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Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Wow Oh Wow - Blagojevich

OK, I should have posted on other matters but like everyone else I ended up reading the official complaint which the Chicago Tribune has helpfully posted for our perusal. ( Maybe, just maybe, the editors were gleefully laughing as they posted it. Paybacks are a bitch. See Count Two.) It's a proud day for American democracy!

I'm awed. You know stuff like this happens all the time in most state and local politics, but this is quite blatant.

For those who don't want to read the 78 pages, Volokh has a series of posts about the scandal. This has everything. A shakedown of a newspaper! Demands to put wifie on corporate boards! All sorts of parties asked to contribute favors to gain appointment of their preferred senator (Obama's seat).
Defendants ROD BLAGOJEVICH and JOHN HARRIS, together with others, attempted to use ROD BLAGOJEVICH’s authority to appoint a United States Senator for the purpose of obtaining personal benefits for ROD BLAGOJEVICH, including, among other things, appointment as Secretary of Health & Human Services in the President-elect’s administration....
Is it really, ah, bright to request a quid-pro-quo from the guy who's about to be president? If he takes it amiss, won't you be exposed to a lot of scrutiny? This suggests to me brass balls or a political culture that is pretty debased! There is a taped conversation in which Blagojevich says that Obama isn't willing to give him anything in exchange for the appointment of his candidate, so....

There's a bunch of stuff about Rezko in this. Starts about page 10.

On page 11 we get an idea of why those commissions at state level keep proliferating (and this applies to multiple states):
After this meeting, Ata completed an application for a state appointment. In or about early 2003, Rezko informed Ata that he was going to be appointed to head the state Capital Development Board. Rezko subsequently informed Ata that this position was going to someone else and that another position would have to be found for Ata. Later, Rezko discussed an opportunity for Ata with the newly formed Illinois Finance Authority (“IFA”).
So many campaign contributions, so few state positions! And more on the thorny issue of the campaign-contribution-state-position:
During this conversation, ROD BLAGOJEVICH told Ata that Ata had been a good supporter, indicated that ROD BLAGOJEVICH was aware that Ata had made another substantial donation to ROD BLAGOJEVICH’s campaign, and told Ata that he understood that Ata would be joining his administration. Ata responded that he was considering taking a position, and ROD BLAGOJEVICH stated that it had better be a job where Ata could make some money.
Ata had been held up for another 50K and had only coughed up 25K. Hint, hint. One great NJ way to pay off significant contributors is to get them awarded state bond deals, which have commissions. Sweeeeet. Hand me another muni bond!

One Cari (page 16) shows up in the campaign contribution section. It turns out that Cari was National Finance Chair for Al Gore's presidential campaign:
During the conversation, ROD BLAGOJEVICH informed Cari that it was easier for governors to solicit campaign contributions because governors had the ability to “award contracts” and give legal work, consulting work, and investment banking work to campaign contributors.
LMAO. But don't get the idea that this is just a Democratic ring. Stuart Levine (Republican, but keeps his state positions when Dems win! Ah, bipartisanship) rears his grizzled head (all those white hairs garnered in public service, don't ya know). Page 18:
Details regarding corruption at TRS involving one of its board members, Stuart Levine, are set forth below. Based on his conversations with ROD BLAGOJEVICH, Rezko, Kelly, and Levine, in which he was informed that consultants would be inserted into State of Illinois transactions and then solicited for campaign contributions, Cari believed that JER needed to hire a consultant. Cari testified that he informed employees of JER that they needed to hire a consultant and that in Illinois the “Governor and the people around the Governor” pick the consultants to be used on particular deals. Cari informed JER employees that if they did not hire the consultant then JER would not receive the money it was seeking from the State of Illinois.
Haha. It's good to know that the teachers retirement funds were in such hands.

On page 21 see the stuff about Mercy Hospital's construction contract. As an aside, the farce involved in the Kelo case was that several rather liberal judges appeared to know nothing of how planning boards operate, and the degree of insider dealing and outright profiteering that goes on. The idea that a planning board operates "in the public interest", or that the interests of current businesses or current homeowners will be fairly considered when such units are basically for sale in many jurisdictions is incredibly hilarious.

On page 25 the juicy stuff about the teachers retirement fund starts. I'm telling you, when they get bipartisan is when they are most corrupt and dangerous:
As set forth more fully in the following paragraphs, Levine and Cellini, in order to keep their control over TRS, agreed to an accommodation with Rezko and Kelly that Rezko and Kelly would use their influence with ROD BLAGOJEVICH to stop the consolidation of TRS with other pension boards and, in exchange, Levine and Cellini would assist investment firms named by Rezko and Kelly to receive TRS money because those investment firms had made or would make political contributions to ROD BLAGOJEVICH.
Cellini and Levine were originally Republican appointments, but in view of their stellar service to the public, a spate of bipartisanship erupted. The worst thing about politics is when you vote out one party due to corruption and then the bastards who are really most enmeshed merge joyfully into the new administration. The longer they're in the more they steal.

I think every high school civics class should read this thing. It's an introduction to life as it really is. Those who get all starry-eyed about government are truly foolish.

PS: This is also why politicians love public development projects and funds. They loooooove them. Most lucrative thing ever!

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