Saturday, December 22, 2007

Lauzen sheds radioactive IPA money

Republican congressional candidate Chris Lauzen (IL-14) just unloaded a sizable portion of his campaign treasury by announcing yesterday he was returning money from the radioactive business consulting firm International Profit Associates, based in suburban Buffalo Grove.

The contributor in question is John Burgess, owner of International Profit Associates, a management-consulting firm in Buffalo Grove. The company has had a string of problems dating back to the 1980s, and federal authorities are currently pursuing a sexual-harassment lawsuit against the company on behalf of more than 100 employees.

Officials from the Illinois attorney general's office confirmed the company is under investigation. According to the Better Business Bureau, IPA has received more than 400 complaints since 2003 and has a rating of "unsatisfactory."

Burgess has run afoul of the law himself. In the 1980s, he was convicted of attempted larceny and patronizing a 16-year-old prostitute, according to published reports.
Some background on IPA's problems with sex, fraud and politics can be found here and here.

The question now is: Will Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, who has been investigating IPA for more than four years, return the money she took from IPA? Hillary Clinton?

Lauzen is just the latest politician to return money donated by Burgess and IPA. The list includes Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle and New York State Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo.
If you are a politician and you are keeping money that even Blagojevich returned, what exactly are you thinking?

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Time to resign, Rod

Every Illinois citizen should read pages 15 to 78 of the federal government's "Santiago proffer" released late Friday on the eve of Tony Rezko's trial. It paints a picture, in great detail, of the looting of state government engineered by Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich's two top deputies, Rezko and Chris Kelly.

As the newspapers have pointed out, the proffer also reveals two conversations that if true show that Blagojevich (Public Official A) was an active participant in the looting.
At one point, (Joe) Cari had a conversation with Public Official A. Among other things, Public Official A asked about Cari's fund-raising experience. Public Official A stated he had a lot of ways of helping his friends and that Rezko and Co-Schemer B (Kelly) were his point people in helping his friends and coordinating fundraising. Public Official A also informed Cari that he could award contracts, legal work, and investment banking to help with fund-raising. Public Official A ended the conversation with Cari by noting that he wanted to continue the dialogue with Cari about fundraising and that Rezko and Co-Schemer B would follow up with Cari.
And here,
After (Stuart) Levine was reappointed, he shared a private plane ride from New York to Chicago with Public Official A and Co-Schemer B. Levine, Public Official A, and Co-Schemer B were the only passengers on the flight. At the beginning of the flight, Levine thanked Public Official A for reappointing him to the Planning Board. Public Official A responded that Levine should only talk with "Tony" [Rezko] or [Co-Schemer B] about the board, "but you stick with us and you will do very well for yourself."
The proffer is devastating to the Governor and his cronies because it is backed by many recorded phone conversations and public records and certainly is buttressed by revealed and unrevealed informants. Even if Kelly and Rezko don't flip on Blagojevich, there appears to be plenty of others who already have or will fill in the blanks on this scheme.

U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald's track record on corruption prosecutions in Illinois is nearly spotless. This document, if read carefully, leads to the inescapable conclusion that Blagojevich, Kelly and a handful of other Illinois insiders will ultimately be indicted. It also portends, in the short-term, the indictment of Blagojevich's campaign fund, which has been receptacle of much of the corruption.

It was already quite clear that Blagojevich's "Barry Bonds-like" fundraising prowess was fueled by cheating. His pay-to-play on steroids scheme is being dismantled, piece by piece. It's only a matter of time now.

Sure, Rod and the others have the presumption of innocence. That's the legal picture. The perception picture is no longer cloudy. Corruption was so blatant in the Blagojevich orbit that even longtime bi-partisan insider Bill Cellini (Co-Schemer A), who is a central participant in the Rezko proffer, was recoiling.

Co-Schemer A told Levine about how Rezko and Co- Schemer B had been "essentially hammerin' people for contracts ah, with with contracts for fundraising [Rezko and Co-Schemer B had been forcing individuals to make political contributions in order to win State of Illinois contracts]," how Co-Schemer A was a "nervous wreck" about it, and how Co-Schemer A and Levine needed to talk with Rezko and Co-Schemer B about Individual J's threats.
Rod, if he had any decency, would spare the state the coming months of new indictment after new indictment, a government in seclusion, and the further erosion of any public trust in state leadership. We are guessing that Rod will not take our advice because his decency was long ago misplaced.

Lt. Governor Pat Quinn ought to resign, as well. While Quinn is not personally corrupt, he stood silent while Rod trampled on every principle Quinn once said he stood for. Then he described Rod as honest on the eve of his re-election bid and was the direct beneficiary of Rod's dirty money to get himself re-elected. The great reformer sold out. When Rod goes, he should go with him.

