Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Blago Trial Update: Andy is a Star!

Although Andy must be busy counting his stock options, SEIU's President Emeritus is getting some special attention at the Chicago courthouse where the federal corruption trial against former Governor Rod Blagojevich is underway. Just as Tasty predicted, the unnamed "union president" and "union official" described in U.S. prosecutors' case are, in fact, Andy and SEIU Local 1 President Tom Balanoff.

At the trial, the testimony has been very entertaining since Blago's former chief of staff John Harris (who struck a plea deal with the feds) took the witness stand on Monday. Prosecutors have played phone calls secretly recorded by the FBI that discuss Blago's meetings with Andy, Balanoff and SEIU. The SEIU bigwigs appear to have played a special role in enmeshing Pres. Obama in the whole scandal, which must make SEIU very popular over at the White House, right about now.

Here are a few highlights describing SEIU's role in Blago's "allegedly illegal" plot to sell Obama's Senate seat:

Andy and Balanoff met with Blago on Nov. 3, 2008 (the day before the presidential election) to talk about Blago's appointment to fill Obama's soon-to-be vacant senate seat. According to trial testimony, Blago's Chief of Staff understood that Stern and Balanoff were acting on behalf of the White House. Testimony includes classics like this one: "Tom and Andy urged the governor not to consider Jesse Jackson Jr."

On the night that Obama was elected president, Blago was walking in Chicago's Grant Park to Obama's victory rally when he ran into Balanoff, who allegedly relayed a message from the White House about the vacant senate seat. "The exchange happened after Blagojevich had met with Balanoff and Andy Stern the week before, Harris testified."

(This is how deals are done? Just run into each other at a rally?)

In today's testimony, Harris discussed a telephone call from November 6, 2008 that was also secretly recorded by the FBI. In the call, Blago talks about a big meeting with Balanoff, scheduled for later that day, where Blago and Balanoff would continue their discussion about Obama's senate seat.

(Are you still reading this? I know it's long, but there was a lot to discuss!)

Later in the telephone call, Blago talks about taking a job at Change to Win, headed by Anna Burger. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, "Harris is heard explaining to Blago that it would give him a good salary and could provide potential to go back into politics later, if he wanted. Furthermore, Tom Balanoff and Andy Stern, the union leaders advocating for Barack Obama's pick for the Senate, could hook him up with the job, he said." Blago also talks about getting his wife, Patti, a job running the Illinois branch of Change To Win.

Looking forward to more crazy? Check out the Chicago Sun-Times and the "Blago Blog" for up-to-the-minute reports on the trial.