The investigation dubbed “Operation Board Games,” into the influence peddling within the cesspool of corruption that encompasses Illinois politicians from both major parties, has developed into multiple subplots, many of which feature Barack Obama.
Therefore, Obama should start bidding for the starring role in the movie that is sure to follow the criminal trials involved in this case because he has absolutely no chance of winning the White House, even if the leaders of the Democratic party allow this sorry charade to carry on and his name appears on the ballot.
The major media organizations continue to ignore a story that is destined to become the biggest political scandal of the decade, except for a bleep here and there. By now this can only mean one of two things. They are either unwilling to commit the manpower necessary to connect the dots of all the subplots or they know the Republicans will supply the goods free of charge the minute Obama becomes the nominee.
This two-part article is the last article in a 3-part series. The first two, Barack Obama - The Wizard of Oz and Barack Obama - Operation Board Games For Slumlords, cover Obama’s rise to fame in the political mafia of Illinois, bankrolled by the now infamous Syrian-born influence peddler, Antoin “Tony” Rezko.
They also give the details of Obama’s involvement in a slumlord business largely operating out of the Chicago-based Davis, Miner & Barnhill law firm, which hired Obama in 1993, with his boss, Allison Davis, reaping in the profits with Rezko‘s development company, Rezmar.
The “Board Games For Slumlord” article gives in-depth details of the federal investigation along with the names of people who are listed as “Co-Schemers” and “Individuals” in the indictments issued thus far. Therefore for the most part, this article will refer to all the scams collectively as what prosecutors refer to as “pay-to-play” schemes.
The mainstream media continues to refer to the corruption trial currently taking place in a Federal courthouse in Chicago as the Rezko case, never mentioning the fact that Rezko is sitting in the courtroom alone at the defendant’s table only because many of the co-defendants have already pleaded guilty, or have not been indicted yet.
Some of the people listed in the indictments as co-schemers and individuals include William Cellini, a long-standing Republican powerbroker in Illinois, and Robert Kjellander, treasurer for the Republican National Committee.
In the April 3, 2008 Chicago Sun-Times, Mark Brown wrote: “For more than three decades, William Cellini has been the unseen hand pulling the strings of Illinois government, adroitly manipulating it to his purpose.”
“That purpose,” Brown noted, “was mainly to make himself rich -- through lobbying fees and insider contracts, government loans and leases for his real estate developments, and finally the coup de grace, his own riverboat casino company.”
Cellini was a co-founder of Commonwealth Realty Advisors, “a firm that has received hundreds of millions of dollars in pension funds to invest on behalf of retired state employees and teachers,” according to a report by Rick Pearson in the April 6, 2008 Chicago Tribune.
The Feds have several incriminating taped conversations between Cellini and the co-schemers and after hearing the tapes, Sun-Time reporter, Mark Brown wrote:
“That Cellini would slip up and allow himself to be caught on a federal wiretap is nothing short of a miracle to those of us who have marveled at his career and attempted to expose his deals where we could -- mostly in vain and always too late to foil him.”
On January 7, 2005, Crain's Chicago Business described Robert Kjellander as the “White House’s man in Illinois,” and noted that:
Mr Kjellander, "the GOP national committeeman from Illinois, long has been at the center of the state Republican Party and related government doings. He is a close associate of key presidential advisor Karl Rove, and is considered the unofficial chief operative in the state for President George W. Bush."
In 2005, the Feds issued a subpoena to the Illinois Teachers Retirement System pension fund for records pertaining to a deal in which Kjellander was paid $3.1 million by the Carlyle Group, with an additional $1.4 million still to come. Many little known facts about the secretive Carlyle Group are discussed in the book, "The Iron Triangle," by Dan Briody, including this bizarre eye-opener:
“On the morning of September 11, 2001, “in the plush setting of the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Washington, DC, the Carlyle Group was holding its annual international investor conference. Frank Carlucci, James Baker III, David Rubenstein, William Conway, and Dan D’Aniellow were together, along with a host of former world leaders, former defense experts, wealthy Arabs from the Middle East, and major international investors as the terror played out on television.
"There with them, looking after the investments of his family was Shafiq bin Laden, Osama bin Laden’s estranged half-brother. George Bush Sr. was also at the conference, but Carlyle’s spokesperson says the former president left before the terror attacks.
