Blago’s Impeachment Day
Among 43 subpoenas released by the Blagojevich administration Friday, one from Dec. 8 seeks notes, calendars, correspondence and any other data that relate to Axelrod, Jarrett and 32 other people and organizations.
That was the day before the FBI arrested Blagojevich, a two-term Democrat, on charges that he tried to trade his appointment to replace Obama in the Senate for campaign contributions. Wiretapped conversations show Blagojevich thought Jarrett was interested in the seat and he wanted campaign money or a high-paying job in return, according to a sworn statement.
Obama’s staff released a report in December that said his staff had no inappropriate contact with the governor’s office about the Senate seat, nor was anyone aware of any dealmaking. Axelrod, a Chicago political strategist now in the White House, was not mentioned in the report.
Prosecutors have said Obama is not implicated in the case, and none of his advisers has been accused of wrongdoing. Aides to the president did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Others listed on the subpoena are people linked to the 76-page criminal complaint against Blagojevich, which does not identify anyone by name except the governor and his former chief of staff, John Harris, arrested the same day.
They include first lady Patricia Blagojevich and her former employer, River Realty; former Blagojevich aides Lon Monk, John Wyma, Christopher Kelly and Doug Scofield; his brother and campaign manager Robert Blagojevich; Chicago Tribune owner Sam Zell; and Tom Balanoff, Illinois director of the Service Employees International Union.
The federal complaint charges Blagojevich with trying to pressure the Tribune into firing unfriendly editorial writers and seeking a six-figure job with an activist group affiliated with SEIU. Prosecutors say he also discussed a better job for his wife.
Dec. 11 subpoenas to the Capital Development Board and Transportation Department requested contract-bidding documents and other information on 22 engineering firms and individuals. They include a company whose president hosted a Nov. 10 fundraiser for Blagojevich that brought in $60,000 as prosecutors claim the governor sought to cash in on Illinois Tollway construction.
The Illinois House impeached Blagojevich earlier this month. A Senate trial over his ouster starts Monday, and Blagojevich said Friday that he will not participate because he believes the process is unfair.
The 43 subpoenas released Friday under the Freedom of Information Act, plus seven previously disclosed, cut a wide swath through the beleaguered administration, demanding everything from complex hiring records to Patricia Blagojevich’s appointment calendar.
Blagojevich acknowledged in fall 2005 that his office and several cabinet agencies had received subpoenas seeking hiring records, but then he stopped talking about them.
The Better Government Association, a Chicago-based public watchdog group, fought a two-year lawsuit over release of the subpoenas, which it won late last month when Blagojevich’s office turned over five subpoenas BGA sought under FOIA.
U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald’s investigation into Blagojevich hiring practices was reported as early as 2005 and a Fitzgerald letter was released in June 2006 that indicated he had witnesses to “endemic hiring fraud.”
But the investigation appears to have heated up again in 2007.
Since February 2007, 22 federal subpoenas have arrived at the governor’s office. They include requests to four state agencies for contract information involving Ali Ata. Ata is the one-time Illinois Finance Authority director who testified last spring in federal court that Blagojevich was present when he turned over a $25,000 check to Blagojevich fundraiser Antoin “Tony” Rezko, then asked Rezko if he had discussed a state job with Ata.
Rezko was convicted in the case of 16 counts of fraud, aiding bribery and money laundering in trying to get Blagojevich campaign contributions from companies seeking state business. Ata’s allegation that he bought his job is part of the federal complaint filed last month.
The government also has demanded information on Blagojevich appointments to boards and commissions and documents that show “favors, official action or any other benefit” promised to people who were potential donors and records related to anyone who contributed $25,000 or more to his campaign.
Other subpoenas requested all appointment calendars kept by the governor and first lady, paychecks issued to the governor, and air travel records for Blagojevich and his bodyguards. The governor has been criticized for his frequent use of state aircraft for daily round trips between his Chicago home and Springfield’s state Capitol.