Report finds note from governor’s former aide

By The Associated Press

CHICAGO – A former top aide sent Gov. Rod Blagojevich a note listing 19 people that a key fundraiser, now accused of shaking down firms seeking state business, wanted placed on various state boards, according to a published report.

“Rod, Here is a list of candidates that Tony Rezko wants to be put on non-paying boards,” Lon Monk wrote in a note that was faxed to the governor along with the Jan. 20, 2003 list, the Chicago Sun-Times reported Monday. “What are your thoughts?”

The fundraiser, Antoin “Tony” Rezko, a political confidant and friend of Blagojevich, pleaded not guilty last week to federal charges that he tried to squeeze millions of dollars in kickbacks from businesses. The governor has not been charged with any wrongdoing.

It was not illegal for Rezko to make recommendations or for people appointed to commissions and boards to make political contributions to the governor.

Blagojevich maintains he knew nothing about any “pay-to-play” schemes involving Rezko or Stuart Levine, the indicted former state Teachers’ Retirement System Board member. His office has acknowledged that Rezko made recommendations to the governor, but said many other people did, too.

“Some of those recommendations were taken… Others were not,” said Blagojevich spokeswoman Abby Ottenhoff.

According to the Sun-Times, 10 of the 19 people on the list or their spouses were appointed to a state board or commission by the governor. In other cases, children of those on the list got state jobs during a hiring freeze or landed contracts underwritten by taxpayers, the newspaper reported.

Meanwhile, state records show that, dating to 2001, 15 people on the list or their businesses contributed more than $830,000 to Blagojevich, the Sun-Times said. The Blagojevich campaign characterized the amount as an “inaccurate representation of the facts,” saying it could attribute less than one-tenth of that amount, about $80,000, to those on the list.

The newspaper said its figure includes contributions by the individuals, companies they owned and a labor organization that operates under a union official appointed by Blagojevich.

The paper also reported that, according to the governor’s schedule, Blagojevich met with Rezko at Rezko’s real estate office 15 days after the list was faxed to Blagojevich’s home, then named two people on the list to state panels nine days after that Feb. 4, 2003 meeting.

Blagojevich’s supporters say many appointees that Rezko recommended have done and continue to do a good job, and it is unfair to suggest they are corrupt.

But the governor’s Republican opponent, Judy Baar Topinka, quickly jumped on the news, calling the list a “smoking gun.”

“There is a link where Rezko and Rod were teaming up to pay back those who raised money for them in this massive fundraising operation,” Topinka said at a news conference Monday.