"In any circumstance, a confluence of such politically complex and globally connected people would have been curious, even newsworthy. But in the context of the terrorist attacks being waged against the United States by a group of Saudi nationals led by Osama bin Laden, the group assembled at the Ritz-Carlton that day was a disconcerting and freakish coincidence.”
Kjellander and Cellini have not been indicted - yet. When prosecutors filed a proffer with the court outlining the evidence to be used at trial they made it known that they did not intend to call several co-schemers to testify, including Cellini. Resko’s attorneys then filed a brief seeking to exclude the statements attributed to Cellini and others, on the basis that they would not be called as witnesses and in Cellini’s case, he had never even been interviewed by prosecutors.
However, in a response brief, the government asserted that, Cellini “participated in a number of corrupt aspects of the scheme” and “there are many other explanations that can account for the failure to charge or interview an individual other than innocence.”
On February 19, 2008, US District Judge Amy St Eve issued an order denying the request to exclude statements by Cellini and said the government has submitted enough evidence to corroborate the contention that “Co-Schemer A [Cellini] was “an integral player” in the scheme.”
Rezko is widely known to be a bipartisan influence peddler. During his opening statement, Rezko’s lead defense attorney, Joseph Duffy, told the jury that Rezko raised money for Democrats and Republicans alike, such as former Cook County Board President, John Stroger, and Representative Luis Gutierrez, Democrats, and former Governor Jim Edgar, a Republican, along with current Governor Rod Blagojevich and Obama, both Democrats.
Duffy told the jurors that Rezko “met Barack Obama when he was in Harvard Law School and tried to hire him” to be the lawyer for his development company. During 2003 and 2004, he said, Rezko helped organize fundraisers for both President Bush and Obama
Persons who have avoided trial in the Board Games case by pleading guilty to corruption charges include the government’s star witness, Stewart Levine, a Chicago businessman who had been a major fundraiser for Republicans in Illinois for decades, including Bush.
Levine was the first defendant nailed in the Board Games investigation. The FBI confronted him four years ago on May 20, 2004, and although he was cooperating with the Feds for some time, he did not enter an official guilty plea until October 2006.
Defendants who pleaded guilty as early as September 2005, include Chicago attorney, Steve Loren, a lawyer for the teacher’s retirement pension fund, Joseph Cari, an attorney and former finance chairman for the national Democratic National Committee, and Jacob Kiferbaum, owner of a Chicago area construction company.
Several other people listed in the indictments are testifying under a grant of immunity from prosecution. The jury has been made aware that if the people who have pleaded guilty or been granted immunity are caught lying under oath in court, all deals are off.
On October 11, 2006, the US Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, Patrick Fitzgerald, issued a press release to finally announce the unsealing of two indictments charging “Chicago area businessman and political fundraiser Antoin Rezko in connection with two separate and extensive fraud schemes.”
The press release noted that Rezko, “who, in addition to owning pizza and fast food restaurant franchises in Illinois and Wisconsin, developed real estate and was involved in political fund-raising in Illinois, was added as a new defendant in a pending federal corruption case that was brought against Levine and others last year.”
The first indictment alleged that Rezko participated in a scheme to obtain millions of dollars by shaking down firms doing business before two Illinois regulatory boards, the Teachers Retirement System (TRS) and the Hospital Facilities Planning Board, on which Levine served. In the press release, Fitzgerald stated:
“This indictment describes a frenzy of corrupt scheming, particularly in April and May 2004, in which political insiders sought to manipulate the activities of two state boards to fleece investment firms and individuals. The defendants and their associates put the word out loud and clear: you have to pay to play in Illinois.”
Fitzgerald further reported that, “Cari and Loren, both formerly prominent Chicago lawyers, each pleaded guilty in the pending TRS fraud case. Kiferbaum, a suburban construction executive, pleaded guilty in the pending Planning Board case.”
“All three are cooperating with the government and awaiting sentencing,” the release said.
"This basically involved a pay to play scheme on steroids," Fitzgerald told reporters.
Allison Davis, Obama’s boss at the law firm, is also listed in legal documents as playing a part in setting up a major extortion attempt in the Board Games case.
