Friday, October 27, 2006

Without a clue at AP

Associated Press writer Deanna Bellandi is a nice person but she completely mischaracterized the Stuart Levine plea agreement in a story circulating to newspapers across the state.

Details about corruption in state government keep dribbling out, but observers say it's unlikely to affect the Nov. 7 election without a direct link to Blagojevich - something Levine's plea deal with federal prosecutors doesn't provide.

"That's the key," said Chicago political consultant Don Rose.
Bellandi either hasn't read the plea agreement or is too busy buying the utter baloney regularly dispensed by the Blagojevich administration.

Here's how the Chicago Tribune characterized that same plea agreement. Reporters there noticed a very direct link to the governor.

In the 58-page plea agreement, federal authorities spell out allegations that Blagojevich's two top fundraisers schemed almost from the beginning of the governor's administration to use their newfound influence for corrupt purposes.

The plea agreement identifies Antoin "Tony" Rezko, who has already been indicted on federal corruption charges, as one of those close advisers. The other fundraiser, who is not charged, is identified only as "Individual B." Sources identify him as Christopher Kelly, a south suburban roofing contractor who became a loyal Blagojevich confidant.
Now, if Bellandi wants to argue that Blagojevich is detached from Rezko and Kelly, perhaps she is choosing to ignore the hundreds of stories the past few years that suggest otherwise. Blagojevich has done his two-step away from Tony Rezko since his indictment earlier this month, but not Chris Kelly. In a visit just over a week ago to the Daily Southtown, the governor had this to say about Chris Kelly:

Q: Are you confident that Chris Kelly is not going to be indicted?

A: Yeah. Yes. They're two different people, by the way, and it's a different relationship. Chris and I are much closer. Chris is the head of my political campaign. That's someone I talk to a lot more frequently. I'm confident, yes.
That sounds like a pretty direct link to Blagojevich, Deanna.

Kelly is all over the Levine plea agreement. He is Individual B.

According to the feds, Kelly was instrumental, along with Rezko, in getting Stuart Levine reappointed to the state Health Facilities Planning Board and TRS Board.
In about August 2003, Defendant was re-appointed to the Planning Board. Prior to that point, Defendant discussed his possible re-appointment with Individual A and, separately, with Individual B. Individual A said he'd get back to Defendant about his request and later called Defendant and said that it would happen. A short time later, Defendant was at a meeting in Rezko's office with Individual B and Individual B said that the board seat Defendant wanted had been taken care of. Defendant understood from these conversations that he would be re-appointed to the Planning Board.

About the time Defendant was re-appointed, Rezko and Defendant discussed Defendant's appointment and Rezko said that he had suggested that Defendant be made the vice-chairman of the Planning Board and that Rezko expected to influence a certain number of
votes on the Planning Board. In February 2004, the Planning Board elected Defendant as vice-chairman.

In or about the spring of 2004, Rezko and Defendant agreed that Defendant, whose term on the TRS Board was due to expire in May 2004, needed to be reappointed to the TRS Board and that additional TRS Board members needed to be appointed who would
cooperate with Rezko and Defendant. Rezko agreed to use his relationships and influence with high-ranking State of Illinois officials to facilitate these efforts. Rezko subsequently indicated to Defendant that Rezko had arranged for Defendant to be
re-appointed to the TRS Board, and Defendant was re-appointed on about May 14, 2004.
Kelly also helped block consolidation of pension agencies so the TRS could continue to be plundered, according to the plea agreement.

Defendant was a member of the TRS Board of Trustees from approximately October 2000 through about July 2004. In that capacity, Defendant owed the beneficiaries of TRS a duty of honest services. Defendant was also a member of the Illinois Health Facilities Planning Board ("Planning Board") from about August 1996 through about June 2004, and was last re-appointed to the Planning Board in about August 2003. In that capacity, Defendant owed the people of the State of Illinois a duty of honest services.

In or about the spring of 2003, when certain State of Illinois officials advocated consolidating TRS, the Illinois State Board of Investment, and the State University Retirement System, into a single pension fund, Individual A approached Rezko and Individual B on behalf of Defendant and Individual A for assistance in defeating this proposal. Defendant and Individual A were against the pension consolidation idea because they wanted to preserve their influence and Defendant's position with TRS.

Defendant understood that Rezko and Individual B had significant influence with the State of Illinois administration because of their relationships with senior State of Illinois officials and their roles as important fundraisers. Defendant learned from Individual
A that Rezko and Individual B agreed to use their relationships and influence with senior State of Illinois officials to oppose the pension consolidation plan in exchange for the agreement of Defendant and Individual A to use their influence and Defendant's position at TRS to ensure that TRS used investment firms and hired lawyers identified by Rezko and Individual B. Defendant agreed to assist Rezko and Individual B with TRS in exchange for their help defeating the consolidation proposal.
And Kelly was allegedly part of a a scheme to shake-down a company for either a $2 million consulting contract or for a $1.5 million donation to a "certain public official," presumably Blagojevich.
On or about May 10, 2004, Rezko, Defendant, Individual A, and Individual B agreed that in light of Individual J's reaction, it was too risky to continue demanding money from Investment Firm 7 or blocking its $220 million allocation. They further agreed that
although Investment Firm 7 would receive the $220 million allocation, it would not receive any further business from any State of Illinois entity, including TRS.

On about May 25, 2004, the TRS Board, including Defendant, voted to invest a total of $220 million with Investment Firm 7. Defendant intentionally concealed from and failed to disclose to the TRS Board material facts relating to its consideration of the application for funds of Investment Firm 7, including his arrangements with Rezko, Individual A, and Individual B.
Associated Press cannot continue to be played by the Blagojevich administration with mindless he said, she said reporting. There is the largest corruption scandal in the history of Illinois brewing under Blago's watch and AP is giving equal weight in some stories to the almost meaningless fact that some Republicans took a few campaign donations from a few participants in Blagojevich's corruption.

AP ought to be going after the real story here. It ought to be asking the governor why he continues to support and defend his only remaining top fundraiser not under indictment, Chris Kelly, when the federal government has so concretely said he is participating in illegal schemes.

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