Sunday, December 30, 2007

New Year, New Rules, New Server

A couple of thoughts on the coming of the new year.

First, as many of you know, ICPR has been working hard to pass HB 1, a bill to address pay-to-play in state contracting. The bill has 46 sponsors, a super majority of both caucuses, and yet it's been locked down in Senate Rules since last April. December 31 will mark the 250th day that HB 1 has been held hostage, and so we invite all of you to show you outrage at this farcical abuse of legislative power by donning silly hats, blowing noisemakers, and counting down the seconds to January 1, which will be the 251st day. Maybe that will get the bill moved to committee when the legislature reconvenes on January 2.

Second, beginning on January 1, political committees active in the February 5th Primary Election will have two days to report donations of more than $500. In previous years, these A-1 reports didn't kick in until later in the year. Under the old rules, we'd expect A-1s to start arriving in mid-January; a pre-election report would arrive in late January detailing all receipts since the start of the year, and in-between, the D-2 Semi Annual reports would arrive with details of fundraising in the second half of 2007. With the earlier primary date, that all changes; there will be no Pre-election report for the primary, and the A-1s start as soon as 2008 does. So not only do we have Special Session to look forward to on January 2, but, as the first business day of the year, the first batch of A-1 reports should also arrive.

Finally, we know many of you occasionally have had difficulty finding our website or sending us e-mails. We share your frustration. Our aging server limped through the fall, but neither technological know-how nor duct tape could keep it going. In the new year, we'll be moving the site and the e-mail to a new system, which should, fingers crossed, fix all the problems.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Chris Kelly's Campaign Contributions

Most of the search for meaning in yesterday's Chris Kelly indictment on income tax evasion charges has rightly focused on his close personal relationship with Gov. Blagojevich. As we noted in yesterday's post, the indictment calls into question how the governor vetted advisors; who was bending his ear is worth examining, and the facts alleged in the indictment, if true, suggest that Kelly should not have been a Special Government Agent on behalf of the governor in internal meetings at the Gaming Board.

As a sidebar, the indictment also appears to be a jumping off point to revisit Kelly's campaign donations to the governor. For consistency's sake, here's our accounting of campaign donations from Kelly and associated entities, based on reports filed with the State Board of Elections and included in the Sunshine Database.

The governor's campaign fund reports $688,500 in donations and loans from Kelly affiliates These include $337K from CGK Consulting, including $250K in loans; $125K from BCI Roofing; $109K from Castle Construction, including a $2,500 donation from Anthony Blum, an employee; and $117,500 from MBB, including $100K in loans. All of those were reported in 2000-2002. In 2004, Blagojevich's campaign fund repaid the $250K loan from CGK, and in 2005, they repaid the $100K loan from MBB. Net of those loan repayments, Friends of Blagojevich reports $338.5K in receipts from entities affiliated with Chris Kelly.

Friends of Blagojevich also hired Castle Construction to do work on the Blagojevich campaign headquarters at a cost of $236K during the 2004-2005 winter. But that was payment for actual services, not debt service.

Kelly's affiliates haven't given much lately. The great bulk of their giving was to Blagojevich, and all of that was during 2000-2002. Other top recipients include Chicago Alderman Patrick Levar (including $9,540 directly and $5,600 to the 45th Ward Regular Democrats), Country Club Hills Mayor Dwight Welch ($11K, all in 2006 and 2007), and former Attorney General candidate John Schmidt. Smaller receipts were reported by legislators ($3K by Lee Daniels, $500 each by Jay Hoffman and Susan Mendoza), Chicago Aldermen ($9K by Ed Burke or the 14th Ward Ad Book Committee, $3K by Danny Solis, $2K by William JP Banks, $1.5K by Carrie Austin, $500 by Patrick O'Connor) and other assorted officials ($2K by Tom Dart, $1.5K by Richard M Daley, $1K by Dan Hynes) and some others.

That John Schmidt contribution was made in December, 1997; it was the second reported donation from a Kelly-affiliate. The first reported contribution by a Kelly-affiliate was a $400 donation from BCI in May, 1997 to then-Secretary of State George Ryan.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Chris Kelly Indicted

News stories are cropping up faster than we can track them. As context, below are comments from an interview between Gov. Blagojevich and the Daily Southtown Editorial Board in Ocober, 2006, and statements from Kelly's Statement of Economic Interest.

The interview, published October 13, 2006, took place the same week that Blagojevich fundraiser Tony Rezko was indicted for taking kickbacks from firms seeking state business. At one point in the interview, the Editorial Board asked the governor his thoughts about Chris Kelly. Here's the exchange:


In Blagojevich's words

October 13, 2006

Excerpts from Gov. Rod Blagojevich's interview with the Daily Southtown editorial board Thursday afternoon:

[snip]

Q: Are you confident that Chris Kelly is not going to be indicted?

A: Yeah. Yes. They're two different people, by the way, and it's a different relationship. Chris and I are much closer. Chris is the head of my political campaign. That's someone I talk to a lot more frequently. I'm confident, yes.

Q: What happened five months ago that you had this final, last conversation with Tony Rezko? What was the last conversation and why was it the last one?

A: It was four or five months ago; could have been at an event somewhere that I saw him. It was fine.

Q: Were you starting to distance yourself from him at that point?

A: Not all. I think I need to explain the extent of the relationship. He's not an exclusive friend of mine. He was a supporter of mine. He doesn't have a formal position in our campaign. He never did. He made some recommendations during the transition and during the first year we were building an administration, but for the most part, that's it. I think some of the talk that he's this big adviser is frankly overblown.

It's different with Chris. I'd be shocked. I'm very confident in Chris.

[snip]


To be fair, Chris Kelly today was not indicted on public corruption charges. The feds allege that Kelly failed to report personal income from gambling, along with personal subsidies from his businesses to cover gambling debts.

Perhaps the governor did not know the extent of Kelly's gambling. After all, why would the governor appoint someone who gambled to this extent as his Special Government Agent to the Illinois Gaming Board, to represent the governor on gambling issues?

The indictment also brings up Kelly's Statement of Economic Interest for 2004 and 2005, filed when he served as Blagojevich's Special Government Agent. Asked to list "the name of any entity from which a gift or gifts … valued singly or in the aggregate in excess of $500, was received during the previous year." Kelly's answer in 2004 and again in 2005 (the year before Rezko was indicted) was, in its entirety: "gifts of personal friendship received by person filing this statement [ie, Kelly] from Tony Rezko and Rod Blagojevich (person filing this statement provides similar gifts of personal friendship to such individuals)." No other gift givers are mentioned; for 2003 and 2004, this particular gift exchange was limited to three people, two of whom have now been indicted.

The governor has some explaining to do.