In court filings, the government also discusses plans by the schemers to use the State Board of Investments, which invests pension funds for state employees, and the State University Retirement System, which invests pension funds for state university workers, to obtain kickbacks from companies wanting to do business with the pension funds.
In fact, several kickback schemes were already set up when Levine was confronted by the FBI, and failed only because he could not follow through with the deals.
The second indictment unsealed on October 11, 2006, alleges that Rezko fraudulently obtained more than $10 million in loans for a pizza restaurant business from General Electric Capital Corp. Due to the complex nature of the two indictments, the loan fraud case will be discussed in Part II of “Subplots of Operation Board Games.”
The indictments issued so far point to only two politicians as specifically getting money from kickbacks resulting from the Board Games‘ schemes: Governor Rod Blagojevich and Barack Obama. Twenty thousand dollars from the first pay-off was funneled to Obama through a bank account belonging to the pizza businesses.
When Rezko was asked whether he was considering cooperating with the government and testifying against others as part of a plea bargain, he laughed loud and long and said, "Hell, no," according to a report by James Merriner in the November 2007, Chicago Magazine.
"Tell them I'll see them in court," he told Merriner.
Rezko has now been seen in court for about a month and a half. The Chicago Tribune has two reporters, Bob Secter and Jeff Coen, covering the trial at the Federal courthouse in Chicago and every few hours they post excellent highlights of the testimony on “Gavel-to-Gavel” which can be followed this Tribune Rezko court blog.
Credit for much of the testimony cited in this article belongs to the diligent efforts of Sector and Coen in covering the trial. Facts and evidence offered by the government that is cited comes from the indictments, motions, briefs and other court filings.
Stuart Levine was a member of both the TRS board and the Planning Board when Blagojevich took office. During his opening statement, Rezko's lead defense attorney, James Duffy, pointed out that Levine backed a Republican in the 2002 governor’s race and said Levine realized "he bet on the wrong horse,” when Blagojevich won.
"Mr. Inside was now on the outside," he told the jury. "His ego could not handle it."
He also made a point to mention that Levine had close political ties to Obama and other Illinois politicians.
According to Duffy, the reason Levine started making up stories about having ties to Blagojevich and people close to the governor was to give off the impression of power.
The jury might have found that feeble excuse for a motive a tad credible if not for the fact that documentary evidence was produced to prove that Blagojevich, along with his campaign manager, David Wilhelm, his other campaign fundraisers, and high ranking Illinois officials, including Obama, specifically approved Levine’s re-appointment to the Planning Board.
Stuart Levine was on the stand for over two weeks, singing like a canary, hoping to reduce what could have been a life sentence to less than 6 years.
Duffy used up a good portion of his cross-examination exploiting the fact that Levine was an admitted dope fiend who, in addition to swindling every buck he could with the help of corrupt politicians for his entire life, spent much of his spare time partying at motels with a group that Duffy constantly referred to as “male friends.”
However, after reading all the testimony posted on Gavel-to-Gavel, the only point clearly established is that Levine footed the bill for the parties and would put a bonifide street junkie to shame. While on the stand, Levine admitted again and again to taking a litany of drugs including cocaine, qualudes, ecstasy, crystal meth and an animal tranquilizer.
Duffy drilled away at this issue and at times it became downright amusing. For instance, at one point Duffy asked Levine whether Levine’s secretary could hear him snorting drugs through the closed door of his office, and Levine replied: "If my snorting was so loud that you could hear me through a wall or door, I'm quite amazed at the loudness of my snorting."
Thus far, jurors have also heard damaging testimony about how the scheme was carried out from the chairman of the Health Facilities Planning Board, Thomas Beck, and Imad Almanaseer, one of three doctors who were appointed to the panel to help rig the votes.
The first two articles in this series reported that Blagojevich was supposed to be the candidate for President, not Obama. That assertion was based on testimony in the trial by the government’s star witness, Stuart Levine, about conversations he had with Rezko.
That one of the main goals of the “pay-to-play” schemes was to raise money for a presidential run by Blagojevich was collaborated by testimony on April 15, 2008, by Joseph Cari.
