In the aftermath of a long-rumored federal indictment of Antoin “Tony” Rezko this week (see our Illinois Issues news item), Gov. Rod Blagojevich is being asked to answer questions about his chief fundraiser, advisor and friend.
Federal prosecutors announced Rezko’s two indictments (see 1 and 2) Wednesday afternoon, detailing pay-to-pay schemes with at least five others who allegedly used their positions on public boards to pressure investment firms into paying illegal fees and making political contributions.
The governor responded in a press conference Wednesday night, streamed live on the Internet. Blagojevich said, “On a personal level, what is so disappointing to me and so surprising to me is that he would engage in a criminal conspiracy to personally enrich himself, and do that behind our backs and then repeatedly deceive us, deceive me, lie to us and reassure us that the rumors about him weren’t true.” He also said he would donate about $60,000 to $70,000 of Rezko’s direct campaign contributions to charity.
Meanwhile, candidates for Illinois' legislative seats and statewide offices are jumping at the chance to claim their righteousness this election season.
The Republican gubernatorial candidate, three-term state Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka, stopped by the Capitol Thursday with her running mate, DuPage County state’s attorney Joe Birkett, to say the governor should answer questions about the gifts he received from Rezko. She also touted her ethics plan.
“Things do not have to be this way,” Topinka said. “We can have good, honest government in Illinois. There’s no reason why Illinois has to be different from other states on that front. I just want to be a governor who will do a good job and do the right thing.”