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American Dream Betrayed

Retry Robert!

Okay, it's too late for that to happen. But dropping the charges against Blago's brother amidst a weird groundswell of pundit sympathy hardly equates with justice.

Let's review.

Burris Buddy
The amnesiac media forgets that Robert Blagojevich first came to our attention during the Roland Burris saga.

"A former top official for then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich said Thursday he got a 'courtesy call' from Roland Burris last fall noting Burris' interest in a vacant U.S. Senate seat - a contact Burris failed to mention to lawmakers in his evolving testimony about how he got the job," the Tribune reported on February 20, 2009.

"In a Feb. 4 affidavit Burris quietly filed with the Democratic leader of the House committee, he revealed other contacts he had with Blagojevich allies and insiders, including Robert Blagojevich, the former governor's brother and chief fundraiser, who requested fundraising help."

Get it?

But as part of his own media strategy to gain sympathy among potential jurors, Robert and his wife gave the compliant Sun-Times an "exclusive" last September that reframed that incident without challenge.

"Rob Blagojevich declined to discuss the specifics of the criminal case. But he pointed to an exchange last November between himself and Roland Burris, who eventually got the Senate appointment. The secretly recorded conversation was made public as part of a U.S. Senate ethics inquiry. Burris can be heard telling Rob Blagojevich that he's feeling conflicted, that he wants to give to Rod Blagojevich 's campaign fund but worries how it would look as he sought the Senate seat appointment.

"On tape, Rob Blagojevich presses Burris to donate to his brother. But, regarding the Senate seat, he's heard essentially telling Burris: Get in line, that others also were seeking the appointment.

"'How I conducted myself with Burris is how I conducted myself with everyone when no one was looking,' Rob Blagojevich told the Sun-Times."

But this is how the New York Times - in a tone quite similar to other reports - saw it in "Burris Says Audiotape Confirms Innocence" on May 28, 2009

"In speaking with Robert Blagojevich, who served as his brother's top fund-raiser, Mr. Burris seemed to contemplate ways to raise money for the governor without creating a public perception that he was trying to buy the Senate seat. Perhaps he could write a check, he said at one point. At another, he said, 'I might be able to do this in the name of' his law partner, who, he added, 'is not looking for an appointment.'

"'I'm just trying to figure out what the best way to do where it won't create any conflict for either one of us,' he said, ultimately pledging that he would 'personally do something' and 'it'll be done before the 15th of December.'"

"Mr. Blagojevich was arrested by federal agents on Dec. 9 . . .

"Two inquiries are continuing into how Mr. Burris received his appointment, and whether he told the truth to state legislators to whom he testified later. He at first said he had had no earlier contact with the governor's representatives about his appointment. Weeks later, he described talks with Mr. Blagojevich's allies, including his brother."

Two-Way Networker
Is it possible Robert Blagojevich didn't understand the nature of the conversation he was saying with Burris? Hardly.

"Though Robert Blagojevich had always been involved in politics, his background was in banking," the Tribune reported in April 2009. "He headed up a Nashville bank's trust and investment divisions and also sold securities in Tampa, where he got his degree. His success even earned him a chance to give the commencement speech at the University of Tampa in May 2008.

"'I've been very lucky to have benefited numerous times from people who knew people who led me to a new opportunity or advanced me in my business,' he said, according to a copy of his speech. 'Networking should be a two-way street, though. In order to build a network of centers of influence, you should be willing to help someone yourself.'"

Military Stooge
For a guy who used to have top-secret security clearance in the Army and whose success as a businessman is always noted, Robert Blagojevich sure gets a lot of credit for being the most naive person in the history of American politics to head up a campaign fund for the governor of the nation's fifth-most populous state.

"I've got to admit there's a part of me that feels a little sorry for Robert Blagojevich," Sun-Times columnist Mark Brown wrote in June in trademark wishy-washy style.

"These feelings of sympathy for Robert Blagojevich have come and gone several times during the year and a half since Rod Blagojevich 's arrest - and even in the process of writing this column - as I've argued out the evidence with myself.

