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.
* Editorial: Pull plug on red-light cameras
* Jim Dey: Cat-turned-federal rat out of the bag and on the prowl