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Wednesday, December 19, 2007

An ad that will cut through


This ad will be effective. It should be run in as many states as possible.

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Edwards scandal is plane to see


The video above was shot and produced by a woman who, according to the National Enquirer and internet sites, is carrying John Edwards' child. The real scandal in this video—at least to the Al Gore left—is the near deification of the carbon spewing corporate jet that tools the trial lawyer/hedge fund consultant/man of the people around the country.

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Friday, December 14, 2007

ATMs at the tollway, Chris?

There are many questions the feds will ask Governor Rod Blagojevich's confidant Chris Kelly once he flips. I hope they don't forget this one:

What exactly was your role in securing a no-bid ATM contract at the tollway for a company that employed Rod's brother. Did you talk to Rod about it?
Fully explained here.

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Thursday, December 13, 2007

Pincher zeroes in on governor


The best part of the double pincher movement is that if the defenders turn to engage one flanker the other flanker will be totally unseen and coming in directly behind the defenders.

–from a military website

Now that U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald has his left flank fully in place, he can proceed upon his prey, Governor Rod Blagojevich. Does anybody seriously doubt how this is going to turn out?

Rod's two main fundraisers are now both indicted. Rezko on the right, Kelly on the left. Can Rod run right up the middle and avoid Fitzgerald? What are the odds, Chris?

I knew the indictment was imminent this morning when the blog was being pounded with hits related to Kelly. Here's what I've written about him.

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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Bad day for Hillary's 'family friend'


Convicted criminal and Democratic campaign donor extraordinaire John Burgess had a bad day. First, he took a couple hits in federal court and then Fox Chicago did a three-minute exclusive story highlighting alleged fraud at his beleaguered business consulting firm, International Profit Associates in the Chicago suburbs.

The Fox story was not kind to Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, questioning, as I have done several times here, why she won't return money from a company she is investigating. And, Fox wanted to know, why has the investigation taken four years with no results when a federal judge in a civil fraud lawsuit found recently that the case brought by 40 small businesses across the country amounted to a valid racketeering cause of action.

Fox noted that IPA has thrown around more than $1 million in campaign contributions to various politicians, mostly in Illinois. Hillary Clinton has taken roughly $165,000 in IPA cash and has ridden in the IPA corporate jet. A Clinton spokesman once described Burgess as a "family friend."

In federal court today, judge Elaine Bucklo turned down a request from IPA to reconsider her refusal last week to dismiss the racketeering case. Small business owners turned right around and filed motions to preserve evidence and to freeze Burgess' assets, noting his criminal past.

There is a great likelihood that Burgess might hide or otherwise dissipate its illegal ill-gotten funds if his assets are not frozen. Burgess has a history of misappropriating, hiding, and refusing to return funds. During the investigation that preceded his 1987 disbarment as a lawyer in New York, Burgess "testified under oath before the staff of the [Grievance] Committee, he stated that he was a member in good standing of the Bar of the State of Illinois. He subsequently conceded that he had never been admitted to the Bar in that State.

He admitted under oath that he refused to comply with lawful directives from the Social Security Administration made on August 1, 1985 and November 15, 1985 to refund an illegal fee of $ 1,400, until after his client retained another lawyer and brought a lawsuit for recovery of the fee. Bank records show that on August 1, 1985, respondent withdrew the sum of $ 40,000 from the estate account and deposited the proceeds in his office account, and that after August 13, 1985, the
balance in his office account was substantially below the sum of $ 40,000."

The court held, "that the above admissions and uncontroverted evidence demonstrate that respondent is guilty of misconduct immediately threatening the public interest. Clearly, on the evidence before us, he cannot be trusted with clients' funds and he should be suspended forthwith."
Madigan didn't have much of an answer to why she refuses to disassociate herself from a company she is investigating. Reporter Nancy Pender said only that Madigan's office noted "that investigations like this take time."

Yes, investigations like this certainly do take time.

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Jayne Thompson and Patti Blagojevich

Everyone realizes that Big Jim Thompson's letter to the Chicago Tribune defending Rod and Patti Blagojevich was just a service to his client. His argument that it wasn't a legitimate story that the FBI is probing Patti Blagojevich's real estate commissions from state contractors and contributors is absurd and he probably knows it.

Back when he was governor, his own wife sought to avoid mixing her legal work with her husband's job as governor. This is from a March 4, 1987 story in the Tribune titled, "Family First: Jayne Thompson's sticking to her diet, helping with homework and working part-time to make ends meet (link not available)."

