Tag Archives: Illinois

Road Blog: Harvest


Visiting Chicago for a few days, I drove down to the south suburbs this afternoon — late in the afternoon, as it turned out — to see my brother Chris and his wife, Patty. They live in Tinley Park, about 25 miles southwest of downtown, within sight of the junction of Interstate 57 and Interstate 80, but far enough away that the highways aren’t present as a constant roar.

I had left early to avoid the worst of the commute traffic and had some time to kill, so I drove on past Tinley Park and got off I-57 a little to the south. Then I wandered west and south, watching the last of the sunset and the dusk come on. Most of the suburban sprawl in the Chicago area over the last 40 years has been to the northwest, west and southwest. Comparatively little has been built due south of the city in the area where I grew up.

Which isn’t to say nothing’s happened out there. Chris and Patty have a big house in a subdivision that was probably mostly corn and soybean fields 15 years ago. As I drove this evening, I wandered through one subdivision in Matteson I’d never seen before, and as I moved on, through the western edge of Richton Park and the farms west of Monee, I kept passing big, newish homes planted in ones and twos on big patches of land — ranchettes, of a sort, I guess, for people who probably work in the city or away in the western suburbs and want to enjoy some relatively splendid isolation.

I needed to answer the call of nature on one of the roadsides, and before I got back in the car, I decided to check out corn planted right up to the bank of a creek. It looked ready to harvest and given the fact the soil looked dry and combines would probably have no problem in the field, I was a little surprised the corn was still standing.

I was surprised as I drove that my sense of the checkerboard geography, or road-ography, was mostly intact. Heading south from Vollmer Road, the first big intersection was U.S. 30. Then Sauk Trail, then Steger Road, where I turned west until I got to 80th Avenue (where the avenue is 80th from, I don’t know). Then south again, past Stuenkel Road and Dralle Road and Monee-Manhattan Road and, sure, a couple roads whose names I didn’t know. Driving this part of eastern Will County, you’re reminded that the country has some contours; 80th Avenue climbs one of the low ridges (glacial moraines, I’m guessing), west and south of Monee, with the terrain falling away in every direction. Some of the ranchettes out there are built in spots that afford long views across the prairie.

Then up ahead, I saw a combine and grain cart working in a cornfield just off the road to the west. I stopped, thinking I might get an iPhone picture in the dark (I didn’t get one worth saving). As I stood there, parked in the road in my Bay Area get-up (shorts and flannel shirt), a man approached me from a truck parked at the edge of the field.

I told him pretty much straight up what I was doing: Just driving aimlessly, taking in the landscape, that I had lived nearby, had been away from the area a while, and was taking a look. Then I asked about the harvest.

To make a long story short, the farmer, a guy named Ron Schubbe, was working with his brother and his brother’s son on a 35-acre cornfield. His own son had a day job nearby but would also be helping out. He said the grain had been too wet to harvest, but now, “We’re hitting it pretty hard.” I didn’t get other salient facts — how long it would take to harvest 35 acres, how big his entire acreage was (because I’m assuming nobody out there in corn and soybean country harvests just 35 acres of anything), how long it would take to harvest the field they were working, how late they’d be working, or what it felt like to be bringing in the crop.

But I did ask how long he’d lived out there. “I was born and raised right here,” he said. How long had his family been out there? He said his great-grandfather had begun farming in the area, north of the town of Peotone, since the 1880s.

So I did find that out, at least. Then I wandered around a little more, noticing a couple of other combines moving through the fields in the dark, and headed to Chris and Patty’s as the night finally fell.

(Conclusion of the foregoing.)



Filed under Family

Illinois Road Trip: The Eternal Indian, and Other Stories


Last September, our family gathered in Chicago for a memorial for my dad. It’s one of those events that seems like it happened both long ago and just yesterday; long ago in that I can’t believe that nearly nine months have passed, just yesterday in that some of the experiences of last summer seem so immediate.

Anyway, people came from all points of the compass. We had a short family gathering at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery, just past the southern edge of Chicago, where Dad’s ashes were being placed in the same grave where Mark, our brother, who died in 1960, is buried and where Mom, who died in 2003, is also inurned. After our ceremony, we walked around and visited some of Mom’s family elsewhere in the cemetery, then we drove back up to my sister Ann’s house on the North Side for a memorial–a party, really–with other friends and family.

Early the next day, people started to head home: our older son Eamon and his wife Sakura to New York, my brother John, also to New York, and last Thom, our younger son, back to the Bay Area. That was on Monday, it was already mid-afternoon, traffic back into the city looked like it was backing up on the expressway outside O’Hare. As we left the airport I asked Kate whether she’d just like to go for a drive someplace instead of going back into the city. She was game.

We headed west with no particular destination in mind. But if you go west from Chicago, there’s one destination I automatically think of, and that’s the Mississippi River. That was one of Dad’s favorite trips, and I usually never hesitate to start out on a foolishly long drives, but as we tried to get free of the traffic in the northwestern suburbs, even I had to concede it didn’t seem realistic since we had to be back the next day to fly home ourselves.

So then I thought of another place that seemed more reachable: the Black Hawk statue on the Rock River, near the town of Oregon.

Dad took us there when we were kids–it might have been the time he took us on a drive out to White Pines State Park with his mother, a trip during which I remember him getting our new gold Chevy Impala station wagon, complete with a 327-cubic-inch V8, up to 90 miles an hour on Illinois Highway 64. I would have been 13, and what I remember is that we pulled over on Highway 2, which goes up the west bank Rock River from Oregon to Rockford, to look at this statue on a bluff across the water. It made a huge impression–an impassive , blanket-clad stone figure gazing out across the river and off to the west.

So, driving west last September on Illinois Highway 72, I told Kate I thought we could get there before dark and that it would be well worth the trip. Along the way, we stopped to check out a historical marker in a town called Stillman Valley. The site turned out to be the burial place of militia members killed in the first battle of the Black Hawk War of 1832. (Yes, I had heard of Black Hawk’s War, but remembered it mostly for the name of its last skirmish, the Battle of Bad Axe, and the fact the brief conflict marked Abraham Lincoln’s first and only military service).

Driving on, we hit the Rock River at Byron and turned south. We made a detour so I could take pictures of the big nuclear power plant between Byron and Oregon. And eventually, we made it to Lowden State Park, home of the Black Hawk statue (titled by its creator, sculptor Lorado Taft, “The Eternal Indian”). As we parked, we encountered an older woman sitting in her car and finishing up her dinner, from the McDonald’s in Oregon. She directed us to the statue and said she’d be over in a few minutes to tell us about it.

So: I had my camera with me, and I had an audio app on my iPhone that was good enough to record our guide, Betty Croft. That’s her picture up above. We talked to her for an hour, until well after dark. It took me until the past week to actually sit down and listen to the audio and figure out what to make of it. Here it is (edited down to four minutes or so):

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Filed under Chicago, Family, History, Travel

Journal of Airliner Seat Photography 2


Further notes on my occasional hobby/obsession with snapping pictures while strapped into an airliner seat: The scene above shows the Byron Generating Station (a nuclear power plant) in Ogle County, Illinois, about 70 miles west of Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport. The view here was taken July 26, 2012, from American Airlines Flight 1661, to San Francisco, about 12 and a half minutes after takeoff (we lifted off the runway at 6:43 p.m. CDT, about two hours late). The view here is north/northeast. The Rock River is at the left, and the town of Byron is at the upper right, about three miles from the plant; the town of Oregon, Illinois, is just out of the frame at the lower left.

As it happens, Kate and I were driving in this area last week, and when I saw the plant’s cooling towers in the distance I started looking for a place to stop and take a picture. We found Razorville Road, which runs north-south about a mile west of the plant, and pulled off. The roadside was studded with “No Trespassing” signs, and I was careful not to stray beyond them. I half expected armed guards to show up, but none did. I got my pictures, and we drove off to another local attraction, the Black Hawk statue at Lowden State Park.



