Some of the many confectionary tributes arriving at the Blagojevich household in the last couple of days:
First things first: Or maybe I mean last. Even though it’s the tail end of the day, only 23 minutes left of it in Pacific time, still: Happy birthday, Chris.
Cold snap, Berkeley-style: Just came in from taking The Dog on his final neighborhood patrol for the evening — I say, “Patrol?” to him, and he jumps up to go out. We get frost here every once in a while, but rarely do you see it so early in the evening. A late commuter returning to his car across the street started up his engine, then I could hear the scraping of the wipers across the icy windshield. He kept that up for about five minutes waiting for the defroster to work. Gone now.
Names named: Not that it’s important or that it means anything, but if I don’t keep score no one will: Another one of my guesses about the unnamed persons in the Rod Blagojevich complaint panned out. The first was the man the complaint called Tribune Financial Advisor, who I surmised from an old magazine article was someone named Nils Larsen, a young tycoon who works for Tribune Owner (Sam Zell). That guess checked out. Number Two is Highway Contractor 1, someone that the governor and his cronies were allegedly expecting $500,000 in campaign contributions from in exchange, the complaint suggests, for an inside track on future tollroad work. I guessed that Mr. Highway Contractor 1 is Gerald Krozel, listed as president of Prairie Materials in southwest suburban Bridgeview and chairman of the American Concrete Pavement Association. A business reporter for Crain’s got confirmation that Krozel’s company is talking to the authorities. Next up: The secret identity of the governor’s grilled-cheese chef.
I knew trying to list all the people in the Blagojevich complaint would be a time sink; I knew it would be hard or impossible to figure out some of the people described in the document; and I knew the effort would be of ephemeral value.
But I went ahead. And after listing the roughly four dozen people mentioned in the government’s narrative of events, I can say it is a pretty interesting exercise and allows me to at least generally answer one question I had the day Blagojevich was arrested: How was it that federal investigators were hot on the trail of the governor’s administration within a matter of months after he was first sworn in? Of course, if you’ve followed the progress of the Antoin Rezko trial–out here in California, I did not–you know the answer: Rezko and other Blagojevich people were so unabashedly aggressive in their pursuit of “contributions” that flares were going up all over the place by the end of 2003. Also not apparent if you haven’t followed Illinois politics closely is the fact Blagojevich and the Democrats found willing partners among Republican operatives who didn’t want to see their own private skimming operations disturbed. And finally, for now: The complaint gives an example or two of people who refused to knuckle under to the state’s official extortion team, who either threatened to did go to the cops. In both cases, the schemers backed off. That said, it’s remarkable to read how many people, some of them seemingly honest and accomplished, who wanted in or were willing to go along once Team Blagojevich put the arm on them.
Anyway — back to other subjects for now, though I’ll continue to fill in the blanks on the Dramatis Personae where I can and probably put the updated list on a separate page somewhere. As before, any input welcome.
One final nod: to my brother Chris, who text-messaged me last Tuesday at 7:52 a.m. that “in case you haven’t heard, Blago was arrested.” Thanks, Chris!
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.
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.)
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.]
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.
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.
The U.S. Department of Justice sent the last governor of Illinois, George Ryan, to prison. And now it’s making a case against the incumbent, Rod Blagojevich. The department might consider opening an office in the governor’s suite from now on.
Anyway, in reading Blagojevich’s official governor’s page and in visiting the website of the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, I noted the striking similarity between the official seals of the sovereign state and the federal department (click for larger images).
Well, the left-facing eagles, the shields of Union, and the olive branches are the same, anyway. For what it’s worth, the Justice Department seal apparently predates the current version of the Illinois seal by about 20 years. The histories are here:
With the news that Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich is under arrest for influence peddling, it’s time to freshen my list of recent Illinois governors whose legal trouble reached felony level. As I said five years ago, when George Ryan, the last Illinois governor, was indicted on federal corrupion charges, Prairie State governors have racked up quite a record over the past half-century:
William G. Stratton (in office 1953-61): Indicted (1964) for income-tax evasion (acquitted).
Otto Kerner (1961-68): Indicted (1971) and convicted (bribery and other charges).
Sam Shapiro (1968-69): Never charged with anything, but then he only had eight months in office.
Richard Ogilvie (1969-73): Clean, so far as we know. Probably why he only served one term.
Dan Walker (1973-77): Indicted (1987) in his post-politics career as an S&L thief. Pled guilty.
Jim Thompson (1977-91): His career was about indicting other people, for a change.
Jim Edgar (1991-99): No dirt so far.
George Ryan (1999-2003): Indicted (2003) and convicted on federal corruption charges.
Rod Blagojevich (2003-present): Arrested (at home at 6:15 this morning) for influence peddling, including an alleged conspiracy to sell Barack Obama’s Senate seat. For a glimpse at government at its very best, it’s worth reading the press release from the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois. It’s a 12-page PDF. Among the highlights: “In a conversation … on November 11, the charges state, Blagojevich said he knew that the President-elect wanted Senate Candidate 1 for the open seat but “they’re not willing to give me anything except appreciation. [Expletive] them.”
[Update: As U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald just explained in his press conference in Chicago, Blagojevich has not been indicted; he was arrested pursuant to a two-count complaint: count one charges him and his chief of staff with conspiracy to defraud the state of their honest services; count two charges them with a scheme to get at least one editorial writer at the Chicago Tribune fired. The full 78-page complaint, in PDF form, is available here: United States of America v. Rod R. Blagojevich and John Harris.]
Four indicted; one under arrest; four unindicted.
One with charges pending.
William G. Stratton: Indicted for income-tax evasion (acquitted).
Otto Kerner: Indicted and convicted (bribery and other charges).
Sam Shapiro: Never charged with anything, but then he only had eight months in office.
Richard Ogilvie: Clean, so far as we know. Probably why he only served one term.
Dan Walker: Indicted and convicted–in his post-politics career–as an S&L thief.
Jim Thompson: His career was about indicting other people, for a change.
Jim Edgar: No dirt so far.
George Ryan: Indicted.
Four indicted; three unindicted.
One with charges pending.