He told the jury about a conversation he had with Blagojevich himself in 2003, in which Blagojevich told him that it would be easer for him to raise money then a senator because now that he was governor, Blagojevich had the power to hand out contracts and state business to people who contributed to his campaign.
Cari also testified that Blagojevich tried to convince him to lead the national fund raising efforts for his presidential bid but Cari did not want the job.
Blagojevich also told Cari that Rezko and his other major fundraiser, Christopher Kelly, were the two people he trusted most and apparently would follow Blagojevich to Washington. "They were going to be the key people in his public-service career, wherever it went," Cari said.
Cari also told the jury about meetings he had with Rezko and Kelly in 2004, at which they pressured Cari to lead the national fundraising operation for Blagojevich in exchange for receiving legal work, consultant work or pension fund business from the state.
"I could have whatever I wanted, but they needed help nationally to raise money," he told the jury.
Cari maintains that he repeatedly said no to their requests.
Campaign finance laws in Illinois have aided and abetted influence peddling schemes for years because they allow donors to give as much as they like to candidates running for state office, so the sky‘s the limit.
Obama’s political career was bankrolled by the same gang that planned to make Blagojevich president. For instance, Fortunee Massuda, another participant identified in the “pay-to-play” schemes, contributed $25,000 to Blagojevich compared to $2,000 to Obama. Michel Malek, another participant, threw $25,000 to Blagojevich and $10,500 to Obama.
Ali Ata, another guy listed as a co-schemer in one indictment, was made executive director of the Illinois Finance Authority, and he contributed $25,000 to Blagojevich and $5,000 to Obama.
Jay Wilton, identified by prosecutors as a major contributor to Blagojevich, is the owner of Wilton Partners, a construction company in California. He donated $50,000 to Blagojevich shortly after his firm cinched an $83 million contract with the state to refurbish the Illinois tollway’s oasis rest stops. Wilton also gave $5,000 to Obama.
Joe Cari donated $15,000 to Blagojevich but only gave $1,335 to Obama.
A trial exhibit produced by an FBI agent, identifies major contributors who donated $1.43 million to Blagojevich between 2001 and 2004. The Chicago Sun-Times compared the exhibit to government campaign records on Obama and found he received more than $220,000 from many of the same donors between 2001 and 2004.
John Roger, the head of Ariel Capital, an investment firm that ended up with major money from the pension funds, is on the FBI’s summary of Blagojevich’s top contributors. He also gave Obama $25,000.
Rogers is a member of the finance committee for Obama’s presidential campaign. Rogers also served on the campaign finance committee for Obama’s US Senate run with Tony and Rita Rezko, Allison Davis, and Myron “Mike” Cherry.
Mike Cherry is listed in the indictment for the pay-to-pay schemes and the FBI shows he gave Blagojevich $25,000 in 2003.
Daniel Mahru, a major player in the Chicago slumlord racket, has reportedly flipped in the Board Games case and is cooperating with the prosecution. He is the owner of Automatic Ice Company, which donated $10,000 to Blagojevich. Mahru gave $5,000 to Obama.
Attorney, Jack Carriglio, contributed $25,000 to Blagojevich and was appointed to the TRS Board. He also gave $1000 to Obama.
After Rezko's indictment was unsealed in October 2006, the first report in the Chicago Tribune noted, "Obama donated $11,500 to charity -- a total that represents what Rezko contributed to the senator's federal campaign fund."
That statement intentionally leads readers to believe that Obama donated all campaign contributions from Rezko to charity, which is so far from the truth that it’s laughable.
On November 5, 2006, the Tribune reported that, Obama said Rezko raised as much as $60,000 for him during his political career. The next day, the Sun-Times quoted Obama as saying: "I did however donate campaign contributions from Rezko to charity.”
The Obama camp stuck with the $50,000 or $60,000 story for nearly a year until Obama’s March 14, 2008 interviews with the Chicago Sun-Times and Tribune and the team of reporters pinned him down and the amount added up to $250,000.
For decades, the “pay-to-play” schemes exposed by the Board Games case have been standard conduct for politicians in Illinois, Republicans and Democrats alike, creating a vicious circle. Officials cannot get elected without the contributions of the corrupt influence peddlers and the crooks cannot fund the campaigns without the pay-offs.
