Sunday, August 6, 2006

What Stu knows could be deadly to Rod

Stu LevineRodbangs-2

This weekend, the Tribune and then Sun-Times confirmed that indicted businessman Stuart Levine is cooperating with the feds in the ongoing corruption investigation into the activities of Rod Blagojevich's campaign and the government he runs. This rumor has been around for weeks and the papers finally got enough confirmation to run the story.

The reason this is huge is that the feds already have laid out a storyline that, if true, will result in top level indictments, including possibly the governor. Overstatement? Read what the feds said Levine told Democratic fundraiser Joe Cari in Cari's plea agreement filed last September. "Public Official A" has been identified in news reports as Blagojevich and his "close associates" as Chris Kelly and Tony Rezko.

Levine and Cari had previously discussed the use of consultants. Levine said that a high ranking Illinois public official ("Public Official A"), acting through two close associates, was selecting consultants for the private equity funds that appeared before the State Pension Funds. Levine said that this was part of a fundraising strategy. Levine said that Public Official A, and his associates, were going to pick law firms, investment banking firms, and consultants that would help Public Official A.

Levine had advised Cari that Levine and Public Official A's two associates had agreed that they would not let an Illinois public pension fund, including TRS, invest in a private equity fund unless a consultant selected by Levine or those associates was hired. Levine told Cari that consultants selected by Levine and those associates would subsequently be required to make certain political or charitable contributions as directed by Levine and
those associates. Cari understood that requiring Firm 4 to hire a consultant was part of that plan.
If Levine has concrete evidence for the feds -- emails, correspondence, wired conversations, etc., -- it could be over for Blagojevich and his cronies. If Levine's evidence is good, I'd imagine there's a possibility the feds could move to freeze his campaign fund because it was the center of the scheme.

If anyone believes the Levine angle is a long-shot, consider what we know. We know Rod Blagojevich came out of nowhere to become the most prolific fundraiser in Illinois history by far. We know that analysis after analysis by the Tribune, Sun-Times, Daily Herald and others show a deep connection between contracts and appointments and fundraising.

All the above has always indicated to me a systematic harvesting of money beyond typical fundraising efforts. Levine and Cari describe this system, or at least part of it.

Blagojevich and company will throw out misdirection describing Levine's Republican ties. I hope the news media doesn't fall for that canard. The precise point to consider is why did the Blagojevich campaign operation embrace Stuart Levine, who, after all, was a top fundraiser for his opponent in 2002. The answer, I believe, is that Levine was viewed as a valuable asset in the only arena that the Blagojevich operation cares about -- fundraising. We are about to find out just how valuable Levine was becoming to Rod before he got caught -- and just how deadly he now is to Blagojevich and company.

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