Blago lawyer asks court for campaign fund access

May 1, 2009 3:32:28 PM PDT
A judge has postponed a ruling on whether former Gov. Rod Blagojevich can tap into his campaign fund to pay for his legal defense on corruption charges.And for the first time, more information about the amount of evidence against the former governor has been released.

Gray areas of the law do not expressly prohibit such an action. One option is to fold the $2.3 million into an existing federal fund to pay Blagojevich's lawyers. That would mean that the fund, and not taxpayers dollars, would pay for the defense, although given the length of this trial, ultimately taxpayers will be paying.

The former governor's quest for a reality show appearance having failed, he is living off his savings, according to his lawyer. And while Blagojevich still has his house, he also has liabilities, and no money coming in.

"He certainly doesn't have any money to pay lawyers," said Blagojevich attorney Sheldon Sorosky.

Blagojevich does have roughly $2.3 million in his campaign fund. Prosecutors argue that he shouldn't have direct access to that money, but what may happen is the campaign money would be rolled into a federal fund that is typically used to pay court-appointed attorneys. The prescribed rate is $110 per hour.

There has been no agreement yet on whether that will happen, but using campaign dollars would mean fewer taxpayer dollars used for Blagojevich's defense.

"The fund is still Blagojevich's money - still not taxpayers money. So, if the fund is used first, as the judge has proposed, the taxpayers are not paying. It is Blagojevich who is paying. It is still his money," said

But that money will not, most likely, cover a trial that could take four to six months and involve a mountain of evidence. Defense lawyers Friday said they had received 265 CDs filled with government exhibits, along with 21 cassettes, 90 minutes on each side, filled with secretly recorded phone conversations. That'll take many hours to review.

"Just the prosecutors have spent in the millions or will by the time the trial is over. You add the defense, probably seven to ten million wouldn't surprise me," said Prof. Richard Kling of the Kent College of Law.

Unlike his two previous court dates, the former governor was not required to appear Friday, and he did not come to court.

Sorosky is, at this point, the former governor's only lawyer, although he says he has a team ready to join. While there were no final decisions at Friday's court hearing, it appears Blagojevich's defense team will consist of three or four lawyers.

If they are allowed access to the campaign fund, directly or indirectly, t won't take long to burn through $2 million, given the evidence in the case.


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