Monday, September 11, 2006

Questions piling up for Rod


Everybody has questions for Rod Blagojevich and the $1,500 check written to his seven-year-old daughter for her "college fund" from the husband of a woman who just was hired by the state. Rich Miller has questions and reader activity over here, and ditto Eric Zorn over here. Nationally, the laughter is barely stifled. Zorn sums up why answers are needed.
It looks like a malodorous example of business as usual from the earnest mop-top who campaigned four years ago as a reformer.
Of course Rod says over here that it is an outrage he has to answer these questions and has relegated the duty to a spokeswoman and a lawyer. I wonder if he'll stand up and tell U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald it's outrageous his office is exploring the same topic?

Blago spokeswoman Abby Ottenhoff continued to dig deeper late today with a "fuller" explanation of the gift giving history between Rod and Mike and Beverly Ascaridis. She was trying to say that Rod gave lots of gifts to the Ascaridis family that would make the $1,500 look reasonable.
...The Governor regularly takes Mike to Cubs games, especially during the Cubs' playoff run in 2003, when the Governor, Mike and Amy attended game after game together. When Mike and Beverly were married, the Governor and the First Lady gave them a check.
Sorry, Abby, claiming credit for Cubs tickets when the campaign probably paid for them does not count (the campaign paid $3,707 for Cubs tickets for supporters in 2003 and Rod paid only $590 out of his own pocket). And suggesting that Rod and Patti gave the couple a check at their wedding doesn't count either. Go back to your boss and try again with these 10 questions:
1. Specifically, what were the gifts you received from other names on your state disclosure statement: Betty Bukraba, Tony Rezko, Chris Kelly, John Wyma, Lon Monk, Dick Mell and Robert Blagojevich? Were there other "college fund" checks? Do you think it is appropriate to take gifts from state employees, a commission member in a sensitive position and a lobbyist who has made millions of dollars representing companies doing business with the state?

2. What did Mike Ascaridis give Amy Blagojevich on her 5th, 6th, 8th and 9th birthdays?

3. What was the date on the check from Mike Ascaridis? Was it on Amy Blagojevich's birthday or was it 10 days later as stated as a possibility in the Tribune article? If it was 10 days later, how did a best friend miss her birthday by that many days?

4. How do you explain that Beverly Ascaridis had no idea her husband had given the "birthday" check to Amy Blagojevich at the time it was given?

5. Do you feel comfortable taking such a sizable gift for your daughter's college fund from a family whose apparent income is less than one-half of yours?

6. Why did you amend your state "Economic Interest" statement one-month after your interview with federal law enforcement officials to add various gifts, including from Beverly and Mike Ascaridis? Did the feds ask you about gifts?

7. Did you have anything to do with Mike Ascaridis' choice of lawyers, prominent plaintiff attorney Joe Power, a major contributor of yours? Did you recommend him?

8. Considering the turmoil this episode has caused your friends, do you think it was a wise decision to accept such a gift from a man whose wife had just accepted a state job apparently under questionable circumstances?

9. Have you ever given a child from a non-relative's family a $1,500 birthday gift?

10. Do you think Illinois citizens will believe your explanation that an apparently unprecedented $1,500 check to your daughter was a birthday gift and not a payoff for a job obtained through your administration within two weeks of the check -- especially considering the US Attorney has already noted widespread hiring fraud under your watch.

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