Board Gamesâ€”Chicago Style
By: Jack L. Key
All but ignored by the national corporate and public media is a big time federal corruption investigation and trial in Chicago called â€œOperation Board Gamesâ€. Why? Because it involves some of the biggest names in the State of Illinois and the city of Chicago, the Democratic Party, its Democrat Governor Rod Blagojevich, and its U.S. Senator and the current presumptive Democrat nominee for President of the United States, Barak Hussein Obama.
Last Wednesday June 4, a federal jury convicted Antoin â€œTonyâ€ Rezko, a Syrian-born Chicago resident, real estate developer and â€œslum lordâ€ and political moneyman of 16 counts of criminal activity. These charges included fraud, money laundering and aiding and abetting bribery in a plot to squeeze illegal funds from companies hoping to do business with the State. His million-dollar bond was revoked and he is in jail and due to be sentenced in September.
The Chicago Tribune reported also on June 4th the â€œfundraiserâ€ Tony Rezkoâ€™s convictions as the man who helped bankroll the political campaigns of Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich and U.S. Senator Barack Obama would have a huge impact on the presidential campaigns this Summer and Fall. The paper said Blagojevichâ€™s political future is in doubt. Lawmakers are already talking about impeachment.
Rezkoâ€™s conviction also shines the spotlight on Obama.
They have known each other for decades and Obama worked for Rezkoâ€™s partner at his Chicago law firm for years. Authorities place Rezko and his assignsâ€™ political contributions to Obamaâ€™s campaigns at over $250,000.
Rezko and his wife also participated in a real estate â€œdealâ€ that resulted in Obama and wife Michelleâ€™s ownership of their two million-dollar mansion in the exclusive Chicago South Side. The Tribune has said neither Blagojevich nor Obama was accused of wrongdoing at this point but reputations have suffered by some of the trial testimony.
U.S. Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald said the June 4th verdict was â€œan antidote to the poison of corruptionâ€ that trial testimony included alleged fixing of Illinois State Boards that controlled a $40 billion pension fund and made major decisions about multi-million dollar hospital construction and financing.
Obamaâ€™s comments on the investigation and conviction so far have been bland and evasive. â€œIâ€™m sorry for Tony,â€ he has said. During his â€œsecretâ€ meeting with HRC last Thursday evening, he left laughing and immediately flew to Chicago. Sunday he and his wife and daughters were bicycling along Lake Michigan in a cavalier manner
The â€œCurtain Time for Barack Obamaâ€ articles by Evelyn Pringle:
Evelyn Pringle is an investigative reporter who has covered and written a series of articles on the â€œOperation Board Gamesâ€ investigations and trial. Her series is insightful and very well done, is accurate and has been published on several Internet sites I know of. I took my information from the sites www.OpEdNews.com and www.countercurrents.org Google and I.E. also provided extensive coverage of Ms. Pringle.
The Rezko trial opened on March 6, 2008 and ended on March 13, 2008. The jury verdict was returned on June 4, 2008. Ms. Pringleâ€™s article series I read was dated May 22, 2008.
Iâ€™d like to focus here on her Article Series trial reporting involving the fixing of Illinois State Boards.
â€œAssistant U.S. Attorneys Hamilton and Schar said Rezko was Governor Blagojevichâ€™s top fundraiser. There was no mystery about how Rezko gained control over the Teacherâ€™s Retirement System Board. The answer is access and clout and it stems from Rozkoâ€™s ability to raise lots of money.
Rozko gained power over the Health Facilities Planning Board by stacking it with members whose vote he could control. The Chairman was reappointed after delivering a $1,000 contribution to Rozko for Blagojevich, and two others contributed $25,000 before being appointed. Rezko could not set up the schemes himself since he was a private citizen.
Therefore, the evidence presented in his trial focused on his influence over officials in getting members appointed to the Boards. In particular, prosecutors did not (in this trial and indictment) discuss extensively HOW the legislation got passed that enabled the Health Facilities Planning Board to be set up in a way that allowed for the appointment of members to rig the votes to begin with.
