Feds: Blagojevich wanted new job, big paycheck
CHICAGO—Federal prosecutors' latest portrait of Rod Blagojevich in his final days as Illinois governor reveal a man fed up with his $177,000-a-year job, desperate for cash and seeing his power to appoint someone to President Barack Obama's old Senate seat as his ticket to a "good gig."
"I'd like to get out, the (expletive) outta here," Blagojevich is quoted as saying in a 91-page document released Wednesday, a preview of the evidence prosecutors plan to present at his racketeering and fraud trial due to get under way June 3.
The so-called Santiago proffer doesn't break much new ground in the scandal that dogged Blagojevich for years and ended with his impeachment, but adds to a portrait of corruption.
Blagojevich repeatedly searched for some way to turn the Senate seat into money, according to the document, which at one point quotes him as telling an aide : "The objective is to get a good gig."
After representatives of one Senate hopeful made what Blagojevich believed to be a $1.5 million offer for the seat, he told his brother to let them know they wouldn't get it unless the promised fundraising got started quickly, according to the document.
Rod Blagojevich has pleaded not guilty to racketeering and fraud charges alleging he schemed to sell or trade the seat and illegally pressured prospective campaign contributors. His brother, businessman Robert Blagojevich, is charged as a coconspirator and has pleaded not guilty.
Robert Blagojevich issued a statement saying the document represented "nothing new."
"It's the same old false allegations and lies," he said. "I'm looking forward to trial so the truth comes out and everyone will see that I am innocent."
The document does say that the former governor's wife, Patti Blagojevich, paid $38,000 for home repairs after receiving a $40,000 payment for work she didn't do from Tony Rezko, a campaign fundraiser later convicted of bribery and other charges.
Prosecutors say that at the time of that payment, Patti Blagojevich was being paid a monthly retainer of $12,000 plus commissions as a Rezko contractor. Prosecutors say under that deal, Rezko's company paid her $96,000 over a five-month period, and that employees of Rezko's company were unaware of any work she performed that justified such a lucrative contract.
Patti Blagojevich has not been charged with any wrongdoing.
Rezko, who was one of Blagojevich's top fundraisers, was convicted in June 2008 of fraud, money laundering and bribery in connection with an alleged $7 million scheme to shake down a contractor and money managers seeking to do business with a state teachers pension fund. But his sentencing has been postponed indefinitely and he is believed to be cooperating with prosecutors as they prepare for the Blagojevich trial.
The proffer expanded on a well-publicized characterization of Blagojevich, often punctuating his remarks with profanity, tired of the governor's office and constantly searching for ways to increase his income.
One of Blagojevich's ideas was to exchange the Senate seat for a job for his wife with the union-sponsored organization Change to Win, according to the document.
"Hopefully you get paid decent," the proffer quotes Blagojevich as saying.
At another point, he is quoted as grumbling that his "upward trajectory" had stalled.
"Now is the time for me to put my (expletive) children and my wife first, for a change," he is quoted as saying as he considered what to do about the Senate seat.
Blagojevich in October 2008 received what he believed to be an offer of $1.5 million in campaign contributions from representatives of unidentified Candidate A in return for Blagojevich's appointment of the Senate hopeful to Obama's former seat, according to the document.
Senate Candidate A was identified by an individual close case as U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., D-Ill. The individual spoke on condition of anonymity, saying the information was being treated as confidential by the government since Jackson has not been accused of wrongdoing.
On Dec. 4, Blagojevich allegedly told his brother to tell a representative of Senate Candidate A that if the appointee were to go through "some of the promised fundraising needed to start occurring immediately." The document said Robert Blagojevich set up a meeting but the then governor canceled it the next day after the Tribune ran a story suggesting -- correctly as it turned out -- that Blagojevich's telephones were tapped by the FBI.
The document was unsealed Wednesday by U.S. District Judge James B. Zagel after the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Sun-Times and The Associated Press asked the court for access to it, saying the public has a strong interest in alleged corruption concerning high officials.
Defense attorneys objected to the unsealing, saying the document was inaccurate and one-sided, something federal prosecutors disputed sharply. Zagel also refused to grant a defense request to have parts of the document deleted.
Prosecutors file a Santiago proffer in hopes of persuading the judge to allow them to introduce testimony from co-conspirators that otherwise might be ruled out.