"It doesn't help Robert 's case that he's a year older than Rod. After all, the older brother is supposed to know better."

In novels, maybe. This is real life.

"Nor does it help that Robert was on Rod's campaign payroll at a salary of $12,500 a month - or $150,000 a year - when federal prosecutors say he was caught on wiretaps taking part in his brother's shakedown schemes. At that rate of pay, he had even more of a responsibility to know what he'd gotten himself into."

Well, he is a military man, as the media keeps reminding us. Honor, accountability, all that stuff.

"It won't help Robert that one of the wiretaps recorded Rod advising caution to big brother on how to approach a friend of Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. for campaign contributions as he dangled an appointment to the U.S. Senate.

"'You gotta be careful how you express that and assume everybody's listening, the whole world is listening. You hear me?' Rod tells him.

"Rod also advised his brother to conduct a crucial meeting on the Senate seat in person instead of over the phone, both of which should have been red flags to an honest person."

To a dishonest person, too.

"Robert 's main legal problem is that he is the one who made the direct approach for campaign contributions after consulting with Rod.

"He's accused of being part of the conspiracy to sell Barack Obama's Senate seat and in separate schemes to extort campaign donations from an executive at Children's Memorial Hospital, an Illinois racetrack owner and a construction contractor.

"In all instances, he was the middleman who asked for the money. Even if he believes he never personally overstepped his legal bounds, he must have realized the game Rod was playing."

Of course he did. He said so himself - it was "just politics." As he saw it.

Robert's Testimony
"Everything had gone so well on the witness stand Monday for Robert Blagojevich, the former governor's brother and co-defendant," Brown wrote in a later column.

"Finally, after all these months, he'd gotten the chance to tell his story and to tell it his way, coming across as every bit the solid former military officer and successful businessman that his lawyer Michael Ettinger had portrayed in opening statements.

"More than that, he'd been the anti-Blago - a sober sensible adult with a voice and demeanor at odds with his flamboyant politico sibling, topped off with a grown-up's haircut that doesn't try to hide the gray.

"His testimony, backed up with new wiretaps that seemed to cut in his favor, had played out so positively that even a prosecution-sympathetic observer such as myself was left second-guessing whether he really deserved to be on trial with little brother.

"And then it all blew up in Robert Blagojevich 's face in just the first 15 minutes of cross-examination by federal prosecutor Chris Niewoehner as the former chairman of Friends of Blagojevich was left trying to explain a previously unheard conversation in which he counseled brother Rod to conduct 'horse trading' with then President-elect Barack Obama to kill the federal criminal investigation of his administration.

"The Nov. 5, 2008, discussion came one day after the presidential election at a time the Blagojeviches already knew Obama wanted Valerie Jarrett as his replacement but a month before the governor's arrest when the full extent of the investigation would become known.

"'If you can get Obama to get [U.S. Attorney Patrick] Fitzgerald to close the investigation on you, it completely provides you with total clarity,' Robert Blagojevich was quoted as telling Rod in a transcript read by Niewoehner, suggesting this as a more realistic gambit than angling for a Cabinet appointment.

"On the witness stand, Robert argued his suggestion had nothing to do with Jarrett's appointment, but didn't offer a more convincing explanation. He said he meant it 'in the context of what politicians do.'"

Which is what, doing the president a favor to get a federal investigation killed?

"One minute he's testifying about how he'd taken pains to maintain a separation between fund-raising and official government action and fully appreciated the legal ramifications, and the next minute he's defending the idea of political interference in a federal corruption probe.

"Robert said he'd only made the suggestion 'as a concerned brother,' and argued he'd been 'very naive to suggest that.'"

Yes, that was when Robert had his "concerned brother" hat on. Then he took that hat off and put on his "campaign director" hat and advised that it was a terrible idea. That must be how it happened.

"You could interpret that as naive, I suppose, but you could also see it as symptomatic of the same cynical, amoral world view that characterized Rod's political machinations."

