A former top official in Gov. Blagojevich’s administration pleaded guilty to federal charges this afternoon and leveled some of the most significant accusations yet against the governor.
Ali Ata said in his plea deal that the governor offered him a top administrative position in state government in exchange for Ata’s tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions.
According to Ata, he handed the governor a $25,000 check for a campaign contribution at a 2002 meeting with Blagojevich and longtime Blagojevich campaign fund-raiser Tony Rezko in Rezko’s Chicago office.
Blagojevich “expressed his pleasure and acknowledged that the defendant had been a good supporter and good friend,” the plea agreement says. The governor, “in the defendant’s presence, asked Rezko if he [Rezko] had talked to the defendant about positions in the administration, and Rezko responded that he had.”
Ata said that, after the meeting, he filled out an application for a state appointment. He previously had given Rezko a list of three agencies to which he would like to be appointed. Later, at a July 2003 fund-raiser for the governor at Navy Pier, Ata — who had contributed another $25,000 — said Blagojevich spoke of him joining the administration and said, “It had better be a job where [Ata] could make some money.”
Ata subsequently was appointed executive director of the Illinois Finance Authority, a $127,000-a-year state job. The authority, which Blagojevich created in 2004, has provided $11 billion in funding for 780 projects . . .
Ata, 56, of Lemont, was a codefendant in a business-fraud case against Rezko — involving Rezko’s fast-food franchises — that has yet to go to trial.
Rezko is now on trial on unrelated corruption charges that accuse him of using his influence in the Blagojevich administration to orchestrate a kickback scheme involving state business deals.
Ata admitted to making false statements to a federal law enforcement officer and a tax-related count. He has agreed to give federal authorities unspecified future cooperation, according to his lawyer, Thomas McQueen.
Bear in mind that Obama's close pal Tony Rezko is at the center of a variety of corruption investigations of Illinois state government being undertaken by federal prosecutors. Obama has admitted that Rezko helped him raise at least $250,000 for his past political campaigns. Rezko also aided Obama in the purchase of his South Side mansion. At one point in their relationship, Rezko and Obama met or spoke to each other on almost a daily basis. Obama's whole campaign is centered around him being an agent of change who doesn't accept any money from lobbyists or special interest groups. If I were the Democrats, I would be getting a little bit anxious about where all these corruption investigations are headed in Illinois and the possible fallout for Obama's presidential ambitions. Several top aides to Chicago Mayor Richard Daley were just ordered to jail and Gov. Blagojevich is almost certain to face indictment as well. You can bet Republicans will use Obama's ties to the corruption in Illinois politics to tarnish his reputation if he's the Democratic nominee.