The Washington Post has an article today, Monday, December 22,
2008, that reveals how tapes provided by Pamela Meyer Davis,
helped Patrick Fitzgerald and federal prosecutors begin their
shakedown of corruption in Chicago and IL that has led to the
arrest of Rod Blagojevich.
“Secret Tapes Helped Build Graft Cases In Illinois
Hospital CEO Reported Shakedown, Wore Wire”
Washington Post Staff Writers
Monday, December 22, 2008″
“CHICAGO — The wide-ranging public corruption probe that led to the arrest of Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich got its first big break when a grandmother of six walked into a breakfast meeting with shakedown artists wearing an FBI wire.
Pamela Meyer Davis had been trying to win approval from a state health planning board for an expansion of Edward Hospital, the facility she runs in a Chicago suburb, but she realized that the only way to prevail was to retain a politically connected construction company and a specific investment house. Instead of succumbing to those demands, she went to the FBI and U.S. Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald in late 2003 and agreed to secretly record conversations about the project.
Her tapes led investigators down a twisted path of corruption that over five years has ensnared a collection of behind-the-scenes figures in Illinois government, including Joseph Cari Jr., a former Democratic National Committee member, and disgraced businessman Antoin “Tony” Rezko.
On Dec. 9, that path wound up at the governor’s doorstep. Another set of wiretaps suggested that Blagojevich was seeking to capitalize on the chance to fill the Senate seat just vacated by President-elect Barack Obama.
Many of the developments in Operation Board Games never attracted national headlines. They involved expert tactics in which prosecutors used threats of prosecution or prison time to flip bit players in a tangle of elaborate schemes that Fitzgerald has called pay-to-play “on steroids.”
But now, Fitzgerald’s patient strategy has led to uncomfortable questions not only for Blagojevich but also for the powerful players who privately negotiated with him, unaware that their conversations were being monitored. Democratic Rep. Jesse L. Jackson Jr. faces queries about his interest in the Senate seat, and key players in the Obama presidential transition team — White House Chief of Staff-designate Rahm Emanuel and adviser Valerie Jarrett — are being asked about their contacts with the governor on the important appointment.”
“Meyer Davis’s hospital wasn’t the only one with problems winning approvals from the state board that reviewed new projects for health-care facilities. The Chicago Medical School wanted a student housing project and found itself steered to the same construction and investment firms. Mercy Hospital faced similar obstacles. The board held up requests for open-heart surgical units and community clinics, and it seemed that a high price tag was attached to moving the board toward action.
At the center of the scheme was board member Stuart Levine, a prominent GOP fundraiser and businessman. Levine also courted Blagojevich, flying him to fundraisers in Texas and New York at which the governor collected more than $120,000 in campaign contributions. Levine held seats on the health facilities board and the teachers pension board, which controlled more than $41 billion in assets.”
“Levine also had many connections. A telephone wiretap captured his discussions with Rezko, a fundraiser for Blagojevich and Obama, and several others who would become federal targets, according to lawyers who closely followed the trial testimony.”
“”Before they had Levine in the fold, they had his phone,” said former public corruption prosecutor Patrick Collins. “They happened to get up on Levine’s phone at a time when he was very active in his corrupt schemes.”
Fitzgerald’s office indicted Levine in 2005 on multiple fraud and extortion charges for his role in the state board schemes, securing along the way cooperation from the favored construction executive who had paid him kickbacks. But Levine’s path to cooperation took 18 more months. Faced with wiretap recordings, Levine realized his legal situation was nearly hopeless, struck a plea bargain and became the star witness against Rezko.
“Levine was the guy who’s given them everybody else,” said Jay Stewart, executive director of the Chicago-based Better Government Association.”
“Another head rolled at the Illinois Finance Authority. Director Ali Ata, a former fundraiser for Blagojevich, signed a sworn statement in April describing how Rezko had shaken him down four times for a total of $125,000 in bribes and large campaign contributions.”
“Fitzgerald’s team has scrambled to interview Jackson, as well as members of the Obama transition team who talked with Blagojevich about the appointment. A spokesman for Jackson said the lawmaker had told authorities about his tangle with Blagojevich, in which the congressman says the governor rejected Jackson’s wife for a lottery post after Jackson failed to raise $25,000 for the Blagojevich campaign.”
Read more here:
For anyone following the Rezko trial and paying attention,
nothing in this article is a surprise. What is also obvious
is that the common denominator in all of these connections
is Barack Obama.