Bear in mind that Robert was inspired to go into real estate - this is not a joke - by watching infomercials.

The Lying Game
"On a tape played Monday by the defense, Robert could be heard insisting forcefully to an Indian businessman interested in Jesse Jackson Jr.'s selection that 'money is not going to be a factor' in Rod's pick to replace Obama.

"'Rod's going to do what's best for Illinois. Nothing else matters,' Robert said, sounding as if he meant it," Brown continues.

But we know from the other tapes that Robert knows otherwise. He has spent months listening to his brother tie decisions to fundraising.

The Jackson Affair
"Three months after he took over his brother's campaign fund, Robert Blagojevich said he was approached with an offer by a longtime fund-raiser to U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.: Then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich would get $6 million in campaign money if he appointed the congressman to Barack Obama's open U.S. Senate seat," the Sun-Times reported during the trial.

"The offer came from longtime Jackson fund-raiser Raghu Nayak, the man authorities described in charging documents as an emissary of Jackson Jr., Robert Blagojevich said.

"Testifying for the defense on Monday, Robert Blagojevich said that at an Oct. 31, 2008, fund-raising meeting, Nayak promised that if Jackson were appointed, $1 million would be raised for Blagojevich by the end of 2008 and then another $5 million would go to Blagojevich after Jackson became senator.

"Robert Blagojevich testified that three days earlier, state employee Rajinder Bedi told him of a $1.5 million offer for Jackson's appointment. Bedi, who testified for the prosecution, said he met with Robert Blagojevich the same day he had a breakfast meeting with Jackson in which Nayak told Jackson he'd raise $1 million for Blagojevich if Jackson were appointed senator.

"Robert Blagojevich said he relayed the information from Bedi to his brother.

"'We thought it was just a joke,' Robert Blagojevich testified of Bedi's overture. 'It was outrageous.'"

Forgive me for not recalling Robert's lawyer introducing into evidence a tape that captured that sentiment. Instead, we heard Rod talk about how he was reconsidering a Jackson appointment.

"His testimony on Monday in part served to explain phone calls regarding the Senate seat, including on Dec. 4, 2008, when former Gov. Rod Blagojevich told him to approach Nayak and tell him Jackson would be elevated: 'If there's tangible political support like you've said, start showing us now.'"

This is where the infamous Starbucks defense comes in.

"Robert Blagojevich testified he got the call from his brother while he was at Starbucks on a rare outing his wife, Julie, and was only half-paying attention.

"'I thought he was being rude. He knew I was with Julie,' Robert said."

How would that be rude? Why does it matter that he was in a Starbucks? You've never taken an important call when you're out for coffee? You don't pay attention when the governor is talking about who he is going to appoint to the United States Senate? Please.

"Robert Blagojevich said he wasn't exactly sure what his brother meant by 'tangible political support.'"

It just escaped the imagination of the director of fundraising?

"He said he did set up a meeting with Nayak and after a newspaper article was published reporting that the then-governor may have been captured on a wire, he postponed the meeting."

HELLO, PEOPLE!

"Did you intend at any time to bring up fund-raising with Raghu Nayak when you met him?" Ettinger asked.

"No," Robert Blagojevich said.

They were just going to share an expresso.

Political Value
"Cross-examining Robert Blagojevich, Assistant U.S. Attorney Chris Niewoehner repeatedly asked him whether he urged his brother to exchange the appointment of Jarrett in for a promise from Obama to pull the plug on the federal corruption investigation," AP reported.

"'As a part of horse-trading, right?' Niewoehner said.

"'Absolutely not!' Robert Blagojevich shot back, raising his voice.

"He said he never suggested to his brother that he try to wrest any personal benefit from the Senate seat but only things of 'political value' that would advance the then-governor's legislative agenda.

"[Robert's lawyer Michael] Ettinger replayed a recording initially played by prosecutors in which Robert Blagojevich is heard telling the governor 'the only brotherly advice I'd give ya . . .I wouldn't give anything away.'"