In a January 11, 2006, report by Better Government Association, the groups Executive Director, Jay Stewart, stated: "Illinois is awash in scandal and corruption."
"Former Governor George Ryan is on trial, Governor Blagojevich’s administration is the subject of numerous investigations, and the Hired Truck scandal has resulted in dozens of guilty pleas and indictments in Mayor Daley’s City Hall. A common thread with all these scandals is questionable campaign contributions, contracts and hiring."
The most alarming indication that the corruption in Illinois will never end is the fact that the schemes continued on at full-throttle at a time when the same team of Federal prosecutors, led by Patrick Fitzgerald, was arresting people left and right as a result of an eight year investigation of the last Governor, George Ryan.
The guilty pleas of Steven Loren and Joe Cari in the Board Games case came just days before jury selection was scheduled to being for a trial in which Ryan was facing a 22-count indictment with charges involving many of same kinds of influence peddling.
Seventy-three of Ryan's former associates and state employees in his administration pleaded guilty or were convicted of federal felonies, including bribery, kickbacks, and perjury, according to an October 1, 2005 report by Steve Stanek for the Heartland Institute.
The governor's former campaign manager and chief of staff, Scott Fawell, and Ryan both ended up with six and a half years in prison.
Four of the last seven Illinois governors have been indicted on charges related to influence peddling, and three were convicted. Anyone following the first trial of what could be many in the Board Games case knows that Blagojevich is targeted to be the fourth.
Ironically, Reuters reported on Ryan’s entering prison on November 7, 2007 and stated: “The scandals paved the way for Democrats to regain the Illinois governor's seat for the first time in more than a quarter century with Rod Blagojevich's election in 2002.”
The Board Games investigation was also known to be underway as top members of Chicago Mayor Richard Daley's Administration were being investigated, arrested and convicted by the same prosecutors for crimes ranging from bid rigging to illegal hiring for city jobs in exchange for campaign support for Daley and the candidates he endorsed.
A January 26, 2004 Sun-Times article by Fran Spielman reported: “The dethroned head of Chicago’s scandal-scarred Hired Truck Program was charged with extortion and bribery in an indictment, unsealed this afternoon, stemming from a sweeping federal investigation of the $40 million-a-year city program.”
On January 10, 2005, the Associated Press reported that contractor, James Duff, whose family has raised money for Mayor Richard Daley's campaigns pleaded guilty to defrauding the city through a series of janitorial contracts “worth $100 million.”
Duff is part of a mob-connected family that has been closer to Daley than any other defendants charged in recent corruption cases. “The family has raised thousands of dollars for the mayor's campaign fund and socialized with him at Christmas parties and other events,” according to the Associated Press.
In this case, 5 family members were accused of getting city contracts that were reserved for businesses controlled and operated by women and minorities, when in fact, Windy City Maintenance was controlled by James Duff.
On March 20, 2008, the Chicago Tribune reported the Inspector General, David Hoffman, stated that:
“James Duff, who cheated the city and insurance companies out of millions of dollars, should be subject to the stiffest penalty outlined in policies drawn up in 2005 following a series of contracting scandals.”
But the Tribune then said: “Daley's administration has banned the head of Windy City Maintenance and two others convicted of contract fraud from doing business with the city for three years, despite a recommendation from the inspector general that they never be allowed to do work for City Hall again.”
"Allowing the defendants in this case to be eligible for city contracts in the future sends a message that is inconsistent with deterrence and integrity in the system," Inspector General Hoffman said.
"If racketeering, fraud and money laundering only merit three years' debarment, then it will be hard to convince other contractors that their misconduct will result in a powerful financial sanction," he said in the Tribune report.
The last two presidents of the notoriously corrupt Cook County Board include a father-son Stroger tag team. John Stroger left office after he had a stroke in 2006, and he died in January 2008.
His 2002 campaign finance committee was headed by Rezko, which means Rezko was a might busy guy being he also served as the top rainmaker of fundraising for both Blagojevich and Obama during the same time period.
The Cook Country Board was also under the gun at the same time that the Board Games investigation was being conducted. On September 22, 2006, ABC News in Chicago reported that:
“FBI agents armed with search warrants carried out raids at several Cook County offices in downtown Chicago Thursday in connection to an investigation in to political patronage hiring. Agents are expected to return Friday.”
