Was Blagojevich going to Zell with a handbasket?


It’s not every day a sitting governor is charged with peddling an open US Senate seat, as is the case with Rod Blagojevich of Illinois. And in this case, it appears he was also ready to trade state assistance to Tribune Co. in exchange for the firing of certain members of the Chicago Tribune editorial board.

The Tribune angle involved the sale of the Chicago Cubs and Wrigley Field. A deal with the Illinois Financing Authority had the potential of saving Trib $100M in capital gains taxes. The charges from prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald allege that Blagojevich had advisor John Harris explain to Tribune “that state financial assistance would be withheld unless members of the Chicago Tribune’s editorial board were fired, primarily because Blagojevich viewed them as driving discussion of his possible impeachment.”

From Fitzgerald’s release: “In a November 11 intercepted call, Harris allegedly told Blagojevich that Tribune Financial Advisor talked to Tribune Owner and Tribune Owner ‘got the message and is very sensitive to the issue.’ Harris told Blagojevich that according to Tribune Financial Advisor, there would be ‘certain corporate reorganizations and budget cuts coming and, reading between the lines, he’s going after that section.’ Blagojevich allegedly responded. ‘Oh. That’s fantastic.’ After further discussion, Blagojevich said, “Wow. Okay, keep our fingers crossed. You’re the man. Good job, John.’”

RBR/TVBR observation: Although Sam Zell was not mentioned in Fitzgerald’s release, there are not too many people who fit the description “Tribune Owner.” It’s hard to see this as a piece of welcome positive publicity; however, Fitzgerald praised the newspaper for holding off on reporting certain aspects of the story which would have torpedoed the investigation.