SHAKEDOWN: Blagojevich bribed road contractors on Illinois toll project

Link to article here.

WARNING: There is some profanity contained in this article. Blagojevich uses some profane words when speaking about his plans to extort money from road contractors in exchange for building a much bigger toll project (went from $1.8 billion to a $5 billion project).

Illinois Tollway in clear in Blagojevich corruption case – no staff or board implicated
Toll Road News
Posted on Wed, 2010-04-14 22:47
The Feds have released details of their corruption case against former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich. Called “Government’s evidentiary proffer” the 91-page document filed in US District Court in Chicago by US Attorney Patrick J Fitzgerald today shows that the Governor tried to use the Illinois Tollway to extort money from Tollway contractors. But it makes no suggestion that Tollway officers or board members were involved in the shakedowns, just the Governor himself and his staffers.

The document is remarkable for the detail of hundreds of conversations between the governor and his immediate staff and telephone calls. Clearly the FBI had Blagojevich’s offices wired and other places he met. They tapped into his telephone conversations and those of his immediate staff.  

Most important, key participants in the conspiracies led by Blagojevich are cooperating with the US Attorney in his prosecution, perhaps in return for leniency.

The case begins before Blagojevich won the governorship in an election in late 2002. There are accounts of conversations with associates to plan extortions early in 2002.

From p21 of the US case after he became governor:

“There were occasions after Blagojevich became Governor that Blagojevich, Kelly, Monk, and Rezko (political hacks and flacks) all met to discuss their efforts to make money from state action. For example, the four men met in a conference room at the offices of one of Rezko’s businesses in about mid to late 2003. During the meeting, Rezko led the discussion, standing at an easel or chalkboard and listed at least three or four different ideas or plans to make money being developed by Rezko that involved some kind of state action. At times, Kelly got up during the meeting and clarified or added to things that Rezko was saying. Blagojevich mostly listened during the meeting, but was engaged. As Rezko talked, he indicated how much money Blagojevich, Kelly, Rezko, and Monk could hope to make from the different ideas. The amounts that were associated with the different ideas were typically in the hundreds of thousands of dollars per deal, which would be evenly split four ways.”

Obsessed with moneymaking

As pictured in the US Government case Blagojevich was completely obsessed with using the post of governor to enrich himself and his supporters. Everything he did seems to have been geared to self-enrichment and self-advancement. Every issue and decision was discussed in terms of what opportunity it provided to extort and steal. Many cases of corruption are laid out in detail.

The Tollway appears about halfway through

Several pages (from p52 on) are devoted to “Attempted Extortion Relating to the Tollway Program”.

That started when Tollway board members talked with Blagojevich about potential construction plans. They presented a $1.8 billion option and a more ambitious $5 billion option. Blagojevich told a flack named Monk that the Tollway’s program would be great for engineering firms. If they’d cough up serious money he’d go with the $5b program: “If they don’t step up, fuck ’em. I won’t do the bigger announcement (the $5b) in January.”

The US case page 53 on: “In about mid-September 2008, Blagojevich met with Monk, Robert Blagojevich, and Construction Executive, who was an executive in a cement company, at the FOB (Friends of Blagojevich) offices. As an active member of a concrete industry association group, Construction Executive had been responsible for raising large amounts of contributions for Blagojevich beginning in about 2002. Monk had become the primary contact with Construction Executive in terms of fundraising for Blagojevich in about 2007.

“At the meeting, Blagojevich also talked about both the potential $1.8 billion and $5 billion Tollway road building programs. Blagojevich indicated to Construction Executive that he was going to announce the small plan that Fall. Blagojevich said that he was inclined to also go forward with the larger plan, but that he did not want word to get out about his interest in doing so. Blagojevich explained that he wanted to keep that quiet so that the legislature would continue to feel pressure to pass a capital bill. Blagojevich suggested to Construction Executive that Blagojevich had the power to go forward with either of the two Tollway roadbuilding programs without the approval of the legislature. In response, Construction Executive told Blagojevich that he was in favor of the building programs because the concrete industry really needed the work.”

Get the money in before the law changes

“Shortly thereafter in the meeting, Blagojevich said he wanted to talk about campaign contributions. Blagojevich talked about the change in Illinois law that would restrict the ability of companies that did work with the State of Illinois to contribute money to him, and how that law would take effect by the end of the year. Blagojevich asked for Construction Executive’s help raising money and indicated that Blagojevich wanted to raise the money before the end of the year.

Fobbed off

“Blagojevich asked Construction Executive how much money he could raise. When Construction Executive initially indicated that he did not know, Blagojevich again brought up the Tollway program and discussed additional projects that could be done if the larger program were done. At the end of the meeting, Construction Executive was again asked about how much money he thought he could raise for Blagojevich. Construction Executive indicated that he would have to go back to his people and talk to them about it.

“Both Monk and Construction Executive understood that Blagojevich was making a connection in the meeting between the amount of money that Construction Executive might be able to raise for Blagojevich and his willingness to do the larger Tollway program. As a result of Blagojevich’s statements, Construction Executive felt pressure from Blagojevich to raise money for Blagojevich so that he would allow the larger Tollway program to go forward.

“After Construction Executive left the meeting, Blagojevich directed Monk to ask Construction Executive to raise $500,000 in contributions, which money Monk understood would come both from Construction Executive’s own company as well as from other companies in the road building industry.

Blagojevich: “If they don’t perform (pay up) fuck ’em”

“On October 6, 2008, Blagojevich met with Lobbyist A at the offices of Friends of Blagojevich (“FOB”) offices. During their meeting, Blagojevich mentioned an upcoming announcement he was planning to make regarding a $1.8 billion project with respect to the Tollway. Blagojevich said words to the effect of, ‘I’ve got Lon going to Construction Executive and asking for $500,000’ and ‘I could have made a larger announcement but wanted to see how they perform by the end of the year. If they don’t perform, fuck ‘em.’

$1.8 billion or $5 billion is the issue

“Lobbyist A knew that Construction Executive was involved with a trade association that would benefit from the proposed $1.8 billion project. Lobbyist A understood Blagojevich to mean was that he expected that Construction Executive would raise $500,000 in contributions to FOB and that Blagojevich was willing to commit additional state money to the project beyond the $1.8 billion but was waiting to see how much money interested entities raised for FOB before the end of the year.

“In mid-October 2008, Blagojevich announced a plan for a $1.8 billion Tollway building program. On about October 22, 2008, Blagojevich called Construction Executive. Blagojevich talked about the $1.8 billion program and asked Construction Executive something like ‘How are you coming with the fund raising?'”

But the US Government account has it that Construction Executive was in fact stringing the governor along, not saying yes, not saying no.

Here’s the official account quoting from p55 and p56:

“Construction Executive indicated to Blagojevich that he was working on raising money, but that was not true. Construction Executive did not, in fact, plan on raising any money for Blagojevich, but Construction Executive did not want to say that for fear that Blagojevich would be less inclined to go forward with the larger Tollway project. Construction Executive ultimately did not make or arrange for any contributions to be made to Blagojevich.

“(Flack) Monk also continued to stay in touch with Construction Executive about potential contributions to Blagojevich, and consistently reported on the status of those conversations to Blagojevich and Robert Blagojevich, including on November 24, 2008 (Blagojevich Call #1005).22/”

That’s the extent of the Tollway involvement in the 91 page document from US Attorney Fitzgerald.

The Governor tried to use his power over key Tollway decisions to extort money from companies wanting business with the Tollway. But he failed.

Of Blagojevich, apparently, the Construction Executive rightly said “Fuck ‘im.”

Under his breath anyway.

BACKGROUND: Blagojevich, a Democrat was arrested by US marshals Dec 9 2008 charged with extensive corruption, the most spectacular count being an effort sell to the highest bidder the US Senate seat vacated by Barack Obama after his election as US President.  Blagojevich as governor had the power to appoint a successor to Obama.

An oddly youthful looking man he’s in fact53 (born 1956-12-10) his full name is Milorad Blagojevich, his first name anglicized and simplified to Rod. Born and raised on the northwest side of Chicago to Serb immigrants he worked as shoeshiner, pizza delivery, and in a meat plant. He is said to have washed dishes in a camp on the Trans Alaskan Pipeline.

Wikipedia on his education: “Blagojevich graduated from Chicago’s Foreman High School after transferring from Lane Technical High School. He played basketball in high school and participated in two fights after training as a Golden Gloves boxer.[19] After graduation, he enrolled at the University of Tampa.[20] After two years, he transferred to Northwestern University in suburban Evanston where he graduated with a BA in history in 1979. He later (obtained) his JD from the Pepperdine University School of Law in 1983. He later said of the experience: ‘I went to law school at a place called Pepperdine in Malibu, California, overlooking the Pacific Ocean — a lot of surfing and movie stars and all the rest. I barely knew where that law library was.’ ”

He married Patricia Mell the daunter of Richard Mell a Chicago alderman.  He clerked for another Chicago alderman, then got a job as an assistant prosecutor under famous mayor Richard M Daley, when Daley was State’s Attorney.

His influential father-in-law appears tog have launched him on his political career – first in the state house, then as a US Congressman for the 5th district  (Chicago). He seems to have been a good campaigner but kept out of the spotlight as a state and US representative.

His predecessor as Illinois governor George Ryan, a Republican, also an extortionist and thief, is serving time in a federal jail.

TOLLROADSnews 2010-04-14