Will Blagojevich Taint Obama?

Posted by: John Carey on December 09

In the wake of Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich’s arrest, many in the conservative community are hoping for a scandal that reaches all the way to Obama. The Bush Administration Justice Department is “all over this,” says one GOP source.

The view from within the Bush Administration is that “this is bigger than the news media has yet picked up on,” he says. One conjecture is that they expect that the phone records will show that Blagojevich talked to Obama, and perhaps to Axelrod and others.

Of course, that’s not necessarily nefarious. Any contact could have been entirely benign. After all, Blagojevich apparently called Obama a “motherf****” for not playing along with his schemes. But the potential problem for Obama is that he’s already gone on record as saying: “I had no contact with the governor or his office.”

“You can be sure that this will be pursued,” says the GOP source. If the phone records (or other evidence) show communications between the now-disgraced governor and the President-Elect, Obama “has got himself a potential scandal. The conservative community is already all over this like ticks on a hound.”

UPDATE FROM BUSINESSWEEK WRITER THEO FRANCIS:

At a press conference this afternoon on another topic, Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, told reporters that he and Obama both had chilly relations, at best, with Blagojevich.

When Durbin called Blagojevich’s office around Election Day this year, to discuss potential successors for Obama’s seat, the governor didn’t call back for 12 days, Durbin said. Blagojevich never returned a call Durbin made to congratulate him on his initial gubernatorial election victory.

“We certainly don’t enjoy a close relationship,” Durbin said.

The senator said he last spoke with Blagojevich two weeks ago, and that his interaction with the Illinois governor’s office was “extremely limited.” He added that he would say the same of Obama’s ties to Blagojevich.

In his own press conference, U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald — who also prosecuted Scooter Libby in the Plame affair — took pains to note that his office says nothing about Obama or his team, according to press accounts. Then again, neither did he absolve the president-elect.

“The complaint makes no allegation whatsoever about the president-elect,” The Wall Street Journal quotes Fitzgerald as saying.

“I’m not going to speak for what the president- elect was aware of. We make no allegations that he’s aware of anything. And that’s as simply as I can put it,” Fitzgerald said, according to a transcript of his briefing at The New York Times.

Reader Comments

John Ryskamp

December 9, 2008 07:27 PM

Why Obama’s Next--Comparison of the Indictment and E. Pringle's articles


I. FROM THE BLAGOJEVICH INDICTMENT


35. As described more fully in the following paragraphs, Mercy Hospital, which sought permission from the Planning Board to build a hospital in Illinois, received that permission through Rezko’s exercise of his influence at the Planning Board after Rezko was promised that Mercy Hospital would make a substantial campaign contribution to ROD BLAGOJEVICH. Rezko later told a member of the Planning Board that Mercy Hospital received the permit because ROD BLAGOJEVICH wanted the organization to receive the permit.


36. Levine’s criminal activities included his abuse of his position on the Planning Board to enrich both himself and Friends of Blagojevich. The Planning Board was a commission of the State of Illinois, established by statute, whose members were appointed by the Governor of the State of Illinois. At the relevant time period, the Planning Board consisted of nine individuals. State law required an entity seeking to build a hospital, medical office building, or other medical facility in Illinois to obtain a permit, known as a "Certificate of Need" ("CON"), from the Planning Board prior to beginning construction.


37. Levine, as well as Planning Board members Thomas Beck and Imad Almanaseer, testified under oath at the Rezko Trial.9 Beck testified that he asked Rezko to reappoint him to the Planning Board and that Beck thereafter followed Rezko’s directions regarding which CON applications Rezko wanted approved. Beck testified that it was his job to communicate Rezko’s interest in particular CONs to other members of the Planning Board, including Almanaseer, who were loyal to Rezko. Beck testified that he understood that Rezko spoke for the Blagojevich administration when Rezko spoke to Beck about particular CONs. Almanaseer testified that Beck instructed him that Rezko wanted Almanaseer to vote a particular way and that Almanaseer should follow Levine’s lead in voting on CONs. Almanaseer testified that before certain Planning Board meetings, he received notecards from Beck indicating how to vote on certain CON applications. Beck testified he provided these notecards to Almanaseer and certain other members of the Planning Board to communicate Rezko’s directions about certain CON applications.