She no longer practices law because ``I`m somewhat of a liability to some law firms. It precludes them from getting the kinds of state business they think they are entitled to and probably are.``

Sensitive to conflict-of-interest charges, she tries to avoid any hint of impropriety as wife of the highest official in the state.
Not exactly the ethical standard that Patti Blagojevich is abiding by these days.

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Monday, December 10, 2007

Wiggle room on Sunnyside

As the Chicago Tribune methodically tracks down First Lady Patti Blagojevich's real estate commissions, one little disclaimer in all the stories is being overlooked.

The Blagojevichs refuse to come clean on the extent of her work. What the Governor and his wife are disclosing still might constitute a less-than-complete picture of her commissions, which total more than $200,000 since Rod became governor, as best the Tribune can tell.

The governor's office has characterized inquiries about Patricia Blagojevich's dealings as sexist, saying she was a successful businesswoman long before her husband became governor in 2003.

While releasing their jointly filed income-tax returns that show profits from her River Realty Inc., the Blagojeviches have refused to provide tax documents from the company or her list of clients.

But the Tribune's investigation into Patricia Blagojevich's real estate dealings has documented a steady income -- more than $200,000 -- to the Blagojevich household from key political supporters, campaign fundraisers and state contractors since he was elected.
It's possible, according to accountants I've talked to, for the Blagojevichs to be offsetting the commission with corporate losses. That means the figure the Blagojevichs are providing to the public quite possibly is a subset of the total commissions she is earning.

Good luck getting the real information from the Governor or his spokeswoman. The only consolation is that we all presume the feds already know the real story and someday will tell us.

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Thursday, December 6, 2007

NOW endorses Hillary, sexual harassment

In a world that was logical, a group that claims to protect women wouldn't be endorsing a presidential candidate who has a top donor accused by the federal government of "egregious" sexual harassment.

Not only did Hillary Clinton accept about $165,000 in campaign donations from business owner and accused sexual harasser John Burgess, she rode on his International Profit Associates jet and spoke at an IPA company function. All while the allegations were pending in U.S. District Court in Chicago.

None of that seems to bother the Illinois chapter of NOW, which proudly endorsed the sexual harassment enabler from New York, for her "long history of support for women's empowerment."

I wonder how empowered these women felt, as described by the EEOC's pending lawsuit.

IPA's management, led by John Burgess, created a culture at IPA where sexual harassment flourished. IPA's senior managers harassed women with impunity, sending a signal to lower-level managers and employees that they could do the same. Given the tone set by IPA's senior management, it is not surprising that sexual harassment at IPA was rampant in all departments and at all levels of the company. Women at IPA routinely had to endure a gauntlet of abuse, ranging from sexual solicitations and physical harassment, to sexual comments and offensive sexual materials. Based on the extensive record of harassment presented in this case, IPA is not entitled to a finding that as a matter of law, the sexual harassment that occurred at the company was insufficiently severe or pervasive to survive summary judgment.
Here's what EEOC lawyer Diane Smason said about the case in a May 2006 story in the New York Times.
"This is probably the most egregious case of sex harassment that the Chicago district office has seen. The owner of the company (John Burgess) engaged in harassment, and that set the tone for the company, on down."
The Chicago Tribune's "Swamp" covered the endorsement and of course didn't ask about the incongruity of a so-called women's group endorsing a woman who embraces the support of John Burgess. I guess the reporter didn't feel empowered enough to ask a tough question.

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Cari boxes in Blago

The real significance of indicted Democratic fundraiser Joe Cari's public statements, through his lawyer today and through sources in this important story, is that they don't allow Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich to blame the federal pension investigation on former Republican Stuart Levine.

Last year, Rod tried to blame the scandal on Levine, an indicted former Republican insider who joined the Blagojevich fundraising team in 2003. Even the press sniffed out the absurdity of that defense because Rod reappointed him to boards and took a ride on a corporate jet with him to raise money in New York.

But what really put the kibosh on that defense was Cari's partial corroboration of Levine's general account in the Chicago Magazine article by Steve Rhodes and further today by a statement by Cari's lawyer, as reported by Rich Miller.

"There was a heavy interest in a period of time by the Blagojevich people to get Joe on the team to raise money. That recruitment effort - late 2003 and 2004 - was led by Tony Rezko, Chris Kelly, Stu Levine and Gov. Blagojevich. Joe politely declined every request, saying he had retired from politics."
The spotlight on Cari today was because of an AP story by John O'Connor that revealed that Cari was meeting with Blagojevich in March 2004, just weeks before his criminal shakedowns, as described in Cari's plea agreement.

Even Blago's logic twisters are having a difficult time spinning away from Joe Cari's account.