Filed under Chicago, History

Labor Day


Late the night of Labor Day, and one of those southerly winds is blowing in Chicago: gusty, warm, the kind of wind that even when it’s blowing hard seems to have a welcoming edge to it; the kind of wind that can stir up in these parts almost any time of the year–that can lead to a rapid thaw in January, force the first spring day while the calendar still says February, retrieve an evening or two of summer well after the first frost.

I drove with my dad on a round-about route out to Holy Sepulchre Cemetery this afternoon to visit my mom’s and brother’s grave and to see if I could find her parents’ and brother’s graves (I did, and did a little excavating in spite of myself to keep their markers visible). Then we went out to the area where I grew up late in the afternoon just to look around, to see what’s changed (a lot), what’s the same (a lot again) and what’s still recognizable (virtually everything, with allowance for surprises like the old par 3 course where we used to go to play miniature golf having been allowed to go back to nature).

Wandering some of the backroads, we found ourselves in Monee Township, where I tried to find the corner that I had determined, in my 15-year-old’s consultation with U.S. Geological Survey maps, was the high point in our area (something a little higher than 800 feet above sea level. In fact, the Stuenkel Road crossing on the Illinois Central, less than a mile west of us, appeared to be the highest point on the I.C. in the whole state). I had to noodle around a little to get to the place I was aiming for, winding up driving through Monee. On the way out of town, we crossed the Pauling Road overpass above Illinois 50 (Governors Highway, former U.S. 54) and the old Illinois Central mainline. As my brother Chris told me the other night, that I.C. line is now down to one track from the two to four that ran there when we were kids.

The sky was gorgeous as the evening came on. Just two weeks until the equinox.

(Here’s the Google Maps link for the locale where the picture was taken.)


Filed under Chicago, Family, Travel, Weather

Chenoa, Illinois


Chenoa’s a town about 25 miles north-northeast of Bloomington and sits at the junction of U.S. 24, which runs east-west, and Interstate 55 (and old U.S. 66). We drove through town in mid-April, headed west on 24 to pick up 55 on our way from Chicago to Berkeley. We detoured through the old downtown business district, a handful of handsome and under-used old brick buildings surrounded by low frame and pre-fab buildings. The sign was no doubt touched up or repainted altogether, since the Chicago-based Selz shoe concern apparently went out of business about 60 years ago. (Here’s a post from a blog on faded signs that talks about the company and has a few examples of old Selz signs.)


Filed under Chicago, Family, Travel

Mixed Marriage, Revisited


I’ve written about this grave before. About five years ago, my dad and I spotted it while visiting the Mother Jones Memorial in a union miners’ cemetery just outside Mount Olive, Illinois. The Cardinals and Cubs logos got our attention, of course. Last week, I stopped there again with my brother Chris and son Liam. After we got done gazing upon Mother Jones’s final resting place, we went across the road to the Kalvin grave. Chris noticed a metal capsule on the back of the stone, which happens to be the side facing the road. It has a hinged cover. Beneath the cover is what I take to be a picture of Steven and Verona, some time during their long marriage and lifelong residence in Mount Olive. A date is noted below: their wedding day. For a little historical baseball perspective, Steven Kalvin was born three years before Wrigley Field opened (and five years before the Cubs made it their home); Verona Kalvin was born the same year the last Yankee Stadium opened. They were married three seasons after the Cubs’ last pennant.

Verona, here’s hoping you don’t have to wait too much longer.



Filed under Travel

Delightful, Dismal


That's out of the area forecast discussion from the Chicago office of the National Weather Service, a line of clear "look what's happening outside" prose in the midst of talk about steep lapse rates, negatively tilted troughs, cyclonic flows, and tightening gradients. 

After a sufficient time away–decades, not years–you forget what April here can bring. The weather service provides a reminder of some snow records for this month, including a single snowfall of nearly 14 inches back in the 1930s. 