ABC pointed out that the feds have been all over the Daley administration, the Blagojevich administration, and they were all over Cook County government. Agents armed with subpoenas and requests for information were at all three of the medical facilities, the hospitals, and the forest preserve district.
“We don't know how many different investigations of corruption are going on countywide, but the target seems to be allegations of political shenanigans when it comes too hirings and promotions,” ABC News stated.
Since November 2006, a Federal court-appointed monitor has been overseeing the hiring practices in Cook County, and as recently as April 10, 2008, she reported that political hiring is alive and well in Cook County with President Todd Stroger running the Board.
Julia Nowicki, “who monitors about 12,000 jobs under Stroger and at the Bureau of Health, said she has hundreds of old and dozens of current patronage complaints -- including claims an entire department under Stroger is a patronage haven,” according to the April 10, 2008 Sun-Times.
Last but not least, Obama knew about the Operation Board Games investigation during his year-long wheeling and dealing escapade with Rezko to arrange the purchase of the mansion and lot, and any claim to the contrary by the "I did not know" candidate is ludicrous.
On July 18, 2004, nearly a year before Obama bought the mansion, Chicago Tribune reporters Ray Gibson, Crystal Yednak, Ray Long and Jane Fritsch wrote that: “Blagojevich adviser tied to appointee; Doctor, fundraiser co-owned condos.”
A podiatrist, Fortunee Massuda, selected to a serve “on a powerful state health-care oversight panel is a partner in a real estate venture with a top Blagojevich fundraiser and counselor who recommended her appointment,” the report stated.
Massuda's connection to Antoin Rezko, the Blagojevich fundraiser and adviser, was not publicly disclosed when the governor appointed her to the Health Facilities Planning Board on August 12, 2003, the Times pointed out.
The report also noted that Massuda was one of “several members” appointed by Blagojevich to sit on the board, “after the governor won legislative approval” to overhaul its membership. That would be the “legislative approval” that Obama signed off on.
On January 8, 2005, the Sun-Times reported that Blagojevich's own father-in-law said the governor’s fund-raising chief Christopher Kelly, "trades appointments to commissions for checks for $50,000" to Blagojevich’s political fund.
In May 2005, news came that Levine had been indicted on 27 counts of official corruption and was facing a possible life sentence in prison.
On September 1, 2005, nearly four months before Obama bought the lot, the Tribune obtained a copy of a June 2005 subpoena issued to the TRS fund and reported that:
“Federal investigators have asked the state teachers' pension system for records involving a cadre of political insiders, ranging from prominent GOP fundraisers to a close adviser to Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich.”
“The subpoena seeks records for more than two dozen people and businesses, including several clout-heavy Republicans and Democrats with years of influence in state and national politics. Some of those named have done business with the pension fund, while others have no apparent connection to the board.”
The report notes that one of “the most prominent names in the subpoena is Antoin "Tony" Rezko, a close confidant and major Blagojevich fundraiser.”
The revelation in the Tribune most relevant to Obama going ahead with his “boneheaded“ deal, was the comment that the subpoena also called for records of Rezko’s “wife's firm as well as records of some of his business associates.”
Also in September 2005, Steve Loren and Joe Cari pleaded guilty and Cari’s plea agreement mentioned Stuart Levine and an "associate," whom the media quickly reported was Rezko.
Obama's purchase of that mansion was the result of pure greed. By the time he bought the lot, Obama knew Blagojevich was going down and would not be the presidential candidate. He also knew that he would be pulled off the bench as the second choice, but he went ahead with the deal anyways.
Illinois citizens are sick of paying the cost of corruption. A September 26, 2007 News Release by Steve Stanek of the Heartland Institute carried the headline: “Proposed Tax Hike Would Give Chicago Nation’s Highest Sales Tax Burden”
“Chicagoans would face an 11 percent sales tax rate, highest in the nation, if Cook County officials go through with a plan to more than triple the county’s portion of the area’s sales tax,” Stanek wrote.