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"I think you are evil and not very bright"

Those are the words this morning in the Miami Herald of our own Democratic mega-fundraiser and lawyer Myron "Mike" Cherry, defending his long-time client, the highly controversial business consulting firm International Profit Associates, based in suburban Chicago.

IPA's lawyer declined to comment for this story, saying The Miami Herald's previous coverage of the issue had been an unfair ``hatchet job.''

''I think you are evil and not very bright,'' IPA lawyer Myron ''Mike'' Cherry said.
The Herald was doing what the Illinois media strangely is largely declining to do—cover the huge story of fraud, politics and sex at IPA. The Herald wrote a story about a significant federal ruling this week that in essence certifies the federal racketeering case against IPA on behalf of 40 small business owners/victims as a legitimate nationwide conspiracy allegation.

Cherry is also known in these parts as "Individual H" in the indictment of Chicago businessman Tony Rezko. That moniker is explained here.

The Herald's original story that Cherry describes as a hatchet job simply chronicled complaints against IPA by small business owners across South Florida. The reporter didn't even mention the looming sexual harassment lawsuit against IPA or all the political donations.

But after Cherry's comments, in this new story, the reporter added the sexual harassment background. Effective PR tactic, Myron. Who is not very bright?

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Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Court ruling a blow to IPA, Hillary, Lisa

A federal court judge's ruling today got exactly zero coverage from the Illinois media but it will have a strong ripple effect on the future of the large and controversial business consulting firm International Profit Associates and the Democratic politicians who are enabling a company swimming in fraud allegations to operate freely.

Specifically, the ruling could be bad news for Hillary Clinton, who has accepted approximately $165,000 and a corporate jet ride from IPA; Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, who also took IPA money and whose investigation of the firm has mysteriously gone nowhere; and other politicians who have taken significant money from the Buffalo Grove, IL.-based company.

In U.S. District Court in Chicago, federal judge Elaine Bucklo denied IPA's motion to dismiss a massive nationwide 40-plaintiff lawsuit. In doing so, Bucklo agreed with the small business owners/victims that the allegations amounted to a legitimate racketeering case.

The complaint sufficiently alleges mail and wire fraud, and interstate travel, as a part of defendant's schemes and as the predicate acts of racketeering. The complaint alleges that defendants (1) had a scheme, (2) intended to defraud plaintiffs, and (3) used the telephone and sent materials through facsimile and the mails in furtherance of the scheme, and traveled interstate in furtherance of the scheme. These acts are alleged to have been numerous and continuous, both collectively and with respect to each plaintiff, and spanning over a period of years.
The bad news for Madigan, if the Illinois media ever wakes up and asks her about it, is that by effectively certifying this as a legitimate nationwide fraud allegation, it makes the first-term Democrat appear extremely weak, or worse. Madigan, as I have pointed out numerous times, has been investigating IPA for more than four years without any result. If the federal judge can see the potential nationwide fraud conspiracy, why can't the Illinois AG?

A more cynical person might say Madigan is less than motivated in investigating a company that helped her conduct political phone banks in 2002, and that has given close to $1 million in campaign donations to Democratic politicians over the last several years.

It is also bad news for other Democratic AGs across the country, who, through their political action committee, took $50,000 in donations from IPA in October 2006 while Madigan was conducting her investigation. If there is a nationwide fraud case, Madigan ought to be bringing other state AGs on board to help investigate. Did the $50,000 stifle the AGs' enthusiasm?

In general, it is a horrible day for IPA. The ruling has energized a very vocal group of small business owners, some of whom can be found celebrating the ruling on message boards at the bottom of stories here and here. This means the case will go forward and the chance for more scrutiny will increase.

At the same time IPA is fighting this case, it also is in federal court defending itself against the most expansive sexual harassment lawsuit ever filed by the Chicago office of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

And, as we've mentioned before, it appears that IPA is heavily dependent on lighting strike, non-repeat business and therefore is deathly afraid of bad Google results, which tend to kill those sales when a small business owner checks out IPA before hiring it. The firm undoubtedly is trying to influence those Google results, but the more bad news that enters the news flow, the more difficult that becomes.

Background on IPA can be found here.

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Monday, December 3, 2007

Time to fight, Barack

Now that Hillary has unleashed the dogs of war to comb even Barack Obama's kindergarten transcript, here's one attack Barack could immediately fire back. We offered this up a few months ago, but Barack has been too genteel to respond. Here it is again.

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The joke is on Democrats

Watch for more of these ads aimed at Democrats who have been "around the barn and back" on their Iraq positions. This one is particularly devastating, aimed at Minnesota Senate candidate Al Franken.


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