Hamilton, Madison, and Jay

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Location: Mesa, Arizona, United States

Who are we? We're a married couple who has a passion for politics and current events. That's what this site is about. If you read us, you know what we stand for.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Rezko update: Day three, and all it took was a whisper

"Like sands through the hourglass, so goes the Days of Tony Rezko's life ..." Today we get a startling peek into how his schemes worked, and the pressure that he and Stuart Levine were able to apply. Plus there's a nice tidbit at the end that basically has one of Gov. Blagojevich's assistants "jumping" when Rezko barks.

First the scheme, which involved a $1.5 million bribe coming from a hospital deal that Rezko helped orchestrate:

A state board's vote to approve an $81 million hospital was so obviously orchestrated, a prosecution witness at Tony Rezko's corruption trial testified Tuesday, that those who were there let out a "collective, shared gasp" when it happened.

"I was very concerned" about the 2004 vote to approve Mercy Health System's new Crystal Lake hospital, said Anne Murphy, former general counsel to the Illinois Health Facilities Planning Board.

Prosecutors maintain that the vote was rigged so Stuart Levine -- then an influential board member, now the chief witness against Rezko -- could pocket a $1.5 million bribe. And they say Levine couldn't have done it without Rezko, who's accused of using his influence in Gov. Blagojevich's administration to appoint members to state boards and rig key votes.

The Crystal Lake vote came after board member Dr. Imad Almanaseer initially voted "present," which would have blocked the project. Board chairman Thomas Beck spoke to Levine, who whispered something to Almanaseer, according to testimony Tuesday from Donald Jones, a state health official who said he had never seen anything like what happened next: "Dr. Almanaseer changed his vote to yes."

Murphy told jurors the vote to approve the hospital prompted "a collective, shared gasp."

Murphy said she asked Levine about what happened and he shrugged and told her: "Sometimes, you have to be a good soldier."

Good soldier my butt. Anyone want to bet that he was told to vote the right way, or he'd end up in the truck of a car? Just kidding. That can't be proven, but there are ways to coerce someone to see things "your way," and Levine and Rezko were very good at it. They were also very good at helping Governor Blagojevich fill his vacancy problems, too:

It was the place to meet on "most" Mondays.

Since this might get overlooked tomorrow, I should add a few things about witness Jennifer Thomas. She's the former Blagojevich employee who worked directly with Joe Cini, the governor's onetime patronage chief.Thomas testified that she and Cini visited Rezko's Chicago office on "most Mondays" between late March of 2003 through June of that year.

She brought with her a spreadsheet of open positions on various state boards and commissions to Rezko's office so they could talk over how to fill vacancies. They would also talk about how Rezko's favored people were faring in the vetting process."We were keeping track and letting him know what was happening with his candidates," Thomas testified.

Thomas also testified that if Rezko had a request, she was told to drop everything and get to it. Defense lawyers tried to take it down a notch, and through their questioning, Thomas said the meetings only lasted about a half an hour and some were canceled.

Ultimately, jurors heard Rezko was allegedly so important in Blagojevich's administration, Cini took this business to Rezko's office.

Now, there's having a politician in your back pocket (which coincidentally, you can toddle on over to Hugh's site and read what "gift" is described as by the Senate's own rules, and the fact the Obama house purchase fits into that definition), and then there's having a governor in your back pocket. Tony Rezko obviously had both, but his power in the "Chicago Way" of politics came in the influence he wielded, and the power of the governor's trust.

And we thought Spitzer was bad. By the way, Natasha Korecki asks a pressing question about the subject of dirty governors:

It was once rare for a governor to be indicted.

Revelations this week about New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer's involvement in a prostitution ring were stunning. But maybe not too stunning to Illinois residents. Our former Gov. George Ryan is serving a 6 1/2-year sentence in prison on corruption charges. Onetime Illinois Gov. Dan Walker also served time. And while our current governor is not accused of wrongdoing, Blagojevich's administration is under a microscope in the Tony Rezko trial.

Can we now call this a trend?

Yes Natasha, I believe we can.

Publius II


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