Wednesday, October 25, 2006
Rod's Shakedown Shuttle
It was the Super Bowl of dirty Illinois politics.
We're not here, to start no trouble, we're just here to do the Shakedown Shuttle.
As I posted here before, the flight cabin of the jet above might have been a crime scene. That's where indicted businessman Stuart Levine and indicted fundraiser Joe Cari sat right next to Governor Rod Blagojevich for almost two hours on Oct. 29, 2003, close enough for Stu to spill coffee on Rod.
On Friday, when he pleads guilty, it's possible Stu will be spilling much more than coffee on Rod's fundraising apparatus.
Why is it being called the Shakedown Shuttle? Because the central theme of U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald's "gathering storm" investigation into corruption in the Blagojevich administration was in full blossom on that flight.
Levine, Blagojevich and Democratic fundraiser Joe Cari were on board for a day of fundraising activity in New York. Levine booked the corporate jet above that departed from O'Hare in the morning. Levine and Cari have since been indicted and Blagojevich is under heavy federal scrutiny. Another indictee was scheduled to be on board, Tony Rezko, but the Blagojevich administration is now saying that he was replaced at the last minute by Rod's other top fundraiser, Chris Kelly -- also under intense federal scrutiny.
Within days of meeting with various firms and individuals that day, more than $120,000 showed up in Blagojevich's campaign funds. Within weeks of those donations, the donors were awarded lucrative and questionable state contracts by the Blagojevich administration. The Sun-Times already has reported that the feds are investigating circumstances surrounding the trip and several others like it.
To top it off, several of the individuals the Blagojevich people met with that day in New York have themselves been indicted since the meetings on charges unrelated to Blagojevich.
Well, how did the donations and contracts come so quickly right after the flight? All the people on that flight, including Deputy Governor Brad Tusk, could have made it happen. What are the chances those post-flight events happened without the knowledge of people on that flight? Right, about zero.
Again, stay tuned. With Levine's plea agreement expected Friday and rumors of indictments swirling in the crisp October air, it could be a startling end of the week.