If that's not bad enough, the Sun-Times report says this isn't the first grant Cinespace Chicago Film Studios has received from the state. When it received the $10 million grant late last year, it had already cashed grant checks totaling $17.3 million, including a recent $1.3 million construction grant for which it had received four letters of non-compliance. The state wrote grant checks to the film company totaling $16 million while it was still trying to get the company to comply with the $1.3 million construction grant.
An aide to former Gov. Pat Quinn told the Sun-Times there was nothing nothing out of the ordinary with the state writing lump sum checks to companies to purchase real estate when it involved creating jobs. "To get these deals done, you have to have liquidity," the aide says. "There was quite a bit of due diligence and discussion, which is totally in keeping with these types of grants." There was absolutely no paperwork to prove the company had any land under contract or had been in negotiations to acquire any of the property. The only requirement of the grant was that Cinespace agree to put in at least twice as much of its own money as it spends from the state grant acquiring land.
In case you hadn't suspected, politics seemed to play a role in the generous grants to Cinespace, which is a family-owned business owned by real estate developer Alex Pissios, who looks the part of a mafia don. The Sun-Times reported last year that Pissios owed the city debts for unpaid taxes and code violations while obtaining news tax breaks from Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel last year. The Sun-Times says a lot of the grant money has been deposited into a politically-connected bank, Belmont Bank & Trust. Its president is James Banks, brother of Chicago Alderman William Banks. Its board includes former State Sen. James DeLeo and Fred Barbara. DeLeo was ensnared in the infamous Operation Greylord investigation back in the 1990s for serving as a bag man carrying bribes to Cook Co. judges. A plea agreement allowed him to keep his seat in the legislature at the time. He now owns Tavern on Rush in Chicago. Barbara, a close friend of former Mayor Richard Daley, made a fortune hauling garbage for the city of Chicago.
If you read between the lines in the story, you can figure out why the parcels of property Cinespace claimed it intended to acquire were likely not for sale by the owners. Two of the properties were just acquired by other buyers. In the case of one of the properties, the purchase price Cinespace listed on its grant acquisition was nearly double what the new owner, automobile dealer Joe Perillo, paid to purchase the property in January. It's quite obvious the plan was to allow politically-connected individuals to use the generous state grant money to flip the properties for a quick, tidy profit--at least until the anonymous state employee contacted the Sun-Times and a reporter started asking questions about the generous grant. How did we ever arrive at the point in this country where our government is allowed to write checks to a select few private business owners? Language contained in both the U.S. and state constitutions is supposed to prohibit this sort of thing from happening, but warped and corrupt interpretations of those documents have rendered them meaningless.