Will Blagojevich be implicated? Three sources in a position to know have confirmed to me that at least one figure cooperating with authorities has told investigators that the governor personally offered political favors in exchange for campaign contributions. That doesn't make it true, but it likely makes the governor a target.When George Ryan's administration was being squeezed by the feds, even though George's political death was easy to see, his prospect for future indictment was very cloudy for a long time. It's a much clearer picture for Rod. I would say the odds are at least 90 percent that he ultimately will be indicted.
The reason? Fundraising.
Rod has raised more than $50 million since he became a candidate for governor in 2001. Nobody in Illinois history has even come close to that kind of fundraising pace. Until the feds showed up in force in late 2004, Rod's operation essentially was 95 percent focused on fundraising and 5 percent on governing.
Under the direction of Chris Kelly and Tony Rezko, the operation "gathered" as many insider/fundraiser types it could (Bill Cellini, Peter Fox, Myron Cherry, Nick Hurtgen, Al Ronan, Stuart Levine, etc.) and systematically pushed everywhere for money. The mountain of newspaper stories and state and federal corruption investigation show they pushed too hard, especially in 2003 and early 2004.
Stuart Levine's demise brought the whole operation to a crashing halt, but it wasn't his operation. Even without Stuart Levine in the picture, it was headed for destruction.
But Stuart Levine is quickening that destruction. The feds have taped 1,600 of his phone calls. He had numerous conversations with Rezko and contacts with Kelly. There are signed documents at the pension board and elsewhere as evidence of the frauds. Tape and documents are a powerful combination. Therefore, a whole lot of people will talk to the feds. Many already have.
That brings us to Rod. The Joe Cari plea agreement already spells out the outlines of the government's view of Rod's fundraising operation. It was operated by Kelly and Rezko on behalf of Rod Blagojevich.
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.
Well, talk to Blagojevich insiders and it is clear that if Rod wasn't talking to Kelly in 2003 and 2004, he was talking to Rezko. One of them was constantly at his side or on the phone with him. Fundraising was the game, remember, 95 percent of the time.
It is not within the realm of possibility that Rod was unaware of the largest fundraising operation in Illinois history being operated by the two guys he was in constant contact with.
Rezko is already indicted and Kelly looks like he might be next. With the overwhelming evidence the feds appear to have, it is almost a certainty that one or both of Blagojevich's two top deputies will eventually cooperate. And cooperate can mean only one thing -- telling the feds that Rod knew what was happening.
All the above discussion does not even touch on the $1,500 check matter, the hiring investigation and other investigations -- all of which hold peril for Rod legally. In the end, it won't matter. The fundraising is what will bring Rod down.
We'll know a lot more about the government's case in a couple of weeks when the Levine plea agreements are made public. Expect them to expand upon the Cari plea and make the government's interest in the fundraising operation even clearer.