38. During his testimony, Levine described a plan to manipulate the Planning Board to enrich himself and Friends of Blagojevich. The plan centered on an entity commonly known as Mercy Hospital ("Mercy") that was attempting to obtain a CON to build a new hospital in Illinois. Levine knew the contractor hired to help build the hospital. In approximately November 2003, on behalf of the contractor, Levine checked with Rezko to determine whether Rezko wanted Mercy to obtain its CON. Rezko informed Levine that Mercy was not going to receive its CON. According to Levine, he asked Rezko whether it would matter to Rezko if Mercy’s construction contractor paid a bribe to Rezko and Levine and, in addition, made a contribution to ROD BLAGOJEVICH. Levine testified that Rezko indicated that such an arrangement would change his view on the Mercy CON.


39. Levine’s testimony regarding Rezko’s actions to change the Planning Board decision concerning Mercy’s application for a CON based on contributions for ROD BLAGOJEVICH is confirmed by attorney Steven Loren. Loren testified at Rezko’s criminal

trial and, before that, in the grand jury.11 According to Loren, in approximately December 2003, Levine informed Loren that Rezko was against the Mercy CON. According to Loren, Levine relayed to Loren a conversation between Rezko and Levine during which Levine asked Rezko whether a political contribution to ROD BLAGOJEVICH would make a difference for Mercy’s CON, and Rezko responded to Levine that such a contribution might

make a difference.


40. Thereafter, and confirmed by the testimony of Levine, Beck, and Almanaseer, as well as recorded conversations, Rezko switched his directions to Beck and informed Beck that Mercy was to receive its CON. According to Almanaseer, although he previously had been told by Beck that Rezko did not want Mercy to receive its CON, he was later told that there had been a change and that Rezko now wanted Mercy to receive its CON.


41. Mercy received its CON as a result of a controversial and irregular vote at a public Planning Board meeting.12 The vote brought significant publicity to the Planning Board and ultimately led to the disbanding of the Planning Board. Almanaseer testified under oath in the grand jury that not long after the Planning Board vote on Mercy’s CON he saw Rezko at a fundraiser. According to Almanaseer, he was still embarrassed about what had occurred at the Planning Board vote on Mercy’s CON and Rezko’s role in the vote. Almanaseer testified that he asked Rezko why Rezko had switched the vote on the Mercy CON. According to Almanaseer, Rezko stated: "The Governor wanted it to pass."


II. FROM EVELYN PRINGLE’S "CURTAIN TIME" ONLINE ARTICLES


Tony Rezko is a private citizen. Therefore, the evidence presented in the trial focused on his influence over officials in getting members appointed to the Boards. Prosecutors did not discuss how the legislation got passed that enabled the Planning Board to be set up in a way that allowed for the appointment of members to rig the votes to begin with.

That part of the scheme will likely be detailed in future indictments, probably starting with Blagojevich. Blagojevich signed the Illinois Health Facilities Planning Act with an effective date of June 27, 2003. However, before he could sign the act, a bill had to be passed by the Illinois House and Senate. As discussed fully in Curtain Time Part II, Obama was the inside guy in the senate who pushed through the legislation that resulted in the Act.

Obama was appointed chairman of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee. The minute the bill was introduced, it was referred to his committee for review. The sponsors of the bill also served on this committee with Obama. Within a month, Chairman Obama sent word to the full senate that the legislation should be passed.

On May 31, 2003, Senate Bill 1332 passed and specified that the "Board shall be appointed by the Governor, with the advice and consent of the Senate." The legislation reduced the number of members from 15 to 9, paving the way for the appointment of a five-bloc majority to rig the votes.

The corrupt members appointed included three doctors who contributed to Obama. Michel Malek gave Obama $10,000 on June 30, 2003 and donated $25,000 to Blagojevich on July 25, 2003. Malek also gave Obama another $500 in September 2003.