But outside the record books, I remember an Easter on which we got about a foot of snow (the preceding Christmas featured what I remember as a tropically warm heavy rain; well, rain anyway). The year I turned 16, the first baseball game of our high school season was postponed because we got nearly a foot of snow (when we played the game, a week or two later, the snow was gone and but sunny weather was accompanied by a brutal cold snap. We scored a single run on a sacrifice fly, our pitcher threw a no-hitter — it was too cold to want to make much contact — and we had the first win in a season whose other highlight was the desertion of about half the team to go watch Jefferson Airplane play for free in Grant Park). And then there was the day I turned 21, going to school down at Illinois State and working at the college paper, The Vidette. We had a blizzard of Spackle-like snow. I was lonely and typically disconsolate. Turning 21 wasn't a drinking holiday, since the drinking age was 19 at the time. The real source of my pain was another night spent at the dorms with no prospect of a date or even a friendly conversation with one of the thousands of females nearby. 

Oh, yeah, I got over it. But I haven't forgotten, now that I'm reminded.  "Delightfully dismal early April." 

[And Monday: More from the Tom Skilling and the Chicago Tribune's weather page on late season snow in Chicago: Snowless Aprils vs. Snowy Mays.] 


Filed under Family

Reading the Complaint: Dramatis Personae

An attempt to sort out the cast of characters who appear in the government’s complaint against Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich. A work in progress, obviously, and if you have any good links or suggestions, send ’em on in.

Named individuals

Imad Almanaseer, former member of Illinois Health Facility Planning Board; joined in scheme to exchange construction approvals for donations to Blagojevich and others; testified under immunity against Rezko.

Ali Ata, Chicago businessman who bought a seat as head of the state Capital Development Board seat with contributions to Blagojevich through fundraiser Antoin Rezko; testified against Rezko and has offered evidence against Blagojevich.

Thomas Beck, former member of Illinois Health Facility Planning Board; joined in scheme to exchange construction approvals for donations to Blagojevich and others; testified under immunity against Rezko.

Patti Blagojevich, the governor’s wife. (Tribune news profile)

Rod Blagojevich, governor of Illinois.

Daniel W. Cain, FBI Special Agent and affiant in the criminal complaint.

Joseph Cari,major Democratic fundraiser who participated in Rezko-Blagojevich scheme; offered evidence against Rezko and Blagojevich as part of plea deal.

William Cellini,Republican businessman who with Levine exercised control over Illinois Teachers Retirement System; secretly organized major donations to Blagojevich as part of the price to keep influence over the board; has been indicted in connection with abetting some of Levine’s and Rezko’s corrupt schemes.

Kelly Glynn, former Friends of Blagojevich finance director.

John Harris, Blagojevich’s chief of staff.

James F. Holderman, chief judge of U.S. District Court in Chicago who authorized Blagojevich eavesdropping in the governor’s campaign office and on his home phone. Holderman is a former federal prosecutor who joined in U.S. Attorney James R. Thompson’s campaign against corrupt Chicago politicians in the 1980s.

Chris Kelly, a principal campaign fundraiser for Blagojevich. (Kelly was indicted last year on federal tax fraud charges and is reportedly (as of 12/17/08) preparing to plead guilty in that case.

Matthew F. Kennelly, acting chief judge of U.S. District Court in Chicago who re-authorized wiretapping of Blagojevich’s home phone.

Stuart Levine, described in complaint as “a member of the board of trustees of the Teachers Retirement System and the Illinois Health Facilities Planning Board” who joined in the Blagojevich-Rezko shakedown scheme.

Steven Loren, outside counsel to the Illinois Teachers Retirement System; testified against Rezko under plea deal.

John McCormick, Chicago Tribune deputy editorial page editor.

Michael T. Mason, U.S. Magistrate Judge to whom complaint was sworn.

Lon Monk, lobbyist and former Blagojevich chief of staff.

Antoin (Tony) Rezko, Democratic fundraiser convicted of shaking down individuals and companies doing business with the state.

Thomas Rosenberg, one of the owners of Capri Capital, a real-estate investment firm that Rezko, Levine, Cellini et al. allegedly targeted in an extortion scheme (they are said to have demanded bribes and contributions to Friends of Blagojevich in exchange for approving a Teachers Retirement System investment with Capri).

