Sunday, March 02, 2008

Attention budding Tony Rezko scholars!

Jury selection begins tomorrow in the corruption trial of Democratic political insider Antoin "Tony" Rezko.

The alleged fixer has been a friend of Barack Obama for eighteen years, but it's his relationship with another Democrat, Governor Rod Blagojevich, that led him into his predicament.

The heart of the federal government's case against Rezko involves his alleged influence peddling involving investments with the Teachers Retirement System Board.

The board oversees a $30 billion fund.

Scandals often have inauspicious beginnings. For instance, electrical tape found on a door lock marked the beginning of the Watergate Scandal.

The TRS scandal began, amazingly enough, when a board member was seriously injured in a motorcycle accident caused by caterpillar ooze on a road in Elgin, Illinois.

The Springfield Journal-Register has a lot more. It's a good reference point on who is who and what is what in this (aren't they all?) complicated scandal.

Free registration is required for the Chicago Tribune's summary of the Rezko case, and puts a strong beam of light on Blagojevich, who has not been charged with any crimes.

Now I have to direct another beam of light--on the so-called Republican angle of the case.

A writer I admire is the Tribune's John Kass, but he really whiffs in his Sunday column.

The Republican Party should be eagerly lining up for this week's federal corruption trial in Chicago of Barack Obama's personal real estate fairy, Tony Rezko, the way a baseball team lines up to smack fat fastballs from a tired pitcher.

But the Republicans aren't swinging. They're keeping their bats on their shoulders. This should concern Sen. John McCain, the Arizona Republican who will likely face Sen. Obama (D-Rezko/Daley). As most Clinton operatives and Republicans know, Rezko is the indicted political fixer who helped Obama buy his dream house.

The Rezko case is dominated by Democrats, but a few Republican names have figured into the mess. Stuart Levine, who has pleaded guilty and is cooperating with prosecutors, is one of them.

William Cellini is a longtime political insider, who in my book is the ultimate RINO-Republican-in-name-only:

Here's how Andrew Ferguson described the Springfield businessman in Land of Lincoln: Adventures in Abe's America:

Within a decade Cellini had built a fortune by "turning state government into a cottage industry," as one Chicago newspaper put it. He started a construction firm that specialized in government subsidized housing for senior citizens and office buildings that could be leased back to the state.


When the state legalized gambling on riverboats, it sold him the first license--an $85,000 investment that led to a company later valued at $500 million.

The third Republican mentioned is another man from Springfield, Robert Kjellander.

Here's what how Bernard Schoenburg described the involvement of "KJ" in the Rezko case last week:

Springfield consultant Bob Kjellander said Tuesday there is "absolutely nothing remotely wrong or improper" with the short-term, $600,000 loan he made to a suburban Chicago businessman, who, federal authorities believe, later distributed some of that money to four Tony Rezko "assignees."

In an interview with The State Journal-Register, Kjellander noted that U.S. District Judge Amy St. Eve, as part of a ruling on motions for the upcoming Rezko trial, turned down a prosecution request to introduce information about the transaction between Kjellander and Glenview businessman Joseph Aramanda.

"I made a loan to an acquaintance because he offered a very favorable interest rate," Kjellander said. "The loan was repaid in full with interest prior to the expiration date of the note. I did nothing improper, and frankly, I don"t believe anyone is suggesting that I did anything improper."

Kjellander, Cellini, and Aramanda have not been charged with any crimes.

Aramanda's son, John, was an intern at Obama's Washington office in 2005.

KJ once served as treasurer of the Republican National Committee. As soon as his name became entangled with the Rezko investigation, there were calls for him to resign. He still represents my corrupt state on the RNC, and is on the Committee on Arrangements for the 2008 Republican National Convention.

He needs to be removed from both positions, kicking and screaming if necessary.

No matter what, in this Illinois Republican's viewpoint, Cellini, Levine, and Kjellander are "off the reservation," and Kass is greatly mistaken on the impact of "Rezkogate" on the state party, and its effect on John McCain's fall campaign.

Last year McCain declared that he would keep Patrick Fitzgerald, who is in charge of the Rezko investigations, on the job if he's elected president. While he was still a candidate, Mitt Romney said he wanted Fitzgerald removed.

From the Springfield Journal-Register:

Cellini said he gave to Romney after receiving a call from fellow Springfield Republican Bob Kjellander, the Republican National Committeeman from Illinois who long backed Romney.

Any questions? Cellini also donated money to Rudy Giuliani's campaign.

To learn more about Tony Rezko, another option is to go to the upper-left hand corner of this blog, and type in "Rezko."

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