Fortunee Massuda donated $25,000 to Blagojevich on July 25, 2003, and gave a total of $2,000 to Obama on different dates. After he was appointed, Dr Imad Almanaseer contributed a total of $3,000 to Obama. Almanaseer did not give money to Blagojevich.

When the first pay-to-play scheme was put in play, and the application for approval of a new hospital was submitted, the Department of Human Services, along with four other Illinois agencies, sent recommendations that the project should be approved even though experts said the hospital was not needed.

During the trial, Rezko’s attorney presented an email exchange to the jury that hinted at Obama's role in setting up the scheme. The exchange showed that Obama and seven other top Illinois politicians consulted on the legislation passed in 2003 and were involved in recommending the members for the board.

Matthew Pickering wrote the memo to Blagojevich’s general counsel, Susan Lichtenstein, on behalf of David Wilhelm, a former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, who headed Blagojevich's 2002 campaign for governor.

Pickering said he and Wilhelm had "worked closely" over six months with state legislators. The memo recommended the appointees listed above and stated, "our attached recommendations reflect that involvement" with the political leaders.

The persons appointed to rig the votes, including those who contributed to Blagojevich and Obama, are cooperating in exchange for immunity or lighter prison sentences.

Feds shut down pay-to-play schemes

Only two pay-to-play schemes succeeded before the Feds swooped in and shut them all down. Blagojevich did not receive the $1.5 million from the Planning Board deal because the hospital was never built.

But Obama received $20,000 from the first kickback paid in the pension fund scheme and the straw donors used to funnel the $10,000 payments, Elie Maloof and Joseph Aramanda, also made $1,000 contributions to Obama's failed run for Congress in 2000.

In addition, Aramanda gave $500 to Obama's senate campaign on June 30, 2003. In the summer of 2005, Aramanda's son landed an intern position in Obama's Washington office.

Obama also received contributions for his senate campaign from the two persons appointed to rig the vote on the pension fund board. On June 30, 2003, Jack Carriglio contributed $1,000, and the other appointee, Anthony Abboud, donated $500 on June 30, 2003, $250 on March 5, 2004, and $1,000 on June 25, 2004.

The person chosen to funnel the kickback in a future scheme, Michael Winter, donated $3,000 to Obama on June 30, 2003.

All these people are also cooperating in exchange for immunity or lesser prison sentences but prosecutors pointed out during closing arguments that people who entered into agreements with the government are required to tell the truth or all deals are off.

anonymous

December 9, 2008 08:21 PM

I hope that the former sen. Obama gets in there and finds out what is going on wrong and fix it, reverse the Patriot Act, close Gitmo and restore some respect and dignity to this great country that my grandfather fought for many years ago.

Thank you

Andy

December 9, 2008 08:59 PM

Gaffe Biden said 6 months after election he will be tested I guess he is tested with 6 weeks by his own party governor.

Dan Kaplan, Real Liberal

December 9, 2008 09:18 PM

Lets go get them.

Frank

December 10, 2008 12:26 AM

They should move the Illinois governor's mansion from Springfield to the grounds of the federal penitentiary in Marion, IL. After George Ryan and now Blagojevich, this would at least save time and expense when dealing with the next governor.

slizzle

December 10, 2008 05:16 AM

anonymous dude, i 'hope' that was a joke cus, or maybe you didnt read the whole thing, cus.... this dude Obama, was part of the same thing thats been going one there, Hellooooo, illinios senator, chicago politician. So i guess that all the people around Obama were crooked, except for obama himself...oh ignorance is bliss.

i laughed either way, thanks

Nobama

December 10, 2008 08:05 PM

Obama wants Blago to resign because Blago's stealing Obama's thunder, just as McCain did when he announced Palin the day after Obama's self-congratulatory dog and pony show at the Dem convention. It's all about what's best for Obama, not what's best for Illinois residents, the only people who should be concerned about what Blago does. I happen to be one of them, and although I think he's guilty as hell, he deserves his day in court before we condemn him.

Thank you for your interest. This blog is no longer active.

 

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