Ernie Souchak, Editor-in-Chief, Illinois Pay-to-Play
The lead attorney for Eric Holder’s Department of Selective Justice in the Northeastern District of Northern Illinois has, for years, been sitting on taped conversations that outline how the McMahon companies in Chicago have long played games with city contracts.
Recently, the Sun Times put the McMahon’s in their journalistic crosshairs by citing a Daniel T. Frawley “Whistleblower” lawsuit that we, at IP2P, don’t believe exists. Now why would they do that?
Because these days the Times gets its marching orders from His Honor Mayor Emanuel, who is out to destroy the myth of the Daley Machine as a regime that made Chicago “the City that works”. (Meanwhile, the snoring Trib takes it's orders from Rip van Winkle.) Rahm aims to be heralded as the man who cleaned-up Chicago by revealing the true Daley image as having facilitated “the City that cheats”.
And cheat it does. The whole nation knows that. But the nation also assumes that its local branch of the U.S. Department of Justice is working hard to hinder the cheating. After all, aren’t the crooks of Cook County continually hunted by those intrepid FBI agents of Patrick “Elliott Ness” Fitz’s office, ever alert to the opportunity to stop crime sprees, a la Blago’s. That’s the meme anyway.
IP2P has recently received summaries of federally monitored conversations from years past that suggest a more accurate image of the local office of Holder’s Department of Selective Justice. This one suggests an investigative organization on a long voyeuristic trek when it comes to Chicago corruption. It hides in the shadows, listens in on conversations, and watches criminal activities for years as it waits for…waits for what?
It waits for a green light from incumbent politicos to signal when it’s politically expedient to take out a crooked politician, or a bent real estate speculator? Or, in the David Koschman case, it sits on evidence of a crooked police official who hindered the murder investigation, and thereby it, too, becomes complicit in the long denial of justice to Mrs. Nancy Koschman for the murder of her son. That’s not Ness-like behavior.
On several occasions, Fitzgerald has said that corruption can only stop when citizens come forward to report what they know. So should we at IP2P be good citizens and send what we’ve been given to Fitz for further, extensive, thorough, professional “investigation”? Why bother - they already have it, and have had it for years.
What about the U.S. Attorney’s office enforcing the law based on what they already know?
If not now – then when? When a politician says it’s “OK”?
Jontel Kassidy, Senior Capital Correspondent
While commenting on Blago’s prison sentence, U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald repeated what has become for him a common theme: Illinois citizens are responsible for stopping corruption by reporting it to the authorities.
In the longer video of his comments aired by NBC News Chicago, in response to a reporter’s question (1:16 into the clip), Fitz says (beginning at 1:34) that there needs to “…be a change in the public’s attitude. People seem resigned to corruption at times and…they’re afraid to say ‘no’ when someone in power asks them for something they shouldn’t. The people in power should be afraid to ask.”
So, Fitz’s solution is for citizens who are approached to give cash, benefits and favors in exchange for some consideration by corrupt officials, should run and tell the authorities – the federal, state, county and local police, and the various prosecutorial agencies.
That’s The Fitz’s Solution. It has several weaknesses.
1. To whom do citizens report corruption when their trust in the authorities is – to be kind – less than complete?
It’s an exaggerated comparison, but what were the consequences to citizens who reported corruption in East Germany to the Stasi? Only if the corruption wasn’t, in some way, sanctioned by the state, were the consequences anything but negative to the citizen.
2. Much of the corruption in Illinois pay-to-play shakedowns happens at a small business level. A three-trucks plumbing contractor submits a bid on a public housing project. The sub-contractor is told that a modest political donation to a particular politician would considerably enhance his chances of being awarded the contract. Suppose it’s a federally funded project.
Is the States’ Attorney’s office going to launch an investigation after the Plumbing contractor reports the shakedown? When billions are involved, what resources will be used to address, say, an alleged $3,000 bribe? Garden variety graft, events that don’t reach the level of the $14 billion that Blago cost the taxpayers of Illinois, is so widespread that there just aren’t enough policing and prosecutorial resources to stem a crime wave like that underway in Illinois.
3. In a culture steeped in corruption like Crook County, kickbacks and greased palms have been going on for so long, so successfully, and with such impunity that Fitz’s suggestion that the authorizes are ready to aggressively prosecute the crooks that citizens report is flat goofy.
The “change of attitude” Fitz’s preaches has to start with the agencies tasked to enforce laws.
To blame the people is to blame the victims.
The Fitz Solution is like saying that the people of Russia are responsible for the corruption of the Putin regime. They voted him in, after all.
That the Jews in 1933 Germany were responsible for the horror the Nazis delivered on them. They should have reported the injustices to the German Courts.
That innocent Mexican civilians are responsible for the violence of the drug traffickers along the border. After all, the violence couldn’t happen without the victims’ complicity (and, in some cases, that of the U.S. Department of Justice for selling guns to the cartels!).
It’s patently absurd when a high profile “crime fighter” – or the “Exterminator,” as John Kass calls him – blames the victims.
