Alan Greenblatt is a GOVERNING correspondent.E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Tony Rezko, a developer and embarrassing friend to Illinois Gov. Rod Blajojevich and Sen. Barack Obama, was found guilty today on 16 of 24 corruption counts brought against him.
As expected, his trial offered disturbing revelations about Blagojevich and his administration. The Chicago Tribune rounds these up:
Testimony at the trial produced a series of stunning allegations of misconduct that went well beyond the scope of the criminal charges against Rezko.
Former state official Ali Ata told jurors he bought his post with bribes to Rezko and campaign contributions to Blagojevich. Ata was also one of several witnesses who said Rezko talked of a plot to kill the criminal probe against him by pulling strings with the Bush White House to get U.S. Atty. Patrick Fitzgerald fired.
The trial also provided ample fodder for cynics who see Illinois politicians as members of a cozy club motivated more by greed than altruism or ideology.
Witnesses against Rezko claimed his alleged schemes involved a host of political insiders from both major parties. Among those whose names came up repeatedly during the trial were Chris Kelly, another top fundraiser for Blagojevich; William Cellini, a veteran Republican power broker; and Robert Kjellander, the longtime Republican national committeeman from Illinois.
Rezko befriended many Illinois politicians and was a major fundraiser for some, most prominently Blagojevich and Obama. The criminal charges against Rezko had nothing to do with his connection to Obama. But that link still proved a nagging headache for Obama during his Democratic presidential run, especially in the wake of Tribune revelations that tied Rezko to a 2005 real estate deal involving Obama's South Side home.
The verdict poses problems that are far more acute for Blagojevich, who swept to victory in 2002 with claims that he would clean up Illinois government after the scandal-plagued years of his predecessor, George Ryan, who is now in prison.
Several trial witnesses placed Blagojevich in conversations in which he appeared to give a thumbs-up to the notion of steering lucrative state business to campaign donors.
Blagojevich's administration has come under broad scrutiny from federal agents, but the governor has not been charged with any wrongdoing and steadfastly maintains his commitment to reform.
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