputation… then to be utterly humiliated in a loss not seen by an incumbent Republican Governor in Illinois in 100 years.


  20. - Paddyrollingstone - Friday, Jan 31, 20 @ 1:54 pm:

    Jim Dey wrote in the linked article:

    The Chicago Tribune provided a more expansive explanation of the length and breadth of Sandoval’s potentially illicit activities. It said the Senate veteran is “connected to Cicero politics, the Illinois Tollway, waste-disposal companies, video gaming and ComEd.”

    Reminds me of the quote from Sixteen Candles:

    Bruno: So basically, Jimmy, my business is video game arcades, laundry, cigarette machines…And trucking. I dabble a little bit in personal loans and politics.

  21. - DIstant watcher - Friday, Jan 31, 20 @ 2:03 pm:

    === Somewhere in Italy …===

    It’s just after 8 in the evening, the sun is setting over the mountains, there’s vino in the glass, and he can almost forget the time, money and relationships he squandered tilting at windmills… Almost.

  22. - Can’t say... - Friday, Jan 31, 20 @ 2:19 pm:

    The last paragraph of recycling asphalt shingle story referred to company “swinging around heavy political clout”. Referencing federal connection. Who?

  23. - Rich Hill - Friday, Jan 31, 20 @ 2:21 pm:

    ==If you talked to Link about anything other than the Cubs, grab yourself a lawyer==
    And if you talked to Link about the Cubs, grab yourself a priest.

  24. - Pick a Name - Friday, Jan 31, 20 @ 2:46 pm:

    Willy, Rauner will be smiling and smirking quite a bit in 2020 as things unfold.

  25. - Oswego Willy - Friday, Jan 31, 20 @ 2:48 pm:

    Rauner was never a Trumpkin.

    You on the other hand…

    Yeah you, rooting for the 0.01%


  26. - Oswego Willy - Friday, Jan 31, 20 @ 3:01 pm:

    - Pick a Name -

    “Uncle Johnny, I need some more ice, did you see Suzy just came in, go say hello to her, I’ll catch you later”

    Get the picture.

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