I-Team Report: The Elevator Pitch

April 17, 2009 4:11:04 AM PDT
Elevator pitch is the common business term for that short presentation you would make if you had to sell a product or idea to someone in the time span of an elevator ride. When I was the only reporter with Rod Blagojevich on an elevator on Tuesday, as soon as the doors closed the ex-governor began his pitch.

It was inside an elevator at the Dirksen Federal Building that Mr. Blagojevich began his pitch, as he and I rode to the 25th floor with only his lawyer and a deputy U.S. Marshal.

The ousted governor had already made his public points on the way in.

But once we were behind closed elevator doors, away from the cameras, Blagojevich launched into a pitched tirade about something else: illegal gambling and allegations that he worked as a bookmaker, taking action from sports gamblers before he got into politics.

"That bookmaking story was (bleep)," said Illinois' former leader. "I did not do that. I deny it. It's a (bleepin') lie," he said in what would become an uninterrupted diatribe.

Pointing to me, he said, "This man is a (bleepin') liar. He puts lies on TV."

This was the target of Blagojevich's elevator pitch: an I-Team report four months ago, shortly after the governor was arrested on corruption charges.

"When I was working with government wearing wire, I reported, I observed Rod, the present governor, who was running a gambling operation out in the western suburbs. He was paying street tax to the mob out there," said Robert Cooley, federal informant.

Cooley made those comments on a Web based interview show. I also spoke to him at length on the phone about his allegations against Blagojevich.

The senior FBI agent who supervised Cooley's undercover work confirmed that Cooley gave officials information about Blagojevich's alleged bookmaking back in 1986. Current federal officials declined to comment.

But back in the elevator on Tuesday, Blagojevich was still on a roll.

"That Cooley is a liar," he said. "I am going to sue that (bleepin') Cooley," Blagojevich stated, his face red at this point with apparent anger. He repeated: "I'm going to sue him."

When the doors opened to the 25th floor where Blagojevich was about to be arraigned in court, he adjusted his necktie, composed himself and walked off. A few minutes later pleading not guilty to corruption charges.

The only other words said during Blagojevich's elevator pitch came when I reminded him that the I-Team had offered numerous opportunities to respond to the bookmaking allegations.

In the elevator Blagojevich said he wanted to respond on camera and will and on Wednesday his public relations agent said the ex-governor will talk to the I-Team on camera about this at some point, but not today.


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