The Union Connection in Blagojevich Charges

By December 9, 2008Briefly Legal

From pages 60-61 of the criminal complaint against Illinois Rod Blagojevich and his chief of staff, John Harris, an account of a Nov. 7 phone call among the governor, Harris and Advisor B, a Washington D.C.-based consultant, discussing what positions Blagojevich might be handle to arrange.

During the call, ROD BLAGOJEVICH, HARRIS, and Advisor B discussed the prospect of working a three-way deal for the open Senate seat. HARRIS noted that ROD BLAGOJEVICH is interested in taking a high-paying position with an organization called “Change to Win,” which is connected to Service Employees International Union (“SEIU”). HARRIS suggested that SEIU Official make ROD BLAGOJEVICH the head of Change to Win and, in exchange, the President-elect could help Change to Win with its legislative agenda on a national level. 

Advisor B asked why SEIU Official cannot just give the job to ROD BLAGOJEVICH. HARRIS responded that it would be just a big “give away” for SEIU Official and Change to Win since there are already individuals on the Change to Win payroll doing the functions of the position that would be created for ROD BLAGOJEVICH. HARRIS said that Change to Win will want to trade the job for ROD BLAGOJEVICH for something from the President-elect. HARRIS suggested a “three-way deal,” and explained that a three-way deal like the one discussed would give the President-elect a “buffer so there is no obvious quid pro quo for [Senate Candidate 1].” ROD BLAGOJEVICH stated that for him to give up the governorship for the Change to Win position, the Change to Win position must pay a lot more than he is getting paid right now. Advisor B said that he liked the idea of the three-way deal. ROD BLAGOJEVICH stated that he is interested in making $250,000 to $300,000 and being on some organization boards. Advisor B said they should leverage the Presidentelect’s desire to have Senate Candidate 1 appointed to the Senate seat in order to get a head position with Change to Win and a salary. Advisor B agreed that the three-way deal would be a better plan than ROD BLAGOJEVICH appointing Senate Candidate 2 to the Senate seat and getting more done as Governor.

As U.S. Attorney Peter Fitzgerald stressed today, just because Blagojevich or Harris talked or speculated about somebody in no way implicates that person they were talking about. Still, it sure seems like they thought SEIU could be bargained with.

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