4/16/2010Illinois Governor To Stand Trial In Toll Road Extortion Scandal
Green Lane toll road project becomes subject in corruption trial of former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich.
US District Court Judge James B. Zagel on Wednesday unsealed documents filed in the case against former Illinois Governor Rod R. Blagojevich (D). The 91-page document lays out in greater detail the evidence in the prosecution's corruption case against a man charged with using his office to line his own pockets. One of the central money-making schemes alleged is a multi-billion deal to install High Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes inside an existing toll road. Blagojevich announced the program in 2008.
"There were occasions after Blagojevich became Governor that Blagojevich, (Christopher) Kelly, (Alonzo) Monk, and (Tony) Rezko all met to discuss their efforts to make money from state action," Assistant US Attorney Christopher S. Niewoehner wrote in the court filing. "As Rezko talked, he indicated how much money Blagojevich, Kelly, Rezko, and Monk could hope to make from the different ideas. The amounts that were associated with the different ideas were typically in the hundreds of thousands of dollars per deal, which would be evenly split four ways."
According to the document, Blagojevich's Chief of Staff Alonzo Monk was charged with raising funds for the Friends of Blagojevich campaign account by squeezing toll road builders and engineering firms. Specifically, Monk was to demand $500,000 from a cement company executive in return for approval of a $1.8 billion tollway expansion project. Blagojevich would approve a $5 billion plan if the next year if he was satisfied with the kickbacks, according to prosecutors.
"I've got Lon going to [Construction Executive] and asking for $500,000," Blagojevich said in a wiretapped conversation on October 6, 2008, according to court filings. "I could have made a larger announcement but wanted to see how they perform by the end of the year. If they don't step up, [expletive] 'em. I won't do the bigger announcement in January."
Blagojevich had the authority to approve both projects without seeking the approval of the state legislature. He came up with the idea of calling the toll road within a toll road concept "Green Lanes" to entice the support of environmentalists. He also sought to raise additional revenue by ensuring automated cameras would be used to mail tickets on the new lanes.
The man identified only as "Construction Executive" was a major Blagojevich fundraiser, but he balked at raising the large sums for the tolling project. The executive told his contacts in the governor's office that he was working on the donations when, according to prosecutors, he had no intention of coming through with the cash. Prosecutors intend to use the taped conversations regarding the toll road plan as evidence of a wider "Pay to Play" conspiracy designed to use the contracting power of the state government to generate campaign donations and other lucrative offers.
Blagojevich claims he is innocent. His trial is scheduled to begin in June. A copy of the court filing is available in a 240k PDF file at the source link below.