Dr. Robert Weinstein, “a co-schemer in Levine’s criminal activities,” according to the complaint.

Unnamed individuals and Their Identities

Advisor A: The complaint says: “a former Deputy Governor under ROD

BLAGOJEVICH who is currently a lobbyist.” Speculation has pointed to Doug Scofield, Blagojevich’s former media strategist, former deputy governor, and lobbyist. This fall, the Tribune described him in passing as “a spokesman for the Friends of Blagojevich campaign committee.”

Candidates 1-6 for Obama’s Senate seat:

Candidate 1: Said to be Obama advisor and confidante Valerie Jarrett.

Candidate 2: Lisa Madigan, Illinois Attorney General.

Candidate 3: Rep. Jan Schakowsky has volunteered that she spoke to Blagojevich about the appointment and is quoted as saying (here and elsewhere) that “Number 3 is the only one I could be,” she said. “I’m either not in there at all or Candidate 3.”

Candidate 4: Said to be Deputy Governor A — Deputy Governor Bob Greenlee.

Candidate 5: Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.

Candidate 6: From the complaint: “Senate Candidate 6, based on other intercepted conversations, is believed to be a wealthy person from Illinois.” Blagojevich was recorded asking whether Senate Candidate 6 would be able to raise money for a 501(c)4 nonprofit that Blagojevich thought he might head after he was no longer governor. ROD BLAGOJEVICH asked, ‘if I get [Senate Candidate 6] to do something like that, is it worth giving him the Senate seat?’ ” TheHill.com speculated on the identity of No. 6 the day the complaint became public: “There is no shortage of millionaires in Illinois, and dozens could be politically active and interested in a U.S. Senate seat. One name that popped up among more than a few Illinois political observers was that of Blair Hull, the investment banker and businessman who lost the 2004 Senate primary to Obama. One of Hull’s assistants said he was out of the office on Tuesday and probably would not be available to the press. A call to Hull’s publicly listed residence went unanswered.”

Contributor 1: From the complaint: “… listed on the Friends of Blagojevich spreadsheet as someone from whom Friends of Blagojevich was seeking $100,000 in contributions.”

Cubs chairman: Crane Kenney. His name was brought up in connection with getting Tribune editorial writers fired for anti-Blagojevich editorials.

Deputy Governor A: The complaint specifies that Deputy Governor A is a male. By process of elimination, one online forum participant suggests that A is Deputy Governor Bob Greenlee. I’d consider that less than authoritative, but on the other hand, there’s not a big universe of possibilities. In Blagojevich’s alleged Senate seat gambit, Deputy Governor A was also Candidate 4 for Obama’s Senate seat. Here’s Greenlee’s LinkedIn page. [Update 12/11: Greenlee resigned his job yesterday, which seems to confirm that he is Deputy Governor A.]

Fundraiser A: Described as chairman of Friends of Blagojevich, the governor’s fundraising committee. State records available online don’t list a chairman, but Lou Grant at the Chitown Daily News informs us (including a link) that the chairman is Robert Blagojevich, the governor’s brother. The complaint specifies that Fundraiser A was present at an October 22, 2008, meeting with Blagojevich at the governor’s North Side campaign office; two others present, the complaint says, were Lobbyists 1 and 2. The Tribune and others have reported that the October 22 meeting was attended by Blagojevich, his former chief of staff Lon Monk, and fundraiser John Wyma. Wyma is supposedly Individual A, quoted in the complaint as describing Fundraiser A’s activities. By process of elimination, I’m guesssing that Monk is one of the lobbyists described here — I’ll call him Lobbyist 1.

Highway Contractor 1: From the complaint: “Highway Contractor 1 is an officer of a company that is a large supplier of concrete in the state of Illinois. [An Internet] search also reflected that Highway Contractor 1 is active in one of the largest trade associations, ACPA (American Concrete Pavement Association), in the road building industry in the state of Illinois.” The complaint also alleges that Individual A told investigators that Blagojevich intended to seek a $500,000 contribution from Highway Contractor 1, who was a potential beneficiary of a new tollway project. Highway Contractor 1 is also the subject of one of Blagojevich’s choicest quotes, “If they don’t perform, fuck ’em.”