But what about "Rod's going to do the best for Illinois, nothing else matters"?

"Robert Blagojevich said he merely was talking about getting a good political deal."

But what about "Rod's going to be the best for Illinois, nothing else matters"?

"He testified that his brother frequently spoke of naming Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan to the Senate seat. The idea was to make a deal with her father, House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago), that would put his legislative program through the House.

"Robert Blagojevich also said he often was outside the loop when his brother and political advisers met to discuss raising campaign contributions. He said the governor often would go in a back office with lobbyists such as former aides Alonzo Monk and John Wyma to discuss fundraising matters."

Hello?

"He described himself as merely "the score keeper" of the campaign fund. He also said fundraising for his brother was difficult in part because of reports that the administration was under investigation."

So at this point you knew your brother had lied to you about the investigation being behind him - or you knew perfectly well where things stood when you took the job. Either way.

"At one point, Robert Blagojevich went out of his way to address the profanities he and his brother threw around on the secret FBI recordings. Breaking courtroom protocol, he turned toward the jury without his attorney asking any direct question on the subject. "If anyone was offended by the vulgarity, I apologize,' he said casting his eyes around the courtroom. 'I didn't expect anyone would hear me.'"

Just A Dupe
"[Robert] Blagojevich told the jury he had a bright career in the Army, leading a platoon that oversaw strategic Pershing missiles in Germany during the Cold War," the Tribune reported. "He went into banking after leaving active duty, he testified, and eventually started up in real estate after he watched an infomercial on a hotel television."

Told ya.

"Robert Blagojevich's lawyer, Michael Ettinger, asked him about a Dec. 4, 2008, conversation between the brothers in which the governor said of Jackson that he was 'elevating him now.' It was in this conversation that Rod Blagojevich talked about help from the Jackson camp, and that 'some of it can be tangible upfront' - a reference, the government alleges, to the fundraising promise.

"Robert Blagojevich said he was annoyed during the call because he was at a Starbucks with his wife and repeatedly gave short answers to speed the call along. He also said he was 'not quite sure' what the governor meant by his 'tangible' comment. "But I know it had nothing to do with that approach (to Jackson) because that was a dead issue,' Blagojevich told the jury."

Except Rod was telling him a Jackson appointment was no longer dead. That was the point of the conversation. Jackson was now being "elevated" because the Jackson camp was (allegedly) offering a deal.

Media Strategy
"The strategy was, it was a disappointment I wasn't acquitted. It was important to reach the next jury pool," Robert told the Chicago News Cooperative after charges against him were dropped.

"We had a 9-3 vote in my favor, so we came very close. And that was with a jury pool that had been polluted by [U.S. Attorney] Patrick Fitzgerald's press conference. So now that we had a trial, it was a good time for me to make a case, be interviewed, explain my situation, and emote whatever I could emote."

Irony Alert
"I haven't lost faith in the institution of my government, but I have lost faith in some of the people who represent government. Because they are the ones who ultimately represent us and when they have unbridled power to what they want to do, and not consider the consequences to the people that they are targeting, we should all as citizens be concerned and warned, and do everything we can to not squander any more of our civil liberties."

Dude, your brother was impeached.

Patsy Cake
So Robert set out to "emote whatever I could emote" in an interview given to (natch) the Sun-Times before the charges against him were dropped in an effort to reach the next jury pool. The paper ran the interview on Sunday anyway.

First, it's a little hard to feel sorry for someone who has spent millions of dollars on lawyers the rest of us couldn't afford. Complain to Ettinger, not us.

Second, a smart guy like you didn't realize the depth of the probe against your brother? Ever hear of Google?

Third, you say "I never would have tied fundraising" to state actions, but didn't you say that was how you thought politics worked? Which is it?

Fourth, enough with the Starbucks defense. What do you suppose made your brother think he could have that kind of discussion with you if you weren't playing ball?

Fifth, the next time you complain about tax dollars being used to prosecute political corruption, throw in a complaint about tax dollars being used to pay the salaries of elected officials who spend their time bowling and hiding in bathrooms instead of doing their jobs.

Finally, to the Sun-Times: Think before you conduct an interview. This was your chance and this is all we get?

Jury Pool Coverage
This wasn't the first time, of course, that the Sun-Times enabled Robert.

In September 2009, the paper published two "exclusives" designed to elicit sympathy and reach at least one juror.

"Rob Blagojevich , who spent 21 years in the Army, said he has always lived by the rules and takes it as a personal affront that the country he has served has, in his view, turned on him," the Sun-Times reported.

Has Robert always lived by the rules? I have no idea, and neither does the Sun-Times. Just because he says it doesn't mean you have to write it down.

"Their mother had often cried to them about her own brothers and how they'd grown estranged."

If we're going to keep hearing about this, we ought to hear about why they became estranged. Perhaps one of them didn't live by the rules?

"Rob Blagojevich won a military scholarship and, after graduating cum laude, went on active military duty. By 25, he was living in Germany, had distinguished himself in the Army and was in charge of three Pershing nuclear missiles.

"He moved back to the United States, and his career in financial services took off. At one point, he was in charge of $3.5 billion in trust assets with First American, then Tennessee's biggest bank."

Just want to reinforce the notion here that Robert is far from the naif he is constantly portrayed as.

"My husband is an innocent man, wrongly accused," his wife, Julie, said. "He's done nothing wrong. He's been portrayed to be the bagman for his brother. . . . He is so not that person. He's the most honorable, forthright, direct . . . moral person you will ever, ever meet."

Examples, please.

"Rob Blagojevich said he spent years building a good reputation as a businessman in Nashville."

He says that, but an examination of his record in Nashville would be more instructive.

Prop Wife
A week later, the Sun-Times struck again.

"In an exclusive interview with the Sun-Times, Julie and Rob Blagojevich described the case against him as weak and the FBI wiretaps as overly intrusive."

Stop the presses.

Patsy Wake
And just last week Robert emoted to Sneed through as source whose name is probably Michael Ettinger that he had visited his parents' graves. And he wanted to make sure everyone knew it.

The Verdict
Why criticize the media when the jury failed to convict Robert?

Well, as I've written, it was a crappy jury, too. Look no further than foreman James Matsumoto. Matsumoto sure seems like a sweet man on TV, and I'm sure the press doesn't want to rough him up. But he had a responsibility and all available evidence indicates he fell short - and continues to do so.

"I'm glad Robert's off," Matsumoto told the Sun-Times. "I think he did break the law, but I think justice is being served with his not being retried."

If Robert broke the law, how is justice being served? Does he have a get-out-of-jail card I'm not aware of? Immunity?

Robert wasn't charged with shoplifting a pack of gum from 7/11. He was charged with conspiring to auction off a United States Senate seat in exchange for such benefits for his brother as millions of dollars in campaign contributions or a job in the president's cabinet.

"Even though he committed a crime, it was never to his benefit," Matsumoto said. "He was never getting anything. He was just doing it for his brother."

Oh, I get it. Apparently there is a just-doing-it-for-my-brother exclusion in the law.

The New Math
But the majority of jurors thought Robert was innocent!

That's what I heard Elizabeth Brackett say the other night and it's certainly been the claim of several other pundits, but Matsumoto says that a majority of jurors thought Robert was guilty on three of the four counts he was charged with.

How, then, does the Sun-Times get away with reporting that "The majority of of jurors have said they found his testimony credible"?

Who Is Robert Blagojevich?
What kind of guy is Robert Blagojevich? I have no earthly idea, and neither do the pundits drawing conclusions from their brief observations during his and his brother's recent trial.

"A former military man with tamed hair, he's a hard guy to actively dislike," the three- or four-person Sun-Times editorial "board" decided last week.

Really? Is that all it takes?

For all I know, Robert is an awesome guy. Let's say he is. Should that preclude him from due justice in a court of law? Is his guilt - or even the question of whether he should be retried - to be decided by how likable someone is?

And someone who has no problem admitting to projecting a stalwart image in hopes of reaching a future jury pool?

This is your media, still scrambling to find the popularity they never had in high school. Let me be your friend! they cry and wail as they scramble to get close to the beautiful and influential. Like us, like us! Share your secrets with us, we won't tell! It will make us feel "in."

Punished Enough
Then there is the "he's been punished enough" school of thought.

I didn't know that was a facet of our criminal justice system.

"He was a novice forced by family loyalty into a job for which he had no background, and he clearly was in over his head in the shark tank of Illinois politics," the Tribune's Steve Chapman writes.

He was forced to take the job. He was in over his head. This was nothing like Pershing missiles!

"He was not a guy in a Corvette with a radar detector doing 100 mph on the Interstate. He was a guy who was going 70 in a 55 zone because everyone else seemed to be doing it."

Who was everyone else? His brother?

"Trying him once was punishment enough."

Again, jurors weren't close to acquitting Robert. Doesn't that count for something?

Poor Robert
"His lawyers cost him a small fortune," the Sun-Times editorial "board" writes. "His reputation is forever tarnished. He was compelled to put his life on hold for the last couple of years, never sure if his future wasn't a cell in prison.

"And forever, his brother is Rod Blagojevich."

How clever! How could they ever try him in the first place? He's suffered enough!

Now, as for all those poor chumps sitting in Cook County Jail who still haven't seen the inside of a courtroom . . .

Media Virus
Remember how damaging Robert's testimony was? Forgotten.

"A star witness," Irv Miller said on CBS2.

"An effective witness," a jury consultant said on another station.

"Cut this guy loose," Mike Flannery said on Fox Chicago. "Let him go home."

(Flannery added that there was "no need to charge" Patti, either. Maybe Flannery was out of town during the trial.)

Has the world gone crazy?

Wish Wash
SouthtownStar columnist Phil Kadner provides some welcome relief.

First, he reminds us of December 5, 2008.

"On that day, in a front-page headline, the Tribune declared, 'Feds taped Blagojevich.' On that very day, a federal wiretap caught the governor talking to his brother.

"Robert Blagojevich reminded Rod that he had a meeting at 1 p.m. with Raghu Nayak, an Indian businessman who allegedly had offered to raise $6 million if U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-2nd) was appointed to the Senate seat.

"'I got a meeting today at 1:00,' Robert Blagojevich tells his brother.

"'Raghu,' Rod Blagojevich replies.

"'Yeah.'

"'Yeah, I don't know if you should do it,' the governor says.

"And Robert postponed the meeting as a result of the call.

"Four days later, Blagojevich was arrested."

I just don't get what Kadner wrote a week later.

"As far as I'm concerned, the decision by the U.S. attorney is a disappointment only because Ettinger had promised to call U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-2nd) as a witness at a retrial, along with the Indian-American businessman who allegedly told Robert he could raise $6 million if Jackson was appointed senator.

"'The whole story' about the sale of the Senate seat will come out, Ettinger vowed, although he implied it would prove there was no deal to sell that seat.

"I still think the public is owed an explanation, some detail, whether or not it helps or damages the federal government's case.

"As for Ettinger, he talked openly about his strategy for defending Robert before the trial even began.

"Here was an honest guy, an American patriot, whose only crime was trying to help out his brother.

"It was brilliant. It worked. And maybe, even justice was done in the end."

I don't see how.

Class Bias
An Eric Zorn commenter:

"Respectfully, I am troubled by your position that Robert Blagojevich should be 'let go' because he's already paid attorney's fees and loss of reputation, yet you admit there is evidence he broke the law. Your position suggests that if you have the financial means to buy your way out of legal trouble you should be set free. What if Robert Blagojevich didn't have access to money to pay attorney's fees? (By the way, check the docket in this case. A massive amount of money was paid on his behalf from the Friends of Blagojevich campaign, authorized by an Order entered by Judge Zagel.) If he were poor, he'd not have been able to pay for such a defense. Would you support him being convicted of a felony and punished then?

"I think you are a sensitive person who didn't think that comment all the way through. Felons are felons. Regardless of economic means.

"ZORN REPLY - The punishment, what he's been through, more than fits the crime, as I see it. You've got to have a sense of proportion here."

I didn't know a trial alone was sufficient punishment for conspiracy to commit extortion and conspiracy to commit bribery involving the highest office in the state.

Media Narrative
As Bob Somerby often notes, the press loves to type novels. In this case, it was the good brother vs. the bad brother. The consequences of loyalty. The naive do-gooder caught up in a world he didn't understand. It sounds good, but it has nothing to do with the truth.

Dropped Ball
Why criticize the media and the jury when it was the prosecution that decided to drop the charges? Clearly I think the prosecution has dropped the ball. But clearly it was a strategic decision made in part because of the sympathetic portrait Robert was able to craft through his media dupes. And clearly Robert was a distraction to the jurors; they started their deliberations on him before realizing they had to take up Rod first. But that doesn't make Robert any less guilty.

Not Just The Senate Seat
In Pay to Play, Elizabeth Brackett reminds us of Robert's involvement in some of the other alleged shakedowns.

"Based on information John Wyma gave to the feds, a judge allowed wiretaps of Friends of Blagojevich office.

"The FBI began listening to conversations from the bugs in the Friends of Blagojevich office on October 22, 2008. They proved so productive that Fitzgerald went back to court with an unusual request to wiretap Rod Blagojevich's home phone."

Ahem.

"As the tape-recorded conversation was played at the governor's impeachment trial, the Senate chamber stilled. Then the voice of Blagojevich was heard clearly saying to Monk, 'Call Jimmy Johnston - or should I have Harris call him?'

"Monk told Blagojevich that the governor should call Johnston. But then he reassured Blagojevich, 'I'm telling you - he's gonna be good for it. I got in his face.'

"The state senators then heard the voice of Blagojevich's brother, Robert, telling the governor, 'He's gonna give. You . . . know, he didn't get it. But he said, 'You know, I'm good for it. I gotta just decide what, what . . . uh . . . accounts to get it out of.'

"And . . . Lon's going to talk to you about some sensitivities - legislatively - tonight when he sees you with regard to the timing of all this.'

"They heard the governor respond, 'Right - before the end of the year though, right?' A few minutes the governor tried to clarify the timing of the money from Johnston. 'Clearly before the end of the year, right?' Blagojevich had to get the contribution before the end of the year because of the new state ethics law, scheduled to take effect January 1, 2009, that would bar political contributions from those who did business with the state.

"Robert Blagojevich figured Johnston was 'good for it' because he had long been one of the governor's top contributors. A February 2009 report from the National Legal and Policy Center found that interests owned or affiliated with Johnny Johnston had contributed more than $343,000 to Blagojevich's campaign committee from 2002 to 2007. But those close to Johnston say he was outraged by the latest request linking it to the horse-racing bill sitting on the governor's desk. Johnston considered the . . . "

I can't tell you what Brackett wrote next because I used Amazon's "Search Inside The Book" function to get this; I don't have a copy myself. But we know that Johnston thought he was being shook down.

"Rod Blagojevich's former top aide said Monday the ex-governor delayed signing legislation in order to pressure a racetrack owner to make a campaign contribution," ABC7 reported.

"During Monk's testimony, prosecutors played over a dozen secret recordings of the ex-governor, Robert Blagojevich, and others dealing with the racetrack legislation. All were recorded in the months leading up to Blagojevich's arrest.

"Blagojevich never says on any of the tapes that he won't sign the bill unless he gets his contribution first, but that's what prosecutors allege was going on and that's the theme of Monk's testimony. When asked if they were linked, Monk answered, 'Yes.'"

I rest my case.

-

Comments welcome.



Permalink

Posted on August 31, 2010


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