That part of the scheme will likely be detailed in future indictments.
Gov. Blagojevich signed the Illinois Health Facilities Planning Act with an effective date of June 27, 2003. However, before he could sign the act, a bill had to be passed by the Illinois House and Senate. As discussed prior (in her series), then- Illinois State Senator Obama was the guy in the Senate who pushed through the legislation that finally resulted in the Act.
State records show Barack Obama was appointed Chairman of the Illinois Senate Health and Human Services Committee. The minute the bill was introduced, it was referred to his committee for review. The sponsors of the bill ALSO served on this committee with Obama. Within a month, Chairman Obama sent word to the full Senate that the legislation should be passed.
Records also show that on May 31, 2003 Senate Bill 1332 passed and specified that the â€œBoard shall be appointed by the Governor with the advice and consent of the Senate.â€ The legislation also reduced the number of members on the Health Facilities Planning Board from 15 to 9, paving the way for the appointment of a new five-block member majority that could rig the votes.
The new members appointed included 3 doctors who contributed to Obama. Michel Malek gave Obama $10,000 on June 30, 2003 and donated $25,000 to Blagojevich on July 25, 2003. Malek also gave Obama another $500 in September, 2003.
Fortunee Massuda donated $25,000 to Blagojevich also on July 25, 2003, and gave a total of $2,000 to Obama on different dates. After he was appointed to the Board, Imad Almanaseer contributed a total of $3,000 to Obama. He did not contribute to Blagojevich.
Ms. Pringle further reports that when the first â€œpay-to-playâ€ scheme was put in play, and the application for approval of a new hospital (Crystal Lake) was submitted, the Department of Human Services, along with four other Illinois agencies, sent recommendations that the project should be approved even though experts said the hospital was not needed.
Only two pay-to-play schemes succeeded before the Feds swooped in and shut them down, however. Gov. Blagojevich did not receive the original $1.5 million from the Health Facilities Planning Board deal (but others apparently did receive money kickbacks) because the hospital was never built.â€
Ms. Pringle continues her extensive coverage of the investigations and trials, but I will not include those in this article at this time. Interested parties may read the entire Article Series by logging on the Internet sites previously displayed, or other sites as are cited by Google and IE under her name.
Other serious questions still remain on other â€œdonations, contributions, or assigned payments or dutiesâ€ in the Rezko scandals that may involve the Democrat presidential nominee. Then there is the publicized â€œreal estate dealâ€ with Rozko that Obama calls a â€œboneheaded mistakeâ€. Rozko had just come under indictment at the time, and the transactions are not as simple and straightforward as some would have us believe.
Obama has stressed that he has â€œdonatedâ€ all funds received from Rezko and his assigns to charity.
Really? When and what charity? Some contributions or donations made through the Rezko scandals are over 5 years old, and have a much higher value today. Invested funds can triple or quadruple in 5 or more years, for instance.
Even if that is so, it does not excuse any improper activities by Obama or his assigns at any time. Americans want to know the truth about and from a presidential hopeful. Slick money schemes, questionable tactics, political corruption or mobster connections and friendships should not be in the background of a nominee to that powerful office. Period.
Evelyn Pringle reports in her series of articles that several of the people who led Obamaâ€™s â€œcorruptâ€ Finance Committee for the U.S. Senate race, with Tony Rezko funding, and collected all the contributions from the people involved in the pay-to-play schemes, are now running the show for his presidential campaign.
Is that true? Who are these people?
Perhaps we will know more from the â€œOperation Board Gamesâ€ chief investigator, U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, or from future indictments, or from Senator Obama himself in the near future? Or the mainstream media? Or Howard Dean? Or Hillary Clinton? Or Harry Reid or Nancy Pelosi?
Or Republican nominee John McCain? Or other Republican Leaders, if we can find any?
Jack L. Key is the author of â€œGideonâ€™s Trumpetâ€ and other books and frequently writes commentary for the Internet and print media. He is a retired healthcare professional and a veteran of U.S. Navy aviation. Contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org