Sunday, January 30, 2005

And from the Chicago Sun-Times....more Blago hits

This was just e-mailed to me....bad day for Rod Blagojevich, more hits on his "Mr. Clean" image:

An excerpt:

Donations and deals raise eyebrows, by Chris Fusco:

Contractor Robert C. Blum gave Gov. Blagojevich's campaign $124,000 in cash and a $100,000 loan.

Now he's on the receiving end.

Two construction firms owned by Blum -- a friend and business associate of Blagojevich's fund-raising chief, Christopher G. Kelly -- have been awarded nearly $25 million in state contracts since July. They include a $24.4 million deal to build a Chicago State University convocation center named in honor of state Senate President Emil Jones (D-Chicago), a top Blagojevich ally.

There's nothing illegal about the contributions or the contracts for Blum's companies, Castle Construction Corp. and MBB Construction Group. Castle underbid seven companies for the Chicago State job, beating out its closest competitor by a $185,000 margin.

Both Blum and the governor's office say his friendship and business ties to Kelly in no way could have influenced the bidding. Kelly's commercial roofing company leases part of Blum's construction yard in Markham and, until January, was involved in a joint roofing venture with Blum at O'Hare Airport.

The state's Capital Development Board "awards contracts without discretion based solely on the lowest filed bid," Blagojevich spokeswoman Cheryle Jackson said. All bids "are sealed and then they look at the lowest bid."

Still, disclosure of the Castle-MBB contracts -- part of a Chicago Sun-Times analysis of political contributions and state contracts under the Democratic governor's reign -- is raising new questions from good government advocates and Blagojevich critics who recall his pledge to end "business as usual" in state government.

'Cause for real concern'

They also could draw attention from Attorney General Lisa Madigan and Cook County State's Attorney Richard Devine, who are probing whether Blagojevich's fund-raising operation traded contributions for appointments to state boards and commissions -- an allegation leveled but then recanted by Blagojevich's father-in-law, Chicago Ald. Richard Mell (33rd), under threat of a defamation suit from Kelly.

"These instances are cause for real concern," said Jason Gerwig, spokesman for the Illinois Republican Party. The Castle contract "should send a red flag up to [Madigan and Devine] as they're looking at this."

It's all here.

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