So with those broad hints, who is this? After looking at Illinois and federal political contribution records, my money would be on Gerald Krozel, a long-time executive of Prairie Material Sales (a major concrete supplier) and recognized last year by the American Concrete Paving Association for his decades of promoting the industry (he was founder of the trade association that later became the ACPA’s Illinois chapter). Krozel and Prairie Group have been heavy, repeat contributors to state and federal campaigns, both Republican and Democratic, including the “Friends” committees for both jailbird former Governor George Ryan and Blagojevich.

The suburban Daily Herald quoted Krozel the day Blagojevich was arrested, apparently without knowing they were talking to the likely Mr. Highway Contractor 1:”Gerry Krozel, chairman of the Illinois division of the American Concrete Pavement Association and a vice president with concrete producer Prairie Material Sales Inc. said the mention of the organization in federal documents came as a big surprise. “We’re a very, very good association,” Krozel said, adding he has talked to Blagojevich but it involved how growth in the concrete industry can create jobs. [Update 12/17/08: Crain’s ChicagoBusiness.com yesterday quoted an executive with Prairie’s parent company, Toronto-based Votorantim Cement North America, as saying the company is cooperating with federal investigators in the Blagojevich case. Votorantim wouldn’t confirm that Prairie Material or Krozel are the entities mentioned in the complaint, and they referred further questions to the U.S. Attorney’s office.

Hospital Executive 1: The complaint says: “the Chief Executive Officer of Children’s Memorial Hospital.” The Children’s CEO is Patrick Magoon. Some background on the alleged shakedown attempt on Magoon from The Tribune’s chicagobreakingnews.com: “Inside Blagojevich’s alleged hospital shakedown.”

Individual A: [12/12/08:] Political fund-raiser John Wyma, according to The New York Times (here and also here) and others. One of the best anecdotes in the investigation comes from the October 22 meeting at Blagojevich’s campaign office on Ravenswood Avenue on the North Side. Wyma and Blagojevich’s former chief of staff, Lon Monk, were reportedly at the meeting. When Wyma emerged from the 90-minute session, he was greeted by a Chicago Tribune reporter and photographer. What did he do? He ran for his car. Then he thought better of it.

Individual B: From the complaint: “On October 6, 2008, Individual A and Individual B attended a meeting with ROD BLAGOJEVICH and JOHN HARRIS. Individual B sought the meeting with ROD BLAGOJEVICH to discuss help ROD BLAGOJEVICH could provide to Individual B’s business venture. After Individual B left the meeting, ROD BLAGOJEVICH informed Individual A that ROD BLAGOJEVICH liked Individual B and/or Individual B’s project and wanted Individual A to approach Individual B about raising $100,000 for Friends of Blagojevich by the end of the year.”

Individual C: Complaint says: “A former member of the U.S. House of Representatives who is believed to be attempting to assist ROD BLAGOJEVICH in passing a capital bill worth billions of dollars that would benefit Highway Contractor 1 and the trade association with which he is affiliated.”

Individual D: Complaint says: “Individual D, an individual who ROD BLAGOJEVICH is attempting to obtain campaign contributions from and who, based on intercepted phone calls, ROD BLAGOJEVICH believes to be close to Senate Candidate 5 [Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.]” Based on this story in today’s (12/12/08) Tribune, a likely candidate for Individual D is Raghuveer Nayak, a Chicago-area doctor who has given generously (more than $70,000 this year and $200,000 in the last decade) to all sorts of candidates (including Hillary Clinton, Obama, and McCain this year). [Update: Thanks to Lou Grant for a pointer to a story in the Trb (12/22/08) that reports Nayak is in fact Individual D and that he’s seeking “immunity from federal authorities in return for his cooperation in their ongoing probe” of Blagojevich.

Lobbyist 1: Former Blagojevich chief of staff Lon Monk. (See Fundraiser A entry for explanation.)

