FBI tapes: Blago talks Cubs, Sox and state money

July 21, 2010 8:09:03 AM PDT
Jurors in the corruption trial of Rod Blagojevich are on break until Monday.

Much of the week's testimony by John Harris, a former chief of staff to Blagojevich, focused on Blagojevich's search for an appointee to fill the U.S. Senate seat left vacant by President Barack Obama. The prosecution played several tapes made by FBI agents during the investigation, including some in which Blagojevich is trying to find a way to give state dollars to his beloved Chicago Cubs, a privately-held company that at the time was being sold by Tribune Company.

The government's secret tapes are a key part of the prosecution, but they also provide something of a window into Blagojevich decision making. One series of conversations with chief of staff John Harris is the foundation for one of the criminal counts. It involves baseball, state money, and the ex-governor's great disdain for the Tribune's editorial writers.

In the fall of 2008, as the Cubs are gearing up for the play-offs, the then governor is trying to engineer state help for the Tribune company's planned sale of the ballclub. But he's plenty unhappy with the Tribune's editorial board because they've been talking impeachment.

"And we got all these op-eds and, and then, so therefore we got to figure this out. And our recommendation is fire all those f----ing people. Get 'em the f--k out of there. And get us some editorial support," said Blagojevich on the tapes.

The Blagojevich directive, as understood by Harris, is key editorial writers have to go-- or forget the state help. Harris has testified that he led Blagojevich to believe the threat was delivered-- but in reality it wasn't because Harris said it would have been wrong.

Five days before his arrest Blagojevich talks to Harris about the state giving the Cubs money for an unspecified green initiative at Wrigley Field.

"So like $15 million that, that the Sox got... Did they get $15 million from the Sports Authority?" Blagojevich asks.

"Uh, not to my knowledge, I don't," Harris said.

"Yeah, apparently they did. Can you look into that?" Blagojevich said.

"Yeah," Harris said.

"See what that was. But h-, his thinking was, you know like you were sayin', some sort of green initiative and you can kinda promote it," Blagojevich said.

There was a second call a half hour later.

"So they're gonna work some stuff up," Blagojevich said.

"Wh-, can I ask why you're fixated on that, that level of money?" Harris asks.

"'Cause that's what the White Sox got," Blagojevich said.

"Okay. Alright," said Harris.

"You know what I'm sayin'?" Blagojevich said.

"Mm-hmm," said Harris.

"I said 10 to 15," Blagojevich said.

"Mm-hmm," said Harris.

"Ganis says, you know, 1.5-million is nothing," Blagojevich said.

"Mm-hmm," said Harris.

"What do you think?" Blagojevich said.

"Well, my opinion is you give 'em nothing. I mean they're a for-profit entity. They don't need the subsidy," Harris said.

"Yeah, I know. Alright," Blagojevich said.

"But, uh, that's, I was just wondering why or how you arrived at that number but?" Harris said.

"The number is because the White Sox got that," Blagojevich said.

Harris then explains to Blagojevich that the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority - a governmental entity set up in the late 80s when U.S. Cellular was about to be built- is involved.

The money for the suggested new technology, green initiative at Wrigley didn't happen.

Five days after the conversation between Harris and the former governor, Blagojevich was arrested.


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