A 91-page document released Wednesday outlines the detailed case against former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who is charged with several counts of racketeering, extortion, and bribery in, among other things, an attempt to sell President Obama’s vacant US Senate seat.
The document outlines the prosecution’s case, providing new revelations that elevate the role of convicted Illinois influence peddler Antoin “Tony” Rezko and Patti Blagojevich, Mr. Blagojevich’s wife, who is described as being on the payroll of Mr. Rezko’s real estate companies though she did no work there.
The document does not include full transcripts of tapes Blagojevich has insisted he wants made public. In a statement Wednesday, Blagojevich said, “It’s the same old false allegations and lies. I’m looking forward to trial so the truth comes out and everyone will see that I am innocent.”
The Blagojevich trial is scheduled to start June 3. Here are six revelations about Blagojevich et al alleged in the prosecution document.
1. Blagojevich’s wrongdoing started the moment he took office after his election in 2002.
Prosecutors say Rezko and campaign adviser Christopher Kelly had “significant influence over aspects of state government.” This included interviewing and recommending "big fundraisers" and others who would benefit Blagojevich's ultimate "aspirations beyond being governor" as candidates for various boards and commissions or as consultants. Lon Monk, Blagojevich’s then-chief of staff, who is cooperating with prosecutors, was instructed to carry out their recommendations.
2. Investment firm and Blagojevich fundraiser Bear Stearns was awarded the opportunity to refinance $10 billion in state pension bonds.
As early as 2002 – before Blagojevich was elected – prosecutors say Blagojevich and his inner circle conspired to design ways to collect “finder’s fees” or other revenue from deals with people who were awarded business with the state. The first such extortion deal, the document says, involved Bear Stearns, which provided the governor and his cronies the opportunity to funnel about $450,000 to Rezko companies.
3. Patti Blagojevich was a ghost payroller of Rezmar, a Rezko real estate company, as early as 2003.
Prosecutors say Mrs. Blagojevich received commissions from housing sales in which she was not involved. Her first check was for $14,369.50, and from that point on she received a $12,000 monthly retainer through 2004. She never went into the office, and employees were instructed to find ways to make it look as if she helped broker deals, according to the document.
“Rezko did not seem to care if she actually did anything to earn the money. Rezko was only concerned about ensuring that Blagojevich did not have to worry about his finances,” the document states.
4. Blagojevich aggressively and repeatedly pressured state agencies to appoint his wife to boards and reward her with jobs at companies doing business with the state that paid high salaries but for which she had no qualifications.
One example is when he told his chief of staff that one company, which the document identifies as “Financial Institution 1,” would no longer receive state business because it did not provide his wife a job.
5. In November 2008, one month before his arrest, Blagojevich announced that he wanted members of the Chicago Tribune editorial board fired because they wrote articles urging his impeachment. He threatened to hold up state approval for an expansion of Wrigley Field, which is owned by the Tribune.
“Everything is lined up, but before we go to the next level we need to have a discussion about what you guys are going to do about that newspaper,” Blagojevich is reported as saying.
Chief of Staff John Harris repeatedly stalled in trying to pressure the Tribune, and he waited until the company announced it was making staff reductions unrelated to Blagojevich demands. But the governor later “expressed disappointment when the editorial board was later unaffected by the cutbacks," the prosecutors' document states.
6. In an effort to award the US Senate seat to Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett, Blagojevich campaigned for a cabinet post in the Obama administration, namely as the secretary of Health and Human Services. According to the document, Blagojevich said, “So [Jarrett’s] holding Health and Human Services and I’m holding a U.S. Senate seat. Okay? I’m willing to trade the thing.”
Later when he was considering naming himself to the Senate seat, he is quoted saying, “Now is the time for me to put my [expletive] children and my wife first, for a change.”