Lobbyist 2:

President-elect: Barack Obama

President of Engineering Firm 1: [12/12/08:]

Possibilities: Alfred Benesch & Co., V3 Companies of Illinois, Wight and Co.

The complaint says the firm “received in excess of $10 million from the State of Illinois during each of fiscal years 2004 through 2008.” A commenter (Tom) points to a July 30, 2008, Chicago Tribune article (“Blagojevich Raises Cash While Reform Bill Sits“) that raises two chief possibilities as to the engineering firm involved in the complaint: Alfred Benesch & Co. and V3 Companies of Illinois. Commenter Tom thinks Benesch fits the bill best, and here’s some circumstantial evidence that backs up that conclusion: Searching for Benesch executives in the Illinois State Board of Elections contributor database shows the firm’s president, Michael Goodkind, of Chicago, and his colleagues seem to have been very generous with both Democrats and Republicans in Springfield. They’ve dumped a lot of money on the Friends of Blagojevich (and before he was in office, they did the same for George Ryan, now in prison, and to a lesser extent Jim Edgar). It’s also of note that Antoine Karam, the Benesch executive vice president quoted in the July Tribune story as anxious to see a campaign finance reform law go into effect in Illinois–he says it would save him money in contributions–is a former chief engineer of the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority. That can’t have hurt when the company was bidding for tollroad work.

The other possibilities: V3 Companies of Illinois: The firm has gotten plenty of state highway work, but not quite as much as the complaint suggests. Also, the firm doesn’t appear to have been a particularly active contributor to any candidate or campaign. Wight and Co., based in Darien, Illinois, has done a substantial amount of work for the state during Blagojevich’s tenure (though not as much as Benesch, and not quite as much as the complaint suggests) and is listed as contributing about $125,000 to the governor’s committee. There’s another tie between Wight’s chairman and CEO, Mark T. Wight, and Blagojevich: Patti Blagojevich, a real-estate agent, handled the 2005 sale of Mark Wight’s Chicago condominium to John Wyma, the Blagojevich confidante widely reported to be Individual A in the complaint and also reported last week to be cooperating with investigators.

Both the July Trib story mentioned above and other reporting (see the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform blog on July 22, 2008, “State contractors contributing to Blagojevich“) do a pretty good job of suggesting how the pay-for-play game was being run.

Spokesman: The complaint says, “a State of Illinois employee who is the official spokesperson for the Governor’s office.” That’s Lucio Guerrero.

Sports Consultant: From the complaint: “The president of a Chicago-area sports consulting firm, whose remarks during the conversation indicated that he was working with the Cubs on matters involving Wrigley Field.”

Sun-Times columnist: Michael Sneed.

Tribune Owner: Sam Zell

Tribune Financial Advisor: Complaint says, “Tribune Financial Advisor is believed to be an individual identified in media accounts as a top assistant and financial advisor to Tribune Owner, who played a significant role in Tribune Owner’s purchase of the Tribune.” Based on that, here’s one candidate: Nils Larsen, a managing director at Zell’s Equity Group Investments LLC. In November 2007, Crain’s Chicago Business ran a Larsen profile that characterized him as intimately involved in Zell’s media purchases, including that of the Tribune. [Update: The Tribune says in a story Friday, December 12 that Larsen is the Tribune Financial Advisor named in the complaint: “Sam Zell’s financial adviser at Tribune Co. was middleman sought by Blagojevich.” The story details Larsen’s role in the Tribune Co. and calls him Zell’s point man in trying to sell the Cubs.]

