Alexi G. has a Blagojevich problem 

Believe it or not, there’s a downside to drawing your campaign cash from Chicago’s seedy political underworld. The minute someone gets indicted, the court papers start reading like a list of your donors.

This is just one more problem for Illinois Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, the Democratic nominee for the Senate seat once held by President Barack Obama. Last month, the feds shut down his family’s Broadway Bank. A week earlier, federal prosecutors filed a key evidentiary document in the prosecution of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich. And within its pages, Giannoulias donors old and new keep popping up in the context of crooked dealings involving Blagojevich and his former fundraiser, federal prisoner Tony Rezko.

Take, for example, “Individual C,” identified as lawyer and lobbyist Brian F. Hynes. Hynes paid $3,541.50 for a Chicago fundraiser for Giannoulias’ treasurer campaign in June 2006. In July 2008, he contributed another $2,500 to Giannoulias’ state re-election fund.

Hynes, who has not been charged with any crime, did a very unusual real estate deal with Rezko in January 2004. While buying a Chicago property, he asked the sellers if he could pay $40,000 extra so that the money could go to Rezko as a sham broker’s fee. Rezko, who hadn’t done any work on the deal, allegedly took the $40,000 and sent it straight to Patti Blagojevich, the governor’s wife, who also hadn’t done any work on the deal. She used it to pay for $38,000 in renovations to the Blagojevich home.

The Chicago Sun-Times added some possible context to this transaction: Hynes business partner Kevin Flynn (also a $2,500 donor to Giannoulias’ treasurer campaign) was trying to get a license to put a casino in Rosemont, Ill. Rezko owned an option to lease a site in Rosemont for a hotel and casino.

Two other Giannoulias donors — Myron Cherry and Michael Winter — appear by name in the Blagojevich evidence document because in 2004, they became part of another Rezko scheme.

Thanks to his influence with the governor, Rezko controlled a member of the Illinois state board that decides where the state’s multibillion-dollar teachers retirement fund is invested. Rezko could steer a few million in investments wherever he liked, and he wanted money to go to a firm that would pay him a finder’s fee in exchange.

That’s where Winter, one of Rezko’s office mates, came in. In exchange for part of the finder’s fee, he found an investment firm that was willing to pay. As Winter would later testify in court, he convinced Cherry, his attorney, to be the front man whose name would appear on the papers. The court document stated that things fell apart after the pension board objected to having any payments go to Cherry because — this seems to be a theme — he hadn’t done any work on the deal.

Neither Cherry nor Winter has been charged with a crime. Winter said at Rezko’s trial that he didn’t know this was illegal. Cherry publicly denied any knowledge of the scheme or the use of his name. But as these details became public before Rezko’s trial, they were enough to convince then-presidential candidate Obama to return contributions from both men. Giannoulias took $19,000 from Winter for his treasurer campaign. Cherry has given $4,700 to Giannoulias’ current Senate campaign — his last donation came less than two months ago, on March 17.

As it happens, both Winter and Hynes obtained million-dollar mortgages from Broadway Bank. Chicago is a place where coincidences never cease.

Giannoulias recently faulted his Republican opponent, Rep. Mark Kirk, for receiving contributions from Goldman Sachs employees after the firm was sued for civil fraud by the Securities and Exchange Commission. He should probably worry a bit more about where his own political money comes from.

Columnist David Freddoso is The Washington Examiner online opinion editor.

About The Author

David Freddoso

David Freddoso came to the Washington Examiner in June 2009, after serving for nearly two years as a Capitol Hill-based staff reporter for National Review Online. Before writing his New York Times bestselling book, The Case Against Barack Obama, he spent three years assisting Robert Novak, the legendary Washington... more
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