Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Blago's curious amendment

We've already seen belated disclosures by Governor Rod Blagojevich that were telling -- most notably the addition of Mike Ascaridis and others after the governor was interviewed by the FBI.

Here's another one that probably has some linkage to the federal investigation.

On Aug. 25 of this year, the Blagojevich campaign filed an amendment to its semi-annual campaign disclosure for July-December 2003. The campaign routinely files amendments for recently filed reports but never one for a report nearly three years ago.

The amendment covers the same time period of the "Shakedown Shuttle" plane trip where Blago, Stuart Levine, Chris Kelly and Joe Cari went to New York to shake the trees for campaign contributions and the contributors shook back for state pension business.

Why did the Blagojevich campaign file the amendment? When comparing the original report and amendment, no dollar figures were changed -- just addresses, company names, occupations of donors, etc. Hardly a compelling reason to file an amendment three years later unless there's something else at issue.

Could Willliam Howell be the reason?

Howell is a Rockville Centre, NY, businessman who has embroiled in at least two major controversies surrounding consulting fees. One was in NY in 2001 and another in Pennsylvania in connection to a federal investigation of influence peddling surrounding the administrations of Governor Ed Rendell and Mayor John Street of Philadelphia. As far as I can tell, Howell was never charged in either of these matters although his name was front and center in newspaper reports.

Well, William Howell was one of the people Rod Blagojevich was scheduled to meet on Oct. 29, 2003, the day of the Shakedown Shuttle flight.

A few days later, Howell gave the Blagojevich campaign $10,000 and then another $10,000 on Feb. 23, 2004.

Howell listed "Pension Enhancement Consulting, Inc." as his company on his original Blagojevich D2 filing. The amendment changes Howell's company name to "Enrhythm LLC."

Why the name change? Pension Enhancement Consulting is a defunct company under the corporate umbrella of Investment Management Advisory Group, Inc., or IMAGE, the company in the middle of the Pennsylvania/Philadelphia corruption investigation a couple of years ago.

John Kass likes to talk about the Illinois "combine" of political corruption. In Blagojevich's case, the combine looks like it was multi-state.

The belated disclosure tells me William Howell is a name to watch in the months ahead as the feds lower the boom on Blagojevich's fundraising scheme.

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