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Filed under Chicago, Current Affairs

Reading the Complaint 2 (or, ‘The Governor, His Wife and the F—in’ Cubs’]

From pages 43-45:

In another call between ROD BLAGOJEVICH and Deputy Governor A that occurred a short time later on November 3, 2008, ROD BLAGOJEVICH and Deputy Governor A discussed an editorial from the Chicago Tribune regarding the endorsement of Michael Madigan and calling for a committee to consider impeaching ROD BLAGOJEVICH. During the call, ROD BLAGOJEVICH’s wife can be heard in the background telling ROD BLAGOJEVICH to tell Deputy Governor A “to hold up that fucking Cubs shit. . . fuck them.” ROD BLAGOJEVICH asked Deputy Governor A what he thinks of his wife’s idea. Deputy Governor A stated that there is a part of what ROD BLAGOJEVICH’s wife said that he “agree[s] with.” Deputy Governor A told ROD BLAGOJEVICH that Tribune Owner will say that he does not have anything to do with the editorials, “but I would tell him, look, if you want to get your Cubs thing done get rid of this Tribune.” Later, ROD BLAGOJEVICH’s wife got on the phone and, during the continuing discussion of the critical Tribune editorials, stated that Tribune Owner can “just fire” the writers because Tribune Owner owns the Tribune. ROD BLAGOJEVICH’s wife stated that if Tribune Owner’s papers were hurting his business, Tribune Owner would do something about the editorial board. ROD BLAGOJEVICH then got back on the phone. ROD BLAGOJEVICH told Deputy Governor A to put together the articles in the Tribune that are on the topic of removing ROD BLAGOJEVICH from office and they will then have someone, like JOHN HARRIS, go to Tribune Owner and say, “We’ve got some decisions to make now.” ROD BLAGOJEVICH said that “someone should say, ‘get rid of those people.’” ROD BLAGOJEVICH said that he thinks that they should put this all together and then have HARRIS or somebody go talk to the Tribune owners and say, “Look, we’ve got decisions to make now. . . moving this stuff forward (believed to be a reference to the IFA helping with the Cubs sale) . . . someone’s gotta go to [Tribune Owner], we want to see him . . it’s a political fuckin’ operation in there.” Deputy Governor A agreed and said that HARRIS needs to be “sensitive” about how he does it. ROD BLAGOJEVICH said there is nothing sensitive about how you do it and that it’s “straight forward” and you say “we’re doing this stuff for you, we believe this is right for Illinois [and] this is a big deal to [Tribune Owner] financially” but what ROD BLAGOJEVICH is doing to help Tribune Owner is the same type of action that the Tribune is saying should be the basis for ROD BLAGOJEVICH’s impeachment. ROD BLAGOJEVICH said Tribune Owner should be told “maybe we can’t do this now. Fire those fuckers.” Deputy Governor A suggested that ROD BLAGOJEVICH say, “I’m not sure that we can do this anymore because we’ve been getting a ton of these editorials that say, look, we’re going around the legislature, we gotta stop and this is something the legislature hasn’t approved. We don’t want to go around the legislature anymore.” ROD BLAGOJEVICH agreed and said that he wants HARRIS to go in and make that case, “not me.” Deputy Governor A agreed and said that he likes it. ROD BLAGOJEVICH asked Deputy Governor A to put the list of Tribune articles together.

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Reading the Complaint

I won’t get all the way through the Justice Department’s complaint, USA v. Rod R. Blagojevich and John Harris, today, but here’s a surprise at the outset (on p. 7):

Since approximately 2003, the government has been investigating allegations of illegal activity occurring in State of Illinois government as part of the administration of Governor ROD BLAGOJEVICH. As further detailed below, the investigation has developed evidence that: (a) beginning not later than in or about 2002, ROD BLAGOJEVICH has conspired with multiple individuals, including, beginning not later than in or about October 2008, JOHN HARRIS, to devise and participate in a scheme, which used and contemplated the use of the mails and interstate wire communications, to defraud the State of Illinois and its residents of the honest services of ROD BLAGOJEVICH and JOHN HARRIS by corruptly using the office of Governor of the State of Illinois to obtain and attempt to obtain personal gain, including financial gain, for ROD BLAGOJEVICH and third parties with whom he is associated.

In other words, the feds began investigating the governor the same year he took office. Which kind of makes you wonder what flags went up, what complaints were being made, what behavior was going on that drew such attention so early. To put this in perspective, the Justice Department began investigating Blagojevich even before his predecessor, George Ryan, had been indicted.


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