Fitzgerald Sought Blagojevich's Dirt on Obama

By Margie Burns

A newly released internal Blagojevich campaign document shows that the US Attorney’s office in Chicago omitted donors to Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich in Dec. 8, 2008, subpoenas of Blagojevich records, instead demanding records on Obama advisers.

One day before FBI agents were detailed to arrest Blagojevich at his home, US Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald’s office subpoenaed Blagojevich for “any and all documents ... relating in any way to any of the following,” naming 32 individuals and groups, beginning with Blagojevich family members and campaign insiders.

No actual donors in the list compiled by Blagojevich are named in the Dec. 8 subpoenas. Prosecutors for the Northern District of Illinois (NDIL) did not demand records on anyone who had held a fundraising event for Blagojevich, or on donors whom Blagojevich’s people planned to solicit further. The Dec. 8 subpoenas did demand records on two prominent Obama campaign advisors, Valerie Jarrett and David Axelrod. Jarrett and Axelrod are not mentioned in the Blagojevich list of actual or potential donors.

According to the Chicago Sun-Times, federal prosecutors used an early version of the internal donor list to obtain authorization to wiretap, yielding the edited tapes used in arresting Blagojevich. Two wiretaps were authorized and extended, according to the charging document. While names of people wiretapped have not been released, hypothetically anyone who received a call from Blagojevich’s campaign office or home in fall 2008 could be an object of federal surveillance. Wiretaps harvested “thousands” of secretly recorded telephone conversations, according to Fitzgerald.

Posted on the Sun-Times web site, Blagojevich’s list conveniently de-mystifies Blagojevich fundraising, showing exactly what money the Blagojevich team dreamed of raising in 2008. Eye-friendly columns, neatly typed, show amounts donated in 2008, the Blago “LOW GOAL” for future donations from each listee, and the “HIGH GOAL,” sometimes up to $100,000. Like the subpoenas, the list contains as much smoke as fire:

The list shows that the Blagojevich team raised a total $624,905 in 2008.

The list contains 139 names including some groups. Of the 139 names, 34 actually donated in 2008.

No potential US Senate pick donated to Blagojevich.

The list is dated “Draft as of 12:42 PM 12/3/2008.” Typed notes indicate that it was initiated by September 2008.

The low goal was $1,747,400. The high goal was $2,232,400. Blagojevich’s people raised slightly over one-fourth of their hoped-for “high goal.” The 10 largest donations, ranging from a high of $60,000 to a few donations of $25,000, were raised in events previously reported by the Sun-Times.

The new Dec. 8 subpoenas, however, include only seven names also on Blagojevich’s list, none of whom contributed to Blagojevich. One person on whom records were subpoenaed and mentioned on the Blagojevich list of potential donors was John Wyma, a former Blagojevich adviser and lobbyist — and also the source who turned over Blagojevich’s donor list to investigators. The subpoenas did not include Roland Burris, appointed by Blagojevich to the Senate, or US Rep. Danny Davis, to whom Blagojevich previously offered the appointment.

The subpoenas on Dec. 8 demanded records on Blagojevich’s wife, his brother, two campaign committees and other insiders — along with the two Obama advisers. Not mentioned at the press conference, the subpoenas were among 44 subpoenas issued to Blagojevich over the years, disclosed by the Sun-Times through the Freedom Of Information Act. Two other subpoenas were issued after the arrest. Fitzgerald’s office, which has investigated Blagojevich since 2002, has declined to answer questions about why these subpoenas came so late.

Federal wiretaps on Blagojevich’s campaign office were authorized on Oct. 21 and wiretaps on the Blagojevich home on Oct. 29, yielding the recorded rant by Mrs. Blagojevich used to humiliate the family further.

The Blagojevich arrest has raised questions. Of the two counts, one is based on the years 2002-2004, raising the question why Blagojevich was not indicted back then. Why wasn’t a grand jury convened earlier? As attorneys have pointed out, anything Blagojevich did earlier that is indictable now was indictable then. What was Blagojevich being saved for?

The fact remains that Blagojevich was hustling to raise funds, obviously, while such fundraising, however unsavory, was still legal. A new law to take effect on Jan. 1, 2009, would have restricted it. The paradoxical effect of that arrest was to nab a public official who was hurrying to avoid breaking a law.

For all his faults, Blagojevich twice used his amendatory veto power to strengthen ethics legislation. The first time, in June 2003, he succeeded. In 2008, he was so weakened, largely by incessant investigations, that the legislature overrode him.

Margie Burns writes from Washington, DC.

From The Progressive Populist, May 1, 2009

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