Blagojevich Caught on Tape
Updated at 3:20 p.m. Jan. 28
It was Dec. 4, 2008, a little after 9 a.m., and Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich got a call from his former chief-of-staff, lobbyist Lon Monk.
Monk was urging the governor to call John Johnston, president of the Balmoral Park racetrack. Blagojevich and Monk had been working together to get Johnston to contribute $100,000 to the governor's re-election campaign. Blagojevich, according to prosecutors, was trying to leverage his support of a bill that would divert a percentage of Illinois casino revenues to the state horse racing industry.
In tape recordings made secretly by FBI wiretaps and played for lawmakers this afternoon at the governor's impeachment trial, Blagojevich, Monk and the governor's brother and head fundraiser, Rob Blagojevich, had talked about Johnston's "sensitivities legislatively" and "skittishness" about the timing of such a contribution.
Now, according to the conversation on one tape, Monk told the governor a deal had been struck despite Johnston's queasiness.
"I'm telling you he's going to be good for it," Monk said, urging the governor to call Johnston from a "pressure point of view."
Blagojevich seemed skeptical. "I feel like there's someone else who's holding him back," he said, referencing a man named "Chris."
But Blagojevich laid out his cards: "We want to do it and hope, hope to do this so we can get together and start picking some dates to do a bill signing. Right?"
[Updated: Corrected from the original posting, which said inaccurately that Johnston had made the $100,000 contribution. Although it's unclear whether a contribution was ever agreed upon, Johnston's attorney, Daniel Reinberg, said his client did not donate to the governor's campaign this time or agree to make the requested donation. The last donation to Blagojevich came in December 2007, Reinberg said.] And Blagojevich signed the casino bill into law.
— Blagojevich, describing the value of the President Barack Obama's Senate seat.
Prosecutors accuse Blagojevich, along with his ex-chief of staff, John Harris, of orchestrating an elaborate scheme to accept payoffs for President Barack Obama's Senate seat. Today they played six minutes of the governor's secretly-recorded phone calls (transcripts) .
The governor did not suspect that federal agents had started tapping his home phone on Oct. 29. By Nov. 3, according to a 76-page complaint, Blagojevich's plans to sell the seat were in full gear.
Blagojevich, a Democrat, allegedly was seeking to leverage a new job for himself -- an appointment to Secretary of Health and Human Services or a post at a private foundation at a "substantial salary." He also sought to get his wife placed in paid corporate board positions.
Blagojevich is also accused of demanding the firing of members of the Chicago Tribune's editorial board in exchange for helping the Tribune Co. with the sale of Chicago's Wrigley Field.
(Live video of the trial can be found at WGN-TV/Chicago)
By Derek Kravitz |
January 27, 2009; 5:00 PM ET
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