Jontel Kassidy, Senior Capital Correspondent
Blago is next to be sentenced, on December 6. Conventional wisdom among the Crook County media pundits is that, since Tony Rezko drew 10½ years, Dead Meat is facing the realistic prospect of even more time.
The prosecution said that Tony was “uncooperative”; even though he volunteered to go to jail before he was sentenced. (Who gave him that advice?) If the intent was to rack up goodwill points at his sentencing, it didn’t work. All it did was give him a preview of the future – at least until his friend Barack springs him with a commutation of his sentence. (Is Vegas posting odds on that yet?)
But for Dead Meat, there’s no commutation, no pardon, no escape on the horizon coming from the White House. Blago and Barack didn’t have that special, symbiotic relationship built, literally, on bags of cash that once linked Tony and Barack at the wallet.
So what’s Dead Meat to do to mitigate the depth of the water he’s to fall into when he walks the plank on December 6th? How might he, unlike Tony, “cooperate?”
He can’t relate details about the former Chicago corruption days of the POTUS, and, thereby, shave off jail time. The U.S. Attorney’s Office has done a stalwart job of protecting Chicago’s favorite son through the whole sordid affair that’s whirled around Tony and Rod. Blago starts talking about Chicago Obama and he might get life without parole!
He can’t squeal on Attorney General Eric Holder’s association, once upon another time, with the effort to endorse a mobbed-up casino in Rosemont. Holder is Patrick Fitzgerald’s boss. How would that work? – Blago fessing up that Holder’s law firm was to get $300 g’s for certifying that the people behind the casino were all former Eagle Scouts and fine, church-goin folks, when he knew otherwise. No joy there for Blago.
So does he tell on the current Governor’s Chief of Staff for what he might have done as Tony’s Chief Financial Officer? Naw, that’d be small potatoes. Besides, who cares? He has some dirt on the current Gov himself? Yawn.
Or, maybe he details how Rezko’s close business associates Dan Frawley and Dan Mahru participated in…oh, serial bad behaviors of interest? Nope. You don’t use a big fish to catch smaller ones.
Okay, suppose Blago does a core dump on Illinois corruption, names names, give dates, outlines plots and pinpoints where the bones are buried, metaphorically speaking, of course.
Maybe he exposes details of the nefarious world of a longtime, high-profile, corrupt, senior alderman. Or, tell true tales about the Daley’s. Rahmbo might like that, but it wouldn’t help Blago.
So just what information, what “cooperation”, does Blago have to offer now that he knows how deep the water may be when he walks off the plank on December 6th?
Is there even anything he can tell that will make the outcome any less catastrophic for him? Or, would his prosecutors just as soon he say nothing and vanish quietly into the federal penal system? Sort of like Norman Hsu did – remember him? You probably don’t, and that may be just what the U.S. Attorney’s office is hoping for. That Dead Meat disappears down the federal rabbit hole and in, say, 15 years, no one notices when he walks out with short gray hair, his children grown, Patty remarried, a self-defeated man. Not a pretty picture.
Not looking good for Dead Meat.
Patrick Fitzgerald: Intrepid Crime Fighter? Or, Politically-Driven Leaker? On Sharing Information with the USAO (Part 6)
Hugo Floriani, Investigative Reporter
Patrick Fitzgerald has, on several public occasions, encouraged citizens with knowledge of corruption to come forward and tell his office what they know. It’s only with their help, he has said, that the USAO can clean up corruption in Crook County.
Okay. Well, here’s a test of that exhortation.
Let’s say, hypothetically, you knew of someone associated with the legal team that represented a former business associate – oh, say, a bean counter (BC) – who’d done work for a high-dollar fund raiser facing possible indictment by a Grand Jury for allegedly being a Bag Man (BM) for a state-level politician.
Now, suppose also, that you learned that this someone made sure that BC (who was scheduled to testify before a Grand Jury as a witness in a complaint against BM) received past due payment for services BC had once provided BM. Let’s say BC preformed miraculous accounting services.
Now, of course, this payment wasn’t a bribe.* Of course not! Just a late payment for past services rendered that just happened to come in the midst of BM’s Grand Jury saga. Pure coincidence. Read along, nothing to see here.
Now, imagine you knew that another person, a person of note within the U.S. Attorney’s office, had learned of this payment, but brought no charges against that someone close to BC’s legal team, for, what some might construe as…well, maybe not technically tampering with a witness (Title 18 U.S.C. section 1512), but something highly inappropriate.
Now, in this purely hypothetical example, where any relationship to anyone living or dead is purely coincidental, would you pass that information to the USAO and expect anything to come of it? Knowing that office’s proclivity to leak?
Not unless you’d been dropped on your head once and never fully recovered.
* Oh, BTW, speaking of bribes, on April 18, 2006, in an article reporting on the conviction of former Illinois Governor George Ryan, The New York Times quoted Fitzgerald concerning bribes.
"People now know that if you're part of a corrupt conduct, where one hand is taking care of the other and contracts are going to people, you don't have to say the word 'bribe' out loud," Mr. Fitzgerald said. "And I think people need to understand we won't be afraid to take strong circumstantial cases into court."
Hat tip: John Chase, Chicago Tribune