An October 14, 2007 Sun-Times report by Tim Novak and Fran Spielman noted that,
“When Mayor Daley asked Chicagoans to cough up $293 million more next year to finance the cost of city government, there's one tax he failed to mention: The Corruption, Waste and Mismanagement Tax.”
“It's almost impossible to calculate the cost of the Hired Truck, city hiring, minority contracting and police corruption scandals,” they wrote. “More than 1,400 people have staked claims to the $12 million fund created to compensate victims of the city's rigged hiring system.”
Well over $2 million in legal fees, and counting, have been paid to federal hiring monitor appointed in 2005 to oversee city hiring, the report said, “by a federal judge livid with the city for making a mockery of the decree that was supposed to end political hiring and firing, but never did.”
According to the Sun-Times, Hundreds of thousands of additional legal fees were spent for attorneys who represented Daley, the City Council and the Black Caucus in the case.
On February 1, 2008, Steve Stanek reported that the “Chicago City Council has approved the biggest property tax hike in the city's history, plus higher taxes and fees on a host of other items.”
“Other items to see tax or fee hikes,” the report noted, “include liquor, telephone service, natural gas, car leases, DVD rentals, and city vehicle stickers.”
The tax hikes also included a five-cent tax on each bottle of bottled water sold in the city.
Corruption was the argument raised by city aldermen who opposed the tax hikes.
"Nothing has eroded public confidence in our local government more than the constant drumbeat of criminal indictments and convictions of people who have enriched themselves at public expense," said Alderman Joe Moore during the floor debate, according to the report.
"And nothing has made the public more cynical than the endless string of broken promises to end business as usual in city government."
"How many bottles of water must be sold to pay for the $12 million fund created to compensate victims of the city's rigged hiring system?" Moore said, referring to a lawsuit settlement the city is still paying for years of corrupt hiring practices that favored politically connected persons for jobs and promotions, Stanek reports.
A March 8, 2008 report by Stanek in Budget & Tax News on a Cook County Board Meeting in late December 2008 reported that:
“Complaints from thousands of angry taxpayers and infighting among county commissioners have held off nearly $890 million of proposed tax and fee hikes in Cook County, Illinois.”
According to Stanek, taxpayers flooded the county commissioners with phone calls, emails, and letters of protest, “apparently to good effect.” The report noted that:
“Dozens of former Chicago city workers and close associates of the Daley administration have been convicted of crimes in recent years. Illinois' immediate past governor and scores of his associates have been convicted of federal crimes, and current Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D), his wife, and associates of theirs are the apparent targets of several federal criminal probes.”
“Some Blagojevich administration officials have been convicted of crimes related to their involvement with state government.”
During the board meeting, Democratic Cook County Commissioner Forest Claypool said public pressure against any tax or fee increases "has been intense."
According to the report, Claypool believes "the constant backdrop of news stories about government corruption and waste here in the county and in Chicago and Springfield has shown people they really are paying corruption and dysfunction taxes."
"I think people are realizing that paying more taxes is simply enabling decrepit and dysfunctional government," he said.
During the meeting, Republican Cook County Commissioner, Tony Peraica, said: "The best way to fight tax increases is by fighting the corruption that drains tens of millions of dollars from the county budget."
Peraica has long complained of illegal patronage hiring, rigged contracts, and other waste and corruption in Cook County, according to Staneck‘s report.
And let there be no doubt, Obama is a member of this corrupt gang. On January 22, 2007 ABC News in Chicago announced that Senator Obama “is supporting Mayor Daley's re-election bid despite a series of City Hall corruption scandals.”
Mayor Daley endorsed Obama for president a few weeks ago and the mayor's brother Bill is now an Obama advisor, the report noted.
“So in the spirit of political payback, Obama is endorsing Daley for re-election over two African American challengers despite a series of City Hall corruption scandals that Obama called deeply troubling as recently as a few months ago.”
ABC reported that Obama said, “Daley's overall record, his style of inclusion and his love of Chicago make him a better choice than challengers.”
Obama also endorsed Daley's running mates for City Clerk, Miguel Del Valle, and Stepanie Neeley, for Treasurer, ABC News added. It should be noted, that the last City Clerk just got out of prison after being convicted in the Hired Truck scandal, and has written a book about the corruption in the Daley administration.
Five months after Obama publicly endorsed Daley, a report by David Jackson and John McCormick in the June 12, 2007 Tribune noted that:
“Obama endorsed former Ald. Dorothy Tillman (3rd), calling her "a very early supporter of my campaign." Tillman was then under fire for her stewardship of the scandal-plagued Harold Washington Cultural Center, where contracts benefited members of her family.
“Obama supported the re-election of Gov. Rod Blagojevich, whose administration is embroiled in corruption probes.”
And during the race for Cook County Board president, Obama predictably endorsed Todd Stroger over a Republican and was criticized for calling Stroger "a good progressive" despite allegations of job-rigging to favor members of Stroger's 8th Ward organization,” according to the report.
On September 5, 2007, the New York Post reported that: “A man who has long been dogged by charges that the bank his family owns helped finance a Chicago crime figure will host a Windy City fund-raiser tonight for Senator Barack Obama.”
Alex Giannoulias became Illinois state treasurer last year after Obama vouched for him, has pledged to raise $100,000 for the senator's Oval Office bid, the Post noted.
When Giannoulias was questioned by the Tribune in March 2006 about loans made between 1994 and 2002, to companies controlled by convicted bookmaker and prostitution ring promoter, Michael Giorango, he said the bank's decisions were made while he was still in law school, when he wasn't a full-time bank employee.
But the Tribune later found records that showed Broadway Bank made nearly $12 million in additional mortgage loans to Giorango in 2005, when Giannoulias was overseeing the bank's loans.
Obama knew the September 2007 fundraising affair would draw attention in Chicago so he tried to make sure it remained unknown. On September 5, 2007, Lynn Sweet, wrote in the Sun-Times:
“Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) omits from his Wednesday public schedule a fund-raiser hosted by Illinois State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias at a restaurant in Chicago's Greektown community. The event is closed to the press and a campaign spokesman, Ben LaBolt, said in response to my e-mail query this morning that a pool reporter will not be allowed in the reception.”
On April 22, 2007, the Tribune noted that City Hall records show Michelle Obama began work as a $60,000-a-year mayoral assistant to Richard Daley in September of 1991.
At City Hall, Michelle formed close friendships with Valerie Jarrett, and many other top Daley aides, including former Corporation Counsel Susan Sher and David Mosena, who was the mayor's chief of staff when Michelle first joined his administration.
“All have long since left the city payroll,” the Tribune wrote, “but are loyal to the mayor and now the Obamas.”
On June 13, 2006, Michelle’s employer, the University of Chicago announced that, "Valerie Jarrett has been appointed as the new Chair of the University of Chicago Medical Center Board and also Chair of a newly created Executive Committee of that board. She has also been named Vice-Chair of the University's Board of Trustees."
According to the announcement, Jarrett "served for eight years in City of Chicago government posts, first as Deputy Corporation Counsel for Finance and Development, then as Deputy Chief of Staff for Mayor Richard Daley in 1991," and, "as Commissioner of the Department of Planning and Development from 1992 through 1995."
Jarrett served on Obama’s US Senate campaign finance committee and serves on Obama’s presidential campaign finance committee along with Alex Giannoulias and Mayor Daley’s brother Bill.
The political mafia of Illinois now plans to move the Chicago brand of corruption to Washington in a U-Haul hooked up to their second choice candidate. Americans will never allow it to happen. They will either vote for McCain or not at all.
If Obama becomes the nominee, the Republicans will unleash a non-stop expose of Obama in the mainstream media that will make the swift boat attacks against John Kerry seem trivial. Only this time, they won't have to make lies because the truth will be on their side.
The tracking of the subplots that developed as a result of the Board Games investigation, has revealed a spider-web of corruption that spread from the Chicago Loop to O'Hare Airport to the Illinois Tollway, all the way to bid-rigging in Iraq, with Iraqi-born billionaire, Nadhmi Auchi, owner of General Mediterranean Holdings, a Luxemburg-based conglomerate with investments all over the world in everything from defense contractors to pharmaceuticals, at the center of many schemes.
Part II of “Subplots of Operation Board Games” will cover those subplots.
(Evelyn Pringle is a columnist for OpEd News and an investigative journalist focused on exposing corruption in government and corporate America)
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