Monday, November 27, 2006

Wisconsin part of Blago's multi-state cartel

U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald's investigators are undoubtedly racking up hefty frequent flier mileage untangling the nationwide Rod Blagojevich fundraising cartel.

Tentacles of the operation spread into New York, New Jersey, California, and Wisconsin, as highlighted here. The Wisconsin connection was highlighted here in a report recently released by the Wisconsin state Board of Ethics, which ruled that the governor there didn't violate ethics laws by accepting Bears tickets at Soldier Field in 2003.

Careful readers of the report will note that on page 11, it says that since indicted Bear Stearns executive Nicholas Hurtgen and Blagojevich fundraisers Tony Rezko and Milan Petrovic entertained the Wisconsin governor that day at a favorite "combine" outpost, Gene and Georgetti's steak house.

Hurtgen has a status hearing on Wednesday in U.S. District Court. He long has been considered a probable cooperating witness, although thus far he is pleading not guilty. His wife is a partner in a company that flew Blagojevich around in the 2002 campaign. Bear Stearns months later was given the largest bond deal in state history, $10 billion in 2003. For these reasons and others, it is believed that Hurtgen's testimony could be very damaging to the Blagojevich administration.

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