Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Another Ill. Gov. Going To Jail: Ill. Gov Caught By The Feds Doing Good Fellas Politrixing...

Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich attends a press conference at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, Illinois, in February 2008. The governor of Illinois was arrested Tuesday for conspiring to sell an appointment to president-elect Barack Obama's recently open US senate seat, prosecutors said.
(AFP/File/Amanda Rivkin)

FBI: Blagojevich Singled Out Trib's McCormick
Michael Calderone

Politico’s been on top of the corruption allegations against Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who in a 78-page FBI complaint, requested “something real good,” a payoff, in return for his appointment of Barack Obama’s Senate seat.

But Blagojevich, along with chief of staff John Harris, also tried exerting their influence over the Tribune Company, pressuring executives to fire members of the Chicago Tribune’s editorial board, who were considered too critical of the Governor. Specifically, Blagojevich singled out deputy editorial page editor John P. McCormick.

In return, the state would make it easier for the cash-strapped Tribune Co. to obtain financial assistance from the Illinois Finance Authority, relating to the anticipated sale of the Chicago Cubs and Wrigley Field. Yesterday, Tribune Co. chairman and chief executive Sam Zell announced the company had filed for bankruptcy. The sale of the team and field is considered vital for keeping the media company going.

On Nov. 3, according to a complaint which includes intercepted phone calls, Blagojevich spoke to a deputy about how the Tribune will be “driving” the impeachment process against him. During the call, Blagojevich’s wife gets on the phone and tells the deputy to “to hold up that f—king Cubs s—t… f—k them.” Later, she said to “just fire” any critical writers at the Tribune.

It’s during the same call that Blagojevich said that they should pull together articles, and have Harris begin talking to the Tribune’s owners. And the process begins, which continues over the following month.

According to the complaint: “Blagojevich said there is nothing sensitive about how you do it and 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.’” (Zell is not mentioned by name in the suit).

Blagojevich, according to the complaint, said that the Tribune’s owner should be told to “fire the f—kers.”

On Nov. 5, Harris spoke with a “Tribune Financial Advisor,” according to the complaint. Harris said he informed the Tribune advisor that things “look like they could move ahead fine but, you know, there is a risk that all of this is going to get derailed by your own editorial page.” Harris met again with the same executive on Nov. 10., who informed him he’d spoken with the owner and he “got the message and is very sensitive to the issue.”

Blagojevich and Harris spoke about upcoming cuts at the Tribune, and whether it would affect the editorial board, notably McCormick.

During an intercepted call on November 21, 2008, ROD BLAGOJEVICH spoke with JOHN HARRIS. ROD BLAGOJEVICH asked HARRIS whether he told Deputy Governor A that “McCormick is going to get bounced at the Tribune.” (McCormick is believed to be John P. McCormick, the Chicago Tribune’s Deputy Editorial Page Editor). HARRIS said “no, I told him (Deputy Governor A) that McCormick is in a bad mood,” and that HARRIS was going “to check with [Tribune Financial Advisor] to see” whether “it was part of that message about the cuts on the Ed board.” HARRIS stated, “I had singled out McCormick as somebody who was the most biased and unfair.” ROD BLAGOJEVICH responded, “to [Tribune Financial Advisor] you did?” HARRIS confirmed that it was to Tribune Financial Advisor. ROD BLAGOJEVICH stated “that would be great,” and McCormick is a “bad guy.”
On Dec. 4, Blagojevich was told about cuts of 11 staffers, and asked, “McCormick?” When told that it didn’t seem that McCormick was fired, Blagojevich said, “go tell Harris that.”

Editorial Page Editor Bruce Dold has not returned calls or e-mails seeking comment.

UPDATE: At the prosecutor's request, the Tribune held back stories on the investigation. Fitzgerald praised the decision.

Copyright © 2008 Yahoo! Inc. All rights reserved.

Illinois Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn today called on Blagojevich to step aside, at least temporarily, because he is "seriously impeded from carrying out his oath of office."

Tribune staff reports

December 9, 2008

U.S. Atty. Patrick Fitzgerald said today that federal authorities arrested Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich this morning because the governor went on "a political corruption crime spree" that needed to be stopped.

Fitzgerald said secret tape recordings showed Blagojevich was attempting "to sell the U.S. Senate seat" that President-elect Barack Obama recently vacated. Fitzgerald said, "We make no allegations" that Obama was aware of any alleged scheming by Blagojevich.

The governor has the sole power to pick Obama's replacement under the state constitution.

"The conduct would make Lincoln roll over in his grave," Fitzgerald said, quoting Blagojevich as saying the Senate seat is "a bleeping valuable thing. You just don't give it away. ... I've got this thing and it's bleeping golden."

Fitzgerald called the corruption charges against Blagojevich "a truly new low."

Blagojevich wasn't against the corrupt deal for the Senate seat, he was against "being stiffed in the corrupt deal," Fitzgerald said.

The remarks came at a news conference to discuss charges against Blagojevich and his chief of staff, John Harris. Blagojevich and Harris are scheduled to appear in court at 1:30 p.m. before U.S. Magistrate Judge Nan Nolan.

Robert Grant, FBI special agent in charge of the Chicago office, characterized Illinois' place in the pantheon of political corruption.

"If it isn't the most corrupt state in the United States, it's certainly one hell of a competitor," Grant said. "Even the most cynical agents in our office were shocked."

Grant said he called Blagojevich about 6 a.m. and told the governor two FBI agents were outside his door and that they had a warrant for his arrest.

After initially asking, "Is this a joke?" Grant said, Blagojevich was "very cooperative."

Grant said the arrest of Blagojevich should serve as notice that "business as usual will no longer be tolerated. That selling your office for personal gain is a thing of the past."

Fitzgerald said the investigation into Blagojevich continues, but authorities acted today to avoid further harm taking place.

"I was not going to wait until March or April or May to get it all nice and tidy" and bring charges, he said. "I think that would be irresponsible."

Fitzgerald thanked the Chicago Tribune, which had been reporting on the investigation, for honoring a rare request about eight weeks ago not to report on certain aspects of the investigation that he said could have been jeopardized.

Tribune Editor Gerould Kern said today that the newspaper delayed publishing some stories at the request of the U.S. attorney's office during the course of reporting on the accelerating investigation of Blagojevich.

"On occasion, prosecutors asked us to delay publication of stories, asserting that disclosure would jeopardize the criminal investigation," Kern said. "In isolated instances, we granted the requests, but other requests were refused."

In the criminal complaint, authorities allege that Blagojevich and Harris sought to pressure the Tribune to fire editorial writers who were critical of his administration. Tribune Co. had been negotiating with the Illinois Finance Authority to purchase Wrigley Field as part of the company's efforts to sell the Cubs baseball team.

Kern said today he never experienced any pressure over the Tribune editorials.

"There was never an instance where I was contacted or called, where any influence at all was placed against me. There were no instances of that."

Kern said he became editor July 18 and since then there's "never been any hint of that. I was as surprised as everyone else when I saw that."

Kern said nobody from the Blagojevich administration ever contacted him about the editorials.

"I never got a complaint. I never got any contact whatsoever from Blagojevich, no complaint--nothing from inside Tribune Co."

Kern pointed out there were no staff reductions in the editorial board. "The facts are what they are."

Copyright © 2